Say Good-Bye to That Snaffle, Boyo

I have a little trail here at home. It’s just across my driveway and winds through a stand of mixed pine and spruce that was planted in the late 1950s by my Great Aunt (all by hand with a little garden spade). As the trees have grown up, the lower branches died off naturally due to lack of sunlight. So they are rather wicked-looking spikes. I’ve gone through with a pole saw and cleared the trail up to about 12 feet high. But you do have to stay on the trail to stay safe. Crashing through the underbrush would likely take out an eye or two. We try to avoid that.

King is staying in for the day to eat his flake of hay. He finishes that pretty early and then has to stand, sadly starving, for the rest of the day. It’s his diet plan. Sort of combined with his melanoma protection plan of staying out of the afternoon sun. By the time I get around to riding him in mid-afternoon, he thinks he’s going to pass out from hunger. It makes him a tiny bit attitudinal sometimes. Of course I myself get a bit attitudinal when I’m hungry so I feel his pain.

Today I could tell that he was particularly starving. He kept diving for branches and odd weeds. So I took him into the spruce trail where there is absolutely nothing tempting to eat. It winds quite tightly back and forth between the trees, but there is a section of it that is a bit more open and he can usually trot nicely through that. So I let him pick up the trot. It turned into a canter one stride later. And as he wound through the trees he used each lead change to power up. The push off seems to give him some sort of turbo boost. It took about five strides before we were screaming out of control, King snorting happily with every speed boost. He was having a grand time. I was having visions of impalement. “Whoa! WHOA! God DAMN it! KING! Whoa!” He stopped at the end of the stretch where he usually stops. And politely walked down the little hill at the end. “See? I stopped. What’s the problem?”

 

Today

There was much pathetic crying at work today. The foals were weaned last night. Twister is in with the three of them in the arena. Al and Esmerelda have been calling to their mothers. Reno is a bit confused by all the chaos (being an orphan already). But he’s is also a little indignant that the other two have been nudging at him to see if he might make a good surrogate milk bar. He thinks that’s very rude and has taken to kicking to defend his honour.

I rode King and Dressy both this afternoon. King was very energetic again today. That makes three days in a row. Which is a hopeful sign. It is likely that he will still have bad days even if the diet does work… at least until the full six months is up. But I’m very cautiously starting to think there might be some actual improvement happening. His muscles feel a bit less tight in his hindquarters too.

Dressy has had a few days off since Seoul’s Corners. Today we did 7 miles at a moderately slow pace. We are working on slow/steady trotting. In the hopes that we can find a gear she can maintain all day. She’s naturally very fast. But she cannot maintain that speed over long distances without blowing herself out.

Her back was sore on Monday. I used King’s aussie saddle at Seoul’s. It’s really not the right fit for her. I can use the Barefoot, but that also gives her some problems (pressure points from the stirrup hangers – she has permanent white hairs from them). So I think for now I’m going to have to resort to alternating saddles again. Until I can find something that does fit her correctly anyway.

I also need to do some work on her feet. I think she has some deep seated thrush still going on. She’s been a bit tender footed lately. And the right front has some raggedy, grungy looking bits. I treated her last week with White Lightning and it looks a little better. But I think maybe that’s why her heels have been growing so fast lately.

Today’s Rides

I brought King in and checked him over. It was pretty obvious that it was going to be one of his bad days. His hind end was quite tight all over. Both sides. No actual cramping that I could see, but just generally hard muscles.

Tacked him up and went for a short ride. He needs to go out for a bit of exercise every day. But I’m letting him dictate the pace. Today was walking only, he told me. A couple of times I asked him to trot and he stopped dead when I suggested it. So okay. He walked. We did a very slow and boring one mile loop around the back field. But towards the end he agreed to trot for a short stretch. It was on the way home of course. But even then he had no energy. Just a little western pleasure jog.

After finishing up with King, I brought Dressy in and tacked her up. Whole different story there. Dressy is cheerful and glowing with good health. She seemed happy to go out, though a bit speedy. I managed to get her settled into a steady, relatively slow trot (slow for a Standardbred anyway!) after a few zigzaggy moments. She had good heart rates, and felt strong and forward but not crazy. That ride on Sunday seems to have sharpened her up quite well. All those years of racing really pay off, even now, in how fast she fits up.

I didn’t have a lot of time, since I had to get back to work to feed this evening. So I only rode her for 45 minutes. But we managed to do five and half miles.

I am praying for cool weather on Sunday. We are going to try to do the 25 at Seoul’s Corners this weekend. I’m also praying for no rain until Sunday. Dressy would be better off if it rained during the ride itself. But for once, I’m not going to wish for that. The fates seem to be against that ride. It always seems to rain either before or during weekend, which can make for boggy trails. It’s too bad, because the trails are quite beautiful around Sharbot Lake. It’s up in the Canadian Shield, and there is lots of rock and lakes everywhere.

 

New Vet

I had a new vet in today to look at King. Doc Watt was going to come this week to test his selenium levels, but of course, that wasn’t possible. I called in a vet that I’ve used in the past, Dr. Potter. He’s very calm and takes his time, which is nice. He had a really good look at King. Checked him over, watched him trot, listened to our tale of woe, etc. King has actually seemed a bit worse over the last couple of weeks, not better. So I’ve been worried. Dr. Potter is going to run a full blood panel, check the selenium, and also do a thyroid test. He has some other ideas for things to check out if the blood work doesn’t show anything. So at least I feel like we are doing something anyway.

I’ve started riding Dressy. I’ll take her to the training ride next week and do the 15 mile set speed ride. Then to Seoul’s Corners and we can do the 25 miles there. I guess I’m going to have to sort out booting issues for her too.

Ares had another session of lunging today. This time with the saddle on. He was very good, but I could see that he was a little weirded out by the feel of the saddle. He was a bit more inverted, and his gait got a little choppy as a result. But after a few minutes he gradually relaxed and dropped his head some. As soon as that head comes down, he smooths right out.

After we were done, I brought him back in the barn and got up on a stool beside him. Flapped around the saddle, rested my arm across him, flopped the stirrups around, pushed and pulled sideways, etc. He was watching me pretty carefully, but he stood like a rock. He really is a nice little soul once he gets over thinking that I’m prepping him for my next meal.

 

Going Forward

King was quite forward today. As in snort-brained, bratty, want to gallop wildly forward. Sigh. He’s an all or nothing kind of horse. I guess the good news is that unlike the old days, I actually DO have brakes now. He will stop when I demand it. But what I don’t seem to have is nice steady speed control when he’s like this. I ask for trot and get maybe six steps and then he starts wanting to canter. I can keep him down to a trot, but it requires focus and constant reminders. If I let him canter, he has little rushes of energy that I have to check instantly or we go into maximum overdrive. You would think that with all the miles of trail this horse has, he’d be over that sort of giddy behaviour.

I’ve begun to wonder though if some of the Jekyll and Hyde switches between the galloping fool, and the lazy plug have been related to the muscle issues. He has probably had a borderline deficiency for much of his life, since he’s never really gotten enough selenium until now. If the laziness was caused by sore muscles (either actual cramps or muscle soreness from having had cramps), then maybe he’s just mostly a galloping fool. Scary thought actually… maybe I just won’t think about that any more…

I’m going to try to ride him every day between now and the Seoul’s Corners ride. Hopefully we can do a slow 25 there and finish without muscle cramps. Apparently my friend’s husband is going to ride their young horse, Seneca at that ride, and needs a slow mentor. So I’ve been elected to shepherd them through. It will be Rob’s first 25 miler. He’s done Ride n Tie, but never more than 12 miles, of which half would have been running on foot. So 25 miles will be a big deal for him. It will also be Seneca’s first 25. He’s a placid sort of horse though, so I don’t think he’ll be difficult. Just really tired 🙂

King needs to have his selenium tested again. But sadly my vet died last week. So I am going to have to find a new vet to take over monitoring this. And the other vets that I know of around here are really quite expensive. I am presenting at the training ride on Aug 20. So I will have to see if Dr. Kivi will be there. She can probably pull blood while he’s there, since I’m taking him to mentor beginners on the trail loop after the talks are over.

 

Ares is Greatly Improved, King Not So Much

Ares is vastly improved after his allergic reaction. When I checked him again last night, his head looked normal. He has a little swelling remaining under his chin, and also between his hind legs. But that seems to be it. He’ll be on antihistamines for another day. I have both Ares and Zamaluck in the round pen for now, so I can keep a close eye on Ares.

He was very funny when I got home from work. Linda came to see him too, and he was a sap. Lapping up the sympathy, resting his head on my shoulder, begging for face rubs. He moved back and forth between Linda and I, working his audience perfectly. Looking appropriately big-eyed and sad when we said “Poor Ares!” It’s taken this horse a while to settle in, but he’s turning into quite a pet. He’s going to need to go to someone who really likes to spend time with a horse, because he’s going to be just like a friendly dog with the right person.

King and I went out for a short ride in the evening. Nothing taxing. He felt reasonably good when he was moving, but he did stop a couple of times. His latest selenium levels are back up in the mid-normal range. So that’s been dealt with. But he’s still not right.

So we are trying him on the EPSM (aka PSSM) diet. Equine Polysaccharide Myopathy is a muscle disorder that mostly occurs in draft breeds and Quarter Horses. But it can occasionally crop up in Arabs. The correct way to diagnose it is with a muscle biopsy. But given my vet bills this year, I’m putting off the biopsy and just trying the diet. EPSM horses sometimes have a fairly dramatic improvement on the diet so it should be a fairly good diagnostic tool in itself.

The down side is that the diet consists of 20% of the total diet coming from fat. So King’s hay and pasture have been cut back to control the calorie intake. He is getting a meal in the morning and the evening (you would not believe the drama involved – King is beside himself with joy at getting meals) of beet pulp, roughage cubes, and a cup of oil. Then he is staying in the stall all night with one measly flake of hay. He doesn’t care though, he loves his stall. And he gets MEALS! He actually pushes the beet pulp aside so he can suck up the water and oil directly. It’s absolutely revolting to watch him eat. Ugh.

He is going to have to stay in work though. No matter whether he gets muscle cramps or not. I’m terrified that he’s going turn into a great giant marshmallow of a horse on this much oil.

Power Tools and Horses

I keep my horses barefoot. It’s not a religion for me. I do think it’s better for them to be barefoot. But I also think that there are horses and circumstances where shoes might be better. I just don’t have any of those horses or any of those circumstances. And frankly, it’s just way cheaper to have barefoot horses and boot them when they need a bit of extra protection. Typically, I have my farrier trim every 8 weeks, and keep Dressy and King trimmed myself every few weeks in between. I’m not really good about staying on top of it unless I’m riding regularly, so having the farrier in regularly catches everyone up.

However, my regular farrier is quite ill right now, and has taken six months off for treatment. I figured it was a good opportunity to save a bit of money if I just do the horses myself. Which means I also have to do Nikita (my pony). And then of course, Ares arrived. So now I have four to do. And I let Dressy and Nik get a bit overlong. So the job was looking a bit bigger by the day.

I was reading some barefoot sites and happened to read about horses being trimmed with an angle grinder with a flap disk. A flap disk is basically just overlapping sandpaper, so it’s not too aggressive. That sounded like it would be a whole lot easier… assuming a horse would stand for it. And as it happens… I have an angle grinder. All I needed was a flap disk, so I picked one up. Watched a few videos to see how it’s done.

Today I put it to the test. Starting with King. Now King has a fascination with power tools, so I sort of figured he wouldn’t mind too much. At least up to the point where I actually put the grinder against his foot. But to be safe, I turned the grinder on at the other end of the barn. King was standing in the cross ties resting one hind foot, half asleep. He didn’t even wake up when I turned it on. So I brought it to him. Still nothing. Gave him a push to stand him up on both hinds and asked for his front foot. He gave it to me and stood calmly while I sanded the hoof, Other than one moment where he tried to get his nose down to the grinder to see what it was doing, he never moved at all. I don’t even think he found it that interesting. I did all four feet with the grinder, then finished off each foot with the rasp to make sure I didn’t get too carried away. It worked really well.

Dressy was much the same. Though she did get somewhat alarmed when Diego got all upset at the noise of the grinder and started spinning in his stall. I don’t think she knew what he was afraid of. But after Misha took him outside, Dressy relaxed again and let me finish.

I was prepared to do some clicker training to get them to accept the noise of the grinder, but it wasn’t necessary at all. Neither horse was worried about it. Amazing what horses will allow us to do sometimes!

Of course, Nikita and Ares may be whole other story, I don’t know. But at least it reduces the amount of labour involved if I can do two of them with half the effort.

Long Slow Ride

I took King out today for a long slow ride. I was feeling pretty down actually. There’s been another death in my family. This one was an accident… lightning strike. So the news was quite a shock. It felt sort of weird to go out riding. But at least it was a good way to be alone with my thoughts for a while.

We went down to the Jefferson Forest and poked around those trails for a while. And on the way back I did a little exploring to find some trail that kept us off the roadside for about a quarter mile. I really hate riding along the road. It’s so close to Toronto, and the drivers are all so clueless about horses. Sometimes big truck mirrors go whipping past about a foot from my shoulder. All it would take is for a bird to flap up in front of him, or a bit of garbage to spook him, and I could have a very close encounter with either the mirror or the whole damn truck. So the less I’m on roads the better I like it.

We did a little over 12 miles. He didn’t have any cramps, though we did go slow. But I’m cautiously hopeful that he’s improving.

 

Quiet Little Ride

I took King out for a short ride today. I haven’t been on him for a few weeks. He had a very mild lameness for a week or so that worried me. But it seems to have disappeared, so I don’t know if it was maybe just a stone bruise or something. He seemed fine today, and was quite energetic. Though of course a horse who was fit for a fifty a month ago is not likely to get tired in a half hour hack around the farm.

I’m giving him two months on the extra selenium (he’s at about four weeks now). Then I will have the vet back for blood work. If he’s up to the middle of the reference range I’ll put him back in training and see what happens.

His weight, of course, is ballooning. It looks like he’s put on fifty pounds in the last month. I’m going to have to dry lot him. He won’t like that! 🙁

Zooming and Propping

I got King’s aussie saddle primarily so I could stick his huge Ayrab teleport spooks. And it’s worked like a charm I must say. I’ve been riding him in it for the last year, and have not yet come off him, despite a couple of hair-raising moments where I ended up hanging from one knee. I’m sure I looked less than graceful at those moments. But I did stick through all of them. To be truthful though, I think the main reason that I haven’t come off him for a while is that most of the time he’s just way better behaved and more gentlemanly than he used to be.

Sooner or later though, if you ride enough miles (even if you are a far better rider than I) at speed, you are going to make an unscheduled dismount no matter what precautions you take. Except… I wasn’t riding King. I came off freaking DRESSY. My perfectly behaved, mature, regal Standardbred mare. I have no idea what little imp took residence in her brain yesterday. But she was all fired up and much spookier than any teleporting Arab. And she’s weird when she’s like that, because she is really really FAST. A moderate trot kept turning into her “smoke the trail” trot with Diego galloping strongly behind her to keep up. If she’d just kept up that trot, even with all the zigging at stumps and zagging at rocks (never mind the hiker in a wheelchair) it all would have been fine. But she was zooming and propping too. Not just coming to a gradual worried halt either. Nope. 60 to 0 in negative .2 seconds. She was defying the laws of physics. Unfortunately, I don’t defy those laws with the same impunity that Dressy does. Eventually she managed to somersault me right out of the saddle. Gallop to backwards stop to spin. Very neatly done. Deposited me right on a small tree. Which I broke with my back. It looked a bit scary afterwards too. I think I probably just managed to avoid being impaled on the sheared off stump. As it is I have a raw patch on my back from it. Well… actually a few raw patches now that I’ve had a closer look. And some bruises. And some swelling.

Not only did she wreck me, she wrecked Misha too with one of her stops. Diego was right behind, and he had to stop fast to avoid her. He sort of bounced a couple of times doing it. And Misha tore something in her groin muscle. She said it felt like paper tearing. She looked very uncomfortable by the time we were done. She said it was bruising pretty badly. I sent her home with an ice pack. Sure hope she can walk this morning.

I checked my GPS track when I got home to see if the speed chart went backwards at any point. But no. It did however drop very precipitously in a few places 🙂