Thursday, July 28, 2011

Mid-week critter (on Thursday, because I'm behind)

This week you get a double dose of critters...

It's hot here - usually around 105 in the shade when I get home at 5:30 p.m. Elias goes out for a short while, then comes in and finds a cool spot. I'm always amused when he pants and his tongue falls out and sort of sticks to the floor.

Maddy's toe is mostly healed and she's gone back outside to catching mice. However, she did try out Elias's bed while she was in - I think she prefers napping on the people bed though!

In other news, Taran's home and doing great, last weekend's riding was very nice (Saga's like a new horse), and we have a dressage lesson today! First time since we moved to Wyvern Oaks, so it's sure to be a humbling experience.

Monday, July 25, 2011

A trip down memory lane

I recently got around to emptying out some boxes from when we moved in (like 18 months ago, shush!) and found a couple of items that brought back some memories.

In 1995 when I was doing my undergraduate degree, I rode on the Western IHSA team for my university (there was an English team too, but the trainer was an absolute beotch, so I figured I'd have more fun doing Western). I qualified for regionals and went to Denver for that competition, and then I qualified for Nationals in Los Angeles. (NOTE: I am not a great Western rider by any standard, and I'm still not sure how this all happened.) Nationals were held at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center, which also happened to be the site of the 1984 Olympic Games.

Here's my polo from the LA Equestrian Center.

Speaking of the 1984 Games, a friend of mine returned a bunch of videos last week which included my VHS tapes of the 1984, 88, 92, and 96 games. Fortunately, my copy of the 2000 Games are on DVD, 'cause uh, I don't seem to have a VHS player any more! Also, does anybody remember the water jump in the 84 Games, where they jumped into the water, then went up TWO WATERFALLS, then jumped out? That's like the coolest water obstacle EVER.

In 1996, the Olympic Games were held in Atlanta, and my mom managed to finagle tickets. I got to watch the cross-country up close and personal - HOLY CRAP those fences are HUGE when you're right next to them! Then I sat in a stadium with 30,000 rabid fans (ok, the rabid ones were the Brazilians) and watch the Grand Prix showjumping. That was an incredible experience. I also remember Lendon Grey doing a dressage demonstration ride where she was showing the audience what was correct and what was not. Her poor mount was SO UPSET when she asked him to miss lead changes on the tempis - he clearly knew that she was doing it wrong! Too cute!

And here's my shirt from the Games. I wore this shirt for years for some clinics that I attended, and for a while I remember it was all the rage to wear your 1996 Games shirts to functions like that - especially if you had one of the volunteer shirts. At one point I also had a hat signed by Bruce Davidson, but that seems to have vanished somewhere along the way.

And speaking of hats, in 1998 my roommate and I went to Dressage at Devon and I brought this home.

We met up with a friend of hers who had purchased two (TWO!) horses from Iron Spring Farm, and she took us with her on a tour. They brought several of the stallions out for us to see, and I remember watching one of them stand himself up, arrange himself just so, and then gaze off into the distance. He knew he was gorgeous and showed himself off to his best advantage! I also recall watching the Grand Prix Freestyle where the audience's favorite ride was done to the Macarena (canter/passage/piaffe) and Don't Cry For Me Argentina (walk). Sadly, I can't remember what the trot music was. I also ended up buying a Neidersuss saddle at Devon, which is what I rode Cash in for several years.

I still use the Devon hat, but I don't wear polos any more, so I tucked them back into a bottom drawer. I thought about giving them away, but decided that for two small shirts, they carried too many memories to get rid of.

Do you have horsey things you've collected along the way that carry lots of memories?

Wild moochers

I've copied this from the Washington Post because I had difficulties being able to view it - the PDF was very fuzzy and hard to read. But please note that this article, entitled Wild Moochers, isn't mine - however, it does remind me of a certain little Reddums, who might possibly be related to these guys. Certainly I'm not letting him read the article and get any ideas!!!


They scarf potato chips and whole bags of marshmallows late in the night, leaving behind trashed campsites and ruined tents. They break into stranger’s coolers and make off with watermelons. They carelessly turn on water spigots and leave them running.

Rangers are dealing with a problem that has all the hallmarks of a classic beach-week bender, but the culprits aren’t rowdy teens. They’re Assateague Island’s famous wild horses.

Park officials said the very thing that makes the horses a national treasure and draws millions of visitors to this 48,000-acre seashore south of Ocean City each year is under threat: Their wildness.

The horses have been mooching food for years, but their brazenness has grown worse in the past few, said Trish Kicklighter, the park’s superintendent. Some of Assateague’s 113 horses have become particularly fond of junk food and interact with people who bring it into the park. The horses beg. They pester. They even run a hustle that wouldn’t be out of place on a D.C. street corner.

“I didn’t believe it until I saw it,” Kicklighter said. “Two horses put their youngest, cutest pony in front of a car, and then the older horses went around to the windows to panhandle for food.” [Me in: sound like anyone you know?]

The fact that horses have learned how to open coolers and turn on spigots draws chuckles from visitors, but park officials warn too much contact with humans puts the horses and people at risk.

In June, biologists took the unusual step of moving a stallion from the park to a horse rescue center after it head-butted a woman, leaving a gash on her head. The horse had harassed other visitors for food, park officials said.

For the horses, a diet rich in human food could make them sick. Debris such as tinfoil has been found in some horses’ excrement.

Park officials are quick to place the blame for the horses’ behavior on those with two legs, not four. This year, they have rolled out measures to reestablish the boundaries between horses and humans, inspired by national parks out West that have managed bears. Officials have hired a full-time equine chaperone for its Pony Patrol team and instituted a $100 citation for “willfully” getting within 10 feet of a horse. Previously, there was only a fine for petting or feeding the horses.

Park officials said the horses’ behaviors undermine the majesty of the animals, which inspired the novel “Misty of Chincoteague.” Tourists expect postcard images of horses galloping on beaches and manes aflutter on dunes, not a horse with its head stuck in a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos.

“A horse that is raiding your campsite and is getting into your cooler — is that a wild horse anymore?” asked Carl S. Zimmerman, a park spokesman. “That’s a shame, because that wildness is what makes them so special.”

Phil Gregoli is one of the best hopes for keeping Assateague’s wild horses wild. With a neon-colored safety vest and walkie-talkie, the retired printer is a member of the park’s mostly volunteer Pony Patrol.

The patrol spends its days shooing horses off roads, camping areas and more crowded beaches, but the job is as much about herding humans as horses. Gregoli’s walkie-talkie crackled often on a recent July morning.

“Horses up on six-one-one,” a ranger radios, referring to the main road onto Assateague Island.

Gregoli hopped in a green golf cart to head to the scene but only made it halfway before running into a “horse jam” — that’s park lingo for a backup caused by horses lingering on a road and visitors slowing down to rubberneck.

A driver with rolled-down windows pulled up next to a chestnut mare with a blond mane. The horse hurdled a guardrail and attempted to stick its head inside the car. The driver pumped the gas and bolted away.

Park officials said many horses have come to expect food from passing motorists, so they linger on roadways. It’s one of the behaviors officials would most like to change, because it can be deadly for the horses: The park averages about one car-related death a year, they said.

Gregoli jumped out of the golf cart and shooed the horses off the road. He said many of the problems with horses boil down to some visitors’ perceptions of the horses as not truly wild, like a bear or moose.

Gregoli said he once came upon a man hugging a horse and feeding it potato chips. Park officials said they have seen parents stick a child on a horse’s back to get a snapshot.

PS. Thanks MC for pointing out this article!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

A bit of dressage history

Several years ago, I was doing quite a lot of medieval reenactment with the Society for Creative Anachronism. It's sort of like Civil War reenactment only a couple hundred years earlier. Horses were allowed at events but due to insurance, we couldn't jump or joust (though we can now), and the "medieval games" that folks did on horseback weren't terribly challenging. At the time, Cash and I were doing quite a lot in the dressage arena, playing with things like canter half-passes and baby piaffe/passage steps (we never showed at that level, just schooled). One of the "rules" of the SCA is that you can do pretty much anything (legal) that you want, so long as you can document that it was done before 1603, the accepted "end" of the period reenacted in the SCA. So I began to try to document dressage in the late 16th century.

At first, the references were frustratingly vague. Most modern books on horses in the middle ages focus on the role horses played in warfare. But then I discovered a reference that mentioned that the King of France had a 'ballet du cheval' (literally, a ballet of horses) performed for his wedding festival in 1612 (this date varies depending on your source). More digging revealed that there was in fact a book that contained information about said ballet, published in 1626 and written by one Monsieur Antoine de Pluvinel, who just so happened to be the King's riding master.

The cover of de Pluvinel's book, Le Maneige Royal (The Royal School [of horsemanship]).

I managed to get my hands on a reprint of the original publication and lo, there in the back were not only woodcuts depicting the performance, but an actual description of the maneuvers performed by the riders. I expected it to be somewhat like the Spanish Riding School does today; instead, it's more of an English or Italian dance performed on horseback. Riders did things like take hands and turn around each other, shoulder-to-shoulder:
"Here three Horsemen faced three other Horsemen, doing courbettes one opposite the other and, as they came together, they took each other by the hand, two by two, in the form of a triangle, doing one volte and a half to the right; then changing hands and companion, they did a volte and a half to the left..."

Still more digging, and I discovered that the sheet music they used for the original performance in 1612 still existed, and in fact had been performed by a modern orchestra. I purchased a copy of the CD (yeah, before iTunes, I know), curious to hear if the music matched the footfalls for a horse's walk, trot, and canter like we try to do in modern freestyle dressage. The music is very stately and processional - you can hear a sample of it here, on Amazon. I don't think it would ride well for W/T/C, but if you're doing airs above the ground, it might work.

Unfortunately, the 1612 ballet du cheval was slightly "out of period" for the SCA, so I wanted to find proof that ballets du cheval were being performed before then. Besides, how did we get from using horses for transportation and warfare to the fantastic maneuvers performed in the early 1600s? I'd always heard that the high school dressage maneuvers like levade, capriole, and courbette were developed as war maneuvers, but how did we know that? Where was the documentation? And so I started digging deeper...

Not to give away the gist of future installments on this topic, but this woodcut is from book published in 1556. Riding to music, anyone?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Mid-week Maddy

About a week ago, Maddy cut one of her toes and was limping. I brought her in the house and cleaned it up, and she's been working on her temporary job as a house cat ever since.

She loves to hang out wherever the people are, and has taken up sleeping with me. She's quite snuggly, even if she does purr loudly enough to wake the dead at 3 am.

She also gives kitty kisses.

I dare you to reach in and try to grab this towel!

The toe in question is still quite swollen, but after a course of antibiotics and anti-inflammatories, it seems to be doing much better. Maybe she's just delaying healing so she can hang out in the house for longer?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Saddle fitting

Tonight my saddle fitter, Carol Patty of Capstone Saddlery, came out to check saddle for the boys. Between Fuzzypony, MC, and of course my collection of saddles, we've got a ridiculous number of them overflowing our tackroom. I wanted to be sure we had the best-fitting saddle on each horse.

First up was Reddums. Fuzzypony wants to ride him while Taran's laid up, and she wanted to see if her saddle would fit since she's very fond of riding in it. With a bit of adjusting, it's going to work very well! It needs a bit of a shim in the front, so we have that on order, but otherwise it'll do just fine.

Cash was our next customer. MC wanted to see if her Benz and/or Neidersuss would fit, but unfortunately they were both too narrow. The County Eventer I have didn't work either, so it went off with Carol on consignment (Woohoo! One less saddle in the tackroom!). Saga's jumping saddle didn't work, but his RP dressage saddle was actually a nice fit. The 16.5 inch Wintec dressage saddle also worked fairly well, and we'll shim it a smidge in the middle. Cash has a super-short back so finding a saddle that doesn't bridge has always been a challenge, so I feel like we have two good options.

Carol tries the RP on Mr. Schpotty Horse.

Saga was actually super easy. Both his saddles fit just the way they are supposed to with no changes. YAY! We are going to order new "hockey pucks" for the RP since the velcro on one of them is failing, but otherwise everything is in good order. We tried a couple of other saddles on him too:

The Neidersuss.

But he pinned his ears for the ones that didn't fit him. Clever boy!

In other news, TARAN IS COMING HOME SATURDAY!!!! He's doing great on 1 g Bute/day plus oral antibiotics, so hopefully the trend will continue at home. He'll still be off for at least six months, but the overall prognosis continues to be very good. Yay!

Monday, July 18, 2011

I see... cross-country fences!

I have a confession to make... I see cross-country fences everywhere. When I'm driving, I look at people's gates and fencelines and I imagine how it would be to jump it. Well, assuming the road wasn't there and all. How would I approach? What's the landing like? And most importantly, where's the next fence? This sort of speculation is particularly fun in northern Virginia where everyone has stone walls for fencelines and there are coops built into the fencelines for hunting, but it does work down here in Texas too.

There are actually a number of potential jumps that I see every day when I go ride, and I gotta tell you, there are times when I am ooooh-sooo-tempted.

So you'd have to take the ironwork off this fence (I'm sure the owner wouldn't mind!), but then you could plant shrubs in the planters and how cool would that be? I'd jump it in a second with those minor modifications, lol!

This little gem is at the end of my street. If you took those rocks and moved them more under the fence to make a better ground line, you'd be all set. (Note: this neighbor owns horses, so she might not mind hoofprints in her yard. The problem, of course, is the road right in front of the fence. Bummer! Maybe I can get her to move the fence? Haha...)

I LOVE this fence - about 3 ft, solid, with a ditch on the road side. I think it's doable if you went for one of the interior Vs. Then you have to gallop around that house to the right in the picture...

... because on the other side of their yard they have there's a continuation! However, I'd be worried about that ditch on the landing - you'd have to remember to really sit back! Still... I wonder if they'd notice a few hoofprints?

And this one... this one I've actually jumped. It's in the arena where we usually ride. I do the side on the right where it's about 2 feet high, but someday I'll get up the nerve to do it where it's bigger. Or maybe hop up, turn 90 degrees, and hop down. Oh yeah baby!

Do YOU see cross-country fences everywhere you look?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

A weekend of riding

Fuzzypony and MC came out both yesterday morning and early this morning to ride The Boys. The three of us have decided (well, OK, Fuzzypony and I are trying to convince MC to go along with our mad plan) to try to attend two schooling dressage shows this fall. If for no other reason, it'll give us a goal to shoot for, and hey, it's fun!

Fuzzypony seems to get along better with Reddums and MC does very well with Cash, so we've switched it up a bit. Of course, I get Mr. Saga Lughead, which works well enough for me. He's been doing great since he got his new pedicure and new Dr. Scholl's Squishy Horse Boot Inserts - in fact, he was a little naughty both days, I think because he was feeling so much better. He's been alternating between leaning on the bit (a HappyMouth eggbutt) and traveling with his nose behind the vertical, refusing to take up the contact. I've been pushing him up into it and this weekend he's finally responding with more forward, which again I think is because his feet feel better. Toward the end of the ride today I did a couple of trot-halt-back-trot transitions, and that seemed to remind him to engage his hind end. We finished by having a lovely, balanced (gasp!) canter each direction on a 20 meter circle. Definitely improvement!

Cash definitely got the short end of the deal this weekend, as I dusted off his old hollow-mouth eggbutt and put it on his old double bridle (minus the double everything, of course). I've been riding him in a sidepull, which work just fine, but of course it's not legal in the dressage arena. Sure, we could go HC, but if he's OK with a bit, we might as well get some scores for our efforts! MC worked entirely on getting him to stretch down and forward and move out, and she had some very nice moments!

No really, they are not going for a Western Pleasure frame.

Nicely forward and stepping out. Does he look 23 to you?

Kyoot schpotted pony!

Poor Reddums didn't quite know what hit him, I think. Fuzzypony had him doing leg yields at the walk AND trot, plus turn on the forehand and haunches in addition to the usual WTC. They are still figuring each other out, and Red has the additional challenge of riding "around" his extra gaits. For example, sometimes he will fall into a foxtrot instead of a true trot, especially if you have too much contact when asking for a trot transition. This happens because he's been trained that he should gait when you increase contact on the bit and then push him forward. To get a true trot, or to get him out of the foxtrot, you actually need to soften contact and push him forward - it's a little counter-intuitive and for those of us who have never ridden gaited horses, you don't have any basis for the experience. However, they make a great team and are looking really, really good. If we can get Red's canter to be more balanced and consistently three-beat (again with that gaited thing), I have no doubt he could put in a nice test in the near future.

Working on laterals.

Not a bad trot for a 14.2hh midget pony.

Of course, since I was taking pics, the only pics I got of Saga were after the ride, when he looked like this.

Hi Mom!!!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Wow. Just, wow.

Tonight, the trimmer recommended by the vet at Austin Equine came out and trimmed the boys. The original plan was just to look at them and form a plan of attack, but by the time we were done talking about Saga, I was 100% convinced this guy not only knew what he was doing, but he understood exactly what was going on with each horse and had a long-term, non-invasive, workable plan to improve each of them - and it matched what I knew about what was going on.

First up was Saga. We looked at his feet, discussed history and diet. He watched Saga walk out and immediately pinpointed that the LF does not have as good of a landing as the RF and that he was a smidge shorter on the LF. Looking at the bottom of the foot the reason is obvious - Saga has no concavity whatsoever in the LF, and the caudal hoof is significantly weaker than the RF. Combine that with the fact that both front feet are still slightly dished on the hoof wall, indicating a weakened laminar connection, and... well, it's no surprise he sometimes takes sort steps and is sometimes unwilling to really move out.

So, what to do? I mentioned that trimming had repeatedly made Saga much, much worse - like dead lame on the road. We talked about why that would be the case - prior to a trim, he's loading more on the hoof wall, but after a trim he's loading more on the sole, which is has no concavity, so of course he's sore. The reality is that unless we can get that foot to load correctly, and get some concavity going, he will always be sore after a trim. So, where to start? [Note: this is the $64,000 question I was asking over at Rockley Farm yesterday!] We talked through several options for providing support and comfort after the trim while encouraging him to engage the hoof more correctly. We looked at the track and agreed that it provided enough surfaces for him to be comfortable, even if he proved to be uncomfortable on pavement. We talked through hoof boots, glue-on boots, and casts. I felt very, very well informed about how Saga would likely be immediately after the trim, and how we were going to handle things moving forward.

So we went ahead and did it. Saga's heels were high, and he was loading the wall too much all the way around. I'm not aggressive enough with my trimming, which I knew, but I feel like I can do more now having watched this trim. We did not touch the sole or the frog, except to remove a few bits that were sloughing off. It took quite a while to do the trim, and when we were done, I walked Saga out on the driveway. He was quite short on the LF, and it was even more obvious on the turn. However, we had discussed this was very likely to happen and already had a plan of action, so we got out his Easyboots and cut pads to fit inside them. The goal of the pads is to provide the maximum stimulation to the sole and frog while keeping him comfy, so that he can get lots of miles in to help encourage a correct landing. (My trimmer kept saying that - "get lots of miles on him". YAY!!!). We walked him back down the drive in the boots and pads and he was 100% better! Good heel-first landing on both fronts, stepping out nicely... it was fantastic!

My trimmer said to take him out on a ride so I could see if everything was good, and JD, who comes out to help me on Thursdays, was there, so she took him out for a short spin. She came back about 30 minutes later grinning from ear to ear, saying that he was "a different horse"!!! Apparently the boots and pads did the trick - we can keep him comfortable and moving and provide the stimulation he needs to get the caudal hoof properly involved. This in turn will help build concavity, which is the end goal. He can be turned out barefoot, but I'm to keep an eye on him to make sure he continues to be comfortable on dirt. If not, we'll boot and pad him for turnout for a little while, but the idea is to gradually wean him off the boots and pads over time. The trimmer warned me that it could take quite a while - a year or more - but even then we may not be able to get enough concavity on that foot for him to be truly comfortable over all surfaces. We'll just have to see how it goes, but we definitely have a plan of how to help him improve. FINALLY!!!

Next up was Cash. He also had long heels and hoof walls but not as badly as Saga. However, the hoof walls on both fronts are also not at the same angle all the way down, so he's got stretched laminae too, despite being out of shoes and on sand for 3 years (and he's been like that for as long as I can remember). He's also got underrun heels. The good news is that he's 100% sound despite this, and has fairly decent concavity too. We trimmed him to take as much load off the walls as possible to give him a chance to grow a proper hoof angle all the way down. The trimmer had a little bit of a hard time making friends with Cash, who is notoriously skeptical of men (since many vets are men, and vets are baaaad), but after finding a few itchy spots, Cash decided that he was an OK guy. :)

Reddums was last up. Same deal with the long heels and hoof walls, but once trimmed he had fantastic concavity and just has overall really good feet. The hoof is the same angle from coronet band to toe, which is fantastic. You can see that he loads his fronts more on the inside and the caudal hoof shows that - the inside heel bulb is much beefier than the outside, and his hoof wall angle is steeper on the inside than the outside. My trimmer noted that I need to be careful not to try to make those angles match since he loads differently, and if I were to trim them evenly I would mess up his balance. It totally blew me away that he would notice the difference AND caution me to leave it.

So, Nic, we didn't quite use a stick of celery to trim, but I think it was the next best thing given where the boys' feet were and the limited track I have at my disposal. I have specific instructions to do a weekly rasp of the toes for all the boys, following the angles that are there now. The trimmer was happy to instruct me on how to do it and really encouraged me to participate in their hoof care, saying that regular small trims would help correct things that much faster. For now he'll check the boys again in four weeks (and he insisted that I be there for that), and we'll figure out the next steps from there.

Yeah, I think Wow pretty much sums up that experience. I think I may actually have a trimmer!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Reddums-monster (and Taran update)

I rode Reddums, for real (as opposed to just tootling 'round the trails), for the first time in ages. MC and Fuzzypony have been riding him fairly regularly, but he's recently pulled a few old, ugly tricks that I wanted to nip in the bud before they became a huge problem.

When I'm trying to work out a problem (in Red's case, locking his neck/head/jaw and leaving the arena), I want to set the horse up to fail. In other words, I WANT him to try his tricks on me so I can make a correction. Red's no dummy - he knows he's not supposed to pull crap like that and if he knows he can't get away with it, he won't try it.

Sooo, I took him out while Saga and Cash were eating dinner (did I mention that Red is now on a "diet"?), which pretty much guarantees some sort of misbehavior. Sure enough, he took off at a mad trot and the steering was sort of non-existent. He tried to throw in all kinds of silly canters, wonky gaits (remember he's a Foxtrotter, so his legs can move in all kinds of odd configurations), stopping dead, and just generally being a brat. I corrected each one and just rode on like it was no big deal.

Unfortunately, he did manage to "get me" early on - he tossed in a (rather pathetic) buck just before he spun 90 degrees and ducked under a low-hanging oak tree. I rode the buck fine but then had to hug his neck to avoid the branches - thank goodness for helmets! I yelled at him and then went back to work, "daring" him to try it again. He decided he'd better not, and we went on to do some very nice work.

We got in some good walk-trot transitions, although because he's gaited I think he will always shuffle his feet for a few steps instead of stepping right off into the trot. His trot/walk transitions were not as nice as he tends to be very abrupt and fling his head up as he sits down. I worked on making my downward requests very subtle and we made progress. We had some great trot, and I really focused on keeping him supple with my leg. He tends to stiffen up and lock if you're anything more than very quiet with the reins, but he's very responsive to leg. I actually got some real leg yield, which is fantastic because he often gets his legs tangled up when trying to move laterally (again, that gaited thing!). We even had a few good trot/canter transitions with nice canter work for a few strides, but then he would lose his balance and his canter would start to be "gaity". Not fun to ride!

I think the canter issues stems from the fact that he's gained some weight recently and it's affecting his balance. He doesn't look the least bit off in the pasture, and his trot is better than ever, so I don't think it's a lameness issue. I'm going to try to longe him regularly to help him strengthen, and as I mentioned he's going on as much of a diet as I can mange (which isn't much since he hardly gets anything other than hay). I would love to ride him more but I just don't know where to find the time - I've got Cash and Saga to ride as well and I just can't fit in three rides, plus barn and house chores after work. Can I please have another few hours in my day?


Taran continues to do well in his recovery. He's down to just oral antibiotics, 1 gram of Bute/day, and UlcerGuard (just in case). He's on the loading doses of Legend and Adequan to help the joint. The vet was unable to get any fluid out of the coffin joint to do a white blood cell count - which is not necessarily a bad thing, but it means that we don't what's going on in the joint. She wants Taran to stay through the weekend, and if he continues to do well he'll come home early next week. Keep your fingers crossed!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Taran's coming home!!!

Sorry for the complete lack of communication for the past week... I've been away with pretty much no Internet access. It was great!

In the meantime, Taran has been doing better and better. He's down to one Bute/day, and today is he is being weaned off of antibiotics injected directly into the joint and should be down to just oral antibiotics. He's actually be completely sound on the injured foot since the day of surgery too, which is fantastic news. If everything continues as planned, he'll come home at the end of the week!

Also, if you're in central Texas, I cannot recommend Austin Equine highly enough. They have called both Fuzzypony and myself EVERY DAY exactly when they said they would. The staff have been sooo friendly and helpful, and they all love Taran and are spoiling him rotten and taking the best care of him. At first I wondered if I shouldn't have taken him to a larger equine hospital, but I now know that Taran wouldn't have gotten such individual care anywhere else, and I also know that the communication would not be nearly as good either.

While I was there visiting Taran, I had a really interesting discussion about barefoot horse care with one of the vets - I explained that I had a horse that was sensitive to NSCs and how I'd worked to get that under control. He asked about diet and I explained what I was feeding. He agreed with what I was doing but suggested feeding more alfalfa since it's lower in NSCs that Bermuda hay, and I explained that I understood that alfalfa in large quantities could cause entroliths. He blinked once or twice and then spent 10 minutes discussing the pros and cons of alfalfa. It was the most informed discussion I've ever had with a vet about feeding a horse.

I mentioned we were working to get the boys more self-trimming and had installed a track, and he thought that tracks were great and asked how well it was working. I was completely shocked! Here's a vet that not ONLY didn't tell me to shoe my horse, but knew about tracks and how diet affects feet!!! I then asked if he knew any good barefoot trimmers, explaining the troubles I've had (yes, I'm still trimming the boys, but I would feel more comfortable if I had someone I could trust look in on them regularly). He commented that the problem with most trimmers was that they wanted to trim from the bottom and take off live sole and frog, instead of trimming from the top. OMG!!!! From the mouth of a VET!!! I was practically speechless! And then he told me that he'd get me the name of the one trimmer that he'd had good results with... and you know what? The vet clinic actually followed up - I now have the guy's name and number. I plan to call him this week and discuss his trimming methods to see if he might be a good match. Not gonna make that mistake again!

Anyway... please keep sending good thoughts to Taran. We're hoping for a white blood cell count below 5,000 in the joint, and we'll know we're on the way. Fingers crossed!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Update on Taran - good news!

This morning the vet called me to say that Taran's white blood cell count in the coffin joint synovial fluid was down to 20,000, from 150,000 last night (normal is about 2,000). This was far beyond what she expected! However, although he was responding extremely well to the antibiotic therapy, the vet was concerned that the area would not drain well enough to heal completely. She recommended going ahead with surgery.

Fuzzypony and I talked this early this morning and she agreed that surgery was an option if that was Taran's best chance. I told the vet this decision and that we were a go. So, before he went in, the farrier made him a special hospital plate and put a support shoe on the other foot. Surgery was at noon, and involved debriding the bottom of the foot, flushing the coffin joint and the navicular bursae, and injecting antibiotics directly into the area.

The vet called me at 2 pm to say that the surgery had gone fantastically well. She said that everything looked good, they were able to flush the area really well, and that she was confident it was his best chance. After the surgery, she said that she was "guardedly optimistic" about the outcome. Last night she was really pessimistic about his chances, saying it was "a really bad situation." So Taran is definitely improving!

Our handsome patient.

I got to the vet's this afternoon about an hour after he'd gotten out of surgery. Taran looked pretty rough - sweaty from the anesthetic and just sort of disheveled. I started by combing out his entire mane and re-braiding it. As I went along, he stopped sweating and started perking up. About halfway through, he let me know that he wanted his face rubbed, so we did that for a while. That moved to a good (if gentle) currying session, where he made lots of silly faces when I found the itchy spots. Fuzzypony called in the middle of this and I gave her the report, currying with one hand and holding the phone with the other. I told her about his faces of ecstasy and we both had a much-needed laugh. When we got off the phone, I finished up his mane and did his forelock too. He took a couple of drinks of water and pooped, so he was definitely feeling OK.

The new 'do.

Note the gravity-defying forelock braid. :)

I had three vet techs and two vets stop by while I was with Taran. For all that it's a small hospital, the care is top-notch. I got three calls today with updates, which I know I would not have gotten at a bigger facility. Overall I am very, very positive about how things are going right now.

Ear scritches are uber-important!

Of course, the road ahead is long, and Taran is not out of the woods yet. We've got 5 days or so alternating between lavage and the antibiotic treatment. The vet assurred me that she would teach me and Fuzzypony how to clean and pack his foot, and work with the hospital plate. I've dealt with plenty of gaping, bloody wounds before, but I gotta tell you, there is something seriously WRONG with a hole in the bottom of a horse's foot. I am hoping I can cope with it when the time comes. I'm sure I'll suck it up and deal, but still... that's just wrong!

The BEST part - Taran is actually putting weight on the injured foot! Last night he wouldn't even put it down, so this is HUGE!

Thanks everyone for your good thoughts. They seem to be helping!

P.S. Yes, Nic, my husband is out of town. However did you know? I SWEAR I'm never letting him leave again.

Please send Taran healing thoughts

Last night when I got home from work, I went out to see the progress on the guest house renovation. As I was standing in the kitchen admiring the now-level floor, I looked out the window to see the boys snacking from a hay feeder. Taran was there too, contentedly munching.

Not five minutes later, after looking at a few more house-related things, I looked back out the window. Cash, Saga, and Red had wandered off, but Taran was still standing at the feeder, not eating. He had the beginnings of a sweat patch on his neck, and his stance was odd. I couldn't see his feet from where I was, but as I watched I noticed that he was breathing a bit heavily.

When I got to him, he was holding his left front up off the ground. There was a framing nail in the frog.

Everything says not to pull the nail, but there was still an inch of it sticking out. There was no way I was going to be able to stabilize his foot with the nail in it and get him out of the pasture without either pushing the nail further in or having it start grinding around in the foot. So I got pliers, a clean hand towel, and vetwrap. We got the nail out (it had gone in about an inch), and I put the towel on and vetwrapped it in place. The wound bled but not excessively. We got him into the stall, where he happily tucked into some alfalfa, and I called the emergency vet and left a message. I debated pulling off the towel to try to clean out the foot, but decided to wait for the vet to call back. In the meantime, I put standing wraps on his other three legs for support.

The vet recommended I bring him in, so I hitched up (thank GOODNESS I had Fuzzypony's truck - mine is not at the house right now) and we loaded. I backed right into the barn (LOVE MY BARN) so he would have to walk as little as possible. I also found a hoof wrap that I had bought several years ago for when your horse loses a shoe, and I put that over the vetwrap dressing for extra cushion. I'm sure I pissed off a whole lot of people as I drove 40 mph to the vet clinic, but given that he wasn't too keen to put weight on the damaged foot, I didn't want to jostle him any more than necessary.

Once at the clinic they sedated him, gave him pain meds, and blocked the foot. They pulled off the wrapping and scrubbed his foot, then put dye in the puncture and took several x-rays.

The situation is not good. The nail compromised both the navicular bursae and the coffin joint. The only thing it seems to have missed is the DDFT.

The current course of action is to levage both joints daily and inject antibiotics directly. They debrided the bottom of his foot so that it can drain. They also did an antibiotic treatment to his leg that involved a tourniquet (can't recall what that's called though). Unfortunately, this is often not successful and surgery is the only option (yes, we will go to surgery if it comes to that). Even then, the outcome is guarded.

So please, send Taran some healing thoughts. He sure could use them right now. Fuzzypony, who is currently out of the country (we're in touch and I'm keeping her informed of things as they happen), could probably also use a few virtual hugs too.