Thursday, December 30, 2010

Looking Forward

Just a quick update! Mercy is still on stall and paddock rest, however, I have introduced trotting into our semi-daily walks! She enjoys getting out and moving out, lol! Her barefoot hooves have finally started to harden up and she is striding out much more fluidly now. She will still land wrong on a rock or soft spot in the gravel road and act ouchy, but it doesn't slow her down any.

A few days ago, before the recent snow hit the ground, I was driving home and saw my mom riding Starlett and ponying Mercy for their daily walks. I just couldn't resist not joining in! I quickly parked my car and jumped on Mercy bareback! ARGH! Am I crazy or what!? It was super windy, Mercy only had a halter and lead rope on, and I haven't ridden her for over two months! And I jumped on without a saddle!

Well, she was excited to be free of Starlett! She was walking out so fast; it was quite exciting to really let her go. I was just along for the ride. This was her walk.

Today will be 4 months since the accident that caused her lameness and injury. I will be able to start riding her soon and hopefully before spring I will be able to hit the trails once again!

I really can't wait!


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Lasers all Around Us!!!!

Just a quick update on Miss Cedes. She is actually doing quite well on her stall and paddock rest. She happy enough being fed plenty of high fiber local hay to keep her busy and she is really enjoying her walks around the neighborhood, by hand, for some exercise and mental stimulation. We are walking 30 minutes a day MAX. and only when I get home from work and it's not raining/snowing/blowing sideways, or when my mom is working from home and can help me out a bit so I don't have to walk the girls in the dark. Of course on the weekend she is walked both days too!
On days when I can't get her out for a walk, I make sure to spend a little extra time with her out at the barn before dinner. I might take some extra time on her feet and apply some Keratex Hoof Hardener to her toes and sole (We pulled Mercy's shoes November 17th and she's a little ouchie- obviously) or ask her to move a hoof here or there in order to maintain our light feel and accuracy skills. Anything to make her think or feel challenged. It really does keep her happy!
In this picture you can see her shoeless hooves and if you look at the top of her legs you can see where she was shaved down for the ultrasound, lol!
Starlett enjoys our walks too. I think that she feels like she has a purpose: She is watching out for Mercy. Star takes her job seriously, but she also really likes the exercise too. Her arthritic knees seem less painful and more fluid in motion since we started these more routine walks.
Mercy, on the other hand, mainly sees these walks as an excuse to eat grass... it's pretty much a battle from start to finish to just 'keep walkin.'
Here she is eyeing a delicious fern... ewww.
back when we had all of that snow, our walks became even more non-existent because of all of the ice underneath the snow. the last thing I needed to happen to Mercy was to have her fall down after hitting a slick spot. Most of the snow did eventually melt off, except for some stubborn patches, which immediately froze again each night. We did venture forth on our walks again once most of it was gone, but Mercy was still able to not only find some slick, slushy spot, but also made sure to walk on them and freak me out!
Yesterday Dr. Bob stopped out to start laser therapy on Mercy's leg. It's an exciting new procedure in which we run a medical laser up and down the injured leg, right above and below her knee, for three days straight and then twice a week for two weeks. This should expedite the healing process by exciting the cells of the tendon, which will speed up repair of the tendon fibers! today was day two and Mercy seems to really enjoy the therapeutic heat the laser gives off! I am REALLY excited to see how she feels after the final laser treatment. Anything I can do to help her heal more quickly will help us both be able to fly again sooner!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Snow Day!!!!

It snowed hard enough earlier this week that after making it in for only a few hours on Monday, I was told not to come into work for the rest of the week. YAY! I drive a 1995 Ford Mustang... not the best snow vehicle, but we managed for 4 years in Pullman, so we know how to handle it well enough if we have too.

With so much time on my hands, I really didn't know what to do first! I decided that Mercy really needed to get out for a walk. It was really icy on the road, so I didn't want to walk her there. And, I can't take her on the trails, which would have been too icy too. So, I led both of the girls over to my neighbor's pasture for a little walk-about.

I let Starlett loose so she could dink around on her own, but Mercy needs to be kept under control. A controlled walk. Period.

Here's how it went.... :

"OMG! What is that!?!?!?" *snort*
"Can I stare it down?! Maybe? No, no I don't think it's working! What is it?!"
"Maybe I could just get close enough to touch it!?"
"Oh.... ok.... it's just nommy snow on a branch!"
"What?... It WAS going to get me! I have no doubt! Seriously!"
*Rolls Eyes*

After all of that craziness, she decided that tree snow wasn't that good after all. She decided that real grass was! Mercy actually had a lot of fun digging out the snow to get to the grass. She tunneled around for a while, looking for the longest, tastiest grass.

Soon Starlett wandered over and started digging for grass too. She didn't want to be left out of the fun!

Both girls rolled in the snow while we were wandering around. Mercy got concerned, because of the lead rope attached to her halter, and decided to get up rather quickly. Star, however, really dug in and enjoyed her roll!

After they had had some fun, I put them away and went for a walk out back. I can't ride Mercy, and we don't ride Star when it's icy because of her likeliness to fall, but that doesn't mean I can't go out an enjoy the snow scenery!

Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving!


Monday, November 22, 2010

All Strung Out

Lame, lame, lame. Mercy is still lame. It is ever so slight, but she is lame.
And I needed to know why.
That's why she was trailered down to Emerald Downs to visit Dr. Schneider. She loaded like a pro and we were on the road extra early. I had been to Emerald Downs many times, but only for the races, not to get a horse looked at and I wanted to make sure I got there in plenty of time. The drive was uneventful and we pulled in a good 30-40 minutes before my appointment.
I climbed out of the truck once we pulled into the parking area and I went into the building to check us in. Of course, I got lost. Kinda. I couldn't find any sort of 'check-in' room or desk, and of course who sees me all confused?! Dr. Schneider! He helped point me in the right direction and I soon got us checked in. They were running behind, so they asked me to keep Mercy in the trailer until the came out to get us. No problem.
I started looking around this end of the property. I could still see the grandstands! Amazing! And the lines and lines of barns were spectacular amoungst the fall colors!
Then I went to check in on Mercy. *sigh* Can you see what she did to her eye?

She appearantly got a woody piece of hay jammed into her lower eye lid. It swelled up a little and was a little sensitive, but once I got the piece out and wiped the wound clean, it looked much better. Mare... We came for a lameness exam and ultrasound, not for an eye problem! >:(
It was a half hour over my appointment time, which I know happens when horses are involved, and we started hearing a loud noise approaching. Suddenly we could see what was coming. Hundreds, if not thousands, of geese flying over head!!!
They made so many "V's" and lines that it looked like lace! I couldn't believe how long we sat there watching and listening to them pass.
Then, we heard another noise approaching from the other direction- a train! Yay!... :/
The tracks are literally across the street from where we were parked, so it was loud and the vibrations were crazy! Thank goodness Mercy really doesn't care. She could see the containers moving past, so it wasn't such a big deal for her.
We finally were called over shortly thereafter, so I unloaded Mercy and followed the assistant in through the side gate. After another short wait, Dr. Schneider came out to meet us and briefly go over Mercy's history. He had his assistant take Mercy through a whole range of lameness exams. They manipulated her tendons and joints, did a hoof test, flexion tests, trotted her up and down the road over and over while Dr. Schneider watched from the side and behind. He concluded that she was slightly off on the right front, just as I thought. He couldn't, however, tell where she was hurting. He had poked and prodded her tendons, ligaments, and joints and got no reaction what so ever.
Here are the options he gave me:
1) Do nothing more but take her back home and continue stall rest for a few more months
2) Block her leg starting from the ground up
3) Ultrasound the leg to look for soft tissue damage
I brought Mercy all that way knowing we were going to be doing an ultrasound, so that's what we did. Another assistant asked me to move Mercy closer to the building where Mercy got her legs shaved down along the back of the leg. She was quite uncooperative for that part. Another horse had just been taken out and she wanted to follow. It took a while to get her head back to what was going on here and what was expected of her. Then Dr. Schneider came over with a light sedative. She needed to be very still for the ultrasound to come out correctly.
After she started to relax and droop her lower lip a little, his assistant had me maneuver Mercy into the building and onto a stall mat, where he applied gel to the back of her leg and called over Dr. Schneider. I was still holding Mercy while he looked at her tendons and had a quick look at things. I had one of his assistants come over and hold Mercy (like anyone needed to do that lol!) while I moved over to watch the ultrasound screen. As soon as I got a good view, Dr. Schneider exclaimed he knew what was going on!
In the area that I had showed him during the lameness exam where the immediate swelling occur ed after the fall, behind and directly below the knee, had a massive tear. Her superficial digital flexor tendon (SDFT) had a spotting look to it, showing where the muscle fibers were no longer whole. He compared it to the deep digital flexor tendon (DDFT) which is located right next to it for me to get a visual. The DDFT was pure white, showing the solid and complete muscle fibers. It isn't a bow, but *simply* a tear.
The image was amazing to see and became even more incredible as he slowly moved the ultrasound head further down the leg. As he slowly moved the head down the ligament, away from the knee, you could see the muscle fibers becoming more normal- indicating a high tear. he also took a quick look at her left front leg to compare too. I wish I had asked him for copies of those images. Maybe when I see him for a recheck in the future...
Dr. Schneider gave Mercy a good prognosis: a 70% chance of healing and returning to work without further injury. Dr. DeWard, my regular equine vet, says this is pretty conservative. It's most likely more like 80-90%, but only time will tell.
Mercy's rehabilitation began the day she was injured. She was on stall and paddock rest for weeks, iced and cold hosed daily (if not multiple times a day) for the first week, and slowly introduced back to walk/trot trail rides. But she was still lame- so she was on and off stall resting until we saw Dr. Schneider almost 2 months from the day of the injury.
Since we have already started the rehab program, Dr. Schneider recommended we customize his rehab program to fit what we have already done. He agreed that stall rest at this point was, well, pointless. She has a small stall and a 30'x45' paddock that she lives in, unless she is healthy and turned out to pasture for a few hours a day and being ridden. He thought the paddock was a little big, he would prefer a 30'x30' area, but I fear that making it smaller will actually make Mercy more hyper. Dr. DeWard agreed, as long as she doesn't get running around.
Additionally, we are hand walking for up to 30 minutes a day. I try to get 20 minutes a day, but the weather is not cooperating, nor is my work schedule. I just do what I can. Dr. DeWard also asked me to gently stretch her leg out, as far as it would comfortably go, once a day. This is to apply a little stress to the leg so that as it heals it doesn't bind up. It should still be flexible and maintain a range of motion. I definitely have to be careful when I do that. She is much more sore and stiff on that leg than on her left front. In about another month or so, I should be able to start jogging her a few minutes a day, and slowly increase the time up to 20 minutes a day. That's the point at which I will be looking for some boarding. There is no where for me to safely trot her at my home. I need somewhere that is indoors, flat, and soft.
After two or so months after we start jogging, we can then begin riding at a walk and trot. I still will not be able to trail ride what so ever... That's where that boarding facility is going to be most sweet! If she is sound at six months, I can begin riding her as usual, slowly building up to her previous athletic abilities. Dr. Schneider asked that I bring her back at six months out to perform another ultrasound to recheck the progress. I can't wait!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Now We Know

Mercy tore her superficial digital flexor tendon right below her right knee. That is the official verdict from Dr. Schneider, who performed an ultrasound on Mercy's leg at Emerald Downs this past Thursday. He performed a full lameness exam and then completed the ultrasound, which ultimately proved our suspicions. Mercy has had two months of on and off stall/paddock rest already, with some light riding, so we are to continue that, without the riding, for another 2-3 months. We can slowly introduce hand walking into the mix once that is done and then haul down for a recheck ultrasound to make sure things are healing up.

I should get the official report from Dr. Schneider soon, at which time I will write up a much more interesting and in depth post. Just needed to get something up.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

A (Kinda) Lazy Ride Along the River

I have been babying Mercy along for a while now since her injury in August. Taking it slow when I ride at home and no sudden maneuvers or speed. Ever. A couple of weekends ago I just couldn't take it any more! It was pretty wet out, but there was a break in the system so my mom and I loaded up the girls and headed out for some trails less traveled- by us at least, lol! I drove us over to the Cedar River Trail System, a great public trail that is straight and flat. Perfect for us to slowly make our way back into riding shape!

When we arrived at the parking area there were only 2 or 3 other cars there, so we had plenty of room to park. We saddled up quickly and headed out into the heavy mist.

The trail was covered in fall leaves and the ditches were full of water. I only wanted to ride for about 45 minutes total, so we didn't meet many people along the way. The only couple we came across had a very scary umbrella, apparently... Mercy got over it quickly considering she hasn't been "out" for a long time and was pretty on edge.

She was also quite concerned with a house that is very close to the trail. She really wanted to go see it once we passed though, so it really couldn't have been that bad... silly horse.

Before we hit the first bridge we turned around. Once we did Mercy decided it was really time to head back, NOW, so she walked as fast as she could! LOL! It was hilarious, she was gliding along- I am pretty sure that is what they call the Indian shuffle, but I don't really know. Anyway, she was feeling good and I couldn't detect and lameness!

The rest of the trail ride was very pretty and very uneventful! Thank goodness! We were gone for about an hour and the weather held out for us. I couldn't wait to ride her in about another week in an indoor area where i could really judge how she was recovering. ;)

Friday, October 1, 2010

Injury Update

Well, I had Dr. Bob out again to recheck Mercy's lameness. It was dark by the time he got out to our place, so we were pretty limited on what we could ask Mercy to do. He started out by palpating her legs, where he couldn't really find anything- no heat or soreness. Then, he asked me to trot Mercy in large circles both directions, where we discovered that she is now favoring her left front leg ever so slightly... He watched her for quite a while trot in circles, then asked to see her move in a straight line. Even thought it was dark out, the barn light hitting her shiny white hooves was just enough for him to be able to evaluate her movement.

Dr. Bob had suggested ultra sounding her leg when she was first injured, but he now thinks it is better if I take her over to Emerald Downs to be seen by Dr. Schneider. He has more high tech equipment that would more likely find the problem. She could have a bone bruise or a super small tear in her suspensery ligament, but either way I have got to get this figured out! It has been over a month of stall/paddock rest and even though she has improved, it is still not gone. And we don't know what "it" is!

I have been able to ride her bareback in the pasture a couple times during the week. She has really lost a lot of muscle along her back and shoulders. Dang. Oh well, it's almost winter anyway.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Looking for Improvement

It's been three weeks since Mercy got hurt after being chased down by Starlett. The swelling in her leg is most likely gone, but every now and then I think I can still feel some there. She has been trotting sound in straight lines, but ask her for any lateral maneuvers and she gets a slight head bob going. This past week I was directed to try riding her at a walk for up to 20 minutes. I got a few rides in, but we mostly just moved from grass patch to grass patch. I am going to have the vet out again this coming week to see if we can pinpoint the location that is causing the most problems for her and to discuss some possible rehab options.

Until then, we are trying to stay out of the rain and trying to stay positive.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Decision Time

August 15th had arrived. Actually, I had forgotten about this show until 2 or 3 days before it was scheduled! I missed the pre-registration deadline so I had to just show up a little early and register at the show. The show started at 7Am... they pushed the start time up because at their last show they had so many participants that it didn't end until 9PM!
I actually almost decided not to go. The weather was suppose to be near 100* that day and the venue, Bridle Trails State Park, was located close to 2 hours north of us. This meant we needed to leave by 4:30AM at the latest to make it there in time to pre-register and have time for warm up. Plus, we had never been to this facility! We wanted extra time, just in case. I also hadn't practiced reining at all since our last reining show last May!!! Between work, injuries, truck issues, and the lack of a decent arena, we hadn't done much other than spins in the pasture.
Anyway, I decided to go. This was the show that would decide if Mercy and I were going to continue reining. If she was absolutely not going to have any of it, and if it was no longer fun for me, then I would never ask her to do it again. I decided that this show was going to be the one to decided it all the day our vet came out and did the x-rays. Reining is hard on horses, both beautifully conformed and not, and if Mercy was ouchy or not having fun like I did, then I was not going to push it ever again. She could just trail ride.
Luckily, Mercy loaded right up and we were on the road on time. We were worried about parking because it has always been said that that facility had little of it. In fact, the reining club had parking attendants there at 6AM to make sure every one's rig fit. We had no problem finding BT and there was plenty of parking, at least at that time in the morning.
I jumped out and quickly unloaded Mercy while my mom headed over to the show office to turn in my papers and check. I didn't bathe Mercy the night before (again) because she sleeps in sawdust, which sticks to her no matter what. So why? I groomed her really good, tacked up, and headed over to the warm up pen to get a closer look at the grounds.
After walking through the trail that leads from the parking area to the riding arenas, I saw that there were actually three arenas. There were two warm up arenas and the main arena. I climbed aboard Mercy and headed into the warm up arena attached to the main arena. I took my time asking her to bend and flex, maintaining a calm mind and attitude. After trotting a few circles of various sizes, I noticed that the main arena was open to the riders to warm up. Bonus!

We were able to carry that light feel into the arena even though giant umbrellas, banners, and announcers systems were all going up and causing lots of distraction. Mercy was easily able to pick up her leads and not once did she threaten to buck. That nice calm warm up really does prepare Mercy to lope off smooth and easy.

We loped to the left for a while and then switched to the right. We completed maybe 2 full circles and then all of a sudden there must have been 20+ riders in the arena! I am so glad to have a horses that can be loping circles in one direction and not even blink an eye when someone loping in the other direction basically rubs stirrups with us as we pass each other. We switched to the left one more time to check out our lead changes and then took a break in the center of that circle. I spun Mercy each way a few times once she aired up and then guided Mercy out of the arena. It was almost time to show and I need to change clothes still! Mercy was sporting her new red and tan zig-zag saddle pad:

They packed in the trailers like sardines, but no one had an issue with it. I just tied Mercy up to the end of the trailer so she had plenty of room to maneuver, if necessary.

The show started at 8AM sharp. And it was already almost 80*. We were draw 4 in our first class- Beginner A. I didn't practice much before the class. I wanted to take this class slow and just use it as a schooling class, taking it seriously but if she needed to spook at something or act up then it was fine to break pattern to fix it while it wasn't a real pattern. Here's how it the modified pattern went:
Left spins : -1/2
Right spins: -1/2
Left circles: -1/2
Lead change: 0 and penalty: -1
Right circles: 0
Stop: -1/2
Back: -1/2
Our score was a 67.5! She did great actually. We had no reason to break pattern so I made the effort to improve upon certain maneuvers throughout the run. I wanted to make our large, fast circles just that. Large and fast. Same with our small, slows. Mercy was actually pretty lazy and getting her to move out was a challenge. We got the penalty on the lead change because she didn't change. I had a hard time getting her to trot and try the lead again, so by the time we got the correct lead we were already almost all the way around the first circle...
Anyway, we ended up tying for 3rd out of 7 exhibitors! What a great start! We headed back to the trailers to get some water and take a break. Our next class was more than an hour away. I tied Mercy up, gave her the last of her hay, and headed back to the arena to go watch the other exhibitors. On my way there I took some pictures of the grounds. Here's leaving the parking area to the arenas, the log you have to cross, and the trail:

Here's the first warm up arena looking out to the main arena, grand stand, and club house:

To the left is the other arena we used for warm up and some used for lunging:

Here's the seating area and club house:

After taking a few pictures of the other riders, I headed back to the trailer. The morning light was still low and glowing, so I snapped a pic or two of our saddle. It seems way to simple, but I love it:

Since our first class went to well, I made the mistake of not taking the time to warm Mercy up for our second class- Beginner B. I honestly thought we would just go into the arena and do our thing the best we could. Well, Mercy had other ideas. Those two or three lope laps around the warm up didn't do much for her. I will let our score speak for itself:
Left spins: -1/2
Right spins: -1/2
Right circles: 0 and penalty: 2 1/2
Left circles: 0 and penalty: 4
Left rollback: -1
Right rollback: -1
Stop and back: -1
With a total of 59.5. Ouch. I honestly don't know why I got so many penalty points on our circles, but we did. My mom recorded the whole run and I just don't know enough about the scoring to comment anymore on it. I do know what happened on our rollbacks though! Mercy forgot how to stop! LOL! It didn't help that we were pointed toward the arena gates when we needed to stop, but that's not a good enough excuse. Then, she refused to do a rollback. It was more of a walk in a large circle, then eventually trot into a trot. Argh! Mare! We ended up with 8th place out of 16, so we didn't come in dead last, but it sure felt like it.
So, instead of going back to the trailer for another break, she got to work for her break. The warm up arena not attached to the main arena was empty so we headed over there and worked on our stops and rollbacks. First I just worked on getting her to stop without me having to rip her head off. once she could stop off my voice and seat pressure, we took a short rest in the arena. When I asked her once again to stop after our break, and she did, I added in the rollback. And guess what? She was right with me. We didn't have to work on that very long and she got the hint that we not here to goof around.

By the time we were done in the arena, it was almost time for us to go into our next class- Beg. horse/ Non-pro rider. We were draw 6 and had to quickly do a few practice spins because we were up next. Good thing I wasn't too worried about that maneuver. Here's how we did:
Right spins: -1/2
Left spins: -1 and penalty: 1/2
Left circles: -1/2
Right circles: -1/2 and penalty -6
Right rollback: -1/2
Left rollback: -1/2
Stop and back: -1/2
And another score of 59.5. I still don't know what happened on the right circles to rack up that many penalty points. Some day I will have to show the video to someone who understands this more than I do. Her stops and rollbacks felt amazing though! I was so pleased with her change! I even lost my hat during the run and she could have cared less. Thank goodness!
After grabbing a hot dog for lunch, at 11 AM, we packed up and headed out. One hour south of BT it was over 95*! I am so glad I ride the morning classes! The rest of the riders and workers were real troopers!
So, except for my first class, our scores were not very good compared to our May show. Well, at least there wasn't any improvement in our training. Oh well. I knew that already. Mercy never really acted out at the show, so unless I get absolutely zero riding time this winter and spring, I plan on reining in the future with Mercy. I will keep you updated on her injury progress and future fun!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Another Delay...

I honestly have no motivation to blog right now because Mercy got hurt two weekends ago, but I thought I would write a quick update. Basically Star attacked Mercy while they were in the pasture and in the process of her trying to get away, Mercy fell. When she got up she was lame on her front right leg. It swelled up pretty good and was obviously painful. It has now been 10 days and she is still on paddock rest, but she is no longer getting bute daily or having to be cold hosed. Those are great signs.

Anyway, I will get around to writing up about the reining show from last month and should have it up this weekend.

I'll keep you updated.

Hope everyone had a great Labor Day weekend!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

One Goal at a Time

The title of this post says it all. Focus on one thing at a time to improve upon instead of nitpicking at every little thing. All of the parts will become whole, eventually.
This was my motivation while attending the SAFE show with Mercy on August 7th.
We headed out alone early in the morning, arriving just in time to get groomed and dresses in preparation for our halter and showmanship classes. My family was up in Alaska, so I had to do things myself, which wasn't hard, but much more time consuming then I remember it ever being. This is what Mercy looked like straight out of the trailer:

It was misting heavily and she didn't get a bath the night before. This show was just a fun, schooling-type fundraiser for the rescue, so I wasn't too concerned about pulling out all of the stops for a few classes. She was actively shedding her summer coat and covered in a very fine dusting of sawdust, which, when mixed with the mist, made grooming very challenging. I curried her for quite some time and just started brushing her out when the first call for the first class was called. I finished grooming her by combing out her tail, soft brushing her coat, and wiping out her nostrils. Even though it wasn't sunny out, she glowed so bright when I was done:

I quickly cleaned up myself, threw on my exhibitor number, grabbed Mercy's show halter, and sprinted to the arena, where my class was checking in and lining up.
First up was stock-type halter. I have seen halter lots of times but had never participated. The judge knew this show was for all levels of equestrians so she took her time explaining what was expected of us once the class started. When it was our turn we walked to the judge until she moved out of our way and then trotted straight ahead, turning left around a cone and continuing to the ring steward who instructed us to stand head to tail with the other exhibitors. Mercy decided during our trot that she didn't like the lead chain under her chin and threw her head in the air, even though no pressure was being applied. Shame on me for not putting it over her nose like I always have... I guess I just forgot. Oops.
She set up nice and stood still during the line up. The judge looked over everyone once more and then made her placings. This class is based on a horses conformation and movement, both of which Mercy has faults in. I was surprised to hear when our names were called for third place! :)

Next was our showmanship 18 and over class. The pattern was not that difficult: when instructed to begin, pick up the trot and weave between some cones, at the last cone break to a walk and circle the cone to the left, when lined up with the judge pick up the trot again and stop in front of the judge, set up for inspection, when excused back up a horse length and execute a 90* haunch turn, walk into line. Sounds like a lot, but really it's pretty basic.
I practiced outside of the arena for a while, focusing on the weaving at the trot. When it was time to get started, of course we were placed next to the crazy draft cross that kept rearing and trying to lope out of the arena... Mercy handled it well, however, and eventually the draftX left the arena.
It was soon time for us to set up at the start of the pattern. When acknowledged by the judge, I asked Mercy to trot off with me. She was really with me mentally, so it was no big deal there... until we needed to swerve for the cone. *sigh* She landed right on my foot at the peak of our turn. I don't know if she saw something and over stepped or what, but she came flying at me and my foot took the whole impact. I instinctively lifted my right arm to block her from coming further into my space, at which she threw her head and nearly knocked off my hat.
My foot was throbbing already and it was killing me to "trot" the rest of the pattern. We rounded the cone at the walk and picked up the trot at a limp. I sure didn't care about a happy face anymore. I just wanted to be done with the pattern so I could get my foot out of my boot before it swelled itself in. Luckily Mercy had the same idea and set up perfectly. When the judge excused us she backed up feather light and pivoted like a pro. I was so glad to just stand in line waiting for everyone else to finish up.
But oh no! That wasn't it! The main grounds speaker decided to blow as loud as it could from directly behind us and that's where Mercy had had enough. Someone finally started talking in the speaker, but that didn't calm her any. She didn't dance around or anything, she just wouldn't stand the right way, with her butt away from the judge... When it was all done she was still just not having any of it, and neither was I, so I chained her pretty hard and she quit squirreling around. She was still alert and looking around, but her feet were still.
I didn't think we would place at all. The class had over 10 exhibitors and they only placed to 5th. But, then I heard our names called for fourth! I guess that we were just the best of the worst, since most of the people were off pattern or touched their horses during the back or pivot. After picking up our ribbon we slowly made our way back to the trailer. I used Mercy for support and we made it out there just in time to hear the announcement that the riding classes would begin soon. Great...
I wasn't sure how my foot would look, or feel, so I took my time getting Mercy saddled. Here's what my boot looked like before I took it off:

My pinky toe was swelling already and turning very interesting shades of blue and purple. It hurt like hell, but I put my boot back on; not much I could do if it's broken.

The following pictures were taken by my friend A. She brought me some Starbucks and some moral support for the rest of the wet morning. My next class was walk/jog western equitation. I didn't have much time to get ready and warm Mercy up, so it was a "whatever" kind of class. Of course Mercy knew this too and for most of the class she had her head looking everywhere and held high. Luckily, A is a great photographer and caught many of the good moments. Plus eq. is based mostly on the rider, not the horse. So as long as I held it together, we should place.
I really like this first picture, and yet, it's so revealingly sad. Both of us are momentarily at ease, just plodding along in the arena. And then you see how she is taking that step with her left front. That right there is why she has bone spurs. With every single step she takes, she places all of the force and weight of her motion on the lateral side of her hoof, and thus her joints. The repetitive strain of those motions are what are crippling her so young. Dang.
The judge had us walk and jog both ways, and then line up. I took my time getting to line so I could avoid some of the more *ahem* special horses and their riders...

Guess what?! We won! LOL! I thought we had a good chance of winning, but still. It's always nice to bring home that blue ribbon!

After this class we headed over to the indoor arena to get out of the drizzle and chat. I'm glad they decided to have the show in the outdoor arenas, because Mercy's shows better in them, but with the rain it would have been nice to not worry about your clothes, equiptment, and horse. Right before our walk/jog 18 and over western pleasure class we finished our coffees and headed down to the arena.
Mercy responded better than in the last class to my cues for her to lower her head and round her back. I thought we looked good cause we sure felt good!
Unfortunatly, the judge didn't think so. Both Mercy and I, and another gal and her paint, which were in my opinion, the most pleasurable horses out there, both didn't place. At all. But that's the way horse shows are. Each judge has an opinion and it's not always what the "judging standard" is or what we think is right either.

Before she announced the class placings, the judge explained the reasons for her placings. She said she had a hard time with this class because she would know her placings and then someone would break gait, and she would have to start over again. Then another horse would do something to make her rethink her placings.
I know we didn't break gait. Not even once, so if that was her major consideration while judging, then I don't know what happened. She also mentioned that she was looking at the riders to see how much they were having to cue their horses; claiming that that made for an unpleasureable ride. True. I was having to cue Mercy multiple times throughout the class, but I wasn't constantly pulling or poking her. I don't know what she saw, but I wish she could have talked to each of us. Oh well. Wish they could have posted the judge's comments too, but they didn't. :/
With four classes out of the way, and two more to go, it became time to get serious. My one and only goal for this show was to enter a walk/jog/lope class and survive. I really didn't care if I placed or not. I just didn't want to have a bronc go across the arena and casue trouble for the other riders or handlers. So we headed over to the warm up pen. Good thing we had some time...
As soon as Mercy and I walked into the warm up arena... buck buck buck buck... *deep breath in and out* The Appitude came roaring in with all it's glory! I couldn't get her to walk. As soon as she eralized she was in the arena she just got all flustered and couldn't walk. Not slow, not fast, not in a straight line. Nothing. I let her jog out as long as it didn't get too fast because that's when she wants to break into a lope. And then buck, buck, buck... after a few laps around the very large arena at a jog, she let down and asked to stop. Great! That's just what we did. In the middle and out of everyone's way.
Now with her feeling more comfortable and confident in the arena, I did some bending exercises, making sure I had her hind and front quarters. Then it was time to ask her to lope again. We started to the left, because that is both of our favorite way to go. We are both just so balanced and in sync to the left. It gives her confidence and me a chance to collect my thoughts about my next move with her.
It started out rocky. There were no bucks, but she just wanted to race around. I kept her in a circle, not letting her on the rail, and out of the way of everyone else in the warm up. After a few minutes she relaxed into a nice little lope. She was easy to transition down to a jog and back up to a lope. We circled for a little longer then I let her onto the rail. She did fine. We manuvered between riders and handlers/trainers and found the rail again with little problem.
Coming back down to a jog I went back to the center of the arena to circle, but this time to the right. We started at a jog, striving to be round and fluid. When we got that, I asked her to lope. At the same time, another rider with her paint strung down in draw reins, cut in front of us and we missed the lead. Thankfully Mercy didn't seems phased and we tried again, this time it making it. we loped as big a circle at I could and really tried to hold my balance. Mercy flt really good actually. She was still a little off, not wanting to bring her head into the track we were following, but rather looking out.
Of course, as soon as she get's it, my hat comes flying off. The rain had finally loosened the grips of the hairspray on my head. She held that track until I asked her to stop in front of my hat. A great place to call it quits!
She just really wanted to touch it!

"Hey! Has that always been where you keep that straw contraption?!? I wasn't done with it!"

A and I waited around and watched the other competitors for a little while and then it was "now or never" time for us. Our class, 18 and over walk/jog/lope equitation, was entering the arena. I was so excited that we started to the left, Mercy's good side! We walked one lap around the arena and then the judge asked us to drop our stirrups and pick up the jog! I was a little nervous because Mercy is quite sensitive to pressure on her sides and with my feet out of the stirrups I have to grip a little harder than normal. Bah, no big deal! She just kept jogging her normal speed. After having us pick up our stirrups, the judge asked for the lope. Lucky us we were on a corner and Mercy picked up the lead with no problems! Not only that, she was being quite lazy and I actually had to keep asking her to move out and not break gait!

A lap or two around and the jog was called out. She had us reverse at the jog and we made it only half way around the arena this time before she asked for the lope... after we had passed the corners and Mercy decided to notice something outside the arena. We totally missed the lead. Not only that, I couldn't get her to stop loping. She loped on the wrong lead the entire long side of the fence. We were doomed. I had no doubt. It was a battle to get her to jog, but luckily we were on a corner once she did and she picked up the lope. I continued to show as if nothing happened because that was all I could do really!
And, we won!! I know! No way! The judge didn't see our mistake! The whole length of the arena and she didn't look at us during that time! Score! It's great being able to go to a show and win equitation classes. it means I am doing something right, even if my horse isn't.

Of course all of the spectators saw what happened, and probably most of the exhibitors in that class, so I got some flack from random people I didn't know. Well guess what guys, the judge didn't see it so it didn't happen! That's the other problem with only having one judge, they can't see what's going on 360* around them! Even if she saw the break, I would take a guess and say we still would have won, so what did it matter? It's happened to me too in classes, so whatever. Plus, really. It's just a fun show! ;)
All that was left to do was to go to the trail course. Here's the pattern: walk through the 'L,' back through the 'L' until until you get to the flat board on your left and side pass over the board, pick up the trot and cover the ground poles, break to a walk and weave through the poles, walk over the bridge, go through the gate, carry a cone past a stuffed bear in a chair, walk over a tarp, walk under the 'waterfall', and finish by opening up the mailbox and showing the mail to the judge.
Our trip started out smooth enough. The 'L' was quiite wide, so going in and backing out was no biggy. I wasn't sure about the side pass though. We have sidepassed over the length of many poles, but never sidepassed literally OVER the pole. Well I had little to worry about. Mercy didn't touch it. At all. :)
Jogging over the poles, however, didn't go great. She didn't obliterate the poles, but she wanted to scramble over them once she hit the first pole. I probably should have let her go, but her stride is so long that if I had she would have cleared one and a half at a time. We finally broke to the walk after that was completed and weaved the poles, which were really tight actually.
The bridge was, let's put it nicely, homemade and humble. It was maybe 2 feet wide and a couple feet long. Mercy put one foot on it and jumped the rest. I think that's what she thought she was suppose to do with something that little. I could have left it at that, but I wanted her to do it right, so we circled back and completed the obstical.
The gate, was, well... even more humble. It was a huge heavy steel gate held up with a few 2 by 4's. We opened it with no problem, even though the gate drug on the ground, but closing it was more challenging. When I tried swinging the gate closed the wood holding up the gate would sway and bend, making the gate really unstable. I had to let go to reposition my hand (to support the frickin' mess) but I doubt the judge saw that. I roped the gate shut and gladly moved away from that obstical.
Next was the giant bear in the chair. The judge was lazy and didn't reset the course after the last exhibitor, so I got to go past the bear three times instead of once. Once to get past it and retrieve the cone off the pole, again to walk the cone to the original pole, and again to get to the next obstical. I hope she was impressed that Mercy didn't even look at the bear... three times! >:(
Mercy smelled the tarp and procceded to walk accross it. She willing walks accross the tarps at home covering the compost piles, so this was really no big deal. Of all of the obsticals on the course, I thought the 'waterfall.' seen below, would be our biggest challenge. I guessed wrong.
The streamers meant nothing to Mercy. She was more interested in the pole holding the ribbons, LMAO! She walked straight through. And lastly, the mailbox, a no-brainer for Mercy.
And then we were done! I got to go home around 1pm and nurse my (most likely) broken toe. It was a great day! A little wet, but very nice. A great show, a great venue, and a GREAT cause!