Christina here, bringing you Project Floki! A series of blog posts to document my journey with my very first horse, Floki. I talked a little about my adventure to finding Floki in my previous post if you need to get caught up.
Floki did great meeting the rest of the mare herd! She was calm and laid back, taking it all in stride. I don’t know much about her history when it comes to being with other horses. At her last owner had her in a large 40 acre field with one other mare. A big difference to her new home!
She lived out in the grass field by herself for a week to settle in then we slowly introduced her to the rest of the mare herd over the next few weeks. She became fast friends with the two other paint mares and started working her way up the pecking order.
First Ride Back Home
After she settled in, I hopped on for my first lesson back home. When I rode Floki in Kentucky, I had an incredibly hard time getting her to stop and she kept going from a trot to canter. I was a little anxious to get on her since I didn’t know her and knew that I would have trouble getting her to stop.
My first ride back home went great! We worked on walk/halt transitions and then trotted a little once she settled in. I had trouble getting her to stop but it wasn’t a runaway train, she just trundled on. We had her in a regular snaffle instead of the harsher bit she had out in Kentucky, both of which were a big step down from the bit she likely had in her polo training!
The First Few Weeks
Floki had a broad background in training so we started over from the beginning. We did lots of groundwork and lots of basics under saddle. We really worked on getting her to relax and to learn our cues for slowing down and eventually stopping. Funny enough, her walk to halt transitions were the worst of all! It became very clear that steps were skipped when she was restarted.
Floki is very forward under saddle and has a very long stride. She’s very sensitive to your leg and seat but dull in the mouth. She also seems to zone you out when riding along the rail and gets very quick no matter what gait she’s in. Almost like she’s done it so many times she’s just going through the motions and ignoring you.
I learned a ton during those first few rides. First of all, any tension, anxiety, or nervousness I brought to the barn was immediately picked up by her. I also learned how to ride more with my seat and how to use my posting to slow her trot. This was something I just could not figure out for the longest time!! I also needed to form a relationship with her so I could get to know her and learn to trust her.
I had to make some adjustments. I moved my lessons to later in the evenings so I didn’t come straight from work to the barn. This solved the problem where I was bringing stress to my lesson. I also made room to just spend time with her. Grooming, grazing, doing groundwork, etc.
My rides were a little all over the place as we figured each other out. Sometimes they would be great, I would be able to easily control her speed with my seat. Other times it was a mess. She would speed off from under me, we’d both get tense and soon be cantering around without the ability to stop.
Floki was on the thin side when I bought her. She looked like she’d been in work but not for a long period of time.
Integrating into a new herd, a new routine, new feed, and a new environment is stressful on a horse. Floki started losing weight as the weeks passed. We slowly made some changes to help her put on weight like increasing her grain, increasing her access to hay, and giving her alfalfa pellets for lunch.
It worked really well! She put on weight and started looking better.
When Life Gets In The Way
Things were really busy around this time. I was often missing riding time because I was working 12-14 hour days. I had other commitments, vacations, Katie’s wedding, and prioritized spending time with family I hadn’t seen because of the pandemic. The weather was also getting hotter which also means evening thunderstorms.
I had backed off riding a little when Floki was losing weight. I didn’t want to burn extra calories when we weren’t sure if she was gaining weight yet. I got out to see her as much as I could but I wasn’t able to ride as much as I’d like.
I would have easily put everything on hold to spend all my time with her. It was important to me that I kept my life balanced though: keeping work running smoothly, spending time with my husband, playing with the dogs, seeing my family, and volunteering as a board member with the Maryland Open Horse Show Series.
Floki came with four poorly shod hooves when I bought her. When the scheduled farrier visit came, we pulled her back shoes because we weren’t under the impression she needed them. The ground was hard and her back hooves took a beating. I put Floki on Farrier’s Formula to hopefully improve her feet. No hoof, no horse, right?
I was riding one afternoon and Floki felt off to me. Maggi and Amelia both came over and said that Floki looked lame. The ground was hard and rocky but after looking closely we could see that Floki was looking lame on her front right hoof when she went to the right at a trot.
This is what her front right hoof looked like and when she took her weight off it, you could see the shoe move. She ended up losing the shoe completely a few days later which left her incredibly lame and very sore. She spent her time standing miserably out in the field.
The farrier was able to come out about a week later and put a shoe back on. She said that Floki took a large chunk of her hoof wall off so it was difficult to get the new shoe on.
Floki was still a little sore even after a few days of having the new shoe. It was the regularly scheduled farrier visit about a week and a half later. I lunged Floki for the farrier who could see how she was slightly off in the front right but only when trotting to the right.
She used a hoof tester and found a sore spot on Floki’s hoof on the inside (left) area of her sole near the hoof wall. She said it was likely a deep abscess or a stone bruise. Her recommendation was to give her bute for a few days then see how she looks. If she didn’t improve then to try magic cushion to see if it was the hard ground and if she was still lame after that to get the vet out.
We didn’t have any luck with bute but after putting magic cushion on for about a week we could see an improvement. I lunged her the other day at the bottom of the ring where it’s a little softer. She had 2 day old magic cushion on with no wrapping (so it was nice and hard) and looked pretty sound. The temps this week are in the upper 90’s so it’s too hot to ride anyway. I’ll continue treating with magic cushion and hopefully, we’ll be back in action soon!
Congrats if you made it this far 🙂 I wanted to do one summary post to cover the time from today back to when I got her. Hopefully future updates aren’t quiet so lengthy 🙂