Early Morning Calls From the Barn Make For Worrisome Days


Early morning phone calls are almost never good news.  The only good news I can imagine is that your mare gave birth to the long-awaited foal,  Otherwise, the conversations typically start with, “You might need to call the vet.”  When Ms. C called just after 8 a.m. this past Tuesday, I knew that there would be some bad news headed my way – no possible pregnancies with either of my geldings…  The only question that remained was, “Which horse?”  It turns out that it was Ike’s brother Cigar who was not feeling well.

When it came time to walk to his paddock, poor Cigar was three-legged lame.  He was almost non-weight bearing on his left hind leg.  At that time, there was no heat or swelling anywhere else on the leg.  Ms. C thought that she seen him take a wonky step on Monday, but there was no obvious signs of trauma on the leg.  Ms. C suggested that I call the vet to determine what we should do.  The only other times that Cigar had acted this way were when he had a abscess in his left front hoof and when a hoof treatment on his feet accidentally burned the bulbs of his heels.  So obviously, we suspected an abscess.

I placed a call to the vet and hopped in the car for the 30 minute drive to the barn.  The vet suggested we administer Banamine to help with Cigar’s comfort level, and call her back after an hour to reassess.  The Banamine obviously helped, but Cigar was still not his usual self.  This is the point where knowing your horse’s normal behavior is very helpful.  While the Banamine was helpful, Cigar was still not interested in eating his breakfast.  That is definitely NOT normal for this horse with a voracious appetite.  After conferring with the vet, we decided to give him 24 hours before having the vet come.

Well, you can guess how Wednesday morning started…Ms. C called just after 7 a.m. and said we needed a vet to come that day.  Overnight, the leg had swollen to sausage size from the stifle all the way to the hoof.  Oh.  Guess we aren’t going to get lucky with an abscess.  Cigar was still not showing much interest in food or moving.  Poor buddy.  My day was rearranged to accommodate the vet appointment.  The patient was cooperative with the examination.  The cooperation was only due to his pain level; he is usually an ass for any veterinary procedure.

Diagnosis?  Cellulitis.  Prognosis?  Very good.  Course of Treatment?  Fourteen SMZ pills twice a day for two weeks (392 pills – I did the math.)  He is also getting some Bute for the first three days.  Thank goodness the SMZ pills dissolve into water so they can be administered via syringe straight into his mouth.  Wish us luck once Cigar starts feeling better.  I see white paste in my hair and all over my clothing.  Knowing my luck, it will stain.  I also wouldn’t put it past him to sneak a bite or two on my hand/arm/body part closest to his mouth.

Cigar's natural state of filth.

Cigar’s natural state of filth.

Well good drugs are a good thing.  As of yesterday afternoon, Cigar was showing signs of “normal” behavior, although, some would argue that nothing Cigar does is normal.  He nickered for his meals and ate everything, walked around his paddock, tried picking up the water trough with his mouth (not sure why this is his new favorite pastime), played with Ike over the fence, AND, the biggest sign of all, he rolled in the mud.  Yes, the leg is still huge, but I am so relieved that my old man is on the mend.


p.s.  Ike is also glad his brother is on the mend.  He is not used to his brother getting the bulk of Mom’s attention.  Can you say jealous?  Silly pony.




Ride Every Stride

Ike and I had an incredible lesson with Ms. C yesterday.  The weather cooperated.  Ike cooperated.  The evil vulture flock was nowhere to be seen.  My body cooperated, i.e., the ankle pain was almost nonexistent.  And the new DerDau’s made their first appearance at the barn and made it home with no hoof impressions or other permanent damage.

As Ike and I are getting back into regular work, I’m realizing my biggest problem…not my only problem…..but the one that plagues me and many other average riders.  We do not ride every stride.  People like me ask their horse for a particular gait, and then we become passengers.  Here comes a corner, but at the last minute, we move our hand and hope that our horse is wise enough to know to turn rather than jumping over the dressage arena.  If you ask a professional, they will tell you that they give a small half halt a stride or two before the corner and then again coming out of the corner.  Those pros are always planning ahead and staying 5-6 strides in front of their current position.  I, on the other hand, hit cruise control, get distracted by a butterfly/bird/cat, and then realize Ike has flattened and fallen on the forehand.  If I were a dog, I’d be the one who……………..Squirrel!!!………………..you get the idea.

During my lessons, Ms. C keeps me on task and focused on the exercise.  This spring we are working on transitioning to First Level.  In order to do that, we need to achieve a consistent connection at the walk and trot.  If I can’t keep it in those gaits, the canter will be darn near impossible, but ultimately we need it in the canter as well.  Ms. C has us working on a 15 meter circle with numerous transitions.  No longer will a half-ass transition be accepted.  Do it again until you get it right.  To not repeat it only tells Ike that what he did is acceptable.  But for full disclosure, sometimes the mistakes are on my side of the equation.  My aids were too loud which caused Ike to misinterpret my request.  Do it again Alison.  Be a little more subtle.

Bending is the other important skill that we are trying to improve.  I was thrilled yesterday when Ms. C noted that Ike was bending much more consistently.  Interesting, Ike has been out of work for the better part of two months…how is it that we are better?  Ah, his rider has a purchased a vowel and is now understanding how to properly bend her horse while on a circle.  Yes, I occasionally over bend Ike’s body or let the outside shoulder lead us astray, but I can keep all of Ike’s body parts working as one more often than not.  We were doing so well yesterday that we even attempted the canter.  The best we could do was 5 or 6 strides before Ike said, “too hard to maintain.”  Five or 6 strides is still better than no strides or looking like Scooby Doo.  Even harder to achieve was the canter to trot transition with Ike in the proper bend – someone still allows her reins to get a bit long while cantering so that there is no connection in the down transition.  Add that to the list of problems to fix.

When our lesson was done, I could not have been more pleased with Ike’s work.  Grumpy horse is being pushed out by happy horse; it doesn’t hurt that Ms. C gives Ike a goodie during the breaks in our work.  Still trying to figure out why the rider doesn’t get a goodie as well.  It might help with my focus on the lesson and not on the squirrels. 🙂

Back to Work – Hilda and the First Show of the Season Await!


This has been one of those winters – one of those that the cold seems colder, the sky more grey than blue, and riding seems like a distant dream.  Mother Nature dropped another 6 inches of snow on the region yesterday.  The only upside is that when it snows in March in the mid-Atlantic region, it usually doesn’t stick around for long.  In fact, by Friday, temperatures should be in the 60s – much more spring like.  Given the fact that spring starts on Thursday, I’d say that we are due some 60 degree days.  The boys would agree – they are tired of eating hay and would like some lush spring grass for grazing.

I did luck out last week and managed to ride FIVE times with two of them being excellent lessons with Ms. C.  I haven’t ridden that many times in a week since last December.  It felt good to mount up and begin to re-establish our rhythm.  It is amazing how rusty you become.  It takes forever to find the training sweet spot and yet within a few weeks, you lose months and months of stamina and training.

Ms. C asked me an interesting question at the start of one of my lessons, “If you are asked at the clinic with Hilda what you need her to help you with, what will you tell her?”  [Insert sound of crickets chirping.]  Umm, well, ah, yeah, I dunno…guess I need to give that some thought.  Perhaps I need to refer back to George Morris’ commandments and just pick one of those.  Ms. C suggested that I let her know that we are beginning our first year of showing First Level, so perhaps we should tell her that we need help becoming a First Level team.  No more plodding around on the forehand or racing around like Scooby Doo.  No longer is Ike allowed to ride a circle with a stiff and straight body; a circle needs to be more of a circle than a decagon.  Guess whose job it is to make sure that he moves correctly?  No more cruise control for this girl…one must ride every stride and plan for the movements to come.  I suppose that means that my half halt timing will be closely scrutinized.  And if my two lessons last week are any indication, my timing definitely still needs improvement!

And speaking of close scrutiny, I have to admit, that while I am thrilled at the opportunity to be a demonstration rider at the Hilda Gurney clinic, I’m also a bit nervous.  I am imagining hundreds of auditor eyeballs staring at my every move and looking for any and every mistake.  That is more attention than I had at the regional finals!  Yikes!  “How did she get selected for this?  Did you see her blow that half halt?!  Look at her hand position!  Ike’s head is so big and the ears belong on a mule.  That poor horse could be great if his rider was more talented.”  Yes, this is what loops through my head when I’m not busy with work or other tasks.  I know that I need to stop the madness, but that is easier said than done.

The money has been sent for our first show of the season as well.  Our first show will be the first weekend of May.  While there are shows in March and April, I knew that there was no way we were going to enter them.  It is no wonder they call the show at the end of the month March Madness.  You have got to be darn near insane to enter it since ride time has been steady practically nonexistent this winter.  There is also an outlay of cash for the April clinic, so since there are not unlimited funds, the first show needed to wait.  Call me insane, but I signed up for a couple of First Level tests.  I guess if the one on Saturday is a complete disaster, I can always scratch my Sunday ride.  I also signed up for a couple of Training Level tests just so that we have two rides that we can feel confident about as we head down centerline.

Fingers crossed for great things for our third show season!  Hope you stick around for the ride,

Alison and Ike



Yes, there is very exciting news from Ike’s Centerline Adventures!  Well, I should say that I am beyond giddy at the news;  Ike was nonplussed and continued to munch his hay and enjoy the unseasonably warm day.

I guess I should back up first.  Late last year, I received an e-mail from USDF (along with every other USDF member) announcing that Hilda Gurney would be the clinician for the USDF Adult Clinic Series (http://www.usdf.org/education/clinics/adult/index.asp).  She would be in Region 1 in April 2014.  Riders interested in being demonstration riders were invited to apply.  What the heck, I said to myself, go ahead and apply.  It cost nothing to send in the application.  How many other opportunities will you have to have a lesson with a former Olympian?

So I gathered up all the necessary information for the application:  Ms. C’s recommendation, my show record, and my clinic history.  I scoured all the videos that we’d taken over the past year and culled the best out of the bunch – one of a Training Level test, the only one I had from our one First Level test, and some leg yield video from a lesson.  In early January, I emailed the video links to USDF and mailed my completed application.

Then a week after I mailed it, I was launched and the snow began to fall with regularity.  Phew,  good thing I had some decent video already.  And then the wait began in earnest.  And we waited, and waited.  In an e-blast from the USDF Region 1 director, it was noted that there was a record-setting number of rider applications (37).  Oh, hmm, our chances seemed slim.

And this morning, there was an email from USDF with the subject line, “USDF Adult Clinic Region 1 Selected Riders.”  My stomach did a flip flop as I pressed the button to read the email…would we be on that list?  And there it was under the bold heading – Selected Riders  – Alison Thompson on Commanders Eisenhower!!

EEEEEEKKKK!  I read it three or four times and squealed like a little kid on Christmas morning.  The dogs went crazy as I jumped up and down.  I stared at the screen for another minute before I grabbed the phone to call my husband.  “Guess who was selected for the Hilda clinic?!”  He was thrilled for me.  My second call of course to was Ms. C.  She was very excited for us as well.

Now there is a real deadline for getting out of our wintertime lax schedule.  There is much to be done.  Ike needs to get back into the working mindset.  I need to get myself back into riding shape.  The new boots need to be pulled from the box and broken in before April 12th.  There is no way I’m showing up with my pathetic schooling boots.  Need to get the trailer inspected.  Should check the pads and white polo wraps to make sure they are presentable.  And there is the matter of Ike’s hippie mane that needs to be tamed.  I also suppose that the goat hairs should be trimmed and all the mud removed from his legs and tail.

The list will continue to grow, but tonight we celebrate!

More From Ike’s World


Hello Friends!

I’ve decided to not give up control of Mom’s blog.  Still trying to figure out how to change the password so she can’t use the blog, but I guess that would be easier if I knew what a password was.

Do you know that Mom and Dad left me behind again when they went on vacation?  Can you believe that?!  Mom said that they were visiting islands on a boat and that there was no room for me or my brother.  Must have been a very small boat if we couldn’t fit on it.  If that is the case, I doubt that they had a good time.  I know that things here weren’t all sun and fun while they were gone.

While they were on the boat, we had to endure another snow storm.  I again tried to eat it, but this stuff was as bland as the other stuff.  White grass is worthless.  My brother tells me that he is certain that the green grass will be back soon.  The good side of having white grass is that I didn’t have to do any work while it covered the ground.  Word around the barn is that Mom told Ms. C to ride me two or three times while she was away.  As it was, Ms. C did make me do stuff twice, but I did my best to let her know that I wasn’t thrilled with this plan.

The first time was before the storm.  Ms. C put me on a really long lead rope and made me go in circles around her.  Hmm, just because my legs are longer than hers, why do I have to do all the work?  She also had a really long stick with a rope attached.  I tried to ignore what she was saying and do whatever I wanted, but that made her shake that stick at me.  If I ignored the stick, she would shake the stick so the rope wiggled like a snake.  Meanie.  I showed her by taking off so fast that she dropped the rope.  I ran to the far end of the arena, but thought I saw that scary bird hiding in the bushes, so I ran back to Ms. C.  She was less scary than the prehistoric bird.  Along with learning what a password is, I’m planning to learn how to use that stick thing.

Then right before Mom came home, Ms. C put on my saddle to ride me.  I am usually tacked in my stall, so I cleverly walked too close to the stall door and managed to pull the stirrup away from the saddle.  Ms. C couldn’t get it reattached.  Yea!  Awesome, I thought, no work for me!  But she then put her saddle on my back.  Wait a minute, how uncool is this.  Did she really think that I was going to wear a strange saddle?  No way.  I let her know right away that I thought her saddle was a bad idea.  She mumbled something about a fairy tale called The Princess and the Pea, but I’m still not clear how that relates to me and her saddle.

The highlight of my week was the warm weather on Saturday which meant that my blanket had to come off.  Heehee.  When all the white snow went away, it left behind some gooey mud.  My brother has shared with me his mud application techniques to get full body coverage.  You first need to work the mud with your hooves to make sure that there are no dry spots that would keep parts of your body mud-free.  One also must make sure that your rolling method allows you to get full coverage on your sides as well as where the saddle goes.  Cigar says that the saddle area is the most important, but also make every effort to coat your neck and face as well.

I think I did a good job because I stopped Mom in her tracks when she came to the barn on Sunday.  I’m pretty sure she almost gave up the thought of riding, but then a determined look swept over her face and she pulled out the curry.  I made her chase me around my stall a few times too, but she stuck with it.  She worked hard enough to clean off the saddle, girth and bridle spots, but she did leave a significant amount of mud on my legs, my butt, and in my mane and tail.  She won’t win any grooming contests anytime soon.

Even though I was mad at her for leaving me, I was glad to see her especially since she brought juicy apples from her travels.  At least I’d like to think she brought them home from vacation.  It is the least she could do.  We had a good time on Sunday and a lesson with Ms. C on Monday.  They gave me a lot of praise and Stud Muffins.  Guess I will try to be good under saddle since I like getting treats.  Can’t make any promises about staying clean.


It Is My Turn Again – Ike Takes Charge of the Blog


Hello everyone!  I’m hijacking Mom’s blog to again get you up-to-date with the latest from the barn without Mom’s biased opinion obscuring the truth.  You all know that she just doesn’t get things right sometimes.  Poor clueless woman.  I hope I don’t get in trouble for saying that!

Anyhoo, this has been a winter unlike any of the other two winters I have experienced.  There have been numerous days where I don’t get to go out in my paddock at the usual time because of this white stuff that hides the grass.  It is an odd substance that the humans seem to dislike a lot.  The night before it came, they even took the gates off the hinges.  I thought that they’d decided to let us have free roam of the barnyard so that we could eat the tasty grass on the other side of the fence, but no, after the white stuff covered the ground, Mr. D drove the tractor around, and then they put the gates back on.  Shucks!  I thought my brother and I were really going to get to play rather than improvising over the hotwire.

I pushed the white stuff around with my nose.  Ms. C told me I looked like a big anteater.  Not sure what an anteater is or if I want to be compared to one.  What I can tell you is that the white stuff does not taste like grass.  I tried eating it a few times just to make sure I was right.  It is just cold and tasteless.  I also tried rolling in it just like my big brother.  Not impressed.  I think I’m glad I had my blanket on when I rolled.

The best thing about the white stuff is that I don’t have to work when the white stuff is on the ground, so I have had a lot of time to hang out.  Mom says that I’m like a kid who has been home from school for too long;  she says that I’m “stir-crazy” and need to get back to work.  I think she is the one that is crazy.

I did have another new experience this winter.  My best buddy Dooda left the barn one day and didn’t come back.  I knew that he wasn’t feeling well even before everyone else did.  He was very sweaty and rolled in his stall the night before.  I stretched my neck out as far as I could, but I still couldn’t see him when he lay down.  I think he belly hurt and the pain just kept getting worse.  It made me very worried and I spent my day checking on him.  Mom cried when she came to the barn.  She told me that Dooda might be joining Lancaster on the other side of the rainbow bridge.  She told me that Dooda would not be in pain anymore.  I usually don’t say much when horses come and go from the barn, but I did whinny to my buddy as he walked away.  He nickered back.  I’m not going to tell you what he said.  That is between the two of us.

After Dooda left, the whirling dervish Sophie moved into Doo’s stall.  I like her just fine, but she is a girl and doesn’t get me like Dooda did.  At least she doesn’t try to bite me like the other girls at the barn.

And, finally, I know my Mom has told you all about her fall, but you need to know the facts.  She told you that a bird scared me, but she didn’t tell you how creepy the bird was.  He looked like a prehistoric creature with its wings spread.  It just sat on the fence pole motionless even when I stared at it.  It was humongous!  When it starting flapping its wings, I knew I had to get away from it really fast.  I was trying to save myself and my Mom.  Pretty sure that it would have eaten me if I hadn’t run.  In my panic, I bucked.  How was I to know that Mom would fly like she did?  She doesn’t have wings like that bird.  Mom didn’t even come to rescue me when the reins got wrapped around my leg.  She just lay on the ground like a pile of poo.  She left the barn with Ms. C and didn’t even come to say goodbye.  Sheesh!  Good thing that Mr. D was there to take care of me.  My brother Cigar gave me a secret high-five later that day;  he thought my feat was pretty impressive.  Don’t tell Mom though, because she doesn’t like when I take advice from Cigar.

So there you have it – straight from the horse’s mouth.  Feel free to ask me anything.  You can count on me to tell you the whole truth.