Thursday, March 29, 2012

The ongoing saga of feeding Saga

Saga has thin soles. Even after 5 months in shoes, which was supposed to help him grow sole (???), he’s got thin soles. Thin soles means that he bruises very easily – and thus, he’s been constantly lame-ish for… well, pretty much forever, it seems.

A little research on the Interwebs seems to indicate that thin soles caused by two things – genetics and/or diet. I can’t seem to find any research that shows there are specific lines where the horses have thin soles (diagnosed on x-ray), but genetics seems to be the most accepted reason for having thin soles. Whether or not genetics are playing a role in the ongoing lameness issue, I don’t know, but certainly improving a horse’s diet can’t hurt.

But the diet problem is extremely perplexing. I have three other horses that eat the same hay and get nearly the same diet (or used to get exactly the same diet), and they all have good soles and no ongoing lameness issues. So why is Saga having problems???

(I should note that last fall I figured out that changes in alfalfa every 2-3 weeks were causing growth rings in Saga’s feet, and that when the hay was changed every ~3 months there would be another event line. Since then I have stopped feeding alfalfa, switched to unmolassed beet pulp, and managed to secure about 450 bales of the same hay. The feed-related growth rings have all but disappeared, although he does have events lines where shoes were put on or he was trimmed.)

I recently decided to change feed, from his unmolassed beet pulp with a mineral supplement to a beet-pulp-based complete “senior” feed. The NSCs of the senior were only 2% higher than the beet pulp, and overall the feed provides a lot of extra stuff (probiotics, extra fat, and extra protein). Since Saga tends to a bit of a hard keeper, I figured it might help him keep weight on. Besides, Cash is on this feed and it somehow (mostly) cleared up his ongoing diarrhea. Still not clear on why, but it worked.

So I started transitioning Saga to the new senior feed over the course of last week. Since I’ve been turning the boys out for an hour or two each night/early morning on grass, I’ve been checking everyone’s digital pulse to make sure they’re not getting too much. Everything was fine… until I got up to about 3 lbs of the new feed. Saga’s digital pulse kept getting stronger with each feeding, despite being taken entirely off grass. Not surprisingly, he was lame for my jumping lesson. 

The change in feed clearly caused the increase in digital pulse, which may have caused a minor laminitic episode and increased sole sensitivity (NOTE: he’s got no rotation anywhere, I had him x-rayed).  It’s possible that he also bruised his soles out in the pasture stepping on a rock or whatever – without hoof testers, I don’t know if his soles are sore.  But the feed change may be related to the soundness issue.

So, I took him off the new feed and went back to beet pulp and the mineral supplement, which is actually a “light” feed that is fed at a rate of about 2 lbs/day. I’ve had a few folks suggest an alternative supplement with more protein (an actual ration balancer, as opposed to what I use now) to see if that helped his feet at all. I picked some up today, so we’ll see if that makes any difference. I also put him on Farrier’s Formula (yeah, I know, I’m DESPERATE) about two weeks ago. No obvious difference yet, but hope springs eternal, right?

Frankly, I’m running out of feed options. It’s pretty clear that he’s very sensitive to changes in feed. If sugar/starch is causing the thin soles and therefore the lameness, the only way I can get his total NSCs lower is to soak his hay. But his hay is only 8.8% NSCs, so I’m not sure how much of a benefit it would really be. Besides, I feed free-choice hay, and soaking hay for everyone is not terribly practical.
Does anyone else have any suggestions? About the only thing I haven’t done is to send off the hay and beet pulp analysis tags to an equine nutrition place and have them mix up a custom supplement. Hell, maybe I should try it?

Sunday, March 25, 2012

It's a beautiful day

"... it's a beautiful day, don't let it get away." [U2, Beautiful Day]

I'm trying to stay positive, because it is a beautiful day. Sunny, a gorgeous 80F, the birds are out and the trees are greening up... but Saga is lame again (still)? I took him for a jumping lesson yesterday, and as soon as we started trotting it was apparent that he wasn't comfortable. It's the left front again. I suspect that a feed change I tried to make earlier this week wasn't a good decision (as evidenced by the strong digital pulse that Saga now has), so we're back to the usual. We'll see if that helps in a few days, and if not... I am really not sure where to turn next. Anyway.

I did end up having a good hour-and-a-half long ride on Taran, who we stuffed in the trailer and took to the lesson as an afterthought. He was FULL OF IT, and just kept going and going. I was pretty surprised since he's not in good shape, but just went along with it. I even jumped him, which is pretty shocking given that Taran. Doesn't. Jump. His preferred MO is to trot up to any fence, no matter how tiny or how innocuous, then slam on the brakes at the base. Yes, he's been worked over trot poles. Yes, the X's are teeeny-tiny. No, he hasn't been overfaced. He will eventually jump any fence, but the first time he sees any fence he just hits the brakes. Usually it's about the third time over where he gets going, but then when you go on to a new fence, you get to start all over again. Well, for whatever reason, things clicked yesterday, and Taran jumped two whole fences (after slamming on the brakes for the first one). Fuzzypony was happy, Paige was happy, and I had a ton of fun. Who knows, maybe he'll be my new mount for jumping lessons when the hubby is riding Saga!

Back to it being a beautiful day...

This was last weekend on a trail ride. Look, green grass! Hard to believe that we're still in "moderate drought", but we keep getting rain, so there's hope!

 Flowers on the pear tree.

 Maddy-moo "hiding" in the grass. (Look! More grass!)

 Peach flowers.

 Teeny-tiny plum - a promise of good things to come!

 Pasture full of (inedible) purple flowers... with Reddums in the background.

More random flowers around the house.

Too cute!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Some ponies are just SO helpful (not)

Recently, Saga has gotten more of his old personality back. Whether it's the feed or the shoes or the Adequan or the spring weather that has him feeling more like a goofball, I don't know, but I'll take it! So he's sticking his nose - literally - into just about everything.  Tonight he was "helping" Fuzzypony spread the PDZ out in the barn.

 HiHiHI! DoYouNeedHelp? WhaddaryaDoing? WhatsInTheBucket?

 Lemmie just stick my nose in and... *SNOOOOORT*

Mom? What are you laughing at? Whaddya mean I have something on my nose? Mom? MOM?!?

In case you are wondering, PDZ is a nontoxic substance that bonds with ammonia to keep the smell down in the barn. So, no horses were harmed by the making of this blog post (with the possible exception of Saga's ego, since we laughed at him quite a lot).

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Weekend kitchen remodel

We've done a lot of remodeling work on our house, but one of the areas we've put off has been the kitchen. The idea is that eventually, we'll put a small addition on the back of the house and expand the kitchen, so we didn't want to waste any time or money on updating the kitchen before we're ready to do the addition. It's still a couple of years off - after the kids get out of college.

I've been trying to live with the kitchen, but a couple of weeks ago, I decided I absolutely could not live with floor anymore. It's white linoleum, covering a couple of layers of paint, covering the original oak floor. Eventually we'll refinish the wood, but again, not until we do the addition. Even so, I couldn't take the linoleum any more.

I know, you're thinking, "how bad can the floor be?" Let me 'splain:

It used to be white, but now it has spots and all sorts of random stains that do not come off when cleaned. Gross.

The kitchen originally had a half-wall in the middle of it, and they pulled out the wall after they put in the linoleum. That left a big hole in the linoleum. Great place for dirt to get trapped.

Here's a close-up of the hole. Don't you want something like this in the middle of your kitchen?

As an extra added bonus, the linoleum was peeling up around the edges, especially around the door.

We went through a couple of options for the flooring. The linoleum is really easy to peel up, which will be great when we get around to refinishing the floor. We wanted something that would look better than more linoleum, that would go on quickly, but was fairly cheap. After getting advice from a couple of folks (thanks Funder), we settled on a vinyl stick-down tile that was groutable. At $0.99/sq foot, the price was right too! 

To prep the floor, we filled the hole with a spare block of wood and leveled it out as best as we could. 

We peeled up the loose linoleum back to where it was well-stuck to the floor so that we'd have a more solid base to work on.

You can get an idea of the layers of goo that are on the floor under the linoleum. We definitely have our work cut out for us when we refinish the floor!

And then... we stuck down the first tile!

We kept sticking down whole tiles, using 3/16 tile spacers to make sure we laid them evenly. Freya supervised.

Here's the floor with all of the whole tiles. The little dots on the corners are the spacers.

After all the tile was laid, we grouted.

And here's what it looks like done!

While I was at it, I repainted the kitchen from a sickly greenish-offwhite to a bright blue.

I think it goes pretty well with the awful yellow tile countertops... definitely provides a good contrast!

It's not the best remodel ever, but it's a whole lot better than it used to be! I think we can live with it for another few years without being hugely embarrassed by our kitchen. :)

It took the hubby and I three hours on Friday night, then another few hours Saturday morning, to cut, lay, and grout the majority of the tile. It took me another solid day (by myself, hubby was gone) to finish cutting and laying the remaining tile, grout it, cut and install quarter-round molding, and paint. Not bad for a weekend project, and the entire thing cost us less than $300!

The only thing left to do is make some curtains for the kitchen window. I want to go with a fabric that has both blue and yellow in it, so it's either this one (kinda busy, but maybe cute for a country kitchen?)

Or this one... just because I can! What do you think?

Sunday, March 18, 2012

White horse? Nope, don't have one.

Just in case you thought that the pictures from last week of Cash covered in mud were some sort of unusual occurrence (or somehow staged), I assure you they are not.

Cash managed to find a lovely spot to roll in after our trail ride this morning. It's an old garden area with loose black dirt. It sticks amazingly well to a wet horse.

It's almost hard to tell which spots are new and which he was born with, eh?

Sigh. Oh well, if you're gonna get dirty, you might as well do a good job and get both sides.

Aaaand the saddle area too. He seemed very pleased with his handiwork.

MC, Fuzzypony, and I had a nice ride this morning. We went and worked down in the retaining pond (minus the pond), just worked on a little trot and canter. I put the boots AND pads on today (yesterday it was just boots), and he felt really good. Nice forward trot, quite sproingy. We did a few canter circles both directions, and while the right lead transition sucked as usual, he picked up the left in only two or three steps. Yay for progress! He still feels sprawly, but I wasn't asking him to do anything more than canter on a loose rein, so it was pretty much what I expected. Afterwards we took the long way home and enjoyed the Texas springtime.

Ubiquitous ear shot.

This afternoon I need to mow the back pasture before it starts raining again (flash flood warning goes into effect tonight... again). The boys have eaten most of the edible bits down to lawnmower level, so I'll whack down the weeds before they have a chance to propagate.

I hope everyone else is making the most of their weekend and getting some riding in!

First "real" ride minus shoes

Today it had finally dried out enough for Fuzzypony and I to head over to the arena and get in a serious ride. Well, serious being relative, since we only hacked around for about 20 minutes. It was 85 degrees and quite humid, and neither horse had much gas, so we kept it to a minimum.

I was really worried about how Saga would be. This was our first "real" ride without shoes, AND he was trimmed on Thursday. I've been watching him closely and he's taken some short steps, but I've also seen him canter on both leads out in the pasture and do some other stuff where he looked 100%. I was cautiously optimistic as I booted him up and hopped on...

... until we hit the pavement. OMG he was LAME. I almost got off, but then we got to a patch with fewer small rocks, and he improved. When we hit the trail, he started really striding out and stomping around. Yes, the ground was softer, and he preferred to stay on the grass. BUT! He was stepping evenly and seemed quite comfortable. We took the long way to the arena, and he did well except for the few rocky parts. He actually seemed a bit sore on his hinds, which is new. I think he's been walking on the hoof wall, and now that the wall is rolled, his (thin) sole has more contact with the ground. I'm wondering if I should get him hoof boots all around, instead of just the fronts?

Anyway, the ride went quite well! Both horses were super-sluggish due to the heat, and the flies were pretty bad (as evidenced by Saga's constantly swishing tail). We started with a bit of trot each direction. He was pretty curled up in front, which is a favorite evasion. I let him have a longer rein just to let him move forward, since that usually helps.

We then did a few canter circles each way. The canter transitions were horrid (par for the course), BUT... he picked up the right lead on the first try, and felt quite balanced and comfortable, even if he was a bit sprawly. Contrast this to our dressage clinic three weeks ago where we could NOT, for love nor money, get the right lead, and when we finally did, it was all over the place. Either the stifle injection or the Adequan (or both?) seem to be making him more comfortable, so that was very encouraging!

I'm hoping to squeeze in a ride tomorrow morning before it starts raining, and then we have a lesson scheduled for Wednesday. Fingers crossed!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Clean white horses are a freak of nature

When the boys have to stay up in the barn because of rain, I try to get them out every day for at least a little exercise. If it's too wet for turnout, it's also too wet to go on the trails or to the grass arena, so we're limited to walking up and down the street.

The most expedient way to exercise the boys is to ride one and pony another one. I only pony one at a time because I'm not talented enough to control more than one, plus there's traffic on our street and I want to be sure we can squish over to the side of the road to get out of the way.

So the question then becomes, who do I ride and who do I pony? To be honest, I usually pick whichever horse is cleanest, since less grooming time means more riding time. I'm pretty sure that Cash knows this, so he makes sure to never be clean. He makes the most of any chance to roll, and he often has extra opportunities that the others don't get - since he just stands there and grazes (instead of running around like the others), I sometimes let him out in a pasture when it's still quite wet.

Cash explains how to take advantage of any special turnout privileges in a few easy steps:
First, choose a nice wet muddy spot to begin your roll, and get the left side dirty. Grind it in really well so you can get chunks of mud stuck in your mane.

If you can, flip over to the other side without getting up. Squirm back and forth while you're upside-down so that you can really get your bum covered in mud.

Thrash around on your right side a bit too. Be sure to coat the saddle area as well as possible.

If you do it right, you'll be able to get parts of your face muddy too. This ensures that your mum can't easily put the bridle on without doing a major grooming effort. She'll also have to spend extra time cleaning your mud-encrusted fly mask, instead of riding.

After you're done with your rolling, there should only be two clean spots left on you: your bum around your tail...

...and your chest. Besides, if you're naturally spotted like me, you won't need extras in these locations.

Cash wants to know if Lilly is taking notes? She's always faaaar too clean...

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

RH: Fixed. LF? Still NQR.

Last week, my vet was out to check Saga's right hind. The problem seemed to be the stifle (toe dragging, fluid on the joint), so we did a radiograph and ultrasounded the joint. Everything showed up fine, but we injected the joint anyway. It seems to have worked - Saga feels great behind, and there is no more telltale toe-dragging. Yay!

During the lameness exam, my vet commented that he was a little off on the LF as well. That's the leg we had all the issues with last fall - we blocked it twice and he didn't come sound, then blocked the foot a third time, which seemed to help. Radiographs of the foot showed nothing, but he's got thin soles so at the time we decided to shoe him. Whether he's been 100% with the shoes on is hard to say - he tends to shuffle on pavement to avoid slipping, but he feels great on soft surfaces. Recently the shoes came off, and now we're back to him being noticeably short on that leg (although he is not head-bobbing lame).

I've been using hoof boots, and I wanted to see if they were making much of a difference in the way he moves. I took a little video, but I'm having issues with video editing so instead I captured some stills from the video.

LF landing with boots. Flat.

 LF landing without boots. DEFINITELY toe-first.

 RF with boots. Heel first, but it's a little hard to see.

 RF, no boots. YAY for nice heel-first landing!!!

As I was looking at the stills, I noticed the difference in the angles his legs were making, so I decided to measure them. I wanted to see how much of a difference there was between the angles of right vs left, both with and without boots. I busted out with my incredibly rusty trusty trig skills (read: I found a web site with a handy calculator since I couldn't remember past the Pythagorean theorem) and did a little calculating.
  • LF without boots: 38.6 degrees
  • RF without boots: 48.2 degrees
  • LF with boots: 45.2 degrees
  • RF with boots: 47.9 degrees
Take all these measurements with a large grain of salt. To do a really good study I'd need a more accurate way to measure angles, and I'd also need a larger sample size of strides to compare. Ignoring those two tiny details, here's what I think this means:

  • For the RF, the foot with the better landing, the boots aren't making much of a difference. My measurements aren't exact, and the difference in the angles is only .3 degrees with/without boots. On the other hand, they don't appear to be hampering his movement either.
  • For the LF, the boots are making a significant difference - over 7 degrees of better range. That translates into a stride length that's over 25% larger (if I did my math right, and I might not have. Somebody please point it out to me if I messed up.).
  • Wearing boots makes the stride length more even between the LF and RF. Without boots, there was almost a 10 degree difference in angles; with boots, it was not quite 3 degrees. In other words, he is able to move his body more evenly when he wears boots.
 I'm going to go out on a limb and say that it's likely that wearing boots and wearing shoes produces similar movement in this situation (that is, both shoes and boots allow for a larger LF stride, and more even stride length between the LF and  RF). While riding tonight on the tarmac, at a walk, I was constantly trying to feel if he was uneven anywhere. Maybe a tiny bit? But he was stepping out really well so maybe not? I honestly couldn't tell, and probably would not have noticed anything if I hadn't been scrutinizing every step.  This tells me that I cannot tell when my horse is uneven to the tune of 3 degrees in stride length. Ergo, he could have been just as lame in shoes as he is in boots, and I am not sure I would have been able to tell. He always felt a little uncertain in shoes on tarmac because he tended to slip. Out on grass, he looks 100% at the trot without boots, but of course that's on softer footing. I won't be able to tell how he is in boots on softer footing under saddle until later in the week.

I'm calling the vet tomorrow to make another appointment to see if we can pinpoint the problem with the LF. If past history is any indicator, the problem will not go away when the foot is blocked (although given the fact that he's noticeably better in boots, it seems logical that the problem is in the foot).  Which begs the question... where the heck is the problem??? I'm taking bets, so start speculating wildly!

Monday, March 12, 2012

New tran$mi$$ion$ are expen$ive

Well, I was right. It wasn't the transmission that caused my poor truck Grendel to die this weekend. It was the torque converter. (If you want to learn all about torque converters, visit HowStuffWorks.)

Unfortunately, replacing torque converters is expensive, and you have to drop the transmission in order to do it. Generally, transmissions on F-350s last between 150-200K miles. At 192,000 miles, Grendel is on the upper edge of that range. In other words, it's only a matter of time before the tranny goes too. Plus, there is the chance that when the TC went, it gummed up the tranny. Therefore, the general opinion of the online masses (why yes, I've been reading diesel truck forums!) seems to be to replace them both at the same time. Cha-CHING!!!!!

The good news (in the holy-crap-i-hope-i'm-getting-something-worthwhile-for-this-much-money sort of way) is that the rebuilt transmission comes with a 3 year, unlimited mileage warranty.  That's good, right?

So, anybody wanna go for a spin in my truck later this week? It'll have a whole new transmission AND new tires. However, the horsehair-upholstered seats will still be the originals.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

My poor, poor truck

Not a happy sight.

Yesterday, on the drive home from picking up a friend's cargo trailer, I noticed the Overdrive light was blinking on my truck, Grendel. Since I'd just had it in to replace the tires, I called the dealership to ask them about it. They said to could be something major with the transmission (it wasn't downshifting on the highway, but it doesn't do that anyway when OD is on) so to bring it in right away. I stopped on the way home, but they said they couldn't work on it with the trailer attached. It was still driving OK - the transmission wasn't slipping or anything - so I decided to quickly head home to drop the trailer.

1/4 of a mile out of the dealership, my poor truck died at a stoplight on the Interstate access road. The engine was on, but the gears would not engage no matter what I shifted it into. I was on a slight incline, and all I could do was roll backwards into oncoming traffic. The adrenaline started pumping and I weighed my options. Then, in one of those split-second decisions, I realized that there was a gas station just to my right and slightly behind me. I took my foot off the brake and angled the trailer into the gas station parking lot, praying that oncoming traffic would just avoid me. Unfortunately, a car pulled up behind me and I had to stop, then didn't have enough momentum to get all the way into the parking lot. My truck was sticking out, halfway in a lane of oncoming traffic, and I could go nowhere. Talk about a frightening experience!

I put the hazard lights on and got out of the truck, figuring that if I was going to get hit by oncoming traffic, it would be better if I weren't in the vehicle. I called the hubby in a panic, and he suggested I try turning the truck off and on again. It worked! I got it in reverse and backed about 50 feet into a parking space, then turned it off and waited a minute to stop shaking.

Even though the dealership was only 1/4 of a mile away, it was on a one-way access road, and I would have had to drive nearly 2 miles to get back. I wasn't willing to risk having the truck stall out again in traffic, so I called a tow truck. Meanwhile, the hubby called Fuzzypony to see if we could borrow HER truck to get the trailer home... fortunately, he was at home and not with me, so he was able to go pick her truck up. An hour later (during which I consoled myself with an Almond Joy from the convenience store at the gas station), hubby arrived, and we unhitched the trailer just in time for the tow truck to get there to pick up poor Grendel.

They will look at my truck tomorrow. At first I was worried that the transmission was toast (a $3500 rebuild), but it's never slipped or had trouble shifting even though the truck has 192,000 miles on it (go diesel trucks!!!). I did a little research on the Interwebz, and apparently the blinking Overdrive light can be a symptom of a number of things, including a faulty speed sensor (although the speedometer was working fine), bad solenoid, or failing torque converter. Of course, it could be that the transmission just up and died too, but given the lack of other problem-tranny, symptoms, I'm hoping not.

This truck has been a total workhorse and has never needed anything more than routine maintenance. It's a 1999 Ford F-350, and we use it for EVERYTHING around here - hauling building materials, the horse trailer, and of course, pulling down concrete cisterns.  I'm hoping it will go another 100,000 miles or so. Fingers crossed it's not time for a transmission rebuild just yet!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Things you find in your hay loft

No, don't panic, it wasn't a snake or anything scary like that.

This morning while feeding I noticed one of our more adventuresome hens ensconced in one corner of the hay storage, where the boys had managed to munch through a bale or two before we put up a (classy) plywood barrier. Hubby was about to climb up to throw down some bales for me, and I asked him to check on Ms. Chicken.

 Hubby delving into the hay cave.

 Apparently, said chicken had found the best place ever to lay eggs, and had cleverly hidden nearly a dozen eggs in the hay cave!

Hubby escorts escape chicken back to the coop.

We had omelets for breakfast. :)

Friday, March 9, 2012

Maddy-Moo lives up to her name

Maddy has earned a variety of nicknames since she came to live at Wyvern Oaks. She started off as Madelaine, which quickly got shortened to Maddy. Although she was emaciated when we brought her home, she quickly gained weight to the point that she was, shall we say, plumper than she should be. I started calling her Maddy McFatty, and then Maddy Moo. Maddy Moo became Maddy Mooster, which in turn got shortened to Mooster, and occasionally The Moo... I could go on, but I'll spare you the pain. By now she's probably so confused that she has no idea what her name actually is, but she shows up at mealtimes so I guess all is well.

One of Maddy's more endearing traits is that she prefers to go through the garden fence rather than over it, like her sister Artemis does. When she was slimmer, this was easy, but now that she's less svelte, it's, um...

Sort of like squeezing out a tube of toothpaste, no? I should note that the way I managed to get her through the fence while I was filming was by having someone else rattle her food dish. I think I chose her nickname well.

Do you have "evolving" nicknames for your critters, or do you just stick with one?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

iPad for Horses

I just could not resist posting this...

It's a good thing this doesn't actually exist. Reddums would have ordered a truckload of alfalfa cubes, along with 500 lbs of organic carrots. He'd probably also be on Facebook challenging other horses to jousting duels. Oh, and emailing the SPCA when I'm five minutes late with dinner.

What would your horse do with access to the Interwebz?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Ultrasound, Adequan, Panecure, and how we nearly burned down the barn

First of all, Saga's ultrasound was Monday (sheesh, I'm so far behind). IT WAS CLEAN!!!! The radiograph was clean too, so we are left wondering why he's got fluid on his stifle. I discussed other possibilities with the vet (namely, hock and suspensory), but he felt like the flexion test results, plus the  fluid he could feel on the joint, all pointed to something in the stifle. We ended up injecting the joint after a long discussion of pros and cons (and a lot of research by me over the weekend). I haven't ridden him since Monday, but now three days later, he looks... pretty good, actually. Fingers crossed!

The vet also noted that he was 1/5 lame on the LF in addition to being off on the RH. The vet attributed the lameness to Saga not having shoes on, even though he did not react to hoof testers (remember, we jogged him out in boots and pads). A little research shows that front/hind end lameness are often on diagonal limbs, so it's possible that the LF issues we've been seeing since last fall are actually related to the RH stifle issue. We blocked the entire LF last fall and he didn't go sound, so maybe it wasn't the LF after all but actually the RH? Or the LF issue is causing the RH. I'm grasping at straws? ANYway, I've noticed that he seems better on the LF today than he did on Monday. Of course, I'm watching him walk out in the pasture, so it could be wishful thinking on my part. Hopefully we'll get a handwalk in on pavement tomorrow and I can do a better assessment.

I've also started him on Adequan, per vet's suggestion. He's had two doses so far, four days apart. I will probably not do the entire loading dose of 7 injections but will try 5 and then do them monthly. So maybe the Adequan is helping make him feel better all over, I really don't know. So many things are going on at once, it's going to be impossible to tell what's causing what. That's frustrating for diagnostic purposes for sure, but if he's improving, I'm pretty happy with that!

In other news, I decided to do the Panecure Powerpac on the boys starting March 1. I don't do the every-other-month worming since I've had several fecal tests come out negative, but at the vet's recommendation I am doing the Powerpac to get rid of what doesn't show up on fecal tests. Luckily, everybody is really good about about worming... except Cash. And when I say that Cash is bad about it, I mean like flipping-himself-over-backwards bad. We've tried the molasses syringe and the applesauce and every other trick in the book, and over the years he's just gotten worse. Doesn't matter who does it either, it's just awful. So... I tried sneaking the Panecure in his food and you know what? HE ATE IT!!! So except for the first night, I've been putting Panecure in all the boys' dinners, and they're still licking the bowls clean. Cash is really picky too, so I halfway expected him to turn his nose up at his "contaminated" food - but he didn't. Anyway, if you are trying to Powerpac your horse, consider seeing if they'll eat it hidden in their dinner.

And finally, yes, we did nearly burn down the barn tonight. When I went out to feed tonight, I smelled smoke. There's nothing quite like the smell of smoke in your barn to set your adrenaline going!!! I frantically glanced up at the hay loft to see if there was anything there (no), the sprinted to the barn storeroom where the chicks are. The storeroom was filled with smoke - one of their heat lamps had malfunctioned and ignited the shavings they were on, which were smoldering. I yelled for the hubby, grabbed Anie's bucket of water (hey, it was handy!), and doused the burned area.

Burnt shavings. Fortunately that's all that burned... we were SO lucky.

We were unbelievably lucky. I don't know how long the shavings were burning, but eventually the fire would have reached the wooden barn walls and ignited them, and the whole structure would have gone up. We totally dodged the bullet this time. Whatever deity was looking out for us today, I'm eternally grateful.

Go hug your horse(s), and make sure you know where the fire extinguisher is in your barn!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Vet exam results

The vet was out today to do annual teeth and Coggins (I do my own vaccinations so they're not all smushed together at once). Reddums checked out as normal in all ways, except his falling-down-drunk reaction to the sedative:

Noreally... Imma jusht... fiiiiiinnnne. I kin schtand by myshelf. Yuppppersssh, I'm fiiiiinnnne.

Next up was Cash. For a 23-year-old (he'll be 24 in April), the vet said that Cash's teeth look pretty good. He has one molar (209) on the top left that's cupping and is packing some food in, which may be causing him to eat less hay. We agreed to treat it conservatively and keep an eye on it, as well as up his feed to a level more appropriate for a horse eating minimal hay. I recently changed him over to Triple Crown Senior, and am working him slowly up to roughly 5 lbs per feeding, twice per day, plus a bedtime snack.

 Mmmfrnnnddddlllp. (Horse speak for "I'm gonna get you later for this, mom")

Saga... where do I start. I showed the vet my concerns with his front feet and he agreed 100%. We discussed taking rads of his feet to see how the sole was doing, but a quick squeeze with the hoof testers showed that it would be pointless. The sole was just as flexible as it was in November - in other words, the shoes have done NOTHING to help build sole depth. The good news is that he wasn't at all reactive to the testers, so we are starting off well. He also showed no response to palpitation on his back or in the sacral area, where he was sore in November, so that's good too. Unfortunately, given the condition of the soles I don't think the vet was excited about me taking him barefoot, which I understand. I'm still torn about it too, but something needs to be done about his feet.

I booted him up (since we'd be trotting on tarmac) so we could check the hind end for issues. He's been having trouble with canter transitions, and he's been feeling uneven when I change from one posting diagonal to the other, so I wanted to have the vet look at him. Long story short, he's got fluid in the right stifle and flexion made him trot worse. We took rads of the joint and they came back clean, but there's concern that it's a soft tissue injury. The portable ultrasound was with another vet today, so he's coming back Monday to ultrasound the area (unless I can get an appointment for him tomorrow, by some miracle). Worst case scenario, three to six months off.

Awesome. At least three to six months off will give him time to adjust to barefoot, right? Sigh.

I sort of have a semi-plan at this point, but we're basically on hold until we get the ultrasound results back. Until then, I'm reading up on stifles. Keep your fingers crossed it's something minor.

The Plan for Saga's feet

Thank you everyone who commented about my last, rather depressed post about what Saga's foot looked like under the shoe. I appreciate all of your collective advice!

Yesterday evening I took Saga over to my neighbor-farrier and had him pull Saga's other shoe. There's no way my regular farrier could get out until next week to put the other shoe on anyway, so I figured, what the heck. We'll try barefoot again - with a few important changes - and monitor things carefully.

My vet comes out for annual stuff tomorrow, so we'll take new x-rays of his feet to see if there's been any change in sole depth. I'm guessing that there hasn't been, but it'll be good to know.

I'm changing Saga's feed from Triple Crown Light to Triple Crown 30% for Grass Hay. It's a 30% protein ration balancer that's specifically formulated for horses on mixed hay. I don't know if it'll help, but the TCL doesn't seem to be doing us any favors, so we'll try something different and see where that gets us. I'll continue on with his flax and MgO supplement, as well as the probiotics and the feed-through fly control. He also gets unmolassesed beet pulp 2x/day, which is doing a great job of helping him maintain weight without pouring a lot of grain into him.

I'm exploring another supplement option, but we'll try the TC 30% for a month and see how he's doing before tweaking anything else.

I'm also going to be MUCH more careful about booting him. He won't get boots for turnout, but the track is mostly dirt with a few small rocks here and there. I'm taking him for short walks (less than a mile) on the tarmac without boots, to help his feet wear a bit. I'm also hand-walking on soft ground. Anything longer than that, under saddle, and/or on rougher ground, and he'll get boots. I don't want to chance bruising his soles this early in the game.

 LF. Notice how much the toe has worn after just two short hand walks - less than a mile each on tarmac, plus about 1/2 mile on soft ground.

 The frog is starting to shed, and the toe callus is wearing a bit.

 RF. It's wearing more on the outside edge than on the inside, and you can see how the coronet band is pushed up more on that side too. I'm guessing that's related... interesting.

RF. It looks better overall than the LF, I think. When he was barefoot before, this foot had the better landing, although he tended to be consistently shorter on this foot on hard ground. This foot also has minor changes in the bone (de-ossification, maybe?) on the outside.

I realize from the pictures that his feet are far from ideal - long toes, bull nose, flared walls, high bars, false sole, coronet band pushed up (did I miss anything, haha?!). HOWEVER, I am not going to go crazy trimming him right now. Instead, I'm doing the hand walks, and I'm hoping to get some pea gravel for the track this weekend. I want to give his feet a chance to adjust themselves before going crazy. Right now that hoof wall is keeping his sole up off the ground, and the false sole is also affording him protection. I don't want to take that away from him all at once; I'd rather give nature a chance to figure things out a little before I help it along. I don't expect that he'll be self-trimming because I can't provide him with that sort of workload, but I do expect that his feet will adjust a little bit on their own.

So, there you have it. Fingers crossed that I can manage him better this time around. It may be he'll always need boots for anything other than the track or soft ground, or shoes for the hunting/jousting season - and I'm OK with that. I just want him comfortable without compromising his feet.