Category Archives: horse

A step in the right direction

Two years ago in February we bought SA Fiona in KY. She’s been a bit of a challenge. She is 11 this year, but had never been broke to ride. She is sensitive and was very herd bound when she first came, making it a challenge to even work with her safely without another horse present.

We started riding her in October of 22, but the weather shut us down, and last spring we started again and she did most of her 100 miles walking trails and learned to walk and trot in the arena. We had some saddle fitting woes, and worked extensively on reducing her reactiveness to anything touching her, bugs, saddle bags, legs, plastic bags, ropes, scary things and did a lot of long lining.

Quinn has been riding her more since getting out of school in mid May, and taking Fiona on longer and longer trail rides. Last weekend Alex and Quinn did 8 miles in Pachaug. Exposure to dirt bikes, cars, screaming camping children, mountain bikes, is all a part of riding in Pachaug State Forest. Our property backs up to the forest and offers hours of trails straight out the back.

This morning Quinn and I loaded up Amira and Fiona, and headed over to Arcadia management area in Rhode Island. It was the first time putting Fiona on our trailer since she came. She loaded right up behind Amira with only the slightest bit of hesitation. Unloading at the Horsemen’s area, we discovered she really didn’t want to back out, so Quinn let her turn around in the tight space ( she was in the third stall of our four horse slant load). It spooked Fiona a bit, and she quickly exited leaving Quinn behind, but luckily I caught her on her way out. In hind sight, I should have collapsed the rear tack to make things easier and more open.

Fiona settled pretty quick with some grazing ( Amira is a good role model) and we tacked up tied to the trailer. Then we went into the large grass arena and walked on foot before mounting and riding around another few minutes. Fiona seemed to take it all in stride, so we headed out on an 8 mile ride down to midway and back. We walked and trotted and it was uneventful. Even with mountain bikes that didn’t stop and loose dogs, no one died.

Back at the trailer, we realized we had never sponged Fiona before…just rinsed her with the hose at home. Lots of things to work on. On the way home we flipped the position of the horses and loaded Fiona first, so she would have more room getting out. Amira prefers to back out anyway. We will work on some trailer loading and teach Fiona to back out should she ever have to ride in a straight load.

Quinn was very happy with Fiona today and it was certainly a big step towards Fiona becoming the horse we want her to be. We will continue to expose her to new things and plan to do a camping outing with the horses soon.

Sometimes plans change

Back in January, I posted about the Border Patrol Challenge and my running goals for 2024. In February, I got thrown from Gamble and had some down time due to the resulting bruising. I am happy report that I was able to recover and complete all 20 Border Patrol Challenge Trails for a total of 184 miles. Rusty completed 19 of the trails (I didn’t let him do the 26 miler).

During my CT scans in February, the doctors had noted bilateral inguinal hernias but told me not to do anything unless it became a problem . The weekend after I finished the last trail, I was running a local-ish 16 mile trail race when some pain developed – it became a problem. Since that race, I haven’t been running at all. I had to withdraw from the Traprock 50k and I’m now scheduled for surgery in June. I have been advised not to run until 4-6 weeks after my surgery, so sometime in July. That means the Twisted Branch 100k won’t happen either and I’m not going to get my 1000 miles in 2024. It’s disappointing but at least the issue isn’t more severe.

Gamble went to see Geoff Goodson for at least 3 months of training. It was definitely the right decision and Geoff is making some great progress and they are over in Salem so it’s close enough for me to stop by after work occasionally.

We have been doing a lot of projects around the farm, but we are trying to make time for relaxing occasionally. I put 4 shoes on Fiona for the first time and she was surprisingly chill about it. So this afternoon we took the mares out: Anna on Amira, Amanda on JJ, and I rode Fiona.

We will be putting some miles on the mares because they need wet saddle pads to build confidence and stamina. It’s likely to be a light year for our endurance riding but heavier goat shows. The goat status is a whole other post…

Thoughts Three Weeks Past TRHR

22 days ago I had my right hip replaced. It was outpatient. Arrived at the hospital at 5.45 am, out at 4.15 pm. I’ve suffered with reduced range of motion and pain in my hips since I was in my early 30s. Bad conformation, especially if you want to ride horses, with deep sockets and constantly hitting the side of my femur, caused severe osteoarthritis. Riding, biking, running, hiking and even sleeping was becoming increasingly more painful. This was my first one, hoping to get the other hip done next year.

I am doing ok. First few days were rough, I am not going to lie. Muscle spasms, swelling, sciatica, pain at night, not being able to lift my leg very well, being dependent on others. Not my forte. And the pain meds made me sick, and gave me a migraine.

Ten things that made my life easier for the first few days and weeks:

  1. Rob, getting up three times a night the first few days and getting me those ice packs, pain killers and making sure I didn’t kill myself getting in and out of bed (I decided I wanted to sleep in our bed, on the top floor, 13 steep steps, step stool to get in our tall king size bed). And allowing me to shower…it’s the little things.
  2. A raised toilet seat, seriously, just get one. If you’re plus size, maybe not one with side bars, my thighs barely fit and I am normally a women’s medium.
  3. Grabber pick up stick. It’s hard to reach down and it allowed me to get dressed on my own.
  4. Long shoe horn, for taking off socks and putting on/off shoes. One downstairs by the door too. Because you won’t be able to reach your feet.
  5. XL Women’s Hanes Boxer briefs. I’m a Hi cut girl normally, but ouch, they sit in the wrong spot, right over my incision! All the forums said to get men’s boxers, but these work great and don’t have a hole in the front. I had anterior approach, and these do not bother my incision. Two sizes up.
  6. Ice packs, big one for the hip and another one for my knee. Doubles are helpful.
  7. Large lounge pants, I’m normally a M, I got XL. You won’t want anything tight on your leg.
  8. A walker, for the first 4-5 days, for me, and crutches for stairs, at first. I was done with these after a week.
  9. A cane, for a walking aid after I was done with the walker. My surgeon is not a fan of using crutches instead, because crutches are to keep weight off your entire foot/leg and make you dependent on your upper body for support and the new joint needs weight bearing to heal.
  10. A sock aid, best thing ever, when you can’t reach your feet.
Treadmill screen

So, what is recovery from a total hip replacement like? I was up and walking at the hospital a few hours after my surgery, using a walker. Physical therapy was started a week after surgery and I’ve been to my first post op appt. My surface stitches were taken out and I was cleared to drive short distances. The new hip was x-rayed and looks good so far. As far as muscles go, my hip flexors and adductors are super tight, still, from so many years of restricted use and may need additional intervention and it is so hard to be patient. My abductors are all weak. I am not supposed to cross my legs yet and have some stretching/twisting/lifting limitations, so I don’t dislocate the joint. Inside the house I am walking without an aid, unless I have pain and I walk with a cane outside for stability, although I am not always using it now. As far as exercise goes, I’m biking on my new recumbent bike twice a day for 15 minutes and I’ve been walking on the treadmill for about 20 minutes as well as walking some outside and going on short shopping trips. I have PT exercises I am working on after my biking and walking 2-3 times a day. Tylenol and Motrin are the only pain medications I am taking as needed, Vicaden was given to me for the first few days, but made me so sick I stopped taking it. I had a similar experience with Percuset after my c-sections, so not really surprised.

After 6 weeks I will be allowed to do more things and, stretching and exercise wise, push myself harder. Right now there is still swelling and angry, short muscles. My TFL(tensor fascae latae) was cut, and will need to heal, I have a 5-6 inch incision over my hip and an additional small area where the robotic cameras were placed. My right knee is angry where the IT band attaches and in general when I overdo my walking. My legs feel slightly uneven, the right leg is slightly longer. I was told my body will adjust. 12 weeks is the big mile stone, which is when I may or may not be allowed back on a horse. And do yoga, and twist, and possibly lift hay bales again. We’ll see. Current goal is getting on and off the floor without feeling like I’m popping my incision open, so there’s that.

Amira and I in 2022 (photo by Wanda Clowater)

I’m looking forward to being able to get back to riding and working on the farm. Goat kids will start arriving in late February. Onwards, and upwards. One step at a time. Quite literally…

God Jul!

Merry Christmas! Happy holidays! God Jul! Feliz Navidad! We are enjoying a quiet Christmas at home this year.

Due to Anna’s surgery and Rob’s injury, Christmas cards fell to the wayside this year. To those of you who sent cards, thank you! We will likely send out cards again next year.

Rob has had a busy and productive year at Sonalysts. When he was not working there, he was working on the farm, or hunting, running, riding, fishing, and whatever else he could find to not sit still. As many of you know, he had a cart accident with Huey in September that he is still recovering from, but he is back to running, riding and hunting, so that is a good sign.

Anna became a US citizen this year! She voted for the first time as well. Anna spent a lot of time training Fiona and let the kids compete Amira in all but one distance ride. This December Anna had a total right hip replacement, and will be recovering from that into the spring.

Alex finished the nuclear technology program at Three Rivers and spent the summer interning at Millstone Nuclear Plant again. This fall he started at URI to finish a degree in Mechanical Engineering with a Nuclear minor. He still enjoys riding Mojo, going trail running, and is the protector of his siblings.

Quinn graduated high school and is attending Eastern CT State University for a double major of computer science and data science. Quinn has claimed Fiona as theirs, and enjoys sewing dresses and other creations, along with showing our dairy goats.

Amanda is in 8th grade, working on making her high school choices. She is currently riding our new horse JJ and it seems to be a great match for her. She is also going hunting with dad, biking and running as time allows. Amanda went to the Big E with our dairy goats this year and enjoyed showing them at fairs and shows throughout the summer.

From our family to yours, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! We hope to see all our friends out there enjoying life in the New Year.

Riding Gamble

SA Jack of Hearts, aka Gamble came to us 7 weeks ago with a reputation for being strong and not a horse that just anyone could ride. We discovered that while he is a sweetheart on the ground, he has some serious trust issues. I’m not sure exactly what happened in the past, but he consistently avoids allowing someone to mount. He isn’t vindicative and doesn’t want to hurt you, but rather it feels like he is scared. Maybe scared of what will happen or of being disciplined. Regardless, it was quickly clear that Gamble needs a lot of ground work and trust. This afternoon I finally sat on his back.

Amanda rode JJ around the arena while I worked with Gamble. Once I got on, it didn’t feel like I was sitting on a stick of dynamite; it felt like I was sitting on a whole bundle of dynamite. We just worked on walking and listening without overloading him. About 10 minutes was enough to call it successful for the day. I’ll definitely be wearing my Point Two air vest as we continue to work together.

I know my seat looks awful and I’ll be making some tack adjustments but that wasn’t the priority for today. Despite his tension, I really don’t get the feeling he wants to hurt anyone, just that he is scared and not sure what to expect. This is definitely a horse where I need to be in the right frame of mind every time I sit in the saddle.

Winter riding

This afternoon Alex and Amanda went out into Pachaug for a trail ride. Alex rode Mojo and Amanda rode JJ. Alex is in the middle of finals still, but we all know he doesn’t ever study, so… They did some trotting and the report I got from Alex is “he feels sound”. Mojo spent two months or so slightly off after the Pine tree endurance ride. We did a lameness exam, x-rays and appropriate blocks along with ultrasound and concluded that Mojo’s pastern angles were unfavorable and he had some caudal heel pain going on. Whether it was an injury to the insertion point of the DDFT, pain from the navicular bursa, or slight arthritis starting between P2 and P3, we are not sure, but we decided not to do a standing MRI to find out more, as the treatment was the same for all three. Mojo was trimmed more aggressively at the toe and put into shoes with a wedge to give him relief from the pain he was having and change the angle of his pastern bones. After a few weeks his soundness was definitely improved; it’s been almost 10 weeks now and he looks pretty good.

Amanda has ridden JJ now both in the arena and on trail. When I’ve been working in the arena with Gamble, she has ridden JJ walk/trot and over poles (and a little canter, but JJ is still out of shape and weak behind). JJ is pretty chill riding wise, but gets nervous when tied up for tacking, especially if out of view of her herd. I believe consistency and patience will cure this, just like it has with Fiona.

Amanda and Alex rode 4 miles up to the farmhouse on Lee Rd and back and had no major issues.

Meanwhile, at the house, Quinn tacked up Fiona and worked with her in the arena. Quinn designed and sewed a winter riding skirt and plans to use it while riding Fiona this winter. Fiona can be a bit reactive to flappy things so it is a work in progress, but the skirt is working out so far. Dad helped her get on safely today. The skirt is made out of a waterproof fleece lined material, with a real wool filling and fancy lining fabric. There is a zipper on the back and a little flap preventing your bum from getting wet when open. There is a two way zipper in the front and there are snaps in the front snapping the sides up for mounting. Quinn also has straps that snap around the leg to keep the skirt from sliding off your leg when moving faster. Quinn chose this design over a full circle skirt due to weight and bulk. It is also easier for chores than a full circle skirt.

For those that do not know, I had a total right hip replacement surgery on Wednesday this week. It has been a long time coming. I was told it was inevitable in 2017 and probably wouldn’t make it through the winter in 2021. My sockets are deep and over time hitting the femur repeatedly on the edge, running, riding, biking, any lateral movement really, creating bone spurs, wearing out the cartilage and tearing my labrum repeatedly has created “severe osteoarthritis”. My hip balls were no longer round and my range of motion was very limited. So, it was time.

I am doing ok. The surgery was at 7:30 Wednesday morning and I was discharged at 4:15 that afternoon. I am walking around with a walker or cane for safety and have been outside walking for 2 days now. I am starting PT next week and will likely do the other hip next year. No riding for 12 weeks. The hardest part so far is lifting my leg up due to weakness in my quads and pain from the incision site.

Amira is having a Prostride injection into her tendon sheath injury from August to hopefully reduce it’s appearance (though she is not lame) so we can rehab together.

Getting to know JJ and Gamble

In the last two weeks we have worked with JJ and Gamble each day. It seems we rocked their world a little bit, moving them over 1100 miles and changing their situation. They were turned out in a herd 24/7 and not handled a whole lot. We have spent time with them every day and done some lunging every few days. JJ is showing some definite education, but is definitely herd bound and relies on living in a herd. Gamble is sensitive and his MO is blow backwards when unsure. He will certainly need a connection with his rider.

This afternoon Rob and I brought JJ and Gamble up to the barn and tacked them up. I spent about 30 minutes on ground work with JJ and then mounted, spending about 30 minutes mounted walk/trot. I’m still figuring out her buttons, but with time I believe she will become the horse we want.

I had told Rob Gamble needed a relationship, but being the guy he is he didn’t really believe me. He spent an hour this afternoon lungeing and working on mounting block training. Gamble is very sensitive and needs a rider who will take the time to gain his trust. I think they will get there, but we all stayed safe tonight and Rob never got in the saddle.

In the coming weeks we will work towards developing relationships and figuring things out. I have a hip replacement coming up in December and I will do what I can before then. Amanda thinks she will be the rider for JJ and maybe that is true. Stay tuned.

Road trip part 4

We didn’t take many pictures today because we were all about the miles. Over 700 miles covered in 12.5 hours. We generally went 2.5-3 hours at a stretch and then stopped for 30 minutes to let the horses take break. At each stop, they got offered some wet mash and water. JJ liked the sweet water (2 gal of water with a handful of rice bran added). JJ and Gamble both did great all day.

The horses are enjoying a layover at TMR Ranch in Woodland, PA. When we arrived, they had stalls ready to go with hay, water, and bedding. The farm is less than 1.5 miles off I-80 with plenty of parking for your trailer and hotels less than 10 minutes away. If you are crossing PA and need a layover, check them out on horsemotels.com.

Road trip part 3 – went shopping

This morning started before sunrise as we left Ohio and headed into Indiana. As the sun came up, we saw deer everywhere. By the way, it’s REALLY flat in Indiana so you can see a long way. Illinois wins the worst road maintenance award of the 7 states we travelled through. We crossed the Mississippi and arrived at our destination of Dubuque, Iowa mid-afternoon. We checked in to the hotel and took a break before going shopping.

We found some things we liked and decided to buy.

Joining our herd are SA Jack of Hearts (barn name Gamble) and SA Jeeka’s Jessica (barn name JJ). Gamble and JJ are both originally from Sun Arab Stables in Kentucky where we bought SA Fiona from Daunna Sellers; all three share the same Shagya sire, Bayram. Gamble and JJ are out of the same dam, a Thoroughbred named Oak Island Jeeka, so they are both Anglo-Shagyas. Here are the stats: Gamble is 10yo gelding, 16.1hh (maybe 16.2 – Anna is standing uphill) and JJ is a 14yo mare, 15.1-2hh. JJ has foaled previously and both have 2 Limited Distance endurance rides under the belt, although it’s been a few years.

We went out to get some sushi to celebrate. Early tomorrow morning we will start the drive home.

Road trip part 2

After lunch, we continued down the road to another horse trailer dealer. We stopped at Leonard Truck and Trailer in Ohio. With over 60 living quarters trailers in stock, it have us a chance to compare a number of different brands. We left with the trailer we rolled in with and continued on to Toledo, OH where we stopped for the night. Dinner at BWW included trivia and wings. Another full day tomorrow…