Twister doesn’t get mentioned all that often here on the blog. He’s Jen’s horse, not mine. But he’s been living here for 11 years, so he’s definitely a member of the family. He was (for those of you who remember the orphan foal) the good little babysitter gelding who mothered Reno. He is a 3/4 Arab 1/4 Saddlebred. All black, very cute.

Uncle Twister, taking care of Reno
Uncle Twister, taking care of Reno

Twister foundered today. Again. Laminitis (aka founder) is a life-threatening condition for horses (it causes catastrophic inflammation in the feet). Luckily, I think Jen caught it early. He can still walk, he’s just sore and reluctant, with a strong digital pulse. But Jen is beside herself with worry. Twister himself is in surprisingly good cheer, considering he’s barely able to move. He still managed to cause a bit of trouble out in the barn (stealing Dressy’s hay, trying to tip the wheelbarrow over). His heart rate is fairly normal and he’s not sweating or rocked way back. So although he’s hurting, it’s not severe. He’s on bute to bring down the inflammation.

The vet pulled blood on him, and is sending it out for testing (Cushings, IR, etc.). That’s going to take about a week for results to come back since it has to go to California. In the last year or so, he’s grown a tremendously thick hairy coat (like a Yak) and has been slow to shed out in spring. Which is one of the symptoms of Cushings. We always thought he was IR (insulin resistant) and he may be, but it’s possible that he may instead (or also) have Cushings. The vet is putting him on Pergolide (for Cushings) without waiting for test results just to see if it helps him.

Twister has been drylotted with a calorie-restricted, low-sugar diet for nearly his whole life. He’s been okay for quite a few years, so we thought we had his metabolic issues under control. But it looks like we are going to have to get even more strict and vigilant in managing his diet. Poor guy.

The vet tells me that he’s seen 4 or 5 cases of founder just in the last month or two. Which is very odd in the midst of winter. I sort of wonder if perhaps the drought that drastically reduced Ontario’s hay crop last summer also stressed the grass enough to put the sugar levels way up? I haven’t tested our current hay, because we have had a lot of different batches this winter. We are soaking it to lower the sugar levels. And Jen has been researching all day to see what else we can do for him.

Anyway, fingers crossed that Twister bounces back quickly.

Snowy Ride on Himself

I haven’t ridden King in a long time. So of course, he’s been bored, and feeling neglected. Every time I go out to put a halter on another horse, he inserts himself into the action and tries to get his head in the halter. “Take ME!!! You could ride ME!!” He loves ambling around and exploring trails.

I’ve missed riding him just as much as he’s missed going out. Last night I started watching some of my helmet cam videos, and that had me longing for a ride on him. Here’s one of my favorites, just down the road in the Jefferson Forest. He and I, all by ourselves having a grand time…


He has had a problem with muscles cramping in his hind end for a couple of years now. It gradually went from cramping up after two loops in a 50, to cramps after 12 miles in a CTR, to cramps after 5 miles of walk/trot at home to cramps after 1/4 mile of walking. Sometimes he stretched out as if to pee repeatedly during a short (half hour) ride. He’s been looked at by at least 4 different vets, with no real diagnosis. All of them commented on the melanomas, and thought that possibly if he had so many externally that there could be some internally and they are somehow interfering with his movement. He did have a mild selenium deficiency, which we corrected. But that did not fix the problems.

His tumours were growing at an alarming rate through the summer and fall, and between that and all the phantom hind end lameness and muscle cramping issues, I’d pretty much given up on ever riding him again. But a couple of months ago, several of the tumours sort of… well… exploded. It was pretty disgusting actually. And it scared me. I thought he was getting much worse. But my vet shrugged and told me that likely they would now reduce in size for a while. And sure enough, all of them, even the ones that didn’t break open and ooze revolting stuff, got considerably smaller. They are not gone, and this is just part of the progression of melanomas in grey horses. But he’s been obviously happier and more comfortable since they’ve gone down.

I had a really good look at him today, and decided that he was clear of any tumours under where the saddle or girth would go. There is one on his ribcage, about halfway back, which would mean that I couldn’t put my leg too far back. But since I am not up to doing anything too athletic myself, it was avoidable.

So I decided to tack him up and see how it went. When I put the saddle on, he was very cheerful until I pulled the girth up. Then he kicked up with his hind foot. I almost quit at that point, but then had a closer look and finally realized that I was flipping the stirrup back behind the girth and it was knocking into that tumour on his side. It’s not particularly sensitive when you push on it, but an abrupt knock is startling to him. Once I flipped the stirrup up over his back and out of the way, he was fine. And when I held the bridle up, he reached out and sucked the bit into his mouth in an excess of enthusiasm (much to Ana’s amusement).

Still looking snazzy in their bright new tack
Still looking snazzy in their bright new tack

Ana and Veronica came out with me and we had a quiet ride around the front field and then up and down the driveway. There was some ice under the snow, so the driveway was a bit less than ideal. All three horses had one or two small slips, so we went back to wading through the field. It was a short ride (maybe half an hour or 45 minutes) and very uneventful. But King had no muscle spasms, despite those two slips and wading through lots of snow.

"Wow, Ella... I love your new look!"
“Wow, Ella… I love your new look!”

I have no idea if he’s really any better, or if I just happened to get him on a good day. He was cheerful and pleased to be out and about, and we were both smiling throughout. I like riding other horses. But none of them are ever King. He is certainly no paragon of virtue. It took years to work through all his quirks. But he’s mellowed over the years (and I’ve learned better skills). I guess I’ve spent so many hours working with him and so many miles riding him that it just always feels “right” to be on his back.

This is What A Hungry Horse Sounds Like

King loves food. Of course all horses love food. But King really REALLY loves food. His enthusiasm for anything edible (and his definition of ‘edible’ is quite broad) is legendary. Last night I recorded his reaction to the arrival of his dinner. Have a listen…

Despite all the noise and excitement, he’s very polite. He stands in a pose with his nose tucked in and curls up one front foot, quivering while I dump it in his feed tub.

All this for a couple of scoops of beet pulp and a bit of vitamin/mineral mix. He’s been on a diet for about ten years, poor guy. I think he and I share the same metabolism.

Here and There and Lots of Bright Colours

The last couple of weeks have been kind of busy. I went to both the Ontario Competitive Trail Riding Association (OCTRA) AGM and awards banquet in Cobourg this past weekend, and the Endurance Canada annual general meeting in Ottawa the weekend before.

Rose, who makes biothane tack, let me know last week that the bridle and breast collar sets that Anastasija and Veronica had ordered were ready and she’d bring them to the meeting. When Rose arrived, jingling under armloads of tack, the two of them practically expired from excitement and then spent the remainder of the meeting fondling their new horse gear.

The Awards Banquet was lots of fun, as always. There was a great “parade of champions” skit, with the most beautiful little horses “ridden” by some of the juniors. I sure hope someone got pictures of them. Ruth (who is a very accomplished artist) designed and built them. Obviously putting in many hours of work.

Dressy scored another haul of ribbons and trophies. She got her 500 mile plaque, and the top Standardbred trophy (her 4th time!), and a Ride n Tie ribbon. I even scored a bit of loot myself this year…. my 2000 worker credits bar, and a nice polo shirt with the OCTRA logo.

Stephanie cried when her horse won the top Quarter Horse trophy (she loves her little mare!). Sue nearly fainted when she won the Prince Calib trophy (for outstanding volunteer contribution to OCTRA). Hailey won a reserve champion ribbon for Ride n Tie, along with her mom. Rose told me that Hailey had her bag packed to go to the awards a week in advance. I guess she was really looking forward to that ribbon! Solstice must’ve needed the horse trailer to get all her loot home. That kid beat the pants off everyone. And Dianne, who (along with Ruth) organized the entire awards presentation looked a little punch drunk but happy and relieved by the end of it.

Yesterday I think we were all too exhausted to play dress-up with the horses. But today, Veronica arrived with her new tack set. And since Ella is doing just fine after her little episode with the nail in her foot, we thought it was time to get her all tricked out in her fancy new gear. Veronica had been riding in my Australian saddle. But it didn’t fit Ella properly, so we tried out the Barefoot London on her today. Here she is in her new red and yellow colours (the Spanish flag colours for Spanish Lady… her registered name) and the Barefoot saddle. Click on the pics to see it all in colourful glory.

After Ella’s modelling session, we got Ares dressed in his new black and red gear. Ana admired him extravagantly and he preened for her. He does love to be told he’s a wonderful, and exceedingly handsome fellow.





I even rode Diego. We waded through the snow in the round pen for a while and then worked on a bit of sidepassing (he was confused but very cooperative and did manage to give me a couple of steps). But the wind was cold, and I’d been outside for way too long (adjusting all that spiffy new tack). So I wimped out after a few minutes.


Sometimes I just call him "Shaggy"
Sometimes I just call him “Shaggy”

Lest anyone think that Diego was left out and hasn’t gotten any new clothes, here he is in his new purple blanket…

It's really more purple-y in real life
It’s really more purple-y in real life

And one last little photo update. Princess Babycat seems to rarely sleep. But she does eventually collapse. Taz the dog is just as tolerant of her as is Taz the cat.

Princess Babycat and Taz the Dog
Princess Babycat and Taz the Dog

Update on Ella’s Foot

Ella has shown no signs of infection. No fever, no swelling, nothing yucky coming out of the puncture. She has been eating fine, and appears to be perfectly sound.

She has, however, been very very depressed. And her neck has gotten very sore from all the antibiotic injections. She has some heat and swelling on both sides. I was getting kind of worried about seeing her hanging her head in dejection, and I called the vet this evening. He was very happy to hear about the foot, and says that the depression is likely just from a sore neck. He told me to stop with the antibiotics. He thinks she’ll be fine.

Big relief!!!!

We will keep wrapping the foot for while. It’s staying nice and clean with all the layers… animalintex, vetwrap, duct tape, and an old style Easy Boot.

I am going to have to go over the entire paddock with the big magnet about ten more times though before I start to relax about this whole roofing nail thing….

A Nail Through the Foot

Yesterday, when Veronica was here, she cleaned Ella’s feet as usual. This time though, she found something very frightening. A nail. Straight up through the frog of Ella’s left front foot. It was a roofing nail, one inch long. The barn roof was replaced in November, and although the crew was actually quite careful (they laid tarps out all around the barn to catch debris, tried not to drop anything, and cleaned up well afterwards), apparently one got away from them.

When the nail was removed, it bled fresh, bright red blood. So it couldn’t have been in there for a terribly long time. The nail itself was bright and shiny with no rust and was very clean coming out. All good signs. We scrubbed the foot out thoroughly, poulticed it with Animalintex, and put vetwrap, duct tape, and an old EasyBoot on it. The vet gave her shots of penicillin, gentimicin, and a tetanus booster (she had one in the early summer too, but he wanted to be safe).

The vet is hopeful that the nail missed any critical structures, since in went in through the thickest part of the frog, just off the centerline. But we will not know that positively for about five days. She’s on daily shots of penicillin and gentimicin twice a day (both antibiotics) for the full five days.

Ella is pretty unhappy that she’s locked up in a stall, but we need to be sure the foot stays scrupulously clean. Just keeping our fingers crossed now. If it goes bad, it will be a few days before it happens. So we wait and watch.

Bold Bold Princess Babycat

For the first five days, the kitten was a limp, passive little soul. She slept most of the time, and even when awake, she just drifted about, observing the world with mild interest. Well, no longer!

She wakes up every morning with a vengeance. Careening wildly around the kitchen under my feet, she squawks, and sproings, and launches herself wildly off walls in her excitement that the people are finally AWAKE. Parkour kitten.

Taz the Cat, who is, as always, proving himself to be a Most Excellent Cat, is taking the brunt of all this quivering excitement. Princess Babycat thinks that he is really quite amusing. She stalks him fiercely. “I could KILL you!” she tells him, while he stares back into her tiny little murderous face with equanimity. “Really?” He says, unimpressed. “How terrifying (yawn) you are”.

He will occasionally bestir himself to swat her when she gets TOO saucy. But mostly he observes tolerantly. And once in a while he tries to play with her. You would think the kitten would like that, but she actually gets a bit overwhelmed and runs off after a second or two. Much to Taz’s disappointment. He is not a young cat, but watching him play, you’d never guess it.

Princess Babycat is now at least double the size she was a month ago when she arrived. She eats vast quantities of kitten food, and has discovered the location of Taz the Cat’s food too. Taz was a bit put out about that. But then he discovered the location of the kitten food (on the kitchen counter, where he is NOT allowed!), so he is not missing any calories as a result.

She likes to visit Jen, who lives upstairs. But she is going to make herself unpopular if she doesn’t learn some manners. A few days ago, she was apprehended in the act of dragging her kill (cooked hamburger patty) across the veldt (floor). It’s lucky the patty was heavy enough to slow her down so Jen could catch her, because she is usually a barely visible little streak when she’s running off with things.

So I would say, for those of you who keep asking, that the kitten is doing well 🙂