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Gracie Update

So lots have been going on with the Gracie mare...and thankfully most of it is good!

Vet came out a few months ago and rechecked her for the EPM. Symptom wise she looks better. And we reran one of the blood tests and her numbers went way down..not further treatment needed. Dr. N looked at her eye and it looks physically normal. But he said it would not surprise him if she didn't have some damage to the optic nerve that we wouldn't see. Not much we can do for it even if we could prove her sight was limited in the left eye. So I decided at that time to ignore it and just get her moved and settled. See kinda how things played out after that.

She moved to her new home first of March, and instantly seemed to feel at ease there. She loves her new pasture mates Regini and Patrick. Regini is a big Hanoverian mare who is besties with Gracie now. Patrick is a cute little paint Arab that wishes he was Gracie's bestie.
I will say that with only 9 horses on the barn there are LOTS of mares....only two geldings. So the estrogen in that barn is crazy! Even with Gracie being spayed she is acting in heat when the others cycle in. Thankfully though it is NOT carrying over into riding.
She is out all day long and comes in at night. Four days a week she goes to the neighbors property and grazes on their 10 acre lot. She loves that...they all stuff themselves on grass in that field and never finish their hay at night the BO says. LOL.

I started riding her again after she had a few days to settle in. There is a small dressage court with mirrors right next to the barn. Completely open on all sides so that took some getting used to. (Was used to fences or at least a wall on one side) But Gracie does not seem at all bothered by anything there and has yet to spook at all since moving there. THANK GOD!!! I really feel that the last two barns just had a vibe about them that unnerved her for some reason. I laugh cause the barn I was at for all of two months was referred to by the locals as the "graveyard barn"...since there was a cemetery next door. Gracie must have been seeing ghosts. ;p

The footing is a bit deeper in the ring so she is having to adjust to that. That along with the EPM leaves her getting that right hind "stuck" at times and you feel it wobble a bit. But with each ride it happens less and less. Talked to the vet and he just feels it is due to muscle strength loss and will improve with work. I started off light after moving her, and have slowly moved up the intensity of each ride according to what she is willing to do. So far I have not pushed her past what she can handle. She is even gaining weight back (lost a bit with the EPM flare), and gaining muscle/topline back too.

The biggest step for us for adding the canter back under saddle. I did lots of it on the lunge line so she could find her balance and just get some strength back. Once that looked really nice I decided it was time to take the plunge and try under saddle. I had the BO help me with a lunge whip just to get the transitions up. To the right it has been where it was before consistently...so yeah! To the left though she is a bit wonky to be honest...very four beated, crooked, and doesn't want to hold it for long. I figure it is me adding into the equation cause on the lunge that lead looks fine. But each day it did start improving and after a few rides we could hold it for the whole entire ring.

Today the dressage trainer I sponsor came over to give me a lesson. I picked his for the sponsorship because I liked his teaching style and his horses always feel very even in their bodies, and are muscled correctly. He watched me ride for a minute and Gracie started to pull her balking routine. After not getting anywhere with trying to stay out of her face and kicking her on, he stepped in and wanted to get on saying he thought he saw the issue. So he got on and worked with her for a good twenty minutes and at the end she was going very nicely at the walk/trot. Everyone I have ever worked with for the most part has always said to throw the reins away, ignore her head, and kick her forward so she was in front of my leg. That once I got her forward to worry about the connection. Today he wanted me to forget that and focus on where her neck (not head) is. He noticed she had her head up and was bracing all the muscles on the underside of her neck. By doing this she was disengaging the rest of her body and making it hard to balance herself. Being the kind of horse she is that upset her and made her feel like she couldn't go forward. Once he made her reach down with her neck and engage the top muscles and her bring her back up, she would move forward and stop balking. If her head/neck went up, she sucked back, and thought about balking.
His thought was that a normal horse is affected less by this disconnect in the body and connection, but given the EPM she is more sensitive to it.
So he had me get back on and try it myself. It was SO hard not to kick her on when she thought about balking. But if I could get her on a long connection with her back up she was willing to work. And so we took that approach into the canter work and the left lead was way better than it has been! The last two canters I had in that direction were just as good as the right lead.

I have to say I am SO happy to have this trainer in our lives right now. NO ONE has ever really looked at the situation that way before and agreed it was a mental/physical issue which I have felt it always was. He is such an advocate for the horses. He also really liked Gracie and that she had three really good gaits with nice movement. Not bad for a TB/STB nursemare foal!

My hope is to ride with him when I can, and continue to work on getting stronger (both of us!) over the next month or two. I may try to take her to a schooling show or two during the summer once the canter is a bit better to go out at training level.
And just enjoy the nice weather, and maybe hack some in the big fields, and just have fun.

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