072. Catching Up

Whilst starting this post I somehow managed to delete the draft of my 2017 book reads. (Side note: It’s been that kind of disgruntling Wednesday.)

There’s nothing exciting to report on the Nakai front. It’s been the same routine and really, who wants to read about that?

We are currently stuck traversing the barn’s 2 main fields and the wooded trails as the surrounding fields have sprung up corn forests.  We’re corn-locked. It’s painfully boring to do the same loop four or five times to get a measly 4 miles, so rides consist of ring work.

All the ring work.
While Nakai’s been superb, I’ve encountered my own mental roadblocks. Lead changes have always been the best example of this. I focus too much on each stride, Nakai anticipates, and we both end up flustered. The most frustrating part is that I know we can do this! I haven’t successfully nailed changes these last couple weeks, and the other day I decided to ride in a halter and lead, promising myself I would stay out of his way.

Nakai rewarded me all evening with perfect little changes in the pen and out on the trail.

On another night, Ben accompanied me to the barn and I convinced him to hop on for a quick spin. It was only his second time riding Nakai, his fourth time riding altogether. I love how Nakai takes care of his riders. The attitude disappears and he kindly humors them. The horse that will gallop off with a whisper now needs extra encouragement to walk forward. I think Ben would be a natural rider, but alas his preferred horse power comes from vehicles.



We finished off the week with a toddle around the fields with Rose and General. It was the first time he’d been out with Rose in ages, and as we cruised up the fence line I could feel the familiar competitiveness surge through him. We did a nice slow loop working on manners and headed back to the barn to help Diane get General through some initial barn sour stickiness.


Now, it’s three days since and I haven’t ridden for various reasons (adulting being the main one) and I’m desperately pining for autumn.  All I want is my normal riding schedule back.

070.

Since my last update, I’ve had a some awesome rides and some not so great rides. The less than stellar rides stem more from the issue that is Summer. Nakai loathes summer as much as I do and between the bugs, heat, and humidity he feels sluggish. We had a couple days of decent weather which allowed us to have productive schooling sessions and pound out some miles. When the oppressive heat returned, Nakai turned into a cranky toddler. For the first time this year, I had to nag him to get moving (he is a horse who will normally use any excuse to move out). My workaholic was now the grumpy old man who sighed plaintively when he saw me coming to collect him from the pasture.

And oh have we been cranky. I struggled through a few rides where everything I asked initially was met with a resounding ‘No!’ Like the good soul he is, Nakai acquiesces to my requests only after voicing his opinion (over and over and over…).

In attempt to remedy this, we did a few short fun sessions of free lunging, baths, and hand walking to graze and refresh some ground work.


Wednesday evening gave similar results. I’m still struggling with ankle pain and experimenting with possible solutions, so the goal was a quick schooling ride in exercise capris and my terrains. We lasted only 2 1/2 miles because the black flies were terrible. They bombed Nakai’s face any time we slowed down from a trot. I ended the ride there (really not wanting to risk an ERU flare up from the irritation).

I’m crossing my fingers this weekend yields better results.


On the domestic front, Ben’s started building my walk in closet and we’re almost finished pulling out the awful hedges surrounding the house! Once the last three are gone I can finally start creating flower beds! Speaking of plants: Khoshekh’s hellbent on destroying mine. He tried to murder my aloe pant (breaking the pot in the process) and gorged himself on my lemongrass until he puked (and I moved them outside). The cacti haven’t phased the kitty tyrant, either. I’ve caught him itching on them.

I also received a huge promotion at work. I am so happy that sometimes it doesn’t feel real.

We had friends over for a pre-fourth of July bonfire. While I’m still waiting on Mulder kisses, he practically drowned our friend in them.



But I’m not irrationally jealous or anything.

 

 

068. Of Fitness & Fawns


Thrilled that Nakai’s transitioned well over to apartment living and satisfied with his weight gain, we are now back to working on our fitness levels. As much as I loathe summer weather, we ride the most during this season.

I wasn’t sure how quickly Nakai would lose muscle and wind with his vacation time. Time off never seems to make a difference to the Arabs, and some of the Quarter Horses seem to revert nearly overnight. Thankfully, there didn’t appear to be much of a difference with Nakai. I rode conservatively for the first couple weeks and am now increasing his speed and miles.


We’ve also continually worked on removing race brain and the ever constant ‘wait’. Nakai’s doing great in both areas. Last Sunday I had an awesome 8 mile loop with Maria on the home trails. I made Maria trail boss (it’s always me!) and laughed at how easily she still gets turned around. Nakai contentedly worked behind Beamer, rating beautifully and kepping his head on our little gallop strip. He hit 34.8 mph! We rode side by side and I held him back a bit, not sure if I could trust Beamer not to spook (I did not want to be side-swiped). In that aspect, Nakai’s too honest – He will never take the shortcut back home or spook at the deer in the wood line while we gallop. He just loves to run.

Wednesday (I think? I’m losing track of days) I made plans to ride with Marina and Mechele was also available. We hit the trails and I was impressed at how nicely Nakai worked behind Jasper and Rose. I believe this is the first time he’s ridden with Rose since winter, and normally they feed off each other and create little monsters.  It was an excellent ride until we slogged through a muddy patch and I watched Rose’s shoe cast fly through the air toward us. She lost her shoe, too, so M cut her ride short and I finished the loop with Marina.

I’m having a bit of an issue with my ankles again. The numbness starts on the outside of my ankles and works it way up my calves. It burns and then goes numb. Both ankles are afflicted, and I’ve narrowed it down to tight ankles and bunching materials. I’m also chalking it up to having spent the last 6 months riding in my western, but I shouldn’t have this much of an issue switching back to my endurance saddle. I love my wide tread endurance stirrups but am wondering if I need to switch back to narrower ones and see if it helps.

I am a conformational train wreck.

Today’s ride had zero ankle issues (go figure). Maria and I planned to ride early, but she woke up sick so I was on my own. Nakai had a nice warm-up in the ring and we hit the trails. We almost finished a loop of Mechele’s fields when a fawn shot out ahead of us. I whoa’ed Kai and we walked. Out pops another one! Twins! They were older, about lab sized, but still had the bright white spots. Mom obviously left them to go feed, and here I was messing up their hiding spot.

Imagine my surprise when one comes circling back through the hay like a little velociraptor and begins calling to Nakai. The fawn would come close before darting off again. At one point the little babe was brave enough to stand so close I could have reached out and touched them. Nakai flicked his tail, scaring both, and they bounced off into the hay again. I rode away only to look back and see them following me!

They followed us into M’s second hay field and through the wood line into the BJ’s field. Seriously worried that they would follow us on the rest of my 5 mile loop and get lost, I turned Nakai back around and we walked back to the first field. I did end up throwing carrots at them to scare them back into the taller section. I zipped away while they bounced, thankfully without fawns following. Dripping with sweat and losing motivation, I headed back to the barn. What was supposed to be an at least 5 mile loop was 3.

Here’s a couple videos of the little babes:

067. Weight Updates

A month has passed since switching Nakai to stall board. Mechele’s suspicions about feeding time being unduly stressful for him seems correct. It took a few days for his new routine to sink in, but Nakai enjoys his “room”. A few times now I’ve walked into the barn at 10:30-11 on weekend mornings to find Nakai just finishing his grain. According to M, he’s taken to occasionally napping in between finishing breakfast. Clearly, my worries about him settling in were unnecessary.

Here is a before picture, taken in late April:

2 weeks in:

This is from Sunday:

Almost immediately I saw a big difference in his withers and topline after two weeks, and now he has an nice layer of fat covering his ribs and his tail head. He’s filling in behind his withers, and we’re once again working on improving that topline. I wasn’t sure how quickly he would loose muscle mass or fitness, but it’s not as bad as I anticipated. He’s back up to enjoying 5+ mile hacks at home and had no problem completing Green Lane last weekend (He finished with plenty left in the tank).

Side note, but after clipping him I found two large (almost completely identical in location) white spots under his winter coat. They weren’t solid white, like a pressure point would be, and instead were almost lace-like in pattern. Apparently only half of the hair there is white, because as his clip grew in the white spots disappeared (see the most recent picture).

 Thank Lawd he’s a such an expressive mover, because he’s not much to look at when he’s just standing around…



065. Revisiting home trails


Nakai has settled quickly in his new stall routine; Mechele says he seems to enjoy coming in for meals. On the other hand, I keep forgetting he has a stall. I tore my tack trunk apart looking for bell boots and they were on his door. Oops!

The stars aligned and I found myself riding at the same time as Marina, Theone, and Mechele. I’ve been working diligently on Nakai’s patience (he’s  most impatient at home). She wanted to do a slow conditioning loop with Lina so this was the perfect test.

Nakai rocked! It’s the first time I’ve been out on the home trails with friends in months. I’ve either trailered out with Maria or been by myself.

The first hurry up and wait happened 20 feet into the trail. Mechele attempted the rocky crossing with Lina. Nakai watched her eyeballing the rocks and poking them with her hoof. He was standing so patiently that I didn’t care if Lina took all evening.  If Lina never crossed, I would happily end the ride there!


Rocks were no but the mud was OK, so off we went. Marina and Theone zipped into a fast trot and I worked to keep Nakai soft and slow. He has a ground-eating extended trot and wanted so badly to work at that pace, but after a few minutes he softened and rated. He kept his attitude in check but we squirreled all over the trail – a hip popped out here, a shoulder there, or he would drop behind the vertical and try to scoot forward. He settled after about  2 miles, more resigned to his situation that agreeable, but it was a big improvement and I was thrilled.

If I can get the chance to work on rating in a group a few times a week, I think I’ll see a continually improvement in mellowing out his competitive streak.

 

064.

I write this with trepidation, as I feel there is more I could be doing -should be doing- but here I am wading through murky waters, lost and insecure.

In February, I noticed some weight loss. We evaluated Nakai’s feeding program, gave him a vacation from riding, and had the vet check out a few alternative avenues. He had his teeth floated, tested negative for Cushings, and his ERU is under control. Basically, I was told to add more fat to his diet, cut back on the harder work, and go from there. That’s what I did through March and April, and while I noticed a bit of weight gain it still wasn’t what I wanted.

Late April rolls around and he’s acclimated to summer pastures. Again, there’s a weight increase but I still feel like he isn’t thriving. I’ve been down the google rabbit hole, wondering if I need to call the vet back out for a full blood work up. Compared to our usual riding schedule Nakai is still in light work. Now that summer is fast approaching (and with it bugs), Nakai’s back to wearing his ERU mask almost 24/7. ERU masks are amazing and a crucial aspect to his long-term treatment, but a serious downside is that they are more difficult see out of than regular fly masks (Kai cannot wear a standard mask). Since he’s completely blind in his right eye, the mask only compounds the issue.


Mechele had her own concerns, and brought up the lack of sight being an issue in regards to the rest of the herd. The other significant issue with the mask is that he has a much harder time seeing the other horses. This results in not being able to read body language, and over the weekend somebody had nailed him.  He had bite marks up and down his right side (blind side), a couple of which were pretty swollen.  Nakai’s current herd is small and they all get along well. There’s bickering at feeding time, and since I’m not there during the feeding I wasn’t aware this had escalated.

He needs to wear his mask or risk an ERU flare up (3 weeks of medication, pain, and the possibility of a flare up in his good eye). If he wears the mask, he’s quite literally blindsided during feeding.

Mechele’s suggestion is to switch over to stall board. She’s thinking the extra stress of being almost blind and have to eat quickly is starting to take its toll on him.  I’ll admit I’m a little hesitant – mainly because Nakai has never been stalled in the over 9 years I’ve owned him. I’m crossing my fingers he won’t object to being inside and will relax when he realizes he can eat as slowly as he likes.


I’m going to start taking weekly pictures to document any changes, good or bad. If this doesn’t help I’m going to call the vet back out, do a full blood panel and try to figure out where to go from there. . . and as much as I hate thinking about this, I have to discuss when enough is enough for him. Nakai is 26. I’ve met horses over the years where all of a sudden they were “old”. It’s like they aged overnight and nothing was quite the same. If I’m at this point with Nakai, I have to assess his quality of life and be able to recognize when enough is enough.

Sigh.

062.


Over the past two weeks I’ve had some incredible schooling sessions with Nakai. He feels light, responsive, and ready to work without the impatience that normally plagues us. Is it possible that at 26 years old he is finally settling down? I’m sure we’ll have a moment or two the next time we do a fast ride out with friends, but for now I’m enjoying his agreeableness.


In fact, with the exception of Maria I haven’t ridden with any ladies lately. It seems I’m on a completely different schedule than everyone else! While I miss catching up with them (I have a bad habit of sitting in the middle with everyone else, chatting away when we should be working), I find myself more motivated when riding alone.

On the flip side, I’ve logged over 56 miles for April so far and the majority has been hiking with Mulder. He has a much higher energy level than Honey, so the plan is to start doing longer hikes (6+ miles) in anticipation of completing Green Lane (12 miles) and Rickett’s Glen (7-12). I’d love to make both of them a regular jaunt, especially since he needs all the exposure he can get. Getting him fitted for a hiking pack, harness, and boots are on the list too.