Monday, July 30, 2012

Red's Rehab Slowly Progresses . . .

Our vet/chiropractor was out today to see how Red's healing from his injuries in coming along.  The answer is that it is coming along, although slowly, as is often the case with soft tissue injuries.  Now that the swelling in his hock is pretty much gone, it's possible to feel (although really not see) that there is a bit of residual swelling along the lower end of the Achilles tendon just above the point of hock, and the point of the hock itself is very slightly swollen to the touch (not visible to the eye).  Here's the anatomy of the hock - the Achilles tendon is part of the structure labeled tendon of gartrocnemius (top right) in the diagram:

He also has just the slightest bit of remaining sensitivity of his inner sesamoid ligament - the very short ligament under the sesamoid bone which attachs it to the pastern bone.  His walking downhill is much improved, although on a steeper hill he will drag the left hind toe and tend to break over at the pastern joint more quickly.  When moving on the level he also tends to preferentially slightly weight the outer side of his left hind hoof.  All of these behaviors, as well as his being more off when trotting to the right on the lunge, are consistent with the remaining areas of slight soreness.  The tightness in his hindquarter muscles is now gone.  It's likely that all this is the result of the original injury when he stepped in a hole in the arena and almost fell with me.  The subsequent kick to the outer hock, while resulting in ugly swelling and cellulitis, probably didn't make anything worse.

Here are two diagrams that shows the location of the sesamoidean ligaments - which run from the underside of the sesamoids - the pair of bones protruding from the back of the pastern joint, to each side, and covered by the suspensory ligaments.  For some reason the first diagram omits the suspensory ligaments.

So we're to continue on track with our rehab - continuing daily turnout, since he's careful to protect the injuries in the way he moves at walk, trot and canter, and the use of the leg should result in stronger (although some slower) healing, some icing of the two remaining slightly sore areas - the rebound of blood to the area after icing should aid healing - rubbing in arnica gel, and what we've come to call "pasture patrol" - hand walking around our pastures and up and down their hills. Every week or so, I'll stick him on the lunge for a few minutes to see how things are coming.  No riding until everything seems to be healed up, which could be several more weeks or perhaps even a month or more.

It's been about 5 1/2 weeks, and I hope to be enjoying riding Red for many years to come, so a couple more weeks, or even longer, won't be too hard for either one of us.  These sorts of injuries can be very persistant and slow to heal, and although to many eyes Red would appear to be only slightly lame, it's advisable to take our rehab slowly.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

News Updates

We've finally got some decent weather - temps in the 80s instead of upper 90s or over 100F.  Dawn and I have had some nice rides - she's been extra snuggly - lots of "head rests" while I'm grooming her. I rode her in the indoor this morning - a very nice ride although she was very snarky to the other two horses in there - lots of ear pinning and ugly looks.  Dawn has about a 10 foot personal space bubble, so this wasn't surprising.

Pie and I had a very nice 2 1/2 hour trail ride with two other boarders this morning.  Pie was Pie, which means that he was relaxed and very good.  We even did some cantering in company, and he was just fine with that - good Pie!  He's perfectly happy to lead or to follow, and I think he's growing into just about the perfect trail horse.

Red and I are still doing what I call "pasture patrol" - I lead him out to one of the pastures and we do a careful check all over - fencelines, pick up any trash or debris, and stop and watch anything interesting. He really appreciates having an important job to do.  Then we spent some time in the indoor just standing around - his only job then is to stay out of my space - while another horse was worked.  He did great with everything.  He's seeing the chiropractor on Monday, and I'm hoping we'll be able to start walk work under saddle at the end of next week.

And in sad news, my 90 year old father died peacefully in his sleep yesterday afternoon.  He'd been fading, but he was in his own home and his own bed and had a very good week right up to the point he went to sleep and didn't wake up.  I wish for such a good end, for us all.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Looking for Hay - Please Respond if You Can Help

We've been having a severe drought in our part of the country - Northern Illinois - and as a result hay is in short supply, if it's available at all.  Many hay farmers will not get a second cutting this year.  To help out our barn owner, I'm putting out a request to all of you - if you have the contact information for sellers of good quality grass hay - squares or rounds - please e-mail me privately.  Our barn owner is willing to buy large loads from whatever distance - the whole middle of the country is fair game - our barn is large and we use a lot of hay.

Also, on a personal note, if you have experience feeding horses when access to hay is limited, please let me know what you fed, how much and what your experience has been.  I've used Purina Senior as a complete feed in the past, either with or without beet pulp, but I'd like to find a lower NSC option.  For now, since hay at our barn is still available but not in the unlimited quantities we're used to, I'll be starting my horses on Purina Ultium to provide extra calories.

Hope some of you have contacts to share privately or complete feeding strategies to share in the comments on this blog . . .

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Like Walking the Dog (Except Even Better)

I've had some really good times with my three horses lately.  The weather has stayed hot, but just short of awful, although tomorrow we're supposed to to 100F yet again, but I think for only that one day.

Dawn and I had a very nice ride this morning.  We worked for a while in the indoor arena, which had been freshly dragged - I love being the first one in there and defining our diagonals, center line and circles - like being the first one to walk in fresh snow.  Her softening work at the walk and trot was more consistent - she's got a sore area on her mid-neck that I spent some time massaging before we rode and I also concentrated on keeping my posture up and open - if I'm stiff in my neck and upper body it's guaranteed that she'll be stiff and braced in the same areas - and on breathing deeply, which made a big difference to her. Then for fun we rode out into the mare pasture - Dawn is good about opening gates - and had fun trotting and cantering around on the parts that weren't too steep.  Dawn seemed to enjoy the canters out in the open and was very forward and responsive.

In the afternoon, I had a fun outing on Pie with two friends. We did the short trail around the pastures - that's probably a mile or so - and then we went into two of the pastures that weren't in use but that had been recently mowed.  The footing was good, there was a breeze and we had lots of fun trotting all over in a group - sometimes in a line and sometimes abreast.  All the horses - Pie, a Freisian and a Kentucky Mountain gaited horse - seemed to have a really good time. (When I was a kid I loved to pretend when I was riding my horse that I was in one of my favorite Westerns - like Rawhide or The Virginian - that gives away how old I am for sure.  Today it felt a bit like riding in one of my favorite movies that involve horses - lots of fun!)

Then Red and I had a good grooming and massage session and went for our hand walk.  Today, we did the entire perimeter of the mares' pasture on the inside - this involved some uphill and downhill which he negotiated well, although he tends to scuff the toe of his left hind when going downhill.  We hadn't done this full perimeter before, and it takes us close to some houses and treelines. I like giving him a job - like checking out the pasture and its fenceline - so our walk has a purpose for him.  We found a cast shoe yesterday and a fly mask today.  He was great, walking along just perfectly - he did spook slightly and spun around me in a half circle at one point, but we just kept on walking calmly after that.  This is a remarkable improvement from when I first had him, when he would spook and bolt and pull and fuss on the lead even leading the short distance from the old barn to its outdoor arena.  Now he leads beautifully - he seems to have confidence in me and my leadership now and to have really bonded with me.  I've had mares and geldings, and this to me is more like the very close relationship I now have with Dawn.  Pie on the other hand, although he acknowledges me, is more aloof and distant and less overtly interested in interacting with me - I don't mind this at all since it's who he is.

Red seems to really enjoy our daily interactions - he seems to me almost like a big red dog - he's very engaged, and alert and interested in what I'm doing, and really wants my attention and time.  If he gets enough attention and interaction, he's happy, if not, he's upset and calls and even bangs on his stall door.  This has nothing to do with food, since I don't feed treats to any of my horses and Red prefers to stay out of his stall with me even when there's hay available.  Red is one of those horses who really looks you in the eye - there's a real intelligence and presence there.  I'm very honored by his developing trust in me - when I got him he didn't trust people to keep him safe and always felt he had to be in charge to stay safe - now he's willing to listen and relax.  A huge change - Heather had a lot to do with that, for which I'm very thankful.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Dawn Works on My Breathing

Dawn and I had a good, intense work session this morning.  It was already getting hot and humid, but it wasn't scorching, so we were happy with that.  And we got a blessed 2+ inches of rain last night, which was wonderful - even seeing clouds was wonderful as we've had innumerable very hot, very sunny, and very dry days for months now.  Our drought is still very bad and we're way behind on annual rainfall, but every inch helps.  Dawn and I did a lot of work on a loose rein.  This is really useful for both of us - she has to balance and carry herself without leaning on my hands, and I have to help her stay quiet and relaxed by keeping my body very quiet and relaxed and also breathing regularly and deeply in rhythm with her strides.  If I start to tighten up, even to the slightest degree, or don't breathe properly, she immediately gets tenser herself and speeds up and gets strung out - I can tell how well I'm doing by the degree of her relaxation and rhythm.  Also, if I'm not breathing properly or I'm doing too much, I get out of breath - if I'm breathing normally, and not out of breath, when we're back at walk, then I'm doing something right.

That part wasn't too hard - with Dawn the harder part is taking up rein contact again after she's really been moving forward at trot and canter.  She immediately wants to brace and lean and starts to rev up - unless I'm able to establish a dynamic soft contact at the point of resistance, which means I can't brace against her with my hands and body.  If I get it right, she's able to soften while still really motoring along in forward.  Having her not anticipate canter while we're trotting is also hard - she's ready to leap into canter and starts getting excited about the prospect - the only solution is to keep all thoughts of the canter, or the rhythm of canter, out of my mind and keep my focus firmly on the rhythm of trot and my breathing in time with that.  Then, once she's softer, all I have to do is just start to think 1-2-3 and she steps into canter.

Riding Dawn is like having a finely tuned instant feedback machine - this is really true of all horses but it's easier to feel with Dawn because she's always hyperresponsive to the slightest change in anything - thought, breathing, energy - physical cues are almost never necessary with her once she learns something.  This makes her a real challenge to ride well where we both achieve softness, but it also makes her a wonderful teacher for me at this stage in my riding journey.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Slowing Down Red's Rehab and Other Equine Doings . . .

About three days ago, I trotted Red briefly under saddle to see if that would help or hurt his recovery.  Today when I put him on the lunge, he was slightly, but only slightly better - when he was moving out in a straight line the unsoundness at the trot pretty much went away, but as he started out and slowed down, or moved on a curve, it came back.  As my vet/chiro says, sprains/strains take about 6 weeks to heal, and it's only been about 3 1/2 weeks.  So Red and I will be slowing down his rehab.  He'll still go to daily turnout and will self-exercise out there - he freely trots and canters on both leads and it may be that my weight plus that of the saddle is enough to make things too hard for him.  Moving at liberty in turnout may slightly slow down his recovery, but should result in a better recovery long term - his injuries aren't that serious. For about the next 10 days I'm not going to ride him, even at the walk.  This presents some challenges - he's very insistent about having his daily work session - calling to me and even banging on his stall door.  He's very interesting in getting out of the arena and exploring, so we'll be taking some hand walks - down the paved driveway to stimulate his feet and also around the various pastures.  We'll see how that entertains him . . .

Pie and Red actually got into a little altercation two days ago.  I was leading them in together, as I often do, and all of a sudden Red bellows and kicks out at Pie, connecting with his right hock - thankfully, only a glancing blow resulting in a small cut.  I told Red in no uncertain terms that this was never acceptable when he and another horse were on the lead - I think he got the message.  I suspect that Red was playing with Pie - nipping him - and Pie bit back, causing Red to kick out.  The boys seem to be the best of friends again today, and Pie's hock looks fine and he's sound, which is certainly a relief.

Dawn and I have had several really good early morning work sessions.  Today, we did lots of canter work on a loose rein - she just floats around the circles in a lovely, balanced, forward but relaxed canter.  She does tend to accelerate when we go straight, but then we either circle again or come down to trot.  Now I'd like her to stay calm and not rev up with rein contact - we're getting there . . .

Thanks to all who commented on the blog reorganization . . . need to get to work on that.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Blog Reorganization - 10 Tabs

I'm thinking about doing a reorganization of the blog, so that there are more pages with specific topics, some of which will link to outside resources or posts.  This will allow readers (not sure how many of those there are these days) to find things more easily, and allow me to clean up the sidebars.  Blogger allows up to 10 separate pages/tabs (including the live post page), and here are the ones I'm thinking about doing:

1.  Horses page, with pictures of the crew and brief histories.  I may put some of my "Steps on the Journey" links there.

2.  Mark Rashid clinics page, with links to clinic posts.

3.  Recommended books page, with links to my reviews and outside links.

4.  Work log - I stopped doing this for a while, but it's very useful, at least for me.

5.  Horse health page, organized by topic (including nutrition and hoofcare), with links to some of my posts as well as outside resources - I'm not a vet and don't purport to be an expert, but maybe some of my experiences and learning (gained the hard way) might benefit someone else.

6.  Horse color genetics page, with links.

7.  In search of softness page, with basic exercises (I'm not a trainer, but hope some of my learning will help others).

8.  EPM page - I'm hoping we're all done with that, but I plan to leave this page up as a resource.

Pages do allow comments, so I'm hoping people will be interested in commenting there.

It's hard to know what readers are interested in - I get very few comments.  Let me know if you have other ideas - what topics interest you most?  Least? Every horse blog/blogger is different, but let me know if there topics/ways of presenting material that would interest you.  (I know I need more pictures/videos . . . but finding the time/assistance to do those is hard . . .)

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Dawn Drinks, Pie Goes "Pooh pooh" and Red Trots

Dawn is now drinking again - I figured out that she'll drink if I fill her buckets with the hose from the wash stall rather than the individual line that runs to her stall - I think the wash stall line has had all the nasty red, rusty sediment flushed out whereas the individual line has not.  Who knows?  Perhaps we just have fussy mare syndrome - with Dawn it's certainly possible.  I've also been giving her a dose of electrolytes once a day to encourage her to drink.  She's back on dry hay, and so far all systems are normal.  I've started riding her again in the early morning when it's still cool - she's been very full of energy and we had a fun ride this morning.  No forward lacking with that girl!

Pie and I went on a nice two-hour trail ride with two friends today.  It was getting very hot - it was over 90F by the time we got back - but Pie coped very well with the heat.  And he was very sensible - there were some large concrete culverts sitting by the side of the trail, ready to be installed on the new trail extension.  The other horses were all snorty and dancing around and Pie just walked right by as if they didn't matter - good Pie!  Tomorrow and Tuesday are supposed to be much hotter - it's supposed to be almost 100F tomorrow and 102F on Tuesday - without the heat index.  I took the opportunity to rinse off Pie's Diamond Wool pad and the mohair cinch - the cinch had dried in the sun by the time I was ready to ride Red that afternoon (Red has his own Diamond Wool pad).

Just to see how we were doing, I put Red briefly on the lunge before I rode.  Before I did that, I did his massage - he's really enjoying it - lots of yawning and chewing, and he's taken to moving his body around so that I massage exactly the areas that he wants.  He's still off at the trot, but interestingly enough, he's now sounder to the right and slightly more off tracking left, which is the reverse of how it was before.  I suspect, and my chiropractor confirms, that the massage may be loosening muscles that have been tight for a long time, and bringing others into play that are now tight.  I'm to make sure my massage covers the muscles on the side and front of his left hind leg as well.  On the lunge, he also moved much better when he did a more forward trot.  We did a nice walk session under saddle - his walk was fluid and he was even and reaching well under his body with both hinds.  He was very interested in doing a little bit of trot work, so we did - only on straight lines - he had no interest in trotting around corners.  Red is a very smart horse, and has shown that he will self-regulate in turnout to only do what he is comfortable with.  As on the lunge, when he started, he was short-striding on the left hind, but as he moved out the gait smoothed out.  We suspect that he may have some adhesions between muscles, and some residual muscle fiber tears, that are still interfering with his movement but that are beginning to break up - like physical therapy after an injury.  I'll give him a rest day tomorrow and then see if he's better or worse.  It may also be that he's starting to have some arthritic symptoms from the lower hock joint - in which case aspirin (I use Aspirease) may be of benefit.  Red seemed pretty happy with his brief trot work session - we only trotted a few straight lines for a total of a few minutes.

I'm hoping the heat wave passes quickly - we've already had way too much extreme heat and it's only mid-July . . .

Update Monday morning - Red is trotting and cantering with ease and complete soundness in the pasture - keeping fingers crossed . . .

Friday, July 13, 2012

Red Leads the Charge, and Blessed Rain

Red has been very endearing lately.  This morning, I went way out in the pasture to bring Pie in to ride.  As I was leading him away, I turned and called out "Red!" - he was grazing about 50 yards away.  Next thing I know, he was cantering up to join us and walked with us all the way in to the barn, leaving all the other horses grazing.  While Red was eating his morning medicine, I massaged his hock with Sore No More - vigorous massage, since it doesn't hurt him, to try and open up the lymph channels so the remaining swelling will go down, and then worked on massaging his butt muscles.  He was so appreciative of this that I thought he was going to sit down on me as he was leaning into the massage.  When I let him go into the pasture, he trotted and then cantered off.

After I was done riding Pie, I took Pie to the pasture and let him go.  As he was standing by the gate, Pie let out a loud "he he he" whinny - his calling whinny (I always call it his girly whinny, as it's quite high pitched), and next thing I know here comes Red from the far pastures at a gallop, leading a large group of other horses.  He galloped all the way down the hill and back up to the gate - he seems to be feeling pretty good.

Red's also doing some of the same affectionate gestures Dawn does, in his own versions.  He will rest his chin on my shoulder sometimes, and will also let me take his chin in my hand and stretch his head out almost flat as he rests it on me.

This afternoon, we had a huge rain - more than 3/4 of an inch.  This is more rain than we've had in total since mid-April.  We had about a half inch in May and less than a quarter inch in all of June - these are usually pretty rainy months for us.  We're more than 9 inches behind were we should be at this time of year, and things are incredibly dusty and dry - the grass is just brown crispy bits rooted in dust, and the corn and soybean crops look terrible.  Our barn owner is now investigating getting hay from Minnesota, since none of our local hay farmers are going to get any additional cuttings.  For about an hour today, it just sluiced down in sheets.  As soon as it started to rain, all the horses immediately dropped and rolled, and came in coated in mud.  I declared a "dirty day" and just picked feet.  Red and I got to do a hand walk in the indoor while the rain was pouring down, and got to enjoy the cool smell of rain when we paused in the doorways.

The barn water has been back on for several days, but Dawn is still not drinking well, and is moderately dehydrated.  I've been doing everything I can think of to help her drink - scrubbing and refilling water buckets - they tend to still accumulate a nasty red sediment from the pipes flushing out; pasting her with elecrolytes; giving her a water bucket with bottled water (which she ignores and she won't touch Gatorade); soaking her hay and making sure she has access to a salt block.  The water's still sort of funky, and she's just not happy with that.  She can be very fussy - the boys are drinking well which is a good thing.  So far she's holding her own - her appetite is good and she's still producing plenty of manure even though it's drier than I like.  I'm hoping she starts drinking well soon . . .

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Good News

My vet/chiropractor commented yesterday that although in some respects digital x-rays are a real blessing, in other respects, because of the detail shown, and thus the sensitivity to the exact angle and how they are done, they can cause problems - on old x-rays, if you saw a problem it was a problem, but sometimes things were missed; with the new digital x-rays, sometimes you can see a problem that isn't actually there or that isn't causing the lameness you're investigating.  Today I got a voicemail from my regular vet saying that she and all of her colleagues had conferred, and although they at first thought there might be a splint bone fracture, after looking at things closely they decided there probably wasn't. I appreciate the time they took to consider this question carefully, and will tell them so.

So that's very good news - it's likely there's no fracture.  This is consistent with Red's continued improvement, and makes our course of action clearer for his recovery.  Today when I brought him in for his morning meds, the swelling in the hock seemed to be reduced from yesterday, and he trotted off very soundly from the gate.  I think the Sore No More is already making a difference.  The massage work on the sore hindquarters muscles may also have made a difference - as my vet/chiro pointed out, one of the muscles that was sore was one that connects directly to the tendon that we think was irritated by the kick.

It seems quite possible that the original muscular injury occurred when he twisted the hind leg catching himself when he almost fell at the canter, and that this was aggravated by the kick injury to the hock and resulting cellulitis and inflammation of the tendon sheath that crosses the hock area of impact.  The book I mentioned in my post yesterday has very specific massage and rehab suggestions for the muscles that are affected.  It may be possible that the work we're doing now on the semimembranosus muscle (see yesterday's post for what this is) may actually help his long-standing tendency to place the left hind farther toward the center line of his body, which must put extra stress on that hock.  When I did a little bit of work on that muscle yesterday, he indicated that he was happy with it and even moved his tail out of the way for me.

I'm encouraged, and hoping to have a completely sound Red in not too long.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Distracted by the Hock (with Muscle Diagrams)

I observed Red moving at liberty yesterday.  When he left the gate after his morning medicine, he trotted away down the big hill doing his very big trot and then switched to canter - right lead, which puts more stress on the left hind.  But he switched leads after only a few strides, and didn't canter far before he came back to walk.  Although there was no obvious lameness, it looked to me like he was protecting his left hind.  So last night, I did the "feel all over" on the left hind just to see if there were any sensitive areas.  No sensitivity in the lower leg, and no sensitivity in the hock area at all.  The small cut where he was kicked is healing, and there is a small amount of residual swelling above that, but there's no sensitivity anywhere, including at the top of the splint bone (which our regular vet thinks is the problem - her digital x-rays indicated that he might have a hairline fracture), which is a good four inches below where he got kicked.  I kept moving up the leg.  When I touched the area of his inside thigh behind the stifle joint, his ears went back, his head came up and he signaled that he was thinking about kicking me since it really hurt - and he's a horse who doesn't usually mind having his body handled.  I suspect his residual lameness is due to his entire leg having been torqued - which could explain the sesamoid issue, the splint bone and the soreness inside the stifle joint - it may be that his hip and back are also not right.  I actually suspect that while the hock may have something to do with it, the kick he received didn't cause all of these issues.

I wrote this this morning, before our vet/chiropractor came - a different person from our regular vet, and one who tends to focus on the whole horse, including metabolic issues.  Now here's what she found and had to say . . .

There is some residual swelling at the hock - our vet/chiro said this could be because the kick irritated the tendon sheath of the tendon that passes over the hock joint at this point - she recommened we use Sore No More on it.   This may not be the main cause of his lameness, although it could contribute to it. We lunged him briefly before she started to work on him - he was hardly showing any problems at all at the walk - just the slightest shortening of stride in the left hind.  At the trot, he was at most one-half out of 5 lame to the left and about a 1 out of 5 to the right - this was much improved from the last time I lunged him about a week ago.  He is still twisting the left hind slightly after it lands, and again, he wasn't bringing his left hind quite as far forward as the right hind - that's why the problem looks worse when he's tracking right as it amplifies the difference between right hind and left hind. The problem with the left hind isn't on the weight-bearing phase as the leg passes under the body - he's fine for that - it's as the left hind swings forward - its motion is slightly restricted and his stride length with the left hind is slightly shorter.  She said, based on that, that he didn't much look like a horse with a fracture, although she could be wrong.

He did have some things that were tight and sore in his mid-back - not a usual area of problems for him.  This could explain his fidgeting during saddling, and in fact, when I saddled him today he just stood there as he usually does.  But he did have some other major things going on in his hind end - cramps and muscle soreness in particular places on the left side, likely from the almost fall and catching himself at the canter. Here are some drawings from a book that is a huge help to me - it's called Beating Muscle Injuries for Horses, by Jack Meagher - seeing this will help explain what Red has had going on.

This is the biceps femoris muscle - a problem with it will result in scuffing the hind leg and shortening of forward movement.

This is what is called the "belly" of the biceps femoris - problems with it will cause the same effects.

This is the semitendinosus - problems with it will result in shortening of forward movement and discomfort straightening the stifle:

And here is the semimembranosus - problems with it will result in shortening of forward movement, discomfort straightening the stifle, resistance to lateral movement and tracking inward during forward movement - this last one is something Red tends to do anyway and this has been exaggerated by his problem and is the cause of the twisting of the left hind foot that we observed.  A hamstring pull or pull to the inner thigh (that's the exact area he showed sensitivity to touch in last night) can cause injury to this muscle.

She worked on these muscles for a while, and got a lot of licking and chewing and at least one very big yawn from Red - she said the yawn was the big release.  She showed me how to do massage on these muscles - the book (which she had recommended to me) also has good instructions.

When we turned him out, he trotted off doing his big trot without a sign of a problem, and then cantered off on the right lead - without switching this time.  She says that, if turnout and light riding (at walk for now) don't make things worse, that they are advisable.  Many horses who are put on stall rest (sometimes this is certainly justified) never recover full function because the fascia at the site of injury become locked in place and don't move properly past one another ever again - in fact predisposing the horse to further injury.  So movement is good, if the horse can tolerate it and the injury isn't made worse.

So Red and I will be doing our ridden work at the walk - we did it today and he was moving better and very happy to work.  So it was the hock - the aggravated tendon sheath - but it also wasn't - the muscular issues in the hind end were also causing serious issues.  Sometimes things aren't entirely what they seem . . .

Monday, July 9, 2012

Dawn Works on a Loose Rein and Red Grooms

They've been working on the well all day . . . keeping fingers crossed that it's fixed soon.

Since there's no way to rinse the horses off after a workout, I kept my riding time short today - it's a beautiful summer day with highs in the 80s and sun (but then we've had sun now for months - it's odd to be hoping for clouds and rain).  Dawn and I had a nice ride in the outdoor - the indoor is way too dusty since it can't be watered.  The breeze at the top of the hill felt nice.  We had an interesting work session - we did everything on a loose rein.  I got to work on my focus - Dawn will go wherever I look - and on my breathing and cuing by thinking the new gait, up or down.  Dawn got to work on carrying herself at the canter - since she didn't have my hands to try to brace on, she had to use herself and engage in order to carry herself upwards in the canter.  It worked like a charm - she didn't rev up and we did lots of work at all three gaits, including lots of trot/canter/trot transitions.  Riding her on a loose rein was an interesting experience and I'm sure one we'll repeat.

Then Pie and I also worked in the outdoor.  We did a good bit of cantering, and he's able to now canter all the way around including the downhill stretch - his balance and ability to carry himself at the canter is greatly improved.

When I went to bring Pie in, I got to see Red doing some very nice socializing - he groomed two other horses in sequence, including one who is well over 17 hands.  Red is barely 15 hands, so it was amusing - the big horse was grooming the very top of Red's butt while Red worked on the other horse's ribs - that's as far as he could reach.  When I brought Pie in, all I had to do to have Red come too (so he could have his morning medicine) was call his name and he came right along with us.  I did get to see Red do some trotting as he caught up, and he looked just fine - he was doing his really big trot that has a lot of extension and lift to it and he was perfectly sound.  Of course this was in a straight line and he didn't trot all that far, but it's encouraging.  I've always said that he "moves like a model" - his gaits have a lot of sashay to them, with a lot of hip motion up and down and his hinds, particularly the left hind, tend to come to the inside as they land and also well under his body.  Since he's built fairly wide in the shoulder and hip, this gives his gaits a lot of swing.  He's also got a lot of animation and "brio" in his gaits, even his walk.  It's fun to watch and to ride. This afternoon at the barn, I saw him trot and canter in without even the slightest hesitation or sign of soreness - whatever he has going on, it clearly doesn't hurt him that much if at all, which is a good thing.  So this afternoon, I took account of his desire to work and we saddled up and did some work at the walk in the indoor - he was happy and he walked out well.  When we were done with that, I dismounted, and led him around the mare pasture and into the outdoor arena - he'd only been out there once before - he led beautifully, although he did a lot of sniffing.  In the days after I'd got him, leading him anywhere at all was an exercise in spooking and bolting and general worries - this time, he was a perfect gentleman and led very well.  He's a star - in fact all three horses are . . .

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Water Troubles and Drinking Styles

We've had brutally hot weather for weeks - temperatures in the upper 90s and as high as the 100s every day, with miserable humidities on top of it, and no rain - we haven't had hardly any measurable rain in the past several months and the last big rain was in April.  Last Thursday, in the middle of the worst of the heat - I think it got to 104F that day with a heat index of 115 - the well at the barn stopped working.  Now this is a large barn, with over 60 horses, and many water tanks for pastures and outdoor horses and many indoor buckets.  We went from having plentiful water for drinking and bathing horses to having rust and air.  The barn owner has really risen to the occasion - she had a water truck there quickly, and has also purchased a 500-gallon tank for her pickup and purchased water from a nearby town.  She's been out there every day for a large part of the day and evening being sure that every horse has enough clean, fresh water.  The well is 1000 feet deep and goes into a sandstone formation with plentiful water, so despite our extreme drought conditions, it appears the problem is either with the pump or a break in the well casing.  Not cheap or easy to repair, but the well people are expected on Monday to work on it - they had to wait until they had all the parts on hand so it's taken a few days.  Keeping fingers crossed that repairs will be quick.

Thankfully, yesterday afternoon, the worst of the heat broke as a cold front finally moved through - but without any rain.  Temperatures today were in the mid 80s, with much lower humidity, so the horses were finally able to be out all day without being miserable - I'd been bringing mine in early each day, and putting them under their fans, but the heat was still oppressive.  It's interesting to see how each of my horses has coped with the heat and the water situation.

Dawn is the most sensitive - she gets hot and sweaty easily and volunteers to come in.  She also gave me some serious worries about the water - she wasn't drinking well and was somewhat dehydrated.  I tried everything - electolytes, Gatorade, you name it, but she was mostly refusing to drink.  I cut her hay way back to reduce the risk of colic.  I think she just didn't like the taste of the new water - particularly the water from the new tank on the barn owner's truck - she would swish her nose violently in the water tank to show her displeasure, but refuse to drink.  We also tried using bottled water without much success.  Finally, today, she decided she could drink.  She drank almost two-thirds of a bucket after dinner, and also drank some Ice Mountain bottled water I'd put in a separate bucket for her.  I also took her out to one of the pasture troughs to drink, and she took a few swallows.  It's a big relief.

Pie was also stressed by the heat - he would be starting to sweat and breathing hard by the time I brought him in each morning.  He also objected to the new water, by swishing his face in it, which he never does, but then he would drink, making it clear he had to hold his nose to do so.  Red mostly stayed cool as a cucumber even in the hottest weather, and drank whenever he was presented with water.  Red also stayed protectively close to Pie in the pasture whenever Pie was starting to get heat stressed.

I love watching horses drink - they each have their own style.  Dawn always noisily flaps her bottom lip in the water when she starts to drink, and then delicately places her chin in the water to drink.  Pie has an elaborate routine - he drinks deeply but with his lips and then has to take several breaks in between drinks to suck his tongue - it protrudes slightly from his mouth as he does so.  Red just plunges in and drinks readily in one go.  I usually take Pie and Red out together to drink from one of the outside tanks - they seem to prefer this - and they stand right together and put their faces close together as they drink.

Had a very short ride on Pie today, the first in a long time - the indoor arena was too dusty for more (the indoor doesn't get watered on Sunday).  Dawn got another rest day, and Red and I did some more ground driving - he's mastered going forward with me behind and seemed to enjoy the work.   His hock is looking good - very little swelling and none near the supposed splint fracture - and he's moving well in the pasture - I saw him doing some big trot which looked sound although he didn't do it for long.  We'll see how he feels after his chiro appointment Wednesday.  I'm hoping for good riding weather for most of the week . . .

Friday, July 6, 2012

Red's Hock - ??

The vet came out this morning to take x-rays of Red's left hock - this is the one where he got kicked about 10 days ago, and where it blew up like a baloon with what may have been cellulitis.  This is also the left hind that I think he twisted pretty hard in catching himself when he almost fell while cantering about two weeks ago - he stepped in one of the big gouges in the arena footing left by a horse that had been run loose in the arena before we rode.  Since that ride he's been sound at the walk but off at the trot, barely at all when going straight or tracking left but noticeably when tracking right.  But he moves very happily at liberty and on the line and it may be that the source of his short-striding to the right is in his hip or back - it's very hard to tell.  Anyway, when the vet came to check on him early this week she wasn't completely happy with the fact that he still had some minor swelling around the hock and also wasn't much improved in soundness.  She wanted to take some x-rays, and to compare them to the x-rays we had of him from last year at the time I got him.

The result is that the x-rays don't give a clear answer - the hock is a very complicated joint and due to the way the splint and cannon bones lie it's not easy to get a clear picture of what's going on.  The area at the upper end of the splint bone looks a bit inflamed - there's some roughness on the x-rays - and there's a possibility that he has a hairline fracture at the head of the splint bone.  The good news is that, if there is a hairline fracture, there's no displacement, which means that healing should be good with no effect on the upper end of the suspensory ligament.  It's also possible that he has a non-displaced hairline fracture of the upper end of the cannon bone - although this could also be an x-ray shadow cast by the splint bone. If these hairline fractures exist, no surgical treatment would be required.  Although he's happy to move out, we're going to give him a break from any undersaddle work, even at walk, although I'll continue to do some in-hand and ground-driving walk work.  The vet would prefer him to be confined, but he's a horse that would likely do himself more harm being separated from the other horses than out in the pasture - and the vet acknowledges that the likelihood of him making anything worse in turnout is low - he could of course get kicked again but that could happen anyway.  Since it's unlikely to do him harm and it'll help his mental health, he'll continue to go out with the other horses.

I'm also going to keep him on the SMZs twice a day for another week due to the inflammation around the splint bone - the vet would like to see the slight swelling in the hock disappear and the very small cut that we think was the impact point heal up more completely.  I'll continue to ice twice a day and also rub Surpass into his hock once a day.  The vet also agrees that chiropractic will help, since he probably wrenched everything, so I'm scheduling our chiropractor (who is also a vet) for a visit.

Since the x-rays weren't all that easy to interpret, the vet will show her colleagues at their practice the x-rays and see what they think, and will also show them to a veterinary surgeon she uses for consultations.  She'll probably come back in two to three weeks and take some more x-rays so we can compare.

So I think we'll be OK - Red seems happy and comfortable, but I'll be keeping a close eye on him.  He's enjoying his in-hand and ground-driving work and just taking tours of the barn aisles in hand.   I'm not worried about his being off from riding for a time - his training is now very solid and I think when we're back riding again he'll be right where he was - nothing will be lost. And one very big thing that I'm proud of - last year just after I got him when we did x-rays, he had to be sedated for the x-rays - he was fidgeting, pawing, swinging his body around and threatening to kick.  This time, despite the extraordinary heat - it was about 100F and sweltering in the part of the barn where we were for the x-rays, and it was an area of the barn he isn't very familiar with - he stood like a trouper for many, many x-rays, including moving his leg to the exact position needed for each shot - I was very proud of how cooperative he was and told him so.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Hotter Than Hades, with Ground Driving

This afternoon when I was at the barn the temperature was 100F with a heat index of 107F.  Tomorrow looks like more of the same.  I can't remember the last time it rained, and the grass is dry and dormant and things are beginning to take on that dust bowl look - anytime the wind picks up dust blows everywhere.  The end is in sight - by the weekend we're expecting 80s, which'll feel mighty darn cool compared to the past several weeks of unrelenting 90s.

I jrought my horses in at around 10 a.m. (they go out in the early morning) to stand under the fans in their stalls.  Dawn was starting to sweat, Pie was soaked and breathing hard, and Red was cool as a cucumber.  It's always interesting to me how different each horse's response to the heat is.  Pie got a nice cold shower and seemed to really appreciate being in.  When I went to get Pie in the pasture, Red was his shadow - right next to him - almost like he was protecting him.  Once we were inside, though, Red really didn't want to be in, and made his displeasure known.  Any time I moved Pie or Dawn out of their stalls to do something with them, he screamed for them and even banged on his door.

I came back in the early afternoon, and had a good idea - even though it was blisteringly hot, I turned Red back out - he was happy with this and hung back away from the gate until the very end of bring-in at around 2:45 p.m., when he came to my call.

The vet is coming back on Friday to take some x-rays of Red's left hind hock - she's not satisfied with the progress he's making - the swelling is mostly, but not entirely gone, and he's not sound at the trot, particularly tracking right, although he's happy to move out and doesn't seem to be feeling that bad - he trots and canters in the pasture very freely.  I'm less concerned than she is - I don't thing the hock is actually the issue as he was having some short striding with that hind leg after his big trip/almost fall under saddle at the canter before the hock issue even came up.  If the x-rays are clear (we have ones from a year ago when I got him to compare to), I'll be having the chiropractor back to do some more work on him - he may have twisted something in his back, sacrum or stifle.

Regardless of his soundness, Red is a very serious horse and absolutely insists on working every day, even if it's 100 degrees.  So today we did some ground driving - it was his first exposure to that.  Here's a post I did a long time ago about introducing ground driving.  Today we worked - we had the arena to ourselves due to the heat - on leading by the legs, outside turns and then some ground driving on a circle.  I'd have to say that Mr. Red was a star - he didn't care about ropes around his legs or hindquarters, mastered the outside turn after very few tries, and marched along very nicely when ground driving in a circle.  If it takes him a while to get back to full soundness, this will give us a good way to do lots of interesting things together - he's pretty insistent on working almost every day.  He also backed very nicely - the only thing we're still ironing out is forward when I'm behind him, but I expect that'll come through in the next session.

Can't wait for those 80s . . .