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…

[youtube:http://youtu.be/pdLnGHPUvFs]

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.
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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.

Update on King

A couple of days ago, after feeling kind of sorry for myself, I decided to take King out for a little ride. He always makes me smile. He was thrilled to have the halter on and very happy to finally get some attention. I brushed him, and he preened as usual. Wiggled his lips at me while I brushed him, and fluttered his eyelashes when I told him that he was still the handsomest refrigerator of a horse in the world.

I had to take the girth down… er… three holes from where it sits on Dressy. He was not in the least concerned about his portliness though. Stood like a rock while I tacked him up, watching with his ears perked and a very cheerful expression. He parked nicely for me while I got on, and turned around to request his mounting block cookie.

We ambled around the fields, which are quite deep in grass (up to my shoulders in a couple of spots… while I was mounted!). King adored that, and ate the grass tops as we walked. He didn’t even have to put his head down and still managed to have huge wads hanging out of either side of his mouth.

At one point, we startled a coyote in the tall grass. I don’t know if it was napping or just not paying attention. But it leapt up unexpectedly about 20 feet away. King was a bit startled, and didn’t know what to do, so I turned him towards it and said “Let’s GET IT!!” King took one step towards it and the coyote jumped backwards. “Hmmm” said King, and took another step. The coyote turned and trotted a few steps. King took a couple of trotting steps and the coyote bolted out of sight. King was amazed and delighted at that outcome. He puffed himself up and marched back the way we’d come. “We showed him!!”

King loves to explore, and we checked out his favorite spots. He much prefers narrow little single track trails to open spaces. So we had to look in each little opening in the trees. Inspect my uncle’s woodworking project. Taste some tree leaves. Survey the golf course next door, and generally examine the universe.

He did trot a few short stretches, but always pulled himself up sort of oddly. He tends to park out as if he has to pee, and sometimes actually does pee (twice in half an hour). He’s been doing this with increasing frequency during rides for the last few years. Four different vets have looked at him, with no luck. His blood work is always normal. And he’s not lame. But if I ride him often, or far, he ends up with muscle cramps. He’s also developed a problem with tripping behind.

The one thing the vets always look at is the tumours growing around his throat (saliva glands), and the sprinkling of others over his body (one under the tail, one on his hip, one beside his tail, etc). The tumour on the right side of his throatlatch is now quite large (like half an orange). The vets always look at it all silently. Then look at me sort of sideways. Yep. I know he has melanomas. And yes, I also know there could be tumours growing in places we can’t see. Most grey horses with melanomas die of old age before they can die of the cancer, because it’s so slow growing in horses. But I tend to think that’s not going to be the case with King.

However, since there’s not much I can do about it, I just try to enjoy him while he’s here. He’s very happy, and a very entertaining horse to live with. Highly vocal, very people-oriented, and smart (usually in a bad way!). He’s only 12, and I hope I get a good few more years with him yet. Even if I can’t ride him much, he still gives me joy.

Farrier Visit and the Weather

Wow… Winter has returned. Or maybe I should say “arrived”, since we really didn’t have much of one this year. Yesterday was sort of horrible. Snow that was melting on the ground. And on the horses. Cold and windy too.

The horses have mostly lost their winter coats. Dressy is as slick as glass. And King is pretty much shedded out too. Dressy wasn’t wet or cold of course because she’s still heavily blanketed in my attempt at acclimating her to heat before the competition season starts. And she owns the run in shelter anyway, being the Queen of the Universe and all. So she was dry and comfy.

But King and Ares were outside when I went out in the afternoon to get them in for the farrier. King went in his stall to await his turn. He looked a little unhappy at being wet, but otherwise fine. When we brought him back out to do his feet though, there was a cold draft from the front door (which is broken at the moment so won’t stay closed) and he started shaking. And tucking his butt under himself. And then when the farrier picked up his right hind, his left hindquarter cramped up and he almost fell down. The farrier switched to the other hind and managed to trim it. But I told him just to stop at that point. They were trimmed but not rounded off or tidied, and I didn’t think it was important enough to make him stand there any longer. I bundled him up in a winter blanket and put him in his stall for the night.

He was much better within about an hour, and hollering for his dinner. Which was a relief, since this is exactly the sort of situation that seems to trigger colic in him. My little hothouse flower…

What’s This? Oh Look… A Brain!

So today’s ride on King was considerably less exciting than yesterday’s.  He’s starting to revert back to his usual lazy self. We had a long easy ride today. Mostly walking, just exploring and trying a few trails we haven’t seen before. He likes to see new stuff, and a nice long walk like today seems to settle him into a whole different frame of mind. Well… that, and the Kimberwick bit I switched him to 🙂

Dressy still has some filling in that hind ankle, though it is reduced, and it doesn’t seem like there’s really any heat. I’ve got her on a low dose of bute. Hopefully another day or two and she’ll be okay.

It was nice to have lots of time to amble around. I actually got a day off work today. Harri, who normally works down at the track, offered to come in for me today. It was just wonderful. That’s the first day off that I’ve had (other than days off to go to competitions – which is not so relaxing) since a year ago in November. I normally work seven days a week, though only for half days.  But lately, I’ve also been helping with evening feeds, which makes it a bit closer to full time hours, seven days a week.  So I’ve been dragging my sorry butt a little bit lately. Tennis elbow in both elbows, a twinge in my occasionally bad lower back, and heel spurs giving me grief. Old age, yuck!

Anyway, I definitely felt more like riding today, after getting to sleep in until the dogs just couldn’t stand to wait one more moment (at 6:30… which is better than the usual 5-5:30 that they normally get me up!). And then getting to loll about drinking tea instead of feeding and cleaning up after 23 racehorses.

 

Return of the King

I haven’t been posting much about King lately, because really, I haven’t done much with him. But he’s been on the new diet for quite a while now, and has been looking good (well…. too chubby of course, but not stiff or tight). So with Dressy sticking a thorn in her knee last week, I took the bad boy out for a short ride. He was, of course, simply awful. Careening wildly around, buck jumping for fun, snorting at logs, star jumping at bird rustles, and generally just making me as insecure in the saddle as possible.

I was planning on riding Dressy today. But when I went out and had a look at her, she had a hind ankle that was a bit swollen. Doesn’t look like anything too serious… I suspect that all the muddy footing, now frozen into tiny craggy mountain ranges in her paddock is the culprit. She likely took a bad step. But I couldn’t ride her anyway. At least she’s saving all her little emergencies for the off-season!

So, being a glutton for punishment, I took King out again today. I thought he might be a little better since we had Diego’s company this time. And he actually was… marginally anyway. He only bucked once (though that was going down a hill… at an unrequested canter). He only spooked a dozen times or so, and none of them were his enormous 20 foot sideways teleports. And he never actually completely bolted away on me (though that was mostly because I kept running him into trees to slow him down). I did threaten him with a pelham wrapped in barbed wire at one point (I was KIDDING! sorta….).

I know, I know… he sounds dreadful. A couple of more rides, and he will settle back down to his usual reasonably steady self though. He is always a bit explosive when he’s been off for a long while like this. I think he gets bored when he’s not working and just can’t contain himself at first.

My boss suggested that I try longeing him before I ride. Which made me laugh “What and tire him out a bit first? He’s an Arab…. how long do you think THAT would take?”

The good news though, is that he seemed extremely SOUND. No muscle cramps. He was moving very freely (yeah, a bit TOO freely… I know). And he seemed happy to be out and checking out the trails. So that was quite cheering for me.

 

A Little Motivation

Endurance Granny has set up something she calls the Big Bad Blogger’s Distance Race. It is a year-long competition to see who can log the most miles (using a GPS preferably) in the saddle. It’s open to anyone who writes a blog and rides a horse. Which is me. Well… so long as they are not a professional/champion endurance rider of course, Which is not me 🙂   I signed up of course, since it sounded both fun, and more importantly, motivation to get out and ride when the conditions maybe are not so tempting.

The competition started yesterday (December 1). But Dressy of course, with her swollen knee is out of action for a few more days yet. So… King, who has been laid off for a couple of months (mostly just because I have some trouble motivating myself enough to actually ride two horses regularly), was put back to work.

He was very happy to come in and be fussed over. He really would love to be a show pony. Loves being brushed and polished and fluffed. Would adore glitter polish and tinsel bows. Costume class would be perfect for him. Although I might have trouble getting him to move if there was a mirror anywhere in sight. He’s absolutely entranced by his own reflection and I can’t imagine how riveted he’d be by a glittery version of himself.  When he was getting dressage lessons, he had some trouble with the mirror in the arena… he kept stopping to kiss and admire the stunningly beautiful grey horse he saw there.  A mutual admiration society… King was in heaven.

Anyway, he did NOT look like a show pony when I brought him in.  It poured rain the other day, and the barn paddock is ankle deep and more in thick clay mud. So it took some work to get him clean enough to tack him up. I am going to have to put a rain sheet on him if I’m going to have time to ride him (Dressy too). Otherwise I’ll be grooming all the damn time.

We didn’t go far. Just three miles. Enough for his first day back. With the muscle problems he’s had, I am planning on going slow and steady. There’s no goal in mind with King… just trying to work through his issues and get his fitness up and weight down.

Of course planning to go slow, when King hasn’t been out for a long time, can be a futile proposition. I did manage to keep him walking for the most part.  The footing was soggy and quite slippery so any sort of speed wouldn’t have been safe anyway. But really, he doesn’t cooperate very well. We went around in circles a few times. Several buck jumps. A couple of short bolts (cut off by heading him into trees). And lots of sideways careening. For a simple three mile walk, he came back QUITE sweaty. LOL

 

 

 

Teeth

Today, the vet came and did some dental work on the horses. King, who has a pretty well-aligned mouth, generally doesn’t need a lot of work on his teeth. But as a result, he sometimes gets skipped when I have other horses who have bigger problems. Dressy really needs her teeth done every single year faithfully, so she usually jumps to the front of the queue. As a result, it’s probably been four years since King had anything done. This time though, we went ahead and did King first. Dressy will get done maybe next week sometime. And it was a good thing too, because once the vet got in all the way to the back she found some nasty edges. King was, well, not good exactly. But not too bad anyway.  He doesn’t really like his mouth being messed with. Once he was sedated, he stood politely, snoring through most of the procedure.

Ares had some very sharp edges, a hook, and one sharp point that was digging into the inside of his cheek.  I knew there was a problem with his teeth, since he’s been dribbling food out the side of his mouth at every meal.  I wanted to be sure to get his teeth done before he finds a new home, so he doesn’t start out his new life with problems. Dental issues can masquerade as behavioural issues, and I want him to have at least a good shot at a decent life.

He was a real sweetheart to work on. The vet was pleased with how cooperative he was. So that was nice to discover. He has become so much more confident and friendly that it’s hard to believe he’s the same terror-stricken, shaky-legged horse that arrived just under three months ago.

I also had her look quickly at Nikita, who seems to have a perpetually sore back. I’ve suspected for a long time that she might have problems with her ovaries, since the soreness seems worse during her heat cycles. And when the vet checked, she thought it seemed pretty likely based on the location of the soreness. She’s going to examine her a little more thoroughly on her next visit. Regumate would probably help if that’s the cause, but that’s a VERY expensive option. Anyway, I will just see what we can find out before thinking about how to fix things.

A Painting of King

My mother really liked a photo that I sent her of King and I. It was taken a few years ago when I was doing some groundwork with him. He was in a good mood, and paying careful attention to me. I was actually looping the lead rope around his neck at the time, but it does look as though I am hugging him (and I will admit to the occasional horse hug!).

Anyway, Mom had an artist friend of hers, Eleanore Dempster, do a painting from it. I am really quite taken with it. Isn’t it lovely? This was when King still had some charcoal grey on his face, and Eleanore really caught the marbling effect that I always liked so well. I miss his dapples and marbling now that he’s all snowy white.

Eleanore has a profile page on the Osoyoos & District Arts Council website. She has some lovely work displayed there, go and have a look!

 

Should Be Fine

The vet was here and had a look at King. She thinks he will be fine. There is still quite a bit of swelling, but it has gone down to about half of what it was yesterday (probably from all the bute, which is an anti inflammatory). His gums and teeth appear to be okay, though she did say that if one of the roots is cracked it might not be apparent right away. He’s on antibiotics as she thinks some of the swelling could be a bit of infection. However she thinks that it’s primarily just trauma… badly bruised from the kick.

She is a dentist, and had a good look at Dressy’s teeth and also at Ares while she was here. Dressy has the usual sharp edges on top, and some hooks coming back. She gets those every year, so that’s what I expected.

Ares has quite a bit of stuff going on in his mouth, and definitely needs work. Nothing drastic, but just a lot of edges, hooks, etc. He loses a lot of food when he’s chewing, so I knew there was going to be work to do there. She’s offered a very considerable discount on Ares work, which is wonderful. I consider him one of my little charity cases, and I do expect to lose money on him. But it would be nice if he didn’t turn into a money pit. She knows though that I do this for a lot of Standardbreds, to try to get them on track to being useful, happy backyard and/or competition horses instead of ending up as meat or throwaways driven into the ground as buggy horses. So this is my vet’s contribution to my Standardbred rehab efforts. And it’s very much appreciated.