Monthly Archives: September 2014

Leaving the rails up

The show season is wrapping up — Cairo and I are finishing with a combined test at Cle Elum at the end of the season — that’s where we started off in May. We started at Starter (2’3″) and we are finishing contemplating trying some fences at Training (3’3″). Wow.

Cairo overjumps things by a mile, but she also takes rails because either she just doesn’t care or she overshoots her arc so much she tips the rail with a hind foot. Winter goals include working on our dressage and working on our jump (teeth and bodywork scheduled for October).

I hauled her over to Karianne’s today for a jump lesson and the goal of the day was getting Cairo to use her back and rock back to her fences. After warming up and using transitions to get my little I’m-still-in-raging-heat mare to pay attention we worked on a four-strided pole line — getting Cairo to do it in five by first collecting, then letting her flow the last stride. Then the same thing both directions through a three-stride.

The fun started when Kari decided to set an in-and-out with placing poles about 10.5 feet out for the landing. Vertical, pole, vertical, pole. The first time through I was a little backed off — Cairo and I have mainly galloped and jumped this summer, not had to collect to fences. We sort of floundered through it, and Cairo showed yet again her willingness to jump anything from anywhere. “Put a little leg on and support her,” Kari said. (That’s in addition to using my outside hand to straighten her off the turn and keeping weight on my inside heel with gentle pressure from my calf, of course).

I came at it again, with leg. And Cairo was like “Great, I LOVE a little support!” She then proceeded to jump the vertical AND the placing pole and the next vertical and its landing pole — let me remind you, the poles were over 10 feet from the fences. Yup, my little 15’1″ hand mare bounced a one stride, no problem.

“Oh no you didn’t,” I head Kari mutter.

“Umm, that didn’t feel like we did it right,” I said to Kari.

“No,” she said, “Your mare doesn’t seem to respect placing poles,” but she added, “at least you know she can jump a liverpool.”

I immediately began to picture Cairo jumping OVER entire water obstacles cross-country instead of splashing through them.

Kari decided to set short bounces instead (I mean, hey, as long as we were bouncing things …) The first time through I felt Cairo go “Holy crap, it’s hard when I have to use myself!” Considering I was mentally prepared for her to try to launch all three bounces in one bound, I simply appreciated that she recognized them as individual fences.

With her typical enthusiasm, she immediately decided the bounces were fun and was soon merrily jackrabbiting through all three of them. But the best part was she was backing herself off and not rushing in. Kari’s goal is for Cairo to get through eight in a row without tiring.

After the bounces Kari switched it to an oxer to an oxer and it felt great. I’m feeling like Cairo’s going to get the whole using her rump thing pretty fast. Another lesson scheduled for Tuesday before Kari leaves town for a show in Los Angeles, and I’m left feeling torn between delight and horror at just what goes through Cairo’s clever, cocky little mind when she sees a jump.


Does Your Mare Colic While in Heat?

Cairo gave me a scare last night. I finished riding her, rather late in the evening, gave her the usual beet pulp, and then tacked up Flash. Afterwards, when I was untacking Flash, I offered them each some apple and Cairo didn’t grab it with her usual alacrity. I put Flash away and tossed them both some hay. As I started dumping Cairo’s buckets and refilling them, I noticed she wasn’t eating her hay.

That is very unlike Cairo. She is always hungry. 

I sat down and watched her, and to my dismay she nipped at her sides, kicked at her belly and stretched like a dog, then she looked at me and pawed. Colic. That’s one of those things that just strikes terror in me.

I grabbed her halter and led her out to the arena. We walked half a lap and she pooped. I wanted to believe the problem was solved, but she still seemed a little unhappy. I took her back to her stall and watched her again. Still not eating hay. I took the hay away and gave her some Banamine. Duly noted: She had pooped several times in the stall before I rode, once during the ride and once after, so my guess was this was not an impaction but maybe a gas colic? It didn’t make me feel much better!

I texted Jordan who owns the barn to give him a heads up I might be pulling a late night, and he told me he thought she was coming into heat and that he has changed the valley grass hay and both those things might be factors. Cairo seemed better minutes after getting the Banamine She started searching the stall for wisps of hay. I took her out and walked and grazed her and she made it clear she was hungry. I decided I was way too neurotic to sleep wondering if the Banamine was working all night or now — though at this point she was her usual up at the stall door bright-eyed self.

I went home, showered, changed grabbed a book and lantern and came back. My sleeping bag and stuff live in my truck and trailer so when I got back to the barn I walked Cairo again and then made camp in front of her stall.

Suffice it to say I did not get much sleep. Cairo on the other hand pooped (at least four times), peed, slept, wandered around and to my (exhausted) amusement she played tug-o-war with Flash with his feed tub through the small gap in the wall between their stalls. Every time I started to fall asleep the barn cat took that opportunity to massage my head with her claws. 

At 7 am, I blearily made Cairo some alfalfa mush to get some liquids into her (she’d drunk, but not that much) and watched her sharp-eyed to see if she’d kick her belly after. Nope. She slurped it and then she played tug-o-war with the dirty bowl with Flash again. I decided it was a good time to go get some coffee at the hippie gas station (because I live within only a couple miles of a biofuel station with organic coffee). I ran into Kari’s husband there and he noticed my bleary appearance. 

“Colic” I told him, and described what had happened. “You can’t be too neurotic,” I said of my decision to camp out with her. “Yes, you can,” he laughed (it was a nice laugh) and gently pointed out in his experience they don’t poop all night if they are still colicking. 

I got coffee, stopped at work to get my work clothes and went back to the barn. Cairo was hanging out waiting for more breakfast or turnout. I sat outside her stall debating what I wanted to do — turn her out? Leave her in? While I debated, she looked at me, turned around, shit twice then winked and squirted.

We all know that I love to Google and while (not) sleeping on the barn floor, I Googled away on my iPhone and discovered some mares have colic-like symptoms when in estrus (heat). 

Before I got Cairo, her breeder had a marble put in her to help soothe Cairo’s rather extreme heat cycles. It worked great for about three months, then Cairo began cycling. After a raging heat cycle in April, I tried medroxyprogesterone and it really seemed to help. As this link says, technically it doesn’t stop the cycles, but it seems to help the mares. She was on that for a bit and then I lapsed and actually all summer she’s gotten more and more chill about being ridden during her cycles. 

However if she’s going to act colicky during ovulation and give me a heart attack every 21 days, I need to ponder another approach. I’m hoping to avoid Regumate — partly the expense — but who knows? Raspberry leaf is sure not doing it! 

I went to the barn at noon today, and she was happily out grazing. I think she’s OK because at that point the Banamine was winding down. 

For the record, horses really don’t sleep much at night. Aside from one glorious flat-on-her-side snooze, Cairo did quite a bit of puttering around. Periodically, she would come to gate and Flash would hang his head over the stall wall and they would both stare at me like “Is she gonna feed us or just lay there?” 

Yawn. I’m looking forward to sleeping in my bed tonight.