Goodbye Ronin

We lost Ronin today. Sudden and complete neurological collapse most like caused by a stroke. Nancy is devastated. I am doing no better. The whole thing is just so surreal. Last time we saw him before it, he had just been put in the pasture with Jupiter and they were instant best friends. He leaves behind a hole in our lives, deep, black and vast.

Hands-On Horse Training
124 Lani Way TalentOR97540 USA 
 • 5415357974

Ronin – First Impressions

10 year old Friesian/Arabian Gelding. 16 hands, about 1350lbs

Pros:
Solid mind, very steady and reliable. Doesn’t fluster or spook.
Large frame, solid bone. Will have a good carrying capacity.
Light to the rein aids. Sensitive to, though not sure as to the meaning of, the leg and seat aids.
Good people connection. Appears to genuinely want to please.

Cons:
Presently does not carry himself from the hind end.
Free lunges with pronounced counter-bend.
When lunged on the line, falls inward or loses his hind end.
Hollow back with rider.
Carries head naturally too high and in the ‘above the bit’ form.
Resists giving at the pole.
No bend while turning, though tries to respond to the leg as best he can.
Ground manners issues, especially after riding.

Ronin is a very impressive looking black Friesian Cross gelding. He is solid boned, broad at the shoulder and deep in the chest. He has a gentle, intelligent look, calm eye and relaxed expression. His mane and tale are long and thick. He is straight of limb and has well formed feet, though they are a bit too dry and have cracked a bit. He has proven easy to handle for the most part, though becomes pushy after being worked. He is a ‘low man’ in the pasture when it comes to herd position.

After a few sessions in the round pen and one under saddle, I am convinced he can be made into a excellent lesson horse and/or medieval gaming horse. While he will need a great deal of physical conditioning, strengthening and suppling to allow him to carry a rider with balance and bend as well as to address his asymmetry. His is strongly ‘right-handed’, balanced on the forehand and as a bad tendency to ‘hollow’ his back while carrying his head much too high. Until I can get him ’rounding’ and ‘flexing’ well, collection is simply out of the question, so I predict some months will be needed to correct these issues.

Fortunately, I will not have to worry about having to do any work on his acceptance of saddle, bit and rider. He is very experienced as a general riding and mounted archery horse. He stands for grooming, saddling and mounting, walks out willingly and is very obedient to the rider’s will. He seems un-phased by the gaming elements and pays little attention to things going on outside the ride.

Summation:

I predict 6 months to condition and train him to classical riding, at which time he should be a strong, balanced and steady mount, with very good potential to excel as a warhorse.

Below is a video of our session today. I wanted to document how he is moving now to compare to where he ends up.

End of Summer Update – Curly

Since my last update on Curly, he has become a force to be reckoned with as a competitive warhorse in the medieval equestrian games we take part in regularly. Along with his owner, he has been used by my wife and one of my students as their mount. Because of this increase in use, I have put Curly into my training rotation and applied the classical horse training method I employ with Orion, Jupiter, Commander, etc.

In the past I was content to just help Raina gain better control over her horse, but in the last few months I decided to see how Curly would take to a more focused, structured training form. To this end, I started working with him in the round pen on the lunging caveson to work on his habit of hollowing out his back and counter bending while turning at the trot and canter. These behaviors cause a multitude of problems for him as far as balance and collection are concerned, not to mention making the ride less than comfortable for the rider. Helping him to find the correct bend to his body, while stepping under himself more with his hind end, has done wonders for his balance and conformation as his muscles have developed differently with the difference in how they are being used. He doesn’t even look like the same horse now.

In the saddle, the focus has been on keeping his frame together and helping him to balance and collect with the added weight of the rider to contend with. This has proven a bit of a challenge as Curly has an interesting habit of falling back on old patterns of behavior when left to his own devices. If the rider relaxes for even a few moments and allows him to start making decisions, the result, as often as not, is a reversion to old, bad habits. However, as long as the rider maintains an independent seat, strong core, consistent leg pressure and soft, elastic contact through the reins, the result is very precise control of a collected, wonderfully athletic mount.

Simply put, Curly is much happier when he has a rider who supports his frame and encourages proper collection and movement. Like most horses, he instinctively tests his rider, even though he is not very happy when a rider fails the test and allows him to make choices, which he invariably gets wrong.

It is my intent to keep him in the training rotation as long as he remains at our disposal as a warhorse. I am willing to bet that he will end up as excellent a mount for such activities and any we have yet had the pleasure of working with.

Zephyr and Jaime

Zephyr’s new owner came to visit him last weekend and I think the two got along amazingly well.  They seem well suited for each other.   Part of the sale price of Z included some training time and  lessons with Troy so when another event got cancelled, Jamie was able to come by and get some ride time on his guy.  I look forward to seeing the two of them riding in warhorse events next year!

Hoof Abscess – Things I Have Recently Learned

Having always owned horses with great feet, that never required shoes due to their thick hoof walls and general superiority, I had never had to deal with hoof abscesses before this winter.

Enter Zephyr.

Z, while possessing fine hoof walls as well, is unfortunately a little flat footed. This means the soles of his hoofs come in contact with whatever he is walking over, more than other horses. This small conformation flaw makes him what is often called “tender footed”. In other words, small rocks or other hard objects he walks over tend to cause him more pain and he runs a greater risk of bruising.

All this I was aware of and I therefore avoided riding him outside the arena without shoes. What I had not considered was what happens when a warm, wet winter suddenly become a very cold one and the pasture freezes. The result of this is horses whose feet are softened by prolonged exposure to wet ground, suddenly find themselves walking on very hard, usually uneven ground. If the animals  run around or just move too fast they can rather easily bruise their soles, especially those prone to it.

Now a horse like Orion, with a hoof wall twice as thick as most horses, has the sole of his feet well supported up off the ground AND said sole is very, very tough. He runs very little risk of any damage, even on frozen pasture.

Zephyr on the other hand, with the exact opposite foot structure and a tendency to do silly thing like running around on frozen ground, is really at risk for such damage.

Now normally slight bruises are no great problem and the horse heals up very quickly. This has always been my understanding. What I did not know until recently is the fact that bruised soles are more susceptible to Thrush.

Hoof thrush is found in the underside of the hoof and can affect the clefts, sole and frog. It’s not known whether thrush is caused by a bacteria or a fungus, but the condition is more likely to occur in the damp oxygen-less areas of a hoof that are often tightly packed with dirt and manure. In the early stages it is harmless, but left untreated it can cause hoof damage and lameness. Thrush spreading into a bruised area of the foot is a common cause of hoof abscess. So combine a flatter foot, already softened by wet ground, then frozen ground, then wet again, makes for a horse prone to abscesses.

We already knew Z had developed and abscess in his right hind foot in December. We had Dr. Bridges out to open it up and treat it and all seemed to be fine. Yesterday our farrier came out to trim all the horses and when doing Zephyr discovered just how bad the abscess on the right hind had been. He ended up cutting away a great deal of hoof sole and quite a bit of the hoof wall near the heel. Now we knew this was going to happen to one degree or another as it is normal for a hoof that has had anabscess. What I was surprised by was just how much was lost. What surprised me more was when the farrier discovered that the left hind had an abscess as well, at just about the same time as the right. We hadn’t noticed at the time because Z was so clearly favoring the other hind foot and because the abscess on left had “broken out” meaning it had caused a small opening in the hoof and relieved much of the pressure, which is what causes the pain in the first place.

To make a long story short, I know too late, we ended up cutting away the damaged area of the left hind hoof as well. The farrier is confident that both will heal and grow back just fine if there is no repeat this year. To this end I am getting Z out regularly, cleaning our his hoofs and treating everything with Thrush Buster. Once the hooves have grown back and recovered a bit, we will be shoeing him again to protect he soles and watching to make sure the problem is not repeated.

All very educational for me and sad for Zephyr. The good news is, he is not permanently damaged, is in no pain and is still a character, always trying to get me to take him out.  It will just be a few weeks before I can.  No harm done. Lesson learned.

Year Wrap-up Zephyr

Z’s time with us has been a lot of fun. He is such a character and always makes me smile. I find him to be a shining example of the Morgan Horse breed, strong, smart, brave, engaged and engaging.

Currently Z is back out in his current owner’s pasture, awaiting his new owner paying the remainder of his purchase price and coming to get him. We hope to have him in his new home before spring is over, but until then we will let him relax a bit. When it gets closer to time, I will bring him back to the training facility and give him a tune-up.

He left us as one of Raina’s favorites to ride, with an exceptionally smooth ride and light touch. He never balked at anything asked of him and I expect he will be an excellent warhorse for his new owner. I look forward to seeing them both in competition this next event season.

Year Wrap-up Curly

While Curly is not technically in training with me, he is boarded on the property and I have ridden him several times and advised Raina on his training as a warhorse of the last year. He and Raina both have made good headway this year, making ever better showings at each event the two of them competed in.

Now that she has been working on his balance and carriage as well as improving her own seat to help him, I have seen them become a more relaxed team; her confident and steady, he better balanced and more collected. As her confidence has increased, their mutual excitement in competition decreased, they have really begun to look and perform like warhorse and mounted warrior.

Next year I expect them to give Orion and me a run for our money.

Zephyr’s Shoulder Issue

We just had our vet out to look at Z’s shoulder and we could not replicate the favoring he had been doing in the past. We walked and trotted on several footing types, and I even road him pretty hard; not a limp to be found.  Bill said he would have given him a clean pre-purchase report.

Recent focus on straightness and balance training seems to have resulted in a noticeable improvement in the issue and Bill credits this for why we can not replicate the problem now.

Zephyr is right handed, so he carried a lot of his weight on his right front leg. Since his arrival, he has slightly favored that leg when asked to trot, as this applies the most strain on the right front of any movement.  Once he warmed up a bit, he stopped favoring the leg and moved normally.

It is my guess that he strained his shoulder some time ago, and is simply taking a long time to mend because of the amount of work that leg was doing for him.

Since beginning work with us, we have been focusing of trying to get help him balance out his left and right muscle development and even his weight carrying, front and back.  As he has become straighter and more balanced, Z has evened out the workload more between his four legs and has starting shifting his center of balance back a little. Subsequently, his right front is not working as hard. In his last session I saw no sign of any problem at all.

Zephyr November Update

Z is moving well now, with his weight distributed much better off the forehand, but is moving lighter than he has since his arrival.

He is very people oriented, coming to the gate anytime someone gets close. He is the easiest of all the horses on the property currently, to get to come work. He actually seems to really enjoy coming out and riding, despite the fact that he tends to lay his ears back without much reason. ;>

He is still a punk, but not hostile or aggressive. He can be a character to be sure, messing with things and demanding attention, but I find him amusing even when he is acting up.

He looks to me to be well on he way to be a fun, courageous mount. I think he will be a very capable warhorse, should his new owner want him for such activities.

Yes, Zephyr is still for sale, $3,500.

By way of full disclosure, Z has started showing a odd minor problem. When we first take him out to work, he ever so slightly favors his right front leg, at the trot only and only for a few minutes. After he warms up he moves fine, trotting and cantering willingly. We have had his foot pressure checked by the farrier and it does not seem to be a foot issue.  It may be his shoulder or another joint, but whatever it is, it does not seem too serious. We have a vet coming to check on him in a couple weeks, when we will take a few x-rays and see what we will see. A chiropractor might be in order as well, we shall see if is doesn’t get better soon.

Zephyr Update

We had an excellent day working with Zephyr today.  He looks like a completely different horse these days.

He has come a long way in a short time with us. His weight is now perfect and conditioning is way up. Raina rode him for more than 2 hours today, cantering much of the time and he never broke a sweat.

He is lighter on the forehand and far better balanced than we he first arrived, stronger, more collected and relaxed. What I find most striking is how much he enjoys being ridden. He never seems to get bored or want to quit. He just keeps going, alert and involved.

I really hope we can find him a new partner who will give him job. It would be a real shame for him to end up standing in a pasture all day again.  It would be even better if he went to someone who wanted to use him for medieval gaming. He has shown real promise at the elements, cantering the “Head” on his first time he was asked.  With his bold nature, curious mind and willingness to work, I think he would make a excellent warhorse.

Another impressive attribute, he is very, very strong. He may only measure at a little over 14.3, he rides like a much bigger horse. He carries me at over 200 lbs as easily as Raina and half that. He is the very incarnation of the Morgan Horse breed.

Zephyr is a real bargain at only $3,500.