Friday, July 3, 2015

Settling in Well

Ruby has settled in with her new family nicely. 
 


 
Pretty cool herd!
 
The landowner agrees; it's like she has always been here.
 
 
She naps under this tree in the big pile of hay which we made even larger than shown here after the landowner let us know she was using it as a bed.  Apparently, she naps and Bud stands guard over her.  How adorable!  I haven't seen it yet though.
 
Ruby is beginning to show signs of bonding to me and not just happiness over food.  I spent some time driving the Bronco through the field today to flatten out our riding track and lunging circle and when I returned to where she was tied, I did not greet her, but instead spoke to Mark and then walked away and she let out a huge nicker because I ignored her.  I didn't ignore her after that and then she was happy.
 
Our weather has been in the 90's for the past several days and high 80's before that which is "hot" for our neck of the woods.  Feels like hell actually.  The horses are not enjoying it either.  I find them nearly breaking sweats in the afternoon so that has meant a good cool bath each day for them.  It does help.   I've been trying to get out there to see them as early as possible and get our work done before the real heat sets in.  Bud does better in the heat than Ruby - it's a breed thing.  He doesn't mind the hot but she is often in the shade or drinking lots of water.
 
It's been interesting to find a new normal having two horses.  Bud and I had a good system going but now with Ruby, one of the two has to be tied.  For now it is Ruby.  She can get impatient and stompy as I groom them both together, moving from one to the other.  She ground ties fairly well but will walk off so tied she will be until she gets into the groove.
 
Bud is still smitten.  But he has come down to earth a bit and is getting back into "our" groove.  I groom them together but work Ruby first due to her lower heat tolerance.  Bud watches from afar and I can hear him thinking, "Better you than me, lady!"  However, after I bring her in and get her end grooming done, she leaves and I find Bud waiting for his turn.  He still wants Mama time.   He got poked in the eye by only God knows what a couple days back so he's had a few days off to recover from that.  Today he was fine so after working Ruby and turning her loose, it was his turn.  He was nearly begging me to mess with him.  He's not as jealous as he used to be but it is obvious that he doesn't want to be left out either. 
 
I worked him first on the lunge for warm-up.  The dynamic for Bud and Ruby when Bud is doing his work is quite different because she isn't content to watch from a distance.  Midway through his lunge session, she joined him and lunged herself for several laps.  She was quite clever about it because she stayed on his outside and did not interfere with the line at all.  I wonder if she thought it was a race.  She won hands down.  Pretty cute.  I haven't ridden Bud since Ruby arrived - too hot and then eye poke - so got on him today.  She followed us around and ran and played and just had a ball.  It was hilarious and fun.  Bud wasn't impressed however; he didn't want to get kicked.  She was a good girl that played without kicking though.  This I did not get a video of; however, I did get a video of her workout today and some quick pics while Mark was there.  She is coming along wonderfully and fast.  Mark and I are just thrilled with her progress and how wonderful the whole experience with her has been thus far.
 
Pics first...
 



 
 
Boring videos here if you are interested.  They give a good glimpse of her personality and presence.
 
Lunging
 
First ride since bringing her home.   Went exceptionally well!

Monday, June 29, 2015

She's a Lady....and the Lady is Ours

There's a new lady in Bud's life.
 
 
Meet Ruby.
 
 
Ruby is a 9 year old Thoroughbred who became part of our family today.  We've been talking about getting another horse to keep Bud company and for Mark and I to ride for years now but the time and place were never right.  Well, the time and place was finally right a couple months ago ( basically since we moved to the new place and established a family type relationship with the owner) and we began searching.
 
Finding the right fit for our family and Bud was extremely frustrating at times - you would think finding a horse that was younger than Bud and in better physical shape would be pretty easy, right?  Wrong! After calling on ads and visiting several horses in person, then walking away either sad or angry, I decided to put an ISO ad up.  I did not think it'd come to anything based on my requirements and what we'd already seen but within 12 hours I was contacted by a lady who had what seemed like just what I had been searching for.   We conversed for a few days and she sent many pictures and videos for my inspection and things just kept looking better and better.
 
Let me stop and say that this was another of those instances that you KNOW was a match made by God.  Everything just fell together and clicked.  One of the main issues we were having with sellers was blatant dishonesty and this lady left me with a sense that she could be trusted and that the drive to her place would be worth our time.  So we went out to meet both her and her horse yesterday....during what ended up being a really awesome thunderstorm.
 It made for an interesting backdrop which Mark is kicking himself now for not videotaping.  We both wish he would have based on how things went.  It would have been really fun to share.
 
Ruby's owner saved her from a slaughter buyer at Emerald Downs (race track) last August.  Apparently she went to buy a specific broodmare from a specific seller who had several other mares up for bid.  She got her desired mare but after the auction found the mare's owner in tears over a kill buyer getting Ruby.  Ruby's owner sought after the kill buyer and bought her from him.  Her plan was to re home her but time just got away from her last year and she never listed her.   She was just about to list her last week when she saw my ISO.   She thought Ruby might be a good fit for me and reached out and I am so thankful she did.
 
When my first horse died, it was SO hard to search for a new horse.  None of them compared to what I had.  We ended up with Bud's mom, ten months pregnant, and while this sounds harsh, Bud's mom was no prize.  I tried to love her.  I really did.  But I didn't.  My mom picked her out thinking it was a really good two for one deal.  And it was because I ended up with Bud.
 
  When Bud was born, my lack of love for his mommy didn't really matter because I gave Bud my full attention.  But he still wasn't anything like my old horse.  And the pain of loss lingered for a long time.  Looking for a horse while Bud is still alive so that he can impart some of his "Budness" to has always seemed like a good idea.  And when the day comes when Bud is done with this world, perhaps it would soften the blow to still have a horse who knew Bud and learned from him.   I hope to not know for sure about this for many years but it seems like a good plan for now.  Anyway, looking at the perspective horses that we did not buy sent my emotions back to the loss of my first horse.  The feelings of disappointment when we looked at horse after horse and none of them even came close.  Only then, I just went home feeling the loss even more and there was no remedy.  This time, I'd come home feeling sad/angry and then head out to see Bud for some Bud therapy.  At least he was still alive and it wasn't as horrible to find nothing as it had been in the past.   Mostly I felt sorry for the horses we'd seen and hoped they'd find owners who could help them - some of them were in BAD shape.
 
Anyway.....
 
We went to meet Ruby yesterday.  I told the owner what I wanted to do with her and the plan was agreed to so all was set before we arrived.  Ruby was out in her pasture with her mates and walked right up to me.  She stood with great interest while I looked her over and picked up her feet, still loose in the field.  Her owner gave Mark and I space to really get to know her which was nice.  It didn't take five minutes before I knew she was the one.  She acted a lot like Bud, in girl form.  And I didn't think it was possible for a horse to be more loving that Bud, but she was, right there in the field.  What is funny is that when we were looking for a horse to replace my first horse, I wanted a horse I could ride anywhere.  Personality didn't enter in because my first horse was pretty bland.  And now, it isn't so much about riding anywhere as it is about personality.  Being sound and free of metabolic issues was also a must but having both of those AND personalty makes it a win.
 
I wanted to be able to catch Ruby, bring her into an open space and groom her.  Then work her on the lunge, tack her up and ride.  That was the plan but as I told her owner, I was going to assess where she was and take her as far as I could take her.  If she showed me she wasn't ready for any step in the process, I would not push her.  The owner didn't really know what Ruby was capable of.  Ruby was on the track for her first five years and she won a few races.  Then she was a Mama.  Then she was back at the track for auction.  Then she came to her current owner.  The owner did not ride anymore and never bonded with Ruby so didn't do much with her.  I figured that if we didn't buy her, at least the owner would have a better sense of what Ruby could do from our visit and that might help her to place her with another family.
 
The main issue the owner had with Ruby was that Ruby was bonded so strongly with her other mare that they could not be separated.  She was concerned about this being an issue when we came to visit.  As Mark and I groomed Ruby, she got nervous when the other mare left her sight so I took Ruby out to lunge.  This was during the lightning storm.  It was far enough away but interesting to note that Ruby did not care about any of it.  I got her going, which she did not initially like, so she started racing and bucking in the round pen.  Her owner was a little worried so Mark went to sit outside with her to comfort her.  I'm serious. 
She really needed him to feel assured that I had this under control.  We later found out that the owner was never able to control Ruby, was fearful of her in certain circumstances and she assumed the same would happen to me.  It did not.   Bud acts like an idiot just like this on the lunge at times and I just ignore it, let him get it out of his system and we go on.   After a few minutes she settled back into a nice trot and I said, "Would you like to walk now?"  Her answer was to walk.  A nice under control walk.  I then asked her to stop and then asked her to come in, motioning with my hand, much like I do with Bud.  I really didn't expect her to understand but in she came showing me all the signs that she was calm and ready to mind.  I hand walked her for a bit telling her how good she was, then took her back to tack her up.   I never tied her up once in this, same as I don't with Bud, he just stands and so did she.  It was wonderful.
 
The owner was really not wanting me to ride.  It'd been awhile since she rode because she had an unfortunate accident that has left her afraid to get back on.   I think she was afraid for me.  Like she was having flashbacks.  I assured her that I would not get on if I did not think Ruby would be fine.  It wasn't as if Ruby was having her first ride.
 
  I ended up spending ten minutes fixing her tack which was sized for the owner's former horse before I could even put it on, all the while Ruby watched and waited.  She no longer cared about the other mare.    She was 100% tuned in to me.  I had to sign a release that I would not sue for injury and the owner was still really leery about me getting on.  Note:  I used to exercise race horses, I know what they are like.  I assured the owner again that I would not get on Ruby if I didn't think she'd be fine.  At that point, I knew we'd be buying her so I definitely would not want to set her up to fail.   Where Bud is, we don't have a round pen, so it was safer for me to actually take the first ride there.  I had Mark come help at this point, keeping Ruby on the lunge with Mark holding it:  ground support.  I got on with no issue.  I felt Ruby tense up a bit and assured her that she was doing very well.  I had Mark lead her, keeping her close she could just get used to a rider again.  She was tentative, but relaxed quickly.  The tight circles got larger and larger until I was on the rail and Mark had a loose attachment in the center of the ring.  I was steering and Ruby was listening.  She felt like a racehorse.  Very responsive to leg, but a bit hard to steer.  Within a couple minutes, she was understanding what I was asking.  I was SO impressed.  This horse has most likely not been ridden since 2011 so it was just awesome.  I was probably on for less than ten minutes and it was enough to know what I needed to know.  She was like Bud in that she was extremely teachable.  I got off her with a flying leap, just like I exit Bud's back and she acted like that was common for her.  It was awesome!   There were absolutely no red flags. 
 
We untacked Ruby and did our final groom as I do with Bud before turn out and she remained focused on us, never caring what her mare friend was doing.  Her owner walked up and I told her that I wanted to buy her and then asked if she was comfortable selling her to me.  It was a big resounding YES!  Her owner has told me several times during the final transaction that she knew Ruby was meant for us based on how everything went.    She said she knew it on a spiritual level.  She said she believed God cared about horses and He made this whole thing possible.  So, I am not the only one who feels this.  It is nothing short of God to both buyer and seller.
 
You might think it doesn't get better than this but it does.  We went to get her today.  Always nerve wracking hauling a horse trailer...but even more so when you really don't know how the horse will react.  With all the formalities taken care of, I walked Ruby in her field to make sure she remembered me and was going to be attentive and react how I wanted her to.  She did.  Then I led her out of the field away from her friend.  Her nervousness was immediately apparent.  I kept walking, ignoring it, just walking like it was normal.  She settled.  Her owner told Mark she was astounded that Ruby left the field like that.  Apparently she was never able to take Ruby out of the field without the other mare in tow.  I am not saying I am SO AWESOME, I am just saying that Ruby and I connected and she was as okay as she could be leaving her friend.   We allowed her to get into the trailer in her own timing which only took a few minutes.  She was still nervous so I asked her to stand a minute and then allowed her to exit.  She got out well, unlike Bud who seems to get hurt every time he gets out so I was happy.  I took her around the yard another few laps and told Mark that we would load her this time and it would be for real.  Again, in her own time, now less than 30 seconds, Ruby got in and stood.  We secured her, said our thank you's again and were off.  Ruby did not cry for her friend.  She stomped the floor a few times and after that was quiet.  It was just over an hour home with much prayer for safety.  We arrived very safely thank God and found her standing calmly waiting to get out.  She exited the trailer just as calmly and we led her into the field. 
 
Bud had been watching all of this from afar.  I think he recognized the trailer and did not want to approach.  The trailer, to him, means he is moving and trust me, he doesn't want to move.  So he kept his distance which allowed us to show Ruby the smaller field, the water, hay, fence line, etc.  And Bud calmly stood outside and watched.  A gentleman.  Or maybe he was just dumbfounded.  Mark brought him in and I turned Ruby loose.  Their first meeting was uneventful in that there was no kicking, squealing, etc.  They smelled each other's noses, and then proceed to lick each other's faces.  I have never seen anything so cute in my life.  It was like they were long lost friends.  And after that, they stayed together.  Bud following her kindly as she checked out the field.   A bit like a doting father or even a loving grandfather.  It was awesome. 
 
These are some pics I took in the first ten minutes.
 



 
 
 
I just had a thought....it shouldn't surprise me that a horse that reminded me so much of Bud would be able to fit in with Bud like they were old friends.  It's still cool.
 
We left the horses to get to know each other for a few hours and returned later to see what they were up to.  Bud is smitten.  He nickers to her in a low soft voice much like his mommy used to nicker to him when he was a baby.  It is so cute.  They touch noses and lick faces about every ten minutes.  If Ruby gets too far away from Bud, he prances around like a stallion to get her attention.  Now that is hilarious.  We got them both groomed and good for the night and then went to top off their water.  They both, being super curious, came to watch.  I used the hose like a sprinkler and they stood under it of their own free will.  And then it just got funny because Bud got one side sprayed and then turned his butt to us for it to get sprayed.  And then he turned to his other side for it to get sprayed.  Ruby did the same.  They loved it.  And after that I got out the video camera to capture what they did next.
 
 
It is surreal.  Ruby will get a few more days to settle in before she begins her training.  I look forward to getting her going.  The thought is that following the same workout that Bud is doing, she will be ready for some good trail rides next year.  She looks pretty good for a former mommy, but like Bud, there is a lot of room for improvement. 
 
Mark and my biggest impression of Ruby was that she needs a real family to thrive.  She is an amazing mover and as I mentioned, learns very easily, but what I did not mention is that she has a few nervous habits.  My belief is that they came from life on the track as I've seen them before.  So we will work with her slowly and gently so that trust is consistently built and hope these will just vanish.  She is super loving already and I think once there is a good foundation of trust, there will be no limit on what she will do or be.
 
But the most important thing is: we love her and Bud loves her and she has found her forever home.  I am excited to see what the next days, weeks and months will hold.  One thing I am assured of, I will definitely be entertained.  And on another note, Bud's joy on earth is complete.  His loneliness is over.
 

Thursday, June 18, 2015

When Yesterday and Tomorrow Intersect

I've been working with Bud nearly every day without a miss since March.  Not aimless work or mindless riding by any means.  I have a definite goal in mind.  I want to bring his 22 year old body into a condition that matches his much younger heart.   Goals like this always start with the wishing phase.  I wish he was ten years younger.  I wish life would have afforded me the time I have with him now much earlier.  I wish tragedy would not have left me feeling like I was going to live perpetually in "catch-up" mode.  In many ways I continue to feel like I am waking up to the reality that too many opportunities have been lost to too many yesterdays.  It's not a good feeling.  It makes me wish we could pick and choose the areas of our life we wish to pause time on until we can get back to them.  Freeze Bud's aging at age 12, the age we took Samuel to meet him.


I remember being so proud of Bud on that day.  It'd been about three years since I'd last seen him.  He was enjoying herd life with about 20 horses on 60 acres yet he still came when we called as if nothing had changed and no time had passed.  He was so gentle and patient with the kids climbing on his back when prior to that, no one but I was ever on him.  The land owner even admitted her surprise over this.  But that's Bud.  That's why he's named Bud.  He's always been trustworthy.

Back in the "wishing" phase, I began to sort through all my pictures of him to determine when exactly his back began to drop and his posture took on that of an old man.   When we brought him home, he wasn't looking wonderful but that was accentuated by the laminitis where he stood and walked in very contorted ways to combat the pain.  And yet, it's one of those things that could not be helped at the time.

When I began to ride him in the years after the laminitis was resolved, I knew there was a problem with his aged shape but what I didn't know was that it could be corrected with proper workouts.  I thought when the back began to sink, that was it.  Not true.  Yet, even if I had known, I wasn't in a place where that work could have happened - it could not be done on the road.   Since moving him last year, that has changed.   

I've never been content to remain in the wishing phase of life.  The wishing always leads to questions of what can be done.  What can be done today to make tomorrow better?  Thanks to countless  hours of searching the internet and many youtube videos, I found exactly what I was needing to find.  Hope and a game plan.   Bud's physique can be improved immensely.  And as such, his quality of life will be improved as well.   Bud enjoys exploring the world outside his field so much and yet he's never been comfortable to go out for long.  We always come home before he's ready and he lets me know this by trying his best to walk past the gate in.  He definitely wants to keep going so it's been up to me to say "enough."

So here is a picture of Bud from early April.


Clearly, his back is collapsed, he has a pot belly and there is no muscling along his top line.  His hip bone protruding is showing a clear lack of any muscle both in front and behind it.

And here is a picture from late May (Daniel is peeking over the gate at him) showing a dramatic improvement.


His back has come up, he is carrying his belly better, and the muscling in his rump is starting to fill in.

This next picture was taken ten days ago.


Continued improvement!  This picture is comparable to how he looked at age 12.  Still lots of room for more improvement though but the difference in his shape in just two months of correct work is evident....and very hopeful.  I cannot wait to see how much he changes over the next two months.  Of course, patience is part of this work and that has never been my strong suit.  Taking lots of pictures and videos as we go along helps me see very vividly that progress IS being made.  It takes about a year of consistent correct work to bring the body, most importantly the top line muscles back. 

You might wonder how Bud feels about this.  Here is a picture of his "skeptical" look.


Actually, in this pic he was paying more attention to eating than to me so I tossed my hat at him and it landed perfectly on his rump.   He's asking me, "What are you doing now?  Stop annoying me!  I thought I was done for the day."   Pretty funny!

In all seriousness, he has been a willing participant.  He generally always has been but his new home has brought out the best in him.  He is happier, more willing and most importantly, he has given me his heart.  I like a willing participant in all areas of life.  Especially in dealing with horses.  I like my horse to have choices and hope he consistently choose to work with me.  I've said it a thousand times but Bud is the horse of a lifetime.  I can always hope to have another horse similar to him in the future, but I think that after Bud is gone, I will always look back and say he was "it."


The above picture is what my grooming/tacking up area looks like.  I was actually done for the day when I took this and notice that Bud is enjoying his favorite pass time, but he always stays close until I leave.  This is an immense change from his previous home where when his small amount of grain was gone, so was he.  These days, when I arrive, he heads straight in to this spot and waits patiently for me to bring everything out.  I don't have to tie him.  He chooses to be with me.  Some days I like to "test" this a little.  I bring everything out and then do chores.  I clean the water tub.  I pick up turd piles that are in my riding track.  He will be well finished with his food supplements that he thinks are candy before I am done and still he waits.  It's so special. 

Nearly each day he does something that is just SO cool.  I'm sure Mark is tired of hearing about how cute Bud is but I don't care.  It's been pretty hot here lately and I generally offer Bud water several times during our work but over the last couple days, right in the middle of his grooming session, he has decided to walk off.  The first time, I went after him thinking he was being naughty which only made him trot off.  I then thought he was being really naughty until he rounded the corner and went to get a huge drink.  Once I realized what he was doing, I simply went back to the grooming spot and waited.  Sure enough, he finished up and returned.  SO cute.   Along with getting his body back into shape, mutual trust and respect have also played a huge part here.  It's not just him listening to me, but also me listening to him.   It's about partnership period.  Nothing less is acceptable.

One of our early goals has been to get Bud to begin to loosen all his tight muscles.   He was over-developed in the underside of his neck and was literally pulling himself along by the shoulder.  This is incorrect movement.  His hind end should be the driving force.  For the last few months, I have been waiting for his muscles to release and allow him to begin to stretch under saddle.  And for the last few months, it hasn't happened to the degree in which would be most beneficial.  I kept telling myself, "Maybe tomorrow."  And I kept praying because that's always part of the plan as well.   A few days ago, tomorrow because today.  Those tight neck muscles released and his head literally fell to the ground while we were walking.  He began to actually twist his neck so far sideways that I could see his eye looking up at me.  Poor guy!   But that release brought him so much pleasure.  I could hear the "Ah, that feels so much better" as we went.   Of course, I was ecstatic!   It's huge for both of us not to mention that his work will now get easier and more comfortable for him.  Most importantly, it will be more enjoyable for both of us.

I had Mark come out to watch yesterday.  He agreed that Bud looked so much happier and more comfortable than he's ever seen him.  It's encouraging to get a second opinion on the matter from eyes on the ground as well.  Mark also took a ton of pics for me yesterday and they don't lie.


This one tops my list of favorites simply because it shows him really stretching and it shows how well that stretch is allowing his hind end to come under him and propel him forward.  Compare the above with the below taken a few days earlier.

 
This was captured at nearly the same leg position but his back is not round as it is in the first image.  He is more flat/hollow in the back in the above pic and his left hind looks like it is stuck in mud.  In short, movement isn't smooth, regular or balanced.
 
 
The above and below are much more balanced.
 
 
 
 
Big stretch here brings the tummy in and pulls his back up.  Over time, his back will pull up and flatten behind the saddle eliminating the dip you see there currently.  And that dip is already improved if you compare to the image below which was taken before we began to work correctly.
 
 
The above image was from early April.
 
 
Yesterday!
 
 
I love how even a "boring" gait such as the walk can look dynamic when he is moving more correctly.
 
 
 
 
I love this pic above - it looks like Bud's skeptical "stop annoying me" look again but what happened was that we stopped to talk to Mark while he was snapping pictures and Bud tipped his head to have one ear on me and the other on Mark.  
 
 
Apparently he needed a closer look at the camera.
 
 
Happy!
 
 
Happier!
 
 
Happiest! Yummy carrot...

Friday, April 10, 2015

Twenty-Two: Five Years Past Laminitis

Yesterday was Bud's birthday.  He is now 22 years old - 66 in human years.  Come June, he will be five years beyond the laminitis. 
 
 
Laminitis is considered a death sentence for horses by most accounts.  If they don't lose their life to it initially, the prognosis for their future use is significantly diminished.  In addition, the risk of future laminitis episodes is huge and requires strict management.   Laminitis is akin to type 2 diabetes in humans.  It can be managed by a low-insulin diet, exercise, and weight management.  But with that said, "pasture pet" is a term often assigned to a horse who has recovered.  There is little hope for their use as a riding horse in any significant way.
 
 
I don't like prognoses that use the words "always" and "never."  I prefer to hope when most lose hope.  I prefer to try new things when others throw in the towel.   I prefer to go against the grain and hope to conquer the norm.
 
So here we are.
 
 
Bud is not a pasture pet.  He is not just a survivor, he is thriving! 
 
Bud has adjusted well to his new home.   He has been here just over five months  and seems happier than ever.  I am seeing a lot of his younger-self  behaviors coming through such as joy, playfulness, and curiosity.  It is wonderful to see given we have spent so many of those younger years apart and at times it has felt like it was forever a memory never to be relived.   He has been very patient with his three goat friends but thus far, none of them seem to have really bonded in any significant way.  They just keep him from feeling alone and bored which is a good thing.  The property owner is one of the best people I've ever dealt with and thus it's a pleasure to be there from all sides.  Hers and mine.  No longer are Mark and I referred to as "those horse people" and Bud referred to as a "dumb animal."  Makes a huge difference in the atmosphere.
 
 
Our weather has been good (read: little rain, temps in the 50's-60's) and this has provided me the opportunity to work with Bud 2-3 hours a day, 4-5 days a week.  It's been ages since I had this much time.  The progress he is making has also been significant.  Bud was never a "dumb animal" by any stretch but in all the years of my horse experience, he is the smartest horse I have worked with.  An old horse can learn new tricks!   In spite of his senior citizen status, his mind is as sharp as it ever was and his physique is coming along nicely in spite of the laminitis and old age.  He might have some gray hair, and he might be slightly stiff and slow in the mornings but when I get on his back, he often feels like a five-year-old.
 
 
When Bud came home in 2008, he had very limited riding hours on him.  He wasn't steering well at all and really had little understanding of what I was asking.  Because the property owner was adamant about me NOT riding on the property, all his training had to be done on the road.  While we do not live in a highly populated town, working a green horse that does not steer or stop well on roads with traffic, or trails with bikes, strollers, roller bladers, and skateboarders passing less than five feet away while semi trucks and Harleys are passing on the highway at highway speeds 50 feet away is less than a neutral, calming atmosphere.  
 
 
For the first year, where I could ride did not matter as he came home with a huge crack in his hoof all the way to the coronet band.  That killed riding for the first year or so.
 
 
Pulling this photo up again makes me sick.  Somehow I had forgotten how awful it was and yet it was nothing compared to the laminitis.
 
I was able to ride in 2009 but my head and heart just weren't in it.  One needs both especially to train in less than safe environments.  In 2010, Bud got what my farrier refers to as a VERY BAD laminitis.  But with her amazing work keeping his feet trimmed to encourage proper fusion in the new hoof structure, and guidance to me in what I should be doing with Bud at any given moment, he recovered extremely well.   Now instead of referring to Bud as the one with the VERY BAD laminitis, she refers to him as amazing.
 
From 2011 to now, my work with Bud has had many stops and starts.  There are a multitude of reasons for it: head, heart, environmental conditions - just to name a few.   Last summer, Bud was able to get from Point A to Point B but not always in a straight line.  (drunk Bud)   He was steering well, stopping reasonably well but still lazy as a turtle at times, and stubborn as a mule while he was mimicking a turtle.  And he still bucked so read NOT trustworthy under saddle.  In my younger days with my first horse, I had many an unfortunate opportunity to get dumped on the side of a busy road.   I am really not interested in this "fun" anymore.  Curbing Bud's issues in a meaningful and an "as safe as possible" manner really required a closed field.  As I now have such space and can actually use it, I can really begin to weed out these problems and make Bud into the kind of horse I always dreamed he'd be from the day he was born. 
 
Yesterday, I spent some time thinking about the day he was born and all I thought I would accomplish with him well before now.  Plans never go as scheduled.  But alas, I thanked God that I have the opportunity to do these things now.  I am so grateful that Bud is doing so well mentally and physically in spite of his past.   I thanked Bud for never giving up.  I thanked him for still being alive (my first horse died of colic at 14) and waiting for me.  Truth is, we've waited on each other for many years to get to the same place at the same time.
 
 
Now that we are finally able to do some "arena" work," (I put that in quotes because we have no arena but the work is the same) Bud is making steady progress in every area I've been wanting to refine.   One of the biggest nagging issues with laminitis is that the horse will not extend his gaits (read choppy jarring gaits) or ever be able to turn well due to sensitivity in the toe.  Try walking or turning without ever putting weight on the ball of your feet and you'll see what I mean.   Several of my starts and stops with Bud have been because I wasn't sure if he was being lazy or experiencing pain.   That was hard to determine because he really had no baseline to go back and compare to.  It wasn't as if he was perfectly trained and his capabilities known prior to the laminitis so I chose to be cautious and not sour our relationship by asking him too much too soon. 
 
What has really helped with this has been our move.  It has acted like a reset button.  His spirit is most certainly more positive.  His behaviour in the pasture points to joy almost daily.  His younger self is coming back.  Rather than mope around, he is moving with a purpose and more curious than ever.  He even plays hide-n-seek again!  This is my new baseline. 
 
 
Admittedly, Bud is slightly confused by all this field work.  As we've spent more time on the road, he actually prefers that.   His turtle/mule mentality says that was easier and I am sure that is some of it.  A quarter mile from this property is residential Buckley, sidewalks and all.  Thankfully, this city is quite used to horses walking around so we have always been kindly greeted by people working in their front yards while out and about.  Traffic has been equally respectful.  Bud loves these meanders through town.  One day, we visited the nearby church, played around in the parking lot and later helped them "mov the grass."  It's been quite fun for both of us and now this wardering around town is a reward for good work in the field.  He finds it relaxing which still strikes me as truly odd.  There's not a barn sour bone in his body.  He gives me no trouble leaving the field.  The trouble comes when returning to it.  Many people I tell this to wish they had the same issue.   Nevertheless, the field work/road reward system has already begun to pay off because he has been a much better mount on the road.  The turtle/mule issues have disappeared almost entirely.  Trust is increased significantly.  Field work is just what was needed.
 
 
Bud still has a long way to go in terms of building his back muscles and working off his hind end more than his front.  Both of these will help immensely with his current choppy trot and canter.  At this point, I don't think either of those gaits are choppy as a result of laminitis but rather because the muscles there are not developed yet.   For the majority of his life, he has not been carrying me.   This lack of muscular development would hold true for any horse who hasn't been carrying a rider on a regular basis.  What is encouraging at the moment is that he is really moving well and through his entire stride at the walk.  There is good rhythm.
 
 
 
Look at the extension of his two front legs here.  This is a wonderful, smooth, moving with a purpose walk that uses his whole foot, extends fully from the shoulders with good head and neck involvement.   No evidence of laminitis whatsoever nor is there evidence of old age stiffness.   I set up my not so great quality video camera yesterday (hence not so great quality stills from video but they give a good enough representation) so I could see what he looked like with me on him.  I was ecstatic when I saw this one above.  

In the past several years, we have done most of our work at the walk.  Remember, it took him several years past the laminitis to be able to canter with me on him.  And when he did, it was pretty uncomfortable so I limited it to the first eighth of a mile and I stood like a jockey while he did it.  I didn't want to hold him back from doing it because I was just so glad he offered it to me at all but a crappy gait does nothing to help build the back and hind muscles.  It in fact, causes more harm than good.  Just like when first going to the gym, you don't start with the most strenuous work if you are not fit to handle it.   You'll either be very, very sore or injure yourself if you do.  Same with horses.  The canter is not a gait Bud is ready to work with me on his back.  Other than a quick bout of "I'm excited, let me go for a few minutes," it serves no useful purpose. 
 
 
So we have started working intently with the walk and tiny amounts at the trot.  This kind of extension and purposeful walk without me nagging him every stride to get it tells me that eventually he will be able to trot and canter with similar extension and smoothness with me on his back.   Just takes diligence, practice and patience.  

Bud's attitude toward this new work has been very positive and I believe he looks very happy and even proud in the video.  In the end, that is what I want.  Enjoyed time spent together.  Period.
 
 

 
There was no "I'm mad" tail swishing whatsoever which speaks volumes about his attitude toward the work.  I felt like he was doing well while I was riding but seeing the video really solidified in my mind that we are on the right track.
 
 
Now onto turning - another thing that laminitis can affect.  You see the poles up behind me.  Once upon a time, Bud might have made a great pole bender.  His Mommy was.  He really is enjoying them.  He thinks I should allow him to canter them NOW.  I've allowed him to break to a canter from the trot but no matter how much he wishes he could be a speed demon, he is not yet ready.   But the fact remains that he CAN turn, sharply at times, without pain.  It's not the prettiest thing you ever saw but with more bending work and muscle tone, it might eventually be.  I'm not setting limits on Bud.  He wants to go for it so we will work toward it....slowly.   A few years ago, I honestly never thought I'd see the day I needed to slow him down.  It's so wonderful!  I am looking forward to more consistently decent weather and cannot wait to see how he progresses this year.

Hope you are all doing well and finding joy in life.