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.



A Few New Photos of the Mares and Foals

I still make plenty of mistakes with my camera. But I’m starting to feel like I know what I’m going to get in the end when I press the shutter. I know better how I want the camera set up for specific situations.

The other morning I got a couple of nice photos of the mares and foals just as the sun was coming up. I knew when I took them that I’d have to do a bit of editing to fix up the exposure. The first couple of photos below were taken before it was light. And they were handheld. So they were underexposed and very dark. But I took them in RAW format and was able to bring them up when I processed them.

Broodmares and Foals at Dawn
All three broodmares with their three foals, moving out into the pasture. That’s Bernice, Dora, and Loula. The foals are Ruby, Sammy, and Gabriella.

Ruby and Bernice at Dawn
Ruby is a very exhuberant filly. So it’s easy to get shots of her in motion. Her mama, Bernice is quite often in motion herself (though not in this photo), so Ruby takes after her. When there is this little light though, it’s very difficult to prevent motion blur (or blur from camera shake). So I was very happy that this one turned out as sharp as it did.

Ruby And Bernice
Ruby and Bernice again. The sun was above the horizon here, so I didn’t have to do much to fix the exposure.

Dora’s foal, Gabriella. The very perfect filly.

Gabriella and Dora
Gabriella, with Dora in the background.

Bernice and Ruby
Bernice and Ruby

Bernice’s filly, Ruby

Diva and Sammy
Sammy, introducing himself, rather rudely, to Diva. Diva is Dora’s foal from two years ago.

Dora and Gabriella
Dora and Gabriella

Dora’s Tummyache

Dora is one of the three broodmares at work. She was quite a good racehorse in her day, but she’s an even better mother. She has a very odd, Jekyll and Hyde personality. When she has a foal, she is calm, amiable, and gentle. She loves and trusts the humans to handle her foal, but keeps a watchful eye. She is really the perfect broodmare.

As a racehorse, and also when she does not have a foal at side… Dora is a nasty witch. She used to bite everyone within range when she was at the track. And I definitely would not put it past her to take a chunk of my arm even now whenever she doesn’t have a baby around to turn her into Adorable Dora. She certainly takes chunks out of the other mares if they don’t move out of her way fast enough. She was a tough, scrappy racehorse. Just like her personality.

I hear that, years ago, the boss would stay out very late once in a while. When he finally did turn up and was questioned about his whereabouts, his answer was always “choir practice”. So that’s where Dora’s racing name came from. Choir Practice.

Yesterday Dora ate her dinner at around 4, and was fine when the boss called Ana to check on everything. Two hours later, Ana called me. “Is it normal for the mares to lie down?” Well sure. “and get up and lie down again?” Whoops. Alarm bells now. “I’m on my way”. I ran out the door and called Linda as I went. “Find the boss”.

When I arrived, Dora was lying down in her stall. Gabriella, her foal, was pawing at her. “Get UP Mom! I am hungry!” Dora got up and let the foal nurse for a minute or two but was obviously uncomfortable and lay down again. Then up, then down several more times. Snapped at the foal, then bit the wall a few times. I grabbed my stethoscope and listened for gut sounds. She had lots, but they were not normal. Heart rate was within normal range but probably slightly elevated at 44. She looked very unhappy. I called Linda back. No sign of the boss. She told me to call the vet.

Our regular vet was not available, so I spoke to the on-call vet. Very nice guy. He was quite concerned even though it didn’t look like a bad colic. The first week after a mare foals is a very high risk time period. So he came right away. He listened to her gut sounds for a long time while Gabriella wedged herself between Dora and the vet so she could more thoroughly investigate him. (She’s a bold little thing!). He told us the gut sounds were actually hypermotile (too much activity). He also did a rectal exam on her and found that her manure was kind of hard and dry. So he gave her a shot of banamine and gave her some medication by naso-gastric tube (that’s when they slide a hose through the nose and down into their stomach to pump in liquid medication and/or mineral oil).

Shortly after that, Dora perked right back up and started eating her hay. I drove back down to check on her at 11 pm and she was her normal self again. Lo and behold, the boss had turned up in the meantime and was fast asleep with no idea about any of the goings-on. And since I couldn’t wake him up banging on the door, I just left him and his bad hearing to sleep. Not as though he could do anything at that point anyway. I suspect he’d left his cellphone (with its 17 messages) at the track (a regular occurrence). He was very surprised to hear the saga this morning though!

Dora is just fine today. Lots of normal manure in her stall. So all is well. Most colics do end up fine. But it’s always a relief when they end well.


Baby Zara… the Little Imp

Bernice’s foal is Zara. She’s a cute little bay filly with a star and very fine little stripe. The stripe is hard to see, but up close it’s awfully cute. Zara is, of course, very cute all over (she’s a baby horse – how could she be anything else?). But she’s kind of got her mama’s brain. Maybe not as bad as her mama (Bernice has a lock on crazy), but definitely a reactive baby.

I’ve been spending a lot of time with Zara, trying to get her to trust people more. Lots of little visits and scratches (foals are very itchy little creatures and can usually be seduced once you get your hands on them). Today I went into the paddock with Zara and Bernice in the hopes of adjusting Zara’s halter. Zara thought I’d come to play tag or chase or something fun like that. So no halter adjusting got done. But I did get some pics with my phone… (Click the thumbnails to see larger pics)

Class and No Class

In racing, there are classy horses…

Yesterday Black Caviar won her 25th straight race in Australia. She did it easily, just galloping away from the competition. It’s a beautiful thing to watch her run.

And then there are the not-so-classy horses….

Also yesterday, Spicer Cub, while leading easily in a claiming race at Pimlico, bolted to the outside. The jockey, Xavier Perez, got him back into the race, but the the horse bolted again. This time going so far out that he went around the outside of the starting gate (which was pulled to the outside of the track). Perez lost his stirrups and, in what I suspect must have been a case of total adrenaline overload (due to sheer terror), got after the horse with the whip and straightened him out again. Spicer Cub very nearly won despite all the zigging and zagging, but managed to maintain his spotless record of 0 wins in 8 starts. It was a remarkably athletic feat on the part of the jock. I’m guessing he may decline to ride the horse again though!

Photo Finish in the Marathon

It’s the end of the racing season at Woodbine. Just like last year, Handy Harold raced in the 1 7/8 mile allowance race, which is a very long way. He’s a big strong horse, with a great finishing kick, and he definitely likes the longer races.

Just like last year, my old friend Sammy ran in the same race. Sammy (aka Stolonboy) is a bright chestnut who is smart, cheerful, and full of the devil. A few years back, I worked for his trainers and was Sam’s designated daily sacrificial lamb hotwalker (he ate hotwalkers for breakfast, so it required someone who knew his quirks).

Harold is the great big chestnut, with the rider in brown silks with a yellow cap. Sam is a smaller chestnut, with a rider in green. Both horses ran like champs. Sam ran on the lead for most of it. Harold ran most of the race in mid-pack, just cruising, then geared up towards the end. They ran head to head through the stretch. There was a photo for the win. It was a great, great race.


Exclusive Affair

She was all class, all her life. A good, honest racehorse (21 Starts, 5 Wins, 1 Place, 4 Shows Career Earnings: $112,200, stakes placed at Woodbine), a firm but fair boss mare, and an exceptionally attentive mama.

None of her kids were ever quite as good on the track as she was. But they were all fine, big, handsome horses, and almost all of them have gone on to successful sport horse careers in dressage, jumping, and eventing.

I will miss her nonchalant drift to a halt in front of me after breakfast, graciously allowing me to scratch her neck while she gazed over her domain. Much too regal to ever lose her dignity over the attentions of a mere human.

She was quality.

Exclusive Affair 1994-2012

Exclusive and Flair

Exclusive and Flair

Exclusive and Flair

Exclusive and Flair

Exclusive and Flair

Vegas Won!

Finally. FINALLY! Vegas won today at Woodbine. He’s always had lots of talent. But way too much bad luck, and just a little too much goofiness has hindered him. He is an enormously strong horse who looks rather more like a cart horse than a racehorse. Known affectionately as the “police horse”… or sometimes “big donkey”. He’s so strong that often riders have been unable to rate him. But he was pretty good this time and waited until he was supposed to run instead of burning himself out in the first quarter mile.

Loula Had a Colt

Just home from work… I would have been home earlier, but as I was pulling out of the driveway, Linda sent her brother running after me. Loula was in labour out in the paddock. So I ran back and brought her into her stall. We had quite an audience for the birth. Linda’s brother, her friend Kelly, and her two young nieces were all there visiting the other two foals. Exceptionally good timing on their parts.

Anyway, it all went quite normally. So normally that Loula thought it would be good to stop and have a hay snack while the foal was halfway born. Great idea Loula. She started choking. Quite a bad choke actually. I massaged the left side of her throat a little bit and squirted some water in her mouth with a syringe. All the dramatic gagging was bit frightening for the visitors, and dad hustled the girls away shortly after the birth. I think maybe he was worried the mare would die in front of the kids. But after ten or fifteen minutes she spit out a bunch of goopy hay and was back to normal. The delivery was easy. I helped a bit by pulling his front feet out, but Loula could have managed nicely on her own.

When I left, the colt was up and trying to nurse. He’s a huge chestnut with lots of chrome. Very strong and handsome. He’s by Old Forester, who is a young stallion, but has produced pretty well already.

I have to go back to help feed, so will take some photos then.

Treacherously Icy Footing

All week the footing here has been bad. Patches of glare ice everywhere. Which means, of course, no riding. It snowed yesterday though, and I thought it looked quite a bit better. So I brought Dressy in to tack her up. Because she has been getting some hair rubbed off on her loins (my beloved aussie saddle really just does not fit her), I switched her into the treeless saddle today (Barefoot London).

The weather was lovely. Bright sun and no wind, and starting to warm up just a little. We went around the front field first. Aaaannnnd…. yikes. There was ice under the snow. And neither Dressy nor I had the slightest idea where that ice was. We skidded and skittered down the long side of the field, and had one really bad out of control skid across the short end down by the road. We managed to safely navigate over to the driveway and we came up that instead of the side of the field. It was still a bit slippery, but nowhere near as bad as that cornfield. Wow.

So we went to the back of the farm instead and tried the back hay field. It was a lot better, but still not comfortable for Dressy or me.

At that point I gave up on any ambitions for mileage and took her home to the round pen, where we did some simple schooling at a walk. We practiced some nice round circles, backing, turns on the forehand, sidepassing… All the stuff that I neglect to do most of the time. Dressy is smart, and enjoys that sort of thing. So it ended up being very productive.

It’s supposed to jump up to +7C on Monday, and rain. If it then goes back below freezing, the ice is only going to get worse. Even my round pen will be unusable then 🙁

Got a new camera and took a few pictures today. I ended up hating it by the end of the day and took it back for exchange by evening. but here are a few pictures I took with it at work…

Barn cats live cold and very stressful lives in the winter

Parker, awaiting his turn to go out and play


Parker... still waiting