Wise Affair’s Big Brother



A few days ago, Linda was poking around on the internet, visiting a few horsey websites. She happened upon a link to Heaven Can Wait Equine Rescue. They’ve been around for years, and she peeks at their list of adoptable horses every once in a while.  So she dropped in for a look. There was a lovely old chestnut thoroughbred pictured. “Oh what a lovely sort of horse” she thought. Then she read the description. “Casey Cobalt” was his racing name.  “WHAT????? CASEY??????”  Casey is  Wise Affair‘s older, full brother. Out of Ron’s classy old broodmare, Exclusive Affair and by Whiskey Wisdom.  He is 17 years old, and as far as we knew, he had been in a good home with the same owner for many years after his retirement from racing. He was a competitive dressage horse for a few years.

So that precipitated a mad scramble to get Casey home.  Linda notified Ron and called the rescue right away to give them references and arrange the adoption and transport.

He arrived two days ago. He appeared to know where he was as soon as he got off the trailer.   He’s not perfectly sound, though we won’t know for sure what’s going on with that until the vet checks him this week.  He’s still considerably underweight (scary to think what he must have looked like when he first got there a month ago!!)  And he’d managed to bang his eye just before getting on the trailer (Claire at the rescue was appalled that he did that right before she sent him out, but it’s not serious, and she doctored it up nicely before loading him). So with all that, he was a bit of a sad sight compared to the big, handsome racehorse that left the farm years ago.


He’s been going out into the arena for turnout, since he’s being quarantined for a while.  Today, he whinnied and Parker (who is the oldest of the retired no-goodniks in the “cute and useless” pasture) seemed to suddenly realize WHO was calling in the distance. He whinnied back in great excitement and galloped to the gate. “Hello!!!!! CASEY!!! Is it you???”  “Parker? PARKER???? It’s me! Is it you??????”  Lots of crazy enthusiastic whinnying. Then, of course, there were some silly antics in the arena.  He might be a little sore, but he remembers his glory days.

He is eating well, and I’m sure he’ll put the weight back on without too much trouble.

On another note… when you have an off-track thoroughbred, do not just assume that his breeders, owners, and other racing connections do not care what happens to him in the end.  Not all will want them back (just as with the rest of the horse world). But you might be surprised by how many actually will either take them back or try to find a good place for them somewhere.

Casey was never a throwaway horse. After retiring sound from racing, Ron sent him for a few months of professional training so that he would be more likely to find a good buyer who would love and care for him. And he thought that he HAD found a good owner.  Things happen for sure. Death, divorce, job losses. We don’t know what happened, or how many hands he’s passed through, but unfortunately for Casey, no one ever thought to ask if he could come home.

He’s home now though. And he’s staying.


Long Time, No Write

Lately I’ve been taking a bit of flak about not writing in my blog. So I finally decided to get back to it. It’s been about a year I guess. Yikes.

The horses are all doing pretty well. So maybe I’ll just give an update on all the residents.

King (the eponymous Sky King) is in good shape. Not tremendously fat, which is unusual for him. He’s pasture sound and hasn’t been ridden for a couple of years. His tumours had a bit of growth spurt in the spring, which had me worried for a while. But they seemed to have stopped again. As far as I can tell, they don’t bother him. Not yet anyway. Veronica’s mare, Ella, loves him dearly and stays at his side most of the time.

Dressy, my big black Standardbred mare, is still not sweating like a normal horse. But she has recovered somewhat. I took her for a lovely ride with friends in the Dundas Valley Conservation Area trails a few weeks ago on a cool day. She was sweating lightly for about the first hour and a half. Then she dried up. Luckily there were creeks everywhere, and I was able to sponge her often enough to keep her cooled down. She seemed pretty happy to be out and wasn’t particularly overheated due to all the sponging. It was nice to be back out on her. She is a fun ride.

Venice has had a major change of attitude over the past six months or so. She has finally, after a lifetime of being terrified of humans, come around to being a friendly pocket pony. She has now had her vaccinations, had her feet trimmed, learned to love wearing a winter blanket (she shivers in the cold), loaded on the trailer, been ponied (with Diego), worn a surcingle, done all sorts of groundwork, and she lunges better than any horse here. Perfect voice commands.

Losing the Winter Coat
Venice, In the spring, with quite a bit of winter coat still to shed out.

I can see hope for her finally. For a long time, I wasn’t sure that the little mare would ever be quite normal. But now I am certain she will eventually go well under saddle. And be a useful, civilized, equine citizen.

Venice Wearing Her Blanket
Venice loved her winter blanket within about two minutes after learning to wear it. She is apparently a desert flower. Cold weather does not suit her at all.

Diego has had something going on in his respiratory system. He’s mostly fine, but has what the vets call “very slight roughness” in his right lung. He bombs around the pasture just fine. But he coughs periodically when he’s working. They tell me it’s not heaves. He’s had a course of Ventipulmin and also antibiotics. Both of which seemed to help initially and then didn’t. So we are going to try a trans-tracheal wash. Which means that they put a tube down, run a bit of saline solution in, draw it back up, and culture it to see what grows (or doesn’t). That way we will at least know what we are trying to treat him for.

photo by Luba Citrin
Diego and I, having a chat in the barn. He is chewing on a cookie. Photo by Luba Citrin

Despite the respiratory issues, he’s cheerful, eating well, and my granddaughter, Amberlea has been learning to ride on him. He seems to have been born to teach beginners to ride. She clambers up on him, while he waits patiently. She has progressed from clinging cautiously to banging him in the ribs to make him “trot on, Diego!” If I rode him as carelessly as she does, I’m sure he’d have an anxious meltdown. But she seems to be able to do anything at all on his back and he ambles around tolerantly. He trots very slowly, spooks at absolutely nothing, and tends to drift to a halt if she doesn’t keep encouraging him. He’s like an old, bombproof school pony.

Amberlea On Diego
Amberlea On Diego

Amberlea will be 8 in a few days. She calls Diego her “Rock Star” because he’s so good and has very long hair. Today she said “Diego is my horse…. okay, well he’s your horse. But he’s KINDA like my horse? A little bit?” I laughed at her and said “You can pretend he’s your horse”. She was happy with that, and ran around the yard chortling about her Rock Star. He actually hangs around, watching her over the fence whenever she’s outside (which is most of the day). She says he loves her. And I think he does. Possibly though, he’s influenced by the intermittent cookie deliveries that come his way. Coincidentally, we seem to be going through an unusual volume of horse treats lately.

McCool is also doing well. We keep working through issues. I had his selenium levels tested this spring, and he was quite low (.08 when normal levels should be between .12 and .16). So he’s been on a selenium yeast supplement since then. I’m waiting for the results from a new blood test. I am hoping that he’ll be restored to normal levels now.  His muscles have always been kind of tight, and he was not a really free moving horse. But over the last couple of months that seems to have improved. He’s striding out better, and his muscles feel less tight and knotty. Whether it’s the selenium or just additional fitness, a happier attitude, and general improvement from all the other physical issues we’ve worked through, I don’t know.

He’s often quite a nice horse to ride. Mostly nice in fact. But he still has a little bit of obstinance that surfaces periodically. He got quite balky this spring. Primarily because there was green grass everywhere and he saw no reason on EARTH why he should walk over it without stopping to eat it. All of it. And when I insisted that he go forward, his answer was “No…. I said NO!” So that was not a great deal of fun to deal with. Ontario is a remarkably green place in the spring. There were a lot of discussions about grass vs. forward. And he said some very rude things to me. He has quite the temper when he takes offence. He’s a strong, opinionated guy who has obviously won some battles in his history.  He knows that he’s stronger than a puny human.  So my strategy has been to set him up for success as much as I possibly can.  To get through difficult things by breaking it up into the smallest possible increments with plenty of positive reinforcement, and to never ever escalate. Just continue to ask for what I want and block bad behaviour as passively as I can manage while still being effective. Then if I get the slightest cooperation I reinforce positively. Sometimes I use clicker training and reward with food. But a lot of the time I just tell him how good he is. He does love to be appreciated.  He seems to have gotten over the balking thing. For now, anyway.

Today was really hot and muggy, so I didn’t feel like riding. I’ve been doing a lot of different ground work with him.  I’ve always meant to do some long reining  and never got around to it.  So today I finally got out there and started working on it with him. He was a little confused for about 15 seconds. Then he sort of figured it out and went forward. Within about 10 minutes he was walking, trotting, circling, and going over poles very comfortably.  He is a smartypants.

Driving McCool
Long reining over some poles. Photo by Jen Glasser.

He went to his first ride at the beginning of May. A 14 mile Set Speed. I was surprised at just how completely freaked out he was by all the other horses. He’s normally quite a confident boy. But, oh my, there was a lot of spinning and whinnying in the vet check. It was bad enough that I was a little apprehensive getting on him. But although he was obviously excited, he did stand for mounting. He was utterly unable to stand still once I was mounted, but all he did was power walk all over the camp.

Ready to Go Out On Trail
Ready to go out on trail at Aprilfest. Probably in the midst of taking a deep breath so he could blast out more ear-splitting whinnies to the rest of the camp. Photo by Brian Markell.


McCool and Ella
Just over the start line and he was still behaving well. Though I suspect that’s apprehension on my face. Veronica on Ella right behind us (Ella was, of course, a perfect angel) Photo by Brian Markell.

He walked out pretty well at the start. But shortly thereafter started to get very enthusiastically forward. I tried to put him behind Emily’s Quarter Horse, Duke.  Duke is a very steady guy with a good, forward trot. I thought that would keep McCool down to a dull roar on trail. But the first few miles were just a steady battle. He was pulling, shaking his head, and rooting to get the reins away from me. He’s a sturdy little horse, and actually managed to pull me out of the saddle and slightly over the pommel at one point. I thought I was going to go head first into the dirt. A human lawn dart. But managed to pull myself out of the nosedive at the last moment. The problem with all that is that between the left elbow that is all pinned together, a still tender collarbone from the break in October, and a torn rotator cuff in my right shoulder, I was already hurting by mile 2. In desperation, I finally gave in and let him go out in front of Duke and Ella. He was pretty darned forward out in front. But at least was no longer ripping my shoulders apart.

McCool in the Check
At the mid check. This would be me, soaked in sweat… explaining to McCool that he has been a total a$$. He is ignoring me disdainfully. Photo by Brian Markell.

The second loop was much better. He was still forward, but it was a safer kind of forward.  No more surging and bouncing, and I had brakes.

After that ride, I was really sore for a few weeks.  Sore enough that I felt a bit sick to my stomach off and on. It was mostly the rotator cuff.  I have a partial tear from being run over from behind by a 17hh baby Thoroughbred at work late last summer.  The collarbone was a separate (and rather stupid) accident. I rode under a partly fallen tree. The hood of my jacket caught on a branch. The branch was a lot less breakable than me.  McCool kept going. I stayed with the tree branch. Momentarily anyway.  Word to the wise… never wear a jacket with a  solidly attached hood when riding on trail.

Since Aprilfest, I’ve been taking McCool around to ride in different places with different horses. We do a lot of walking, in the hopes that he will learn patience and that it will make him a bit less of a terror on trail. He is improving. But he seems, by nature, to be a gritty, determined, competitive little bull of a horse. So I think my progress might be limited to minor improvements in him, and more tolerance of his antics in me. And admittedly, part of the problem is that my tolerance levels are not good.  The rotator cuff tear really hurts when he’s being a brat.  Not to mention the little voice in the back of my head that would prefer not to break any more body parts.

I am toying with the idea of taking him to the next Coates Creek ride at the beginning of August. If he continues to behave, I’ll at least take him and see if he’s a little calmer about it all.

The truth is though, as much as I grumble about McCool, I have become quite attached to him. He is smart as a whip, highly interactive, energetic, and bold,  albeit difficult.  He loves trail. Especially trail he’s never seen before.  Which is why he often gets nicknamed “Mini-Me” or “King-Lite”. He even looks like a smaller version of King.  If I can’t ride my boy King in competition, McCool is a pretty close facsimile. And if I’m honest about it… he’s probably a tad easier than King ever was to ride 😀

McCool on Trail

I had the most wonderful ride on McCool this weekend. He has always seemed like a cheerful fellow. But as we’ve worked through his little issues (dental problems, muscle soreness, chiropractic stuff, etc.), one by one, he’s really becoming a character. And that’s saying something since he was a fairly irrepressible soul to start with.

I’ve been quite worried about the issue that he has with going down hills. He was genuinely concerned about it, would stop dead and lash his tail. Take a step or two. Stop again. Pin his ears. Etc. He’s got a lump of scar tissue behind his left shoulder blade that looks like it came from bad (severely bad, I would guess) saddle fit. It’s reduced in size and consistency over the last six months and is now just barely palpable. I’ve tried a few different saddles on him and anything with any kind of tree is very alarming to him. So in the end, we’re back in my battered old standby… the Barefoot London, which is a treeless saddle.

Over the last week or two, I’ve been just messing around with him. Mostly riding in the round pen, or around the yard, or in the driveway. Nothing exciting. Just ambling around, practicing circles and sidepasses. Nice square halts. Serpentines. And a long session of grazing at the end of every ride so he could just sort of ‘be’ with me and the saddle on him. I had Ana lead him down the steep hill on the driveway quite a few times, with me on him. I just dropped the reins and sat still while Ana led him. I didn’t want it to be an argument or cause anxiety. Just a quiet walk down the hill without pain so he would get his confidence back. He got a cookie every so often as he went down, which was quite motivating for him.


So after a whole lot of successful short rides, I decided to take him out with Veronica and Ella, and Ana and Ares. Ella can be a kicker and she’s not normally turned out with McCool, so we put her at the back. Ana was trying out bareback on Ares, so we put him in the middle to minimize any spookiness (not that he’s particularly spooky). McCool led the way.

His ears were up, and he was practically skipping. He sailed out of the yard and headed down the steep hill without the slightest hesitation. Halfway down, his exuberance bubbled over and he started trotting “Whee!” I asked him to walk, and he did so immediately. For one step. Then “Whee!” Trotting again. I asked him again “Just walk, buddy… remember? walking!” It turns out that McCool’s response to everything is pretty much, “Okay… but… Wheeeeee!!!!”

Happy McCool
Happy McCool

After touring around the back of the farm a bit, with Ares being a total gentleman, Ana started to think that he (with shark-like withers and an A-frame back) was possibly not as comfortable to ride bareback as she expected. So we went back for Ares’ saddle and then headed across the road to the longer trails. McCool was thrilled when we actually went past the mailboxes (that was the farthest he’d ever gone on the home trails). As we got further from home, he perked up his ears and walked faster, breaking into a jog at every opportunity. He looks around with great interest at everything. He’s not spooky, though he did stop and look at the neighbour’s lake for a long time. It has swim platforms and poolhouses etc. So it looks a bit different than our big pond at home. He didn’t do anything, just looked.

Ha! Let's go!
Ha! Let’s go!

Once we got onto the mowed trails around the fields, he was sure these were gallop trails. Walking was the dumbest idea he’d heard in a long time, but he did mostly listen to me. Except whenever I tried to take a picture with my phone. He’s very opportunistic about those loose reins and breaks into a sneaky baby jog, then a trot. Eventually I let him move out for a bit. He’s really quite good. Maintains a straight, rhythmic, forward trot. His gaits are nothing exceptional. Certainly not powerful springiness of King, nor the silky responsiveness of Diego. But quite good enough to be rideable. And he actually wants to do it, which is probably more important than any other quality.

Turning for home though… he was a whole different horse. He walked at half speed, looking for excuses to turn on to a new trail, or stop and graze. We passed a house in the distance with a pool and kids shrieking and splashing. One of the kids started waving at us, and McCool tried to head on over. “That kid wants to see me!!! Let’s go!”

Don't wanna go home...
Don’t wanna go home…

When we finally got back to our own driveway, he was a bit sulky. “Don’t WANNA go home”. I let him graze on the lawn for a while when we got back, so he cheered up. I was so pleased with his performance that I felt a bit giddy and gave him a great big hug. Which he, of course, was happy to snuggle into. He’s a friendly, happy clown.

There’s still lots of work and training that he needs of course. But he’s come a long way already!

Diego’s Little Holiday

After coming up lame at the last ride, and putting me through a bit of minor hysteria (thinking it was his hocks), it does seem as though Diego has a groin injury or something in that general area. I’ve talked to quite a few vets now and all of them have agreed that a groin pull would cause quite alarming flexion tests in both hinds. And since the ride vet who saw him actually lame at the ride said at the time it looked like groin as well, we are proceeding on that basis.

As close as I can estimate, it’s about six weeks since the injury. So yesterday I did flexion tests on him and had Veronica trot him out for me. He was still lame on both hinds, but he was vastly improved. The left was consistent but very very slight. The right was inconsistent and I might have missed it if I wasn’t looking hard. That’s a huge improvement from the awkward skipping lameness he showed when the vet did the tests on him a few weeks ago.

Afterwards, I palpated high up into the groin. He didn’t mind me checking the right. But he was tense when I pushed up high into the inside of his left hind. He let me do it, but he was pretty shifty about it.

So his holiday continues for a while yet. The last vet I talked to warned me that groin injuries are slow and that I’d be better off to leave him about twice as long as seems necessary. She said that people often bring a horse back into work too quickly and that can make the injury chronic. I definitely want to avoid that.

Jasper Had a Good Race

Jasper (With Any Luck)

Yesterday I went down to Woodbine to watch one of my kids race.  Jasper. The big grey goofy guy.  He is Monster’s older brother and just like that entire family, he’s got a ton of personality.

He had a tough go of it as a youngster. Broke his shoulder at 7 days old and was on stall rest until he was nearly a year old. So when he first starting going outside, he had to learn how to trot and canter. He had never had a chance to get that all figured out.  He was underweight, with no muscle, and a huge, ungainly head.  Gawky doesn’t begin to describe him.

He’s raced a few times already, but he’s coming back from a year and a half layoff (he had an injury, but it was not quite as bad as that – part of the layoff was just due to a shortage of available stalls and bad timing).  That’s a long time to be away from racing, so you kind of expect them to need a race to get sharp again.

However, Jasper adores his job. He is very happy at the track – much happier than he is at home on the farm. He has a whole bunch of little routines, and he LOVES his routines.  He knows everyone’s schedule and watches for his favorite people. Only Harri is allowed to groom him. No one else understands the rules. You must always do everything in the same order. Once something is in the routine – it must stay in the routine.  He has to look out certain windows when he’s being walked in the barn. He has to go back in the barn as soon as you put the scraper down after his bath.  Sooooo many rules Jasper has.  And at 17+ hands, it’s kind of hard to argue with the big guy.

He came swanning into the paddock before the race with his ears up, cheerful as can be. He knew what he was there for and he was ready. Not stressed at all, just marching around. READY.

The pony that took him out on post parade was probably an average sized Quarter Horse. But he looked like a 13hh pony with Jasper towering over him.  Jasper was good as gold going out. Ears up, looking for the starting gate. He loaded into the gate perfectly. And for a first race back… you couldn’t ask for a better race. He tried his heart out and was a very good second at the finish.



Stormont Endurance

This past weekend I went to the Stormont Endurance ride. This time I didn’t take any horses. Just went to work as a lay judge (for the horses entered in the Set Speed ride), and also to teach a beginners clinic on Set Speed.

The weather was outrageously hot and humid. There was a thermometer under one of the canopies where it was slightly cooler, and that was reading 38-39C both afternoons (which is something like 101-102F I think?) I wasn’t feeling too well by the end of the weekend, and I was not the only one. Despite the heat though, the riders took good care of their horses. All of the horses were fine, despite some inversions (when they breathe faster than their heart beats, i.e. panting) and some hanging heart rates. Though one rider did end up in hospital with heat stroke (he was fine after treatment), and quite a few of the volunteers were feeling unwell.

The clinic seemed to go pretty well. Everyone asked a lot of questions and seemed to understand the explanations (as far as I could tell anyway). There were quite a few riders from the OCTRA Green Beans group on Facebook. It was good to see that so many of them felt prepared and motivated enough to come out and try a ride.

During the Set Speed rides, the beginners seemed to know what they were doing, and took excellent care of their horses. They were a bit handicapped on Saturday due to the late start time (11:30, so right into the heat of the day), and a finish line that was nearly a kilometer from camp, which ate up an awful lot of their 20 minutes of cooling time to get their horses’ heart rates down. Due to the circumstances, ride management elected to award mileage completions to the horses who failed the parameter checks, so long as they met parameter by the 30 minute check. Which all of them did. On Sunday, they started earlier and the finish line was moved to the vet check, so they managed a lot better.

It was the veterans who got confused and forgot what to do and when. Set Speed is not all that complicated. Not nearly as complicated as CTR and every one of the veterans could have sailed through a CTR without a glitch. But I think Set Speed so similar to endurance that they forget the actual difference – 20 minutes to meet parameter instead of 30, and then a final heart rate and vetting at 30 minutes (which, in combination with overall speed, is scored). Or maybe it was just so damned hot that brain cells were frying and they couldn’t have figured out anything at all, including CTR, Set Speed, or how to tie their shoelaces. I know I felt like that for most of the weekend too.

I was busy with the Set Speed, so didn’t have time to pay close attention to the endurance. But it was an FEI as well as Open ride. On Saturday they had a 160km (100 mile) which I believe Melody Blittersdorf from the US won. In the 120km (75 mile) There were only two entries that I saw. Valerie Kanavy from the US won the senior, and a young rider from Mexico won the junior level. Stephanie McLeod won the 80km (50 mile) riding Teresa Finnerty’s big handsome boy Thistle (aka “The Ploughbeast” – he’s half Clydesdale). On Sunday, Wendy MacCoubrey won the 80km on Agil’s Royal Indy. Nancy Zukewich won BC and HVS with Luba. There were two entries in the 120 km on Sunday as well. Monica Grundmann won on her Morab stallion, Excalibur Legend. Mike Downing was treated for heat stroke, so he was pulled on one of his last loops. He did recover fine after a short visit to the hospital.

I took my camera of course. I got a few photos, which are below. Nothing like the veritable tsunami of photos that appeared in the OCTRA Facebook group over the last 36 hours though. Wow… there sure were a lot of people with nice cameras wandering around ride camp.

[All photos are copyright Deanna Ramsay 2014. They are available for purchase]

Summer Solstice Endurance Ride Photos

Here are some random photos from the ride last weekend…

I didn’t ride. I trailered Ares and Ella for Anastasija and Veronica, and picked up Jackson (Sharon’s Quarter Horse) along the way. I was going to try to take a lot of photos on Sunday, but ended up helping the Ride Secretary. So didn’t get too much opportunity.

Ana and Ares had a great ride. Ares has really come a long way. He is calmer and much more confident at competitions. Ana gave him a lot more electrolytes this time and it really showed. He looked fresh and happy at the end of the 12 miles. So next time she would like to do a 25.

Ella was a bit of a pill for Veronica. Not on trail where Ella is always calm and steady, but in camp she barged around and gave everyone a hard time. It did not help that Veronica was feeling very sick to her stomach, so she opted out at the mid-check. There’s probably a lot of groundwork in Ella’s future.

Sharon and Jackson were both excited and occasionally confused at their very first ride. But they both appeared to be beaming with delight at the end. So I think that was a big success.

Unfortunately none of the photos I took of my little herd turned out very well. I will have to be a bit more organized next time.

Diego, Monster, and Hocks

DiegoI had a rather stressful week worrying about horses.

At the last ride Diego wasn’t right and while out on the second loop I turned around and walked him back to camp. He was lame behind when I trotted him out, and the vet found a hard knot in the muscle of his left thigh.  I thought that he’d probably pulled a muscle in there somewhere (I was thinking groin, which can take quite a while to heal fully) and didn’t worry more than normal for a day or two. But then started obsessing because he’d had that weird dogtracking issue at the previous ride (which was attributed to a small but nasty cut on the hock).  He looked sound in the pasture, but finally I decided to get the vet in just in case there was something more that I was missing.

In the meantime, I was also worrying about Monster. When I brought him home from the track he was very uncharacteristically thin. He’s always been on the fat and lazy side, so I was rather shocked to see his ribs (never having seen evidence of their existence since the day he was born….).  Other niggling things started to bother me about him too. He clicks, pops, snaps when he walks. It all comes from his hind end. At first I thought he was forging (hitting a hind toe against the bottom of a front hoof while walking). But I had Ana lead him around and tried to locate the source of the click. It seemed to be coming from either his stifles or his hocks.  Definitely no lower than that.  He seemed uncomfortable and awkward in his hind end.  His hind toes started wearing off at the front.  He stood with his hind end under himself and would alternate resting hind feet a bit more often than you would expect a relaxed horse to do.  The scariest thing was that he didn’t seem to have much appetite.  He ate, but slowly. He didn’t always finish meals. Monster has always been an enormous eater with vast enthusiasm for food. He’s been fat most of his life, even while in training at the track.  Warning bells were going off all over the place.

So I called the vet to come and look at both Monster and Diego on Friday. Also Dressy who had a swollen leg.  I cleaned her leg and found a little scab which I pulled off. Then scrubbed it with Prepodyne (tamed iodine) scrub.  It oozed a bit and dried up. So by the time the vet got there and had a look, her leg was much better. He wasn’t too worried about her.

When he looked at Monster’s hocks, he thought he could see some unusual thickness in the joint towards the lower section. He had me trot out both Monster and Diego and did flexion tests on both of them. In a flex test, the vet picks up a hind foot, flexes the hock tightly and holds it for a minute. Then the horse is trotted out as soon as he drops the foot.

Monster was somewhat lame for the first few steps, but it was moderate. He did step right around and across with every step of the left hind at a trot. It was quite odd looking.  There were no neurological symptoms apparent. I had thought that maybe it was a stifle problem, but the vet was pretty sure he was looking at a hock issue, and suggested x-rays.

Then Diego. Ana trotted him for me, so that I could watch. And I was floored. He was really lame. Not just for a few strides. But lame all the way down and back. And he was nearly as lame on the other hind after flexing it too. The vet looked really concerned.  I have never had a horse flex that lame, and I didn’t know what to think.  The vet suggested x-rays for him too.

I had to leave shortly after the vet visit to go to an endurance clinic for the weekend. The clinic was very good (really VERY good). But I was a complete mess and wasn’t focused on any of it. I was way too obsessed about Diego and the flex tests.  I had myself totally convinced that I’d never be able to ride him again.  I love riding him, and I’ve worked hard and brought him along really carefully to overcome his anxiety issues. It’s a lot of emotional investment.  I should really have just stayed home and done some reading on flex tests and hock problems – I’d have been less worried if I’d known more.

So I booked the x-ray session for Wednesday of this week.  Because I was completely paranoid after a weekend obsessing about hocks, I had the vet do a quick check of McCool to see if he looks like he is in good order to go to work.  He had a look at his teeth and confirmed that McCool is no more than 8-9 years old.  He likes his conformation (I knew that already, since he commented very favorably on McCool the last time he was here).  He checked all his joints, and had me trot him out. In the end he said (at 5pm after a long day) “Soundest horse I’ve seen all day”.  It surprised me just how relieved I was to hear that.

Monster was next, and he was the most amazingly angelic horse through the session. The vet and his assistant crawled around under him with the x-ray plates and the camera thingy with lots of cords snaking around his feet. Monster just rested his big head against my shoulder and napped. Once in a while he chewed thoughtfully on the end of the lead rope. He was not sedated. Just really couldn’t care less what the humans were doing.  He didn’t move his feet at all. Didn’t even flick his tail at them.

Diego was not nearly so good of course. He wasn’t bad. Just moved his foot at a few inconvenient moments and shifted when he wasn’t supposed to. It would be hard for any horse to live up to Monster’s absolutely stellar behaviour anyway.

The x-ray results were completely opposite to what I expected. Diego’s were clean. At an estimated 17 years old, you’d expect to see a bit of wear and tear. But really… no.  The vet gave him a shot of Polyglycan (like Adequan) anyway, just to be sure. I still think he may have a bit of a groin pull which will take time (and maybe that would explain the rather extreme flex test results). But the vet thinks he’s fundamentally sound. He told me to give him a few days off and then start back slowly with lots of walking.

Monster’s results were not nearly so happy, and kind of startling in a five year old horse that never actually raced. He has spavin in both hocks. That’s a degenerative joint disease (osteoarthritis). It’s in the lower two joints, which is at least a little bit positive for his prognosis. The lower joints do not really move like the upper joints do.  They are starting to fuse, and if they fuse completely and solidly, then he is likely going to become sound again.  It may take a tiny bit of the spring out of his hocks, but he should be quite capable of most activity… just not racing or maybe high-level jumping.

The vet is predicting that it might take anywhere from six months to several years for them to fuse completely. Or they might not fuse at all. If they do not fuse, he will not be sound. There are some more aggressive methods of getting them to fuse which could possibly be tried as well.  So Monster’s future is very uncertain at the moment.

His appetite has returned for the most part, and he’s started putting some weight on. The dapples are even coming back.

Monster is 16.2hh. Venice is - little. Haven't put a measuring stick on her yet. But she's teeny!
Monster is 16.2hh. Venice is – little. Haven’t put a measuring stick on her yet. But she’s teeny!

Linda, who bred and owned him, is going to take him back to the farm and keep him there through his rehab. She doesn’t want me to have to pay for everything without knowing if he’ll ever be sound and comfortable. He may come back to me at the end of it.  But for now, he may as well be there where there is lots of flat pasture for him (my hills are steep), and funds for NSAIDS and x-rays, and whatever else he needs.

Monster is a big, classy looking horse. 16.2hh. Big boned and correct with a long, easy stride. Horse people are always very impressed when he strolls by. The vet said that if he came sound, he knew of a place that would love to have him.  When Linda spoke to the vet office today, the receptionist also mentioned that she might like to take him. At the track, many people offered to take him when he was finished racing. Of course, I spoke up for him the day he was born, so I always had first dibs. Linda says that she’s never owned a horse that so many people wanted.

His name is Charming Devil. Apparently he really is 🙂




I haven’t posted about my little feral mare, Venice for a while.  There’s no exciting news really. But she continues to improve very slowly and steadily.

She’s been going out during the day with McCool and Monster.  McCool is not really in love with any other horse. He suits his name remarkably well really… he’s a cool dude without much fear. He likes any horse he’s turned out with but is not particularly attached.  But Monster… well… Monster LOVES Venice.  Venice thinks he’s a big stupid BOY.  Ick.

Racing in for Lunch


In the evening, I call the three of them in from the side paddock. McCool is smart as a whip, and he’s right there for his dinner in the blink of an eye. Venice right behind him. I lead him in (so he doesn’t do too much foraging enroute to his own dinner), and Venice rushes in behind him to get to her stall. She adores her safe house.  Monster ambles in behind them. He’s smart, but sort of ADHD.

After Venice eats her little bit of Trimax, I generally give her some roughage chunks by hand.  She’s very polite and careful. But enthusiastic. It’s not so long ago that no treat was worth the risk of going near a human. So while it looks like nothing, it’s pretty big progress.

We can, with a bit of patience, catch her out in the paddock now and snap a lead shank onto her halter.  She’s not opposed to being caught, but has little startle moments so you have to give her time.

I’ve been able to handwalk her for a few short jaunts around the farm. She’s wary but well behaved and quiet.  She never ever challenges me in any way. Soft as butter on the end of the lead.


Helen’s Surgery



Helen (the chestnut) and her friend, Zara.

So… Helen, the beautiful chestnut yearling filly out of Loula, has developed a very nasty club foot. The vet did surgery on her today to cut the inferior check ligament.  This is meant to release some of the tension at the back of her lower leg and allow the heel to drop into a more normal position.

Helen was really quite well behaved both before and after the surgery.  She was pretty interested in the x-ray machine.  We brought Wise Affair (Weezy) in to keep her company at first. But that bad old horse had about ten minutes of patience in her and then she started screaming bloody murder… “I am TRAPPED in here! I must go out!!! Must go out NOOOOOOWWWWWW!!! Dammit!!!!” Yeesh. Just like her mama, Exclusive.

We turned Helen around so she wouldn’t notice the mare leaving, and I jogged back down to the gate with Weezy (who was snorting and dragging me the whole way, highly indignant that I’d interrupted her busy and very important schedule).  Luckily Helen really didn’t seem concerned about losing her friend.

Helen - before surgery... having a look at the x-ray machine.
Helen – before surgery… having a look at the x-ray machine.

She stood really nicely for the vet to take x-rays of the foot to make sure there were no problems other than the clubbing.  She does have a bit of bone loss in the coffin bone. But no breaks or other issues.

Club foot
Club foot

While I did not have my good camera with me, I did manage to get some fairly clear photos with my cellphone. This is Dr. Martyn Potter performing the surgery.

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After the surgery,  Dr. Potter warned us that she’d probably wake up groggy and flail around the stall alarmingly when she first got up. But she was very sensible. She staggered up and immediately had a big pee (it looked like it took a LOT of concentration to stay upright and pee at the same time, but she managed it).  She didn’t flail around at all. Just drifted sideways a bit, then around in a circle until she could get her head over the stall door to look around.

The leg is all bandaged up. She will be able to go out in the pasture tomorrow. It’s best if she moves around on it as soon as possible to begin the process of stretching everything back to normal.