Thursday, May 31, 2012

A Catch-Up Post

Contrary to the evidence, I am still actually alive! I've been a bit too swamped with life to be able to really sit down and write out a lengthy update, and now I am faced with the daunting task of playing catch-up with all the major highlights of the past week and a half. I used to be such a good blogger, bringing everyone along for every step of the journey... which is part of what made the Eventing-A-Gogo blog so popular. People always told me they really felt like they knew us... like they were really there for every step of the way. When I lost her, I lost that part of my motivation. I've never really been quite able to write in the same engaged kind of way. Maybe it will come back to me someday. I don't know.

Well, anyway. When we last left off, we were discussing Pangea's dental issues as well as her problems with thin soles and general overall stiffness. She'll be started on Adequan shortly (my ever-intelligent self of course asked the Canadian prepurchase vet for an Adequan script when she came down.... of course I then later realized the problems with filling an international prescription.... d'oh!), but in the meantime I've added BL Pellets to her daily ration to see if a little Devil's Claw helps her out. I've seen this product really help some creaky old farts to get around better, so we'll see if it has an effect on her.

In terms of her feet, boots are still probably my best bet in the long run, but I am still carefully weighing my options here and there isn't one perfect solution or easy choice to make. Despite being a trimmer, I've just never been *that* into boots, even though they of course have their important places in sport and rehab. We'll come up with a solution of some sort for the long term, but as a temporary measure, I do have this to back me up:

Casting material! It's a very good temporary and short-term way to help give her a little bit of sole protection without compromising on vertical flexion. I had no intention of leaving this cast on for any particular length of time, so all I did was use half of the roll of cast on one foot and half on the other. My main goal? Temporary protection on a rocky trail ride! (Which actually didn't have all that many rocks on it after all.... go figure!)

We made a very triumphant return to Benbrook Lake last weekend. I was a bit worried about the terrain, given that last time it got a little bit intense, but I didn't have anything to worry about. There were actually big, wide mowed paths throughout the majority of the trailways... can you say gallop tracks? Also, have you noticed that pretty much everyone we go when we are on Trailventures, we can see the city of Fort Worth? See if you can spot it in the pictures!

The last time we were at Benbrook Lake, things were a little heated on her end. She spent most of the ride jigging and hot, ending up completely drenched in lathery sweat despite it being cool and nice outside. During this ride, despite it being nearly 100 degrees (what was I thinking!?), she finished the ride nearly dry, without hardly a moment's worth of freshness or attitude. She actually sauntered - sauntered people! - on the buckle for the entire 2 hour ride. Deer crashing through the woods, Memorial Day partiers screaming and blasting music, roaring motorboats, hikers.... nothing bothered her. Who is this animal and what did she do with my Pangea!?

Look at that, clean and dry! She is really becoming a solid citizen... no more pawing, pulling back, jigging, stressing or snarky attitude! She stands immobile when tied for as long as she is tied for, doesn't jig, doesn't give me the 'tude, and comes to be caught when she sees me with a halter. Hooray progress!

The casts did their job perfectly, and are already back off. She actually seems more comfortable on rocks after her brief stint in casts, which is strange considering the fact that her feet are soft from all the recent rain/deathstorms, and her soles are still as thin as ever. Her heels have come WAY WAY down all on their own, so perhaps her feet are just finally starting to sort themselves out a little bit. She still has a very long way to go.

It is late, but there is more to write about.... namely a visit from the DENTIST! Stay tuned!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Dressagin', and Dentals

How can you tell if your horse needs some dental work? Well, I can give you some good pointers:

1) You refer to her as Ol' Ironmouth when doing your dressage work (i.e. she hangs on the bridle, she has difficulty maintaining bend)

2) Giant asymmetrical temporalis muscles on her forehead, indicating that she tends to chew more up and down as opposed to properly chewing side to side:

3) Oh, and this:

Chalk that one up as a big DUH for me. I've peeked in there before, and I KNOW how important dental work is to the entire biomechanical machine that is the horse, but I also weighted the prepurchase vet's opinion on this ("no abnormal findings") as one of those "well, I should get that done soon" things, but not as one of paramount importance. Of course, it occurred to me that I should probably check again when going over my checklist of reasons-why-your-horse-might-be-hanging-on-you, and was relatively alarmed by what I found. Well of COURSE she's hanging on the bridle, wouldn't you too? To go along with those honking temporalis muscles and those daggers on her third incisors, her incisors don't quite line up evenly when you look at them from the front - which means we have a probable TMJ issue going on. They're actually pretty common, but they suck to correct. The dental specialist is already scheduled to come out the morning of the 29th, so hopefully we can get this straightened out, quite literally!

In other extremely related news, here's some video of Pangea and I schooling dressage yesterday!

Thank you Future Hubs for being nice enough to let me drag him out to the barn to take some video for me even though it was 90 degrees outside. Thankfully, Pangea is adjusting well to the increase in temperature, and is getting fitter and fitter as time goes on.

You can see what I mean about the hangy-ness. She's not always hanging, but she likes to break at the 3rd vertebrae and bear down on my hands, which effectively disengages her hind end and lets it trail out a mile behind her. Those are the moments when I feel that I don't have the left hind under my control anymore. I think it's a rather complicated number of small things adding up: hocks, teeth, front feet.

First problem: Her feet are still mid-transition, and while they are a WORLD better than they were, they are still far from perfect and not only are her soles still far too thin at the toe, but the back of her foot still has beefing up to do. That, of course, negatively effects her on anything but good soft footing. You know what that means.... it's time for some boots and pads!

Second problem: Teeth issues. We'll have a better idea of what exactly is going on when the dentist looks at her. When her teeth are uncomfortable, she bears down on the bit and hangs, which lets her hind end drag out behind her. Which leads us to...

Third problem: Hocks/stifles. This is where everything adds up to create the big picture. If her hocks and stifles, which have some arthritic issues, are bothering her in any way, then she naturally won't want to push from behind, and will hang in the bridle in an effort to disengage herself. If she is pounding away on her front end because her hind end hurts, then it will make her front feet increasingly sore. If her front feet bother her and she weights her back end in an effort to lighten the load up front, it can make her hocks and stifles sore.

All of these things need assessment. Her teeth will be checked by the specialist, boots and pads will be ordered, and we'll be discussing a plan for joint care with my vet. I decided to start conservatively with the joints, like I always do, and have had her on Cosequin ASU from the get-go. She of course needs Adequan additional to this, which is the next step from here on out, but I wanted to see how much the Cosequin would help her by itself (and it did, quite a bit). If all else fails and teeth/boots/chiro/bodywork/joint supplements still aren't giving her what she needs, we'll probably be looking at injections. Sure, she looks pretty ok in this dressage video, but she starts out feeling like garbage and with a total flat tire on the left hind. If you look for it, you can see it in the video too, although greatly diminished.

She is getting on in age, after all.... 16 years old, if you can believe that. (I would never call a 16 year old horse OLD, but she is aging, albeit rather gracefully!) I had to check her papers just now to see when her birthday was, and it was on May 15th... dangit I missed it! I'll have to make that one up to her!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Things you find on Trailventures.....

Obviously I've been neglecting my blogging duties as of late. I've been a bit busy... and by a bit busy I mean completely and utterly overwhelmed by the chaotic business that is my life. Between trying to give all 7 of my little furry critters their needed individual attention, riding Pangea, playing with Bay Girl, working crazy hours at the rehab place, trying to find time to squeeze in trims for my bunches of new clients, studying every second that I am not standing upright, and trying to spend more than 5 seconds at a time at home with Future Hubs, I've not had much time for anything else. As it stands, I am behind on pretty much everything, and even opted tonight to not go and ride in lieu of the many other things I could no longer neglect. As it stands, there are a ton of other things that need attending to - the truck has a recall and a broken sideview mirror, the kitten needs her first shots, and I need to find SOME time to work out, among many, MANY other things - and I just keep having to force more things into my already jam-packed schedule, no matter how much they don't fit.

But I do occasionally find time to take a few Trailventures, of course! I've gotta unwind SOMEHOW!

To my pleasant surprise, shortly ago Pangea and I discovered that behind our barn lies a veritable labyrinth of old roadwork and a failed housing development, which has left the inhabitants of our barn with a nice network of forge-your-own-path trails and a few large fields for trot and canterwork. We've been out there once or twice, and it was utterly gorgeous. Now that the weather is deteriorating in anticipation of the miserable summer months to come (it's been in the 90's every day and climbing... and this is only the beginning of the end), our rides have to take place at the very end of the day as things are cooling down. It won't be long before temperatures climb into the triple digits and stay there, and the evenings don't cool down until 10 or 11 at night when it gets that hot. When that happens, we'll have no choice but to start riding in the wee morning hours before work begins at 7:30am. Seeing as this will mean leaving my house at around 4:00am at the latest, I'm not too keen for it to begin.

Pangea might have been having a really bad hair day, but she sure looks good in my jump tack!

The trails were beautiful the other night....

... and I was almost reminded of all our old evening rides in New England. I let myself fall back into sweet memory, and it was almost like I could pretend that I was far from Texas and back in my beloved Baxster Road in New York.

Until, of course, we saw these:

Oh Texas, lest we forget... you will surely remind us.

When we first saw the cows, Pangea stopped and looked quizzically at them. The cows turned, saw us, and of course all started RUNNING AS FAST AS THEY COULD right at us. (Not that longhorns run fast... but they are pretty terrifying when they are coming right for you.) I thought for sure Pangea's heart was going to fall out of her chest from banging so hard. You could visibly see her entire body vibrating with every beat. Thankfully, the cows were somewhat safely contained behind a little tiny piece of barbed wire, and we were able to make a safe getaway.

The things you find on Trailventures around here never fail to surprise me day after day. You think charging longhorns are surprising? Check out these other (rather graphic and disgusting) finds that I've stumbled across while out riding on other horses:

Gross, no? I want to know where all of these things COME from... there haven't been animals out in these pastures for months and months! The dead calf, however, does have an interesting story. There is an abandoned farm house in the adjoining property next to the rehab place, which had a cute little 3-stall barn and tack room in it. Being curious folks, we decided to scope it out and see what it looked like from the inside. That kind of went a little like this: "awww, a foaling stall! Awww, look at these two other nice stalls with runs off of them! How cute! Aww, the tack room.... EWWWW OMG EWW AHHH EWW!" Yep, there was a dead calf IN the TACK ROOM with the door shut. HOW in the heck did it get in THERE? We can only guess that it wandered in, bumped the door shut, and could never get out again, poor thing.

The property owners decided to tear the barn down a week or two ago, and it was about that time that the dogs started bringing home pieces of cow legs to chew on. (How tasty.) We found several legs, a skull, and a pelvis, all very fresh and moist despite the fact that the coyotes had already stripped off the meat. "This must be the tack room cow!" I thought to myself, even though I vaguely thought I remembered that the tack room cow was tan, and the legs brought back were black. The tack room cow had also been dead for nearly a year, locked away in the tack room... this one looked so, well, juicy and fresh. (Urp.)

And apparently, my instincts were right - I later found the REAL tack room cow, where they had dragged it when they had dismantled the barn. So the question is, where in the heck did the FRESH calf come from?

The world may never know.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Feets, and Quincy

(This is partially crossposted to the Bay Girl blog! Sorry for the overlap!)
Sorry for my brief absence - I've been out of state at a practicum for a few days and have been insanely busy in the meantime! I didn't even have time to say I was leaving! I made it back all in one piece thankfully, armed with ever-increasing knowledge and a desire to get under even more horses. (I'm glad you all are horse people, because upon reading that sentence for a second time, it could be taken horribly the wrong way.)

The one thing I never even got a chance to mention before I headed frantically off for my journey was Quincy's day. May 3rd marked the 8-year anniversary of his death, and at this point it seems like such a sad, distant memory. He's been gone for so long... sometimes it feels like just yesterday, sometimes it feels like an eternity. Take a little time to go and honor his memory, if you like reading about Pangea, Gogo, and Bay Girl. I wouldn't be here without his love, and neither would any of them.

Tributes to Quincy

I miss you, Fuzzman. Every day, and I always will.

In other news, I can't tell you how remarkable the changes in Pangea's feet have been over the past three months. Can you believe these are the same hind feet?

They still have a long way to go, but compared to where they came from? Holy moley.

Looking so much better though. SO much better.

Here's an interesting comparison of her LF, from two months ago (on the left) to today (on the right). The older picture has Keratex on it, which is why it is shiny, and the one on the right is fresh after a trim. Again, I don't normally dress outer wall like this (if you notice, I didn't do it on the hinds), but she is still fighting some low-grade fungal infection in the little cracks on the lower part of her foot. This is nearly grown out (and nearly fought off with topical treatment) so I doubt I'll do it again.

The two pictures aren't taken at quite the same angle, but you can tell that the distal descent happening in the first has been for the most part reversed and the entire hoof capsule has shortened. The flare has tightened, and if you notice, the toe crack is neatly growing out without issue. This foot is pathetically dry however - you can see it in her periople - and needs soaking. Lots of soaking.

Now here is the most interesting picture, and I'm sure there are many barefoot folks (AANHCP people and Strasser-type people) who are just going to die when they see the monster heel on this mare in the second shot.

Obviously, the more recent picture is the one on the right. It's a misleading angle to take a picture at, because it looks like her heel is even longer than her toe (it's not!), but it's very interesting to see what is happening here. In the first picture, three months ago, she was hobbling footsore on rocks, her heel squashed and pathetic behind that super long toe. The back of her foot had absolutely no support, and her frog and sore were being regularly pared away by her old farrier. Her entire hoof capsure was pulled forward and was full of flare and a neverending stream of subclinically laminitic rings. It was not a happy foot.

Three months later, and that toe has backed itself up without much assistance on my part. The platform in the back of her foot has strengthened so much that I can hardly believe it, but in the process it has taken letting her have that length of heel to keep her comfortable and landing heel-first. I tried to take it a smidge lower last time I trimmed her, and she let me know immediately that this was not okay - she couldn't walk on gravel to save her life. I let her have the little bit that she was asking for this time, and was rewarded with a comfortable, happy stride over gravel following her trim. Maybe it isn't within natural parameters right now, but if I took it away from her again, she'd land toe-first and bruise those still too-thin soles. When she lands heel-first, she will build up the back of her foot, and when she no longer needs this length of heel to protect her inner structures, she'll let it go. It's a lot more complicated than that, with measurements of collateral grooves and all, but if I go into that here I am liable to confuse people. If you're interested in how I gauge where to place heel height, let me know!

Video stills taken from today post-trim:

That is what we're going for, right there. That is what will heal these feet. That is exactly, exactly what she needs.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Ol' Ironmouth

Pangea and Gogo could not possibly be two more different animals when it comes to riding. Gogo, with her long and flowing slow stride, blessed with exceptional natural balance and an extreme tendency to be light in the forehand (and often times a little TOO light...), found it very hard after her stint with the abusive lady to take a contact. Too much too early on, and she would bolt or rear. To her dying day, if you took too strong of a restricting contact on her, she'd panic. Putting her on the bit involved a lot of just giving her a certain length of rein and doing simple exercises, mostly at the trot (for up to an hour!) until her back softened and she took the contact herself. You could not make her go out to it, you could not force her into a frame, you couldn't set one for her..... she had to decide it of her own accord, and that was the way it worked. But when she would finally take a contact by herself, she was golden, and everything about the connection in the reins was alive and vibrant. It was heavenly, and won the dressage nearly every time we went out, anywhere. Our best score at an event was a 22.0!! She was also hopelessly ewe-necked, but you wouldn't know from looking at her when she was working.

Pangea is the complete opposite of Gogo. Instead of long, flowing and slow, she likes to zoom along very quick and short. She has every ability to trot along smooth and slow, but she holds all her tension in her back and neck and zooms along to avoid engaging her hindquarters. And she HANGS on the bridle. Absolutely HANGS. Far from Gogo's ewe-neck, Pangea borders on having a swan-neck, ones that makes it a little too easy for her to break at the third vertebra (which, as you know, is exceptionally incorrect). I wouldn't say for sure that she is swan-necked, not in the way that her father was, but it's just a bit too easy for her to curl and evade. And hang. HANG.

Part of this (actually, probably most of this) issue is due to the fact that she has been spoiled from being ridden by beginners. Her last owner was an adult ammy, and up until even last summer she was being used in a dressage lesson program, being ridden by people who I'm sure hung on her face, pulled on the reins, and clutched at her until she grew dead to it all and decided that just hanging on the reins would provide them with what they assumed was a correct contact. She could also completely tune them out and run along at her freight train speed, all her weight on her forehand, letting them hold up her big gigantor head for her. Obviously all of this is incorrect in every way, so it is now my job to reminder her (nonstop) that she has to carry her OWN head, thanks very much. The more muscle she builds, the better she does in her dressage work, and I am achieving some wonderful (if not yet long-lasting) lightness in her, particularly in her canterwork. But it takes a hard ride - and a LOT of transitions and half-halts - to get there. The second you stop paying attention to what you are doing, she is back to pulling your shoulders out of your sockets. I know this will get better with time, correct work, and proper muscling, so I'm not too worried about it. She has just been beginner spoiled, and has figured out an easy way to get away with less work. However, as she discovered last night, this doesn't always work to her advantage.

Yesterday was the first day that I put my jump tack on her so I could get up out of the saddle and do a little conditioning on her. I contacted our local hunt yesterday to see when they start roading hounds for the off-season, and was delighted to learn that they road not only on Tuesdays but also on Saturdays, and that Pangea and I were both welcome to come. I'd like to spend the summer roading regularly with the hunt so I can see if a) get an idea for whether or not she'd be suitable as a hunt horse and b) see if I like this hunt enough to join in the fall! I have to say, Pangea sure does look good in jump tack. Unfortunately ALL my tack is black.... hopefully the hunt will look past that because you could not pry that Prestige out of my cold dead fingers if you wanted to. Texas hunt country is not exactly Virginia hunt country so hopefully a few informalities can be overlooked if everything else is appropriate.

Anyway, I digress. Once we got to working, and in particular cantering, Pangea reached out to her contact and took it hard, and leaned on it. And leaned. And leaned. And leaned. At this point I was up in a half seat attempting to just let her cruise, but was about to sit my butt back down and give her some sharp wake-up transitions. Before I could do this, however, Pangea's hanging-low-nose-to-the-dirt demeanor completely backfired on her when she tripped over a small ditch, one that she could have easily dealt with if 98% of her weight wasn't in the bridle at that moment in time. She stumbled and smashed her nose on the ground, and because she was so heavy in the bridle, I got dragged out of the saddle and almost completely off her back. Thankfully I have a strong core and fast reflexes, and somehow managed to stop myself from tumbling over her neck by putting a hand out on her mane to stop myself. This almost didn't work, seeing as her nose was still on the ground and I literally had nothing in front of me! A tumble like this would surely have gotten any number of people to fall off, so it was by only some sort of miracle that I managed to backpedal back into the tack. She was extremely miffed by the entire ordeal, and after that we spent some time talking about having her carry her own gigantic head so that could actually see where she was going and not trip and almost kill us both. A number of sharp transitions later, and she was cruising around on a light rein without excess speed or fuss. That's my girl!

She's been feeling so good lately that I might - MAYBE - try a jump or two with her soon. If I can find some jumps in the state of Texas.... there must be some SOMEWHERE!

((Pangea's borderline swan neck.))