Sunday, February 26, 2012

Trit-Trot, Feets, and First Ride!

Since Pangea has been here for nearly a week now, and has settled in so very nicely, I thought it would be prudent to toss her in the roundpen to see how she was moving. A creaky teenaged mare who is on absolutely no joint maintenance and who just tumbled off a four day trailer ride to a strange and alien planet (let's face is, sometimes Texas is really that strange)? I expected her to be a bit stiff and creaky starting out, at least until her joint supplements start to kick in. Instead, I had this on my hands:

For comparison, here's a video of Gogo taken last July when she was looking really quite sound all things considered:

How about that.
Given how well she has settled in, how good she seems to be feeling, and how well she looks, I decided that I just couldn't wait another week... I had to get on her!

She was really quite good! Our indoor is a Cover-All, which is great for late nights or inclement weather days but also very noisy in a strong wind. And our area is known for, erm... rather fierce winds. As in, don't-bother-doing-your-hair, cover-your-mouth, you-might-want-to-wear-long-sleeves kind of winds. We had some of that going on today, which made for quite a lot of scary rattley ghoul noises coming from the doors of the arena.

Aside from trying to offer a trot a few times, and walking a bit faster and sideways the first few times past the door, she was fine. (As a comparison, here's Gogo's reaction to a rattly door monster. Never a dull moment.)

We walked for 1/2 an hour, and called it a day. Half of it was spent on a long rein (or well, as long as I could give her considering her freshness and spookiness to begin with), and the rest was spent in varying forms of on the bit. Her inclination, like her father's, is to break over at the third vertebrae when she gets tired, so I was careful to switch it up and give her lots of stretchy breaks. After all, the last time she's done legitimate dressage work was probably about 6 years ago. Gotta cut her at least a little slack! Our arena footing is also deeper than I'd like right now (dang barrel racers...), so I don't want to wear her out.

I plan on treating her reconditioning like more of a rehab than anything else. We'll walk for a month, trot for a month, canter for a month, and then see where we are. To begin with, I'll sit on her three or four days a week, and put her in the AquaTread one or two times a week. She needs to be in relatively steady work, but not more than five days a week. We'll sort out a schedule where we switch it up between doing dressage-y walk work, walk work over poles, and walk work up and down hills, all geared towards strengthening her topline and hind end, and creating lateral flexibility. We'll also walk - and possibly trot - in the AquaTread.

I also got around to doing those nasty awful feet of hers... ugh they looked so gross!

Yeck. Lots of flare on both fronts, moderate concavity, frogs that have clearly been pared away at her last trimming (which was less than 4 weeks ago!), and all four feet have some level of extra sole growth extending all the way around the frog. Her foot needs that right now... it would be detrimental to take it away. This is a foot that has been routinely pared away as per regular pasture trims, and it is throwing down any bit of support that it can in order to keep itself functional. It would do harm to remove this right now. Some trimmers like to take away the 'lumps and bumps' on a transitioning horse's sole, claiming that it causes pressure points. I haven't found this to be so. In fact, all I've found is that you might be taking away crucial support that the horse has worked hard to lay down for itself, and it will probably come right back - as is the case with this ridge of sole, which I see often on transitioning feet. This will go away by itself as soon as her sole is strong and healthy enough to support itself through the regular callusing process. It just has not been given the chance to do so up until now.

(LF trimmed, RF not yet trimmed, showing flare and cracking.)

These feet also show signs of a major nutritional issue. Notice all the little rings and cracks? Not only has it been plagued with a superficial fungal infection, but it has been in the throes of subclinical laminitis for probably a very long time. Not enough to cause a full on laminitic attack, and not enough to cause lameness (though I quite imagine she was probably often sore after trims), but the writing is on the wall. How many feet do you see with lots of little rings and marks on them like this? Chances are, you either see it very often, or you never see it at all, depending on your horse's nutrition and your farrier! Most farriers will heavily rasp the outer wall of the foot in order to remove these (often seen as superficial, instead of the warning sign that they really are!), so owners never notice that they are there until the foot shows up with a problem. If your horse's feet look this like, you are in need of a major dietary and lifestyle overhaul.

I can't wait to see what kind of a foot she grows in with her dietary chance and differing hoof care. Chances are this foot will tighten up, get quite a lot shorter, and stop producing rings. (Or at least it will if I am somewhat worth my salt!)

That's about all that could be done for today. I was conservative in the back of her foot, seeing as I found big angry bruises on her heels on BOTH hinds (!!), but she seemed perfectly comfortable and happy afterwards, walking solidly heel first over the gravel driveway without any issue. I normally don't dress the outer wall like this, but she had small fungal infection in the form of lots of thin little superficial cracks, so I got rid of those. Quite a lot of cracking remains, but it is all superficial. Many of the rings still remain as well, and that's fine - they will grow out in due time. I saw no need to take off excess hoof wall in order to make them 'prettier'. She still has some flaring issues, but that will go away in time with some diligence. The most important thing is that she is landing balanced and is comfortable on all surfaces. That's all I really care about right now!

She's enjoying sampling all this delicious green stuff too, that's for sure.... bet she hasn't seen green grass in a looooong time!

I also wanted to mention that I'll explain later on why I called her Pangea instead of Pangaea, simply because so many people were asking about it. I have my reasons... you'll find out soon! ;)


(Reposted from February 22nd, 2012!)

Poor Pangea. When she tumbled off the trailer onto Texas soil, she had no idea she'd fallen into the snares of a grooming maniac. (No seriously. Gogo used to walk out of her stall completely ungroomed looking this sparkly. Notice the shavings in her tail? Completely untouched by grooming tools. I just kept her THAT clean!) She looked like a bit of a hot mess - so much hair! so much dirt! - and there was no way I was going to live with that!

"Ummmm... what are you going to do to me?"

Ohhhhh dear. Well this will never do. This is also a lesson on how to make your horse look as unflattering as possible. Notice the excess hair, long scraggly mane, beard, raggedy tail, and most awkward pose ever. I promise she's not built so horribly in real life. You'll see what I mean in a minute.

Ohhhhhh dear....

Well that's gotta go.

MUCH better.

Uh ohhhhh....

Phew, all better!

I also did her scraggly, thin, gnarly mane.... I had to cut it with scissors instead of pull it because it was too thin and long!

My clippers were uncharged, so I couldn't get rid of all her crazy whiskers, but I managed to give a scissor cut to the worst of her mare-beard. She looks less like a circus side show bearded lady now, and more like a real lady instead.


Now THAT'S a pretty mare! Can you imagine how nice she'll look with some topline on her?

Tomorrow she'll get a bath (it will be 80 degrees!) and then she will finally look like a REAL respectable horse!

She's here!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

(Reposted from February 21st, 2012!)

SHE'S HERE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Yesterday afternoon, the world came full circle as Pangea set foot on Texas soil for the first time after four travel days on a trailer. (She had a nice big box stall, but still, that's a long journey!) The big rig pulled into my workplace at around 4pm, right as we were feeding of course... isn't that always the way! Even though she's not living at my work facility, I had her dropped off there so I could be present for the pickup. Obviously I was working, so I couldn't exactly leave in the middle of everything to go get her!

I waited all day long for the trailer... and then finally...

There they were!!

She was very interested in her surroundings...

And was VERY happy to offload!

We stuck her in one of the empty pens between barns while we finished out the day, and she proceeded to take a nice long drink, roll in the mud, take a few bites of hay, and wander around and around and around in circles watching our every move. She didn't seem particularly distressed, but she was alert and very mobile. Take a bite of hay, walk around, take a drink, walk around, take another bite of hay, walk around...

We had our first little come-to-Jesus meeting when I went to load her onto my trailer to take her up to the facility she'd be living at. She put both front feet on the ramp, stopped, and basically said, "you can't possibly be serious. I've been on a trailer for FOUR DAYS. I do NOT want to get back on one." We tried again, and again, she stopped on the ramp and said no. One quick 15 second groundwork lesson later, and she was on the trailer without another problem, so it's hard to fault her. As far as I can tell, she's been basically allowed to run the show, and therefore doesn't have a whole lot in the way of manners. However, there is nothing malicious in her behavior... she's just not used to being told "no." When she does something obnoxious, and you tell her not to, she quickly responds with, "sorry, ok."

At the new farm, she settled in well, finding her shed, the waterer, and her food all within a few minutes. I left her naked for the night even though it was supposed to be a bit chilly... if she survived without a blanket in January in Alberta, surely she would be fine for temps in the 40's for an evening! (It was in the 70's during the day.)

I checked up on her this morning before work, and we had our second come-to-Jesus meeting. Again, it's hard to fault her for this one, but when she saw me coming with her halter in hand, she turned tail to me and walked away. "Lady, please god don't put her on the trailer." I absolutely under no circumstances tolerate this. She didn't go far, just into the corner of her pen, but she did try to wiggle away from me once there. She lifted her head away from me when I went to put her halter on, and I stopped her and pulled her head back to me. She looked positively shocked... oh dang, authority police! After that, I had no troubles with her.

We ate some grass, went for a walk...

And went back to our pen. She was very happy to NOT be getting back onto a trailer!

I'll have more later about the beauty session that we had tonight... for now, it's more unpacking and studying!

Getting Ready

(Reposted from February 19th, 2012!)

While we all brainstorm and try to figure out a good name for the new Pangea blog (can't really make a new blog without a name), I'll keep posting here on Bay Girl's blog until a name comes to me. Keep sending suggestions!

There is a lot to be done when it comes to getting a new horse! Ordering supplements, picking up feed and hay, signing documents, making sure everyone is on the same page... yikes! And this time, I'm doing things a little bit differently than I have in the past when it comes to feeding. Feeding horses is part science and part artwork... you can calculate all the formulas you want, crunch every number you can think of, and still get it all wrong. There are factors you can't control, such as the mineral content of your water supply, the health of the soil your hay was grown on (unless of course, you grow your own hay), and your own horse's particular digestive process. It gets a bit overwhelming, eh?

I had particularly good luck with Gogo's feeding schedule. It worked great for her, with one notable exception: she always has the tiniest, tiniest bit of white line separation despite her strong, beautiful, sound, healthy feet. Years into feeding her, I finally figured it out: she had a soy sensitivity, attributed to the soy in her ration balancer. That was the only thing we could attribute to the soy... the rest of her looked fantastic:

First picture was taken late in the fall, the second was of her shiny shiny shiny springtime dapples.

She was fed Buckeye's Gro N' Win ration balancer (in varying amounts, somewhere between 1 and 2.5 lbs a day), more or less free-choice timothy/orchard (fed between 6 and 10 times a day), ground flax, and Cosequin ASU (and a few other supplements, but none that I liked enough to stick with). I liked that protocol, except for her particular soy sensitivity, and would use it again.

However, this time around I thought I would try things a bit differently. The hay I am feeding is a mix: there are bales of tim/brome/orchard/alf, and bales of straight timothy. The four-way grass mix is very, very nice, with lots of beautiful soft leaf and color. The tim is a bit more mature with more stalks and seed heads, and will be used more as chew time versus the four-way mix. Both of my suppliers stock hay from the same location year-round, so there will be a fair bit of consistency. Local hay is very hard to get right now due to last year's drought, and all hay grown in the area is coastal. I'm not interested in feeding coastal, so I went for the colder-weather hays brought in from up north. Just about any hay supplied to the area right now is trucked in from outside locations, so it doesn't make all that much of a difference in price.

I'm also not feeding grain. In my area, there seems to be a lot of local emphasis on large grain meals and hay only fed twice a day, which is a recipe for starch overload, ulcers, boredom-induced bad behavior, colic, laminitis, general malaise... the list goes on. There is a general misconception that hay doesn't provide any nutrients for some reason, that only grain can do that... I've heard people say it! (*facepalm!*) I personally am all about supplying my horses with the large majority of their energy and nutrients from their hay, and supplementing with a good vitamin/mineral supplement and possible fat if extra calories are needed. Pangea, being at this moment in time rather sedentary (i.e. not in work), will get the majority of her nutrients through high-quality forage, and be supplemented with a quality vitamin/mineral supplement that is specifically balanced for these particular types of forages. It has a base of flax, added and balanced amino acids, and several strains of viable good bacteria as a probiotic. For her level of work, this and her hay should in theory supply her with everything she needs. We'll see how it works!

She'll also be on Cosequin ASU, and my good old favorite, aloe juice. Instead of a pelleted grain, the carrier for all these supplements will be a small amount of sun-cured timothy hay pellets, just enough to wash everything properly down. I wanted to use molasses-free beet pulp as my carrier, but you have NO idea how hard that is to find around here... not to mention the question of whether or not that would be too much of a hassle for barn staff.

The major flaw in the design of all of this is the feeding schedule at the barn. As is the norm around here, hay is only feed 2x a day, once in the AM and once in the PM. Well that's not gonna fly for me! Horses are browsing grazers, designed to take in small amounts of forage throughout the day, and when their digestive system sits empty all sorts of foul things can happen. I'm not keen to let that happen, so I decided to look into a slow feeder. For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, a slow hay feeder allows the horse to eat a controlled amount of hay in a slow trickle fashion, versus just gobbling down their portion and then have nothing to do with the rest of their day.

There is only one problem with slow feeders. They are MAD expensive. Like, several hundred dollars for a feeder. Well, there had be a cheaper option, yeah?

I did some more research, and I found a picture online of this homemade hay feeder. A much better idea! But I could do even better.


A garbage bin, an old basketball net, and... that's it! All you do is fasten it to the fence, lift off the lid at mealtimes, and dump in the (fluffed up) hay. Maresie does the rest!

Cost? About $18. If I had used an old haynet or a recycled garbage bin or barrel, it would have been even cheaper.

It was super, super easy to make... all I did was punch holes in the bin and tie the net on, then tie the bottom of the net closed. It's a pretty tough net, but if she chews through it, I will use a tougher small mesh hay net instead.

We'll see how well it ends up working!

(More on slow feeders here if you are interested!)

SHE ARRIVES TOMORROW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Reposted from January 31st: Sophie's prepurchase finally happened today. I didn't actually even know it was set for today until a day and a half ago, which is why I never updated anyone on it... it happened so quickly! The vet called me this morning to give me her two cents, and basically what we found was absolutely nothing that we didn't already know about. We discussed the wonkiness in the LH, which showed up somewhat today but didn't change during flexions, and improved with movement. We also discussed the fact that she is 15 years old, living in a field, completely out of shape and not on any sort of supplements or therapies.... it is no surprise in the winter that she comes out a little stiff. With maintenance, she should be able to be a perfectly serviceable mount for years to come.

In other words, after seven years of chasing this beautiful, wonderful, sweet, lovely mare.... I finally will have her. Everything has come full circle like it was meant to, and I can hardly believe it. Is this really happening?? It hasn't even really hit me yet. SHE'S COMING HOME.

Reposted from February 18th: Things on this end are suddenly in fully swing in terms of transport. Everything happened so quickly.... one second we were discussing options, the next second I was signing and e-mailing paperwork back to her old owner. On Tuesday, she officially became mine! (Or well, technically on Thursday when her owner received siged paperwork on my end.) Things wet into full overdrive mode when I received a surprise e-mail from my shipper on Thursday after several days of silence stating that they were going to pick up my mare that evening. Uhhhh WHAT?! The woman seeing her off was at work, the papers were all at her old owner's house, and I had nothing to my name, not eve a board contract signed! A few frantic phone calls later, we managed to organize everything, and as of 10am yesterday, my sweet mare was loaded on the trailer and heading towards the international border. Omigoodness this is really happening!!!!

There is so much more to write - and a new blog is in order! - but as for this moment in time I need to figure out what to do with the hay situation, so off I go!!

And she has a new name... Pangea.

The incomparable Sophie.

(Reposted from January 10th, 2012!)

After a brief and whirlwind weekend trip from Texas up to Calgary, Canada, I am back home again and (mostly) functional despite how exhausted I am. And I very happy to say that Miss Sophie, the entire reason for my northern journey, was everything I could have wanted her to be.

The trip was short and tiring, but well worth it. After an exhausting flight north on Saturday (which took me from Dallas to Toronto to Calgary... could it have possibly been more out of the way?), we never made it to the barn due to ice, and had to settle for our trailer out to a local indoor the following day. I was all too happy to crash early that night, seeing as the excessive amount of travel, schoolwork and work that I've been doing lately, not to mention looking for a place for Future Hubs and I to move to, has completely worn me out, and I've been severely lacking on my sleep! I got a solid 10 hours, thank god, and awoke at 6am bright and ready to roll.

The sun was just rising as we reached the barn, early dawn still creeping dark around the edges. A Chinook had rolled in early that morning with the typical howling winds that it brings, and I could hardly believe it when I felt the outdoor temperature.... almost 45F degrees!! It hovered around nearly 50F that entire day, which is UNHEARD of in that part of Canada at this time of year. The weather rolled in and rolled right back out again after I left, so I consider myself VERY lucky. (The weather in Dallas yesterday was FAR worse.... 40 degrees and sleeting all day! Barf!) We hooked up the trailer, grabbed all the tack, and proceeded out to the pasture to catch Sophie. I knew exactly who she was from the moment I set foot in the field... she was the first one to notice us, and the first to break away from her friends and walk towards us. She was beautiful... far prettier than I had expected, and in better shape too. Considering that all she has done lately is stand around eating on a roundbale free-choice (no grain, no blankets, no riding, no grooming, no supplements, no nothing at all), she looked really quite good, and actually had something resembling a topline. Must be all that eating exercise!

We loaded her and another mare into the trailer (other mare was owned and ridden by the woman who was trailering us to the indoor), and headed on our way. Once we unloaded, I had a chance to interact with Sophie, grooming, handling, and tacking her on my own. She ties, trailers, stands for the farrier, goes out solo on trail rides, is independent, quiet, and sensible. Her owner said that she had been bucked off twice by her, and that she could be fresh, but I lunged her beforehand and she didn't do a thing.... she was lazy! Her bad habits include pawing and wiggling when bored (like when mounting or standing around... that will stop immediately!). Once on her, I discovered that someone had put quite a lot of time and effort into her... as soon as I picked up contact, she immediately set herself right on the bit, and off we went. Starting off at the trot, she was a bit stiff to warm up, but once we cantered she was much more fluid and smooth. I can't exactly blame her for that... she's 15 and not on so much as a joint supplement, so I understand!

Was she a bit creaky behind? Yes, a little. Not outwardly lame by any means, and it improved dramatically once she got going, so I can't fault her for it. Will be she a serious competition horse? I doubt it, although once she gets on a good joint care program and has some conditioning, who knows how she'll go? I distinctly remember how much a little Adequan and Cosequin did for her father... he was a new horse on them!

She was lovely. Not an extravagant mover in the slightest, but well trained and 110% willing to give anything I asked. She was an absolute peach. I loved her.

Also, don't mind the neon blue Vetwrap on my boot.... busted zipper. So classy, I know. Eventers are resourceful after all....

The rest of my pictures are being cranky and refusing to upload, so I'll have to keep fighting them... ugh!

At this point, we are pending a prepurchase (she will not pass a sport prepurchase, I just want to see what we are working with here in terms of usability), and then we can move right along with things. There are lots of trucks that make this journey on a month basis, and I have a barn potentially lined up, so there are lots of movements in the right direction... without any finality yet, of course. I can't believe this all worked out the way it did.... what luck! What timing! Karma, don't fail me now!


More Pictures of Sophie

A few recent pictures of the rather saggy Sophie...

It is uncanny how much she looks like her daddy Metro. I mean look!

Although she is a definite improvement on his conformation, bless his poor heart.
Should this work, I think she needs a different name. She is not anywhere near as delicate as the name Sophie implies!

Piece of Heart Horses: The Beginning.

(A repost from Eventing-A-Gogo from October 2011.)

This story begins with a younger me, my beloved gelding Metro, and a laptop in a college dorm room. I was a freshman, completely enamored with my beast-gelding, and was spending a moment of my free time surfing the vast interwebz for old information about my horse instead of doing something important (homework? Why do that?). Quite by accident, I stumbled upon a sale ad for a bay mare named Chloe in Alberta, Canada. Her sire was listed as Blue Rodeo, Metro's Canadian-registered name. Immediately I perked up. He was her sire? I knew he had been kept a stallion until he was six, and that he had bred a few mares, but didn't know of any actual offspring around anywhere. Sure enough, the fantastic little mare was up for grabs at a fairly hefty price. Video clips of her showed some dressage and galloping cross country. Pictures told of a beautiful, well put together mare. Her description sounded like she was exactly like my Metro, even walking boldly up to a running chainsaw and attempting to put her nose on it (yikes!). I oogled over the ad for weeks, wishing I could somehow find a way to afford a second horse. One day, a big graphic proclaiming "SOLD!" appeared on the front of her ad. Disappointed but not discouraged, I e-mailed the owners and asked if I could be put in touch with her new owner so I could speak with her. After some complicated finagling, and some months down the road, I managed to reach her. We sent countless e-mailed to each other, chronicling our collective related journeys and our precious horses. I was enamored with the little mare.

A year or so down the road, I got back in touch with the mare's owner. We discussed setting up a custom breeding for me for a Windfall baby out of her, now redubbed from Chloe to Sophie. My Metro had died by this time, and I wanted to keep a piece of him alive with me always. This never ended up coming to fruition, as I ended up buying Gogo instead. I told the owner that if she ever needed to find a home for Sophie, she could always contact me and I'd take her in a heartbeat.

We kept in touch over the following few years, just little drop ins to ask how everything was going and how our little mares were doing. Sophie was bred and produced a precious little filly by a Swedish stud, born right in the middle of a horrible storm with no muss or fuss. Life went on as it always had.

A year and a half ago, I couldn't get ahold of the owner. Her e-mail had been changed, and I had to do some serious Googling to find her. It took some time, but I managed to get ahold of her again to see how Sophie was doing. Much to my surprise, she was for sale. The owner was pregnant and no longer had time for her. Would I like to buy her for $10,000? Well, I couldn't exactly afford that random expense, much less keep two horses at the level which I was accustomed (spoiling rotten and sparing no expense), so I unfortunately had to turn her down. I was heartbroken. I wanted that mare so badly it made me ache.

She offered her to me again some months down the road. Again, I couldn't afford to keep two horses, so I declined. I forgot about it in the haze of rehabbing Gogo. We lost touch again.

The week after Gogo died, completely out of the blue, I received another e-mail from the owner. I hadn't spoken to her in nearly a year. Would I still be interested in Sophie, she asked? Price dropped to $2500.

Good lord. Could that timing be better? One door closes, another opens.

This isn't the perfect deal. She's 15. She had an old stifle injury years ago that I know nothing about. I have no idea what she's been up to, if anything. I have to hear back from the owner concerning all of these things. But honestly, with this horse I wouldn't even care if she was just another expensive hayburner looking pretty out in a field. Let's hope she's not, let's hope she's perfectly rideable and wonderful, but either way it wouldn't matter to me. I've been actively pursuing this horse for almost 7 years. She could have three legs in the grave for all I care.

It's interesting about how much resistance I've gotten about this. Everyone says not to even bother thinking about pursuing it. Everyone is absolutely sure that they know what I want. Even my own mother told me I wanted a different kind of horse than this. I think that is all very interesting, seeing as aside from owning a piece of my heart horse, I don't even know what I want. To be fair, externally I imagine it looks like I want another uber-talented youngster who can replace Gogo as a Prelim prospect. In reality, the more that I think about it, the more that I feel ill about the prospect of essentially breaking and killing another horse. Do I want a horse with huge expectations and then be horribly let down when I fail to take them anywhere except to Lameness Town, or do I want something sweet and fun that will pleasantly surprise me if they turn out to be a good riding horse? Do I actually want to look at all of the following: a big, fancy warmblood that will win everything but totally fall apart a few years down the road? A little project mutt that will be fun but might not amount of anything at all? An off the track broken down maniac that might either kill me or itself in the process of turning it around? When you put it all that way, it's hard not to get discouraged about this whole process, and I'm pretty soured off the whole sporthorse ordeal at the moment.

This is not a good picture of her - I will have better ones later - but you can get a vague idea of what she sort of looks like:

She's a lovely lovely girl. I'm set to fly out to see her on the weekend of January 7th and 8th. I can't wait. Who knows? She might be completely unsuitable and useless, and I might hate her and turn her down. But on the other hand, she might be exactly what I need to turn my funk around and get me back on the track that I know I am supposed to be on. Only time will tell.