Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Riding Red Again, and Up and Out with Pie (It's All About Me!)

Today was a good day.  I rode Red again for the first time since July 18, and he was as good as gold.  He was much calmer today - I think our work session yesterday reestablished that I was the leader, and he felt much better about the world - his anxiety and the nipping were a sign that he felt insecure.  He doesn't really want to be in charge, but he strongly feels that someone has to be (or else, being a horse, he's going to be eaten).  He's happiest when I give him clear, consistent direction and boundaries - he relaxes right into that.  So, as a result, we had a wonderful 10-minute walk ride.  He couldn't have been better - stood beautifully for mounting, and was soft and responsive throughout our ride - we even did some really nice leg yield.

We'll be adding 5 minutes to our walk work every other ride, and when we get to 30 minutes, we'll see where he is soundness-wise at the trot, before doing any trot work under saddle.  The leg is looking better every day, and we continue to ice and put on Traumeel ointment.

Pie and I had a very nice ride as well.  I worked on me - it's always about me when things aren't quite right.  I worked on feeling the energy rising up through me from Pie's hind legs and up and out of my body - this requires me to keep his forward energetic (without nagging), and my posture open and erect and eyes up.  I wanted him "in front" of me at all times, and we did some very nice, very forward trot work.  When I ride him this way, all the issues dissolve - no falling in, no diving with his head, no poor upwards or downwards transitions - most of the problems arise when I brace or look down at his head rather than up and out.  We finished with a lovely set of walk/trot/walk transitions, with about three strides in each - forward, happy, marching trot into forward, happy, marching walk, continue - when I use just my exhale to cue the upward transition, this works much better than pushing with my leg.  He seemed pretty happy with the whole thing.  He's much more engaged and interactive since I started the "treat campaign" - I even got a nicker yesterday, which was a first.

And I can start riding Dawn again later this week (bought her a new fuzzy dressage girth to celebrate) - pretty soon all three will be back in action!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Nipped in the Bud

I clearly haven't been handled or working with Red enough - the more he's handled by the barn workers (who really don't know much about how to handle or lead horses, and tend to hang on the horse's faces), and the less he's handled by me, the more braced he becomes.  He also tends to start to lose his ground manners - he was not very good at all for the farrier last Friday, which is not normal for him these days.

Today was a good opportunity to get things back on a good footing.  I took him into the arena with a web halter, a long line and a dressage whip.  We did some leading work, focussed on him following me correctly and not intruding into my personal space.  We did some groundwork - changes of direction at the walk, working on him not cutting in.  We did a little bit of lungeing - he's pretty much sound now at the trot, just slightly short-strided on the right hind at the trot when tracking left but not taking protective steps anymore when he slows down at trot.  He's ready to start ridden work at the walk - we'll likely do that tomorrow.

Things got more interesting when I started doing some close-in lateral work.  He's always been a bit fussy about close-in work, and particularly when I'm on his right - he apparently thinks people are only supposed to be on his left - I'm violating a rule or something.  I was asking him to circle tightly around me and then to take lateral steps to the outside with both fronts and hinds.  My being that close to him, and him being a bit frustrated by not quite getting what I wanted at first, led to some attempted nipping.  He's not mean, he's just overly expressive of his frustration and needs to be reminded that certain behaviors are not ever acceptable.

Well, I nipped that in the bud, so to speak.  There were a couple of sharp slaps to intruding muzzle (with teeth), and some forceful reinforcement of backing out of my personal space.  He got the point fairly quickly.  We just kept working on our lateral work, and he gradually relaxed - when I was on his right it was still harder for him, but I rewarded every good effort with praise and a walk around.  We got there, and I think the balance is reestablished - for now.  Red is a horse who needs and likes to work hard, and we haven't been able to do that for a while.

I was pleased with where we got to and he seemed to feel more content and less nervous as well - when his nervousness amps up that's a sign he's not feeling entirely right with the world.

Hoping that tomorrow we ride - if only at the walk.

Sunday, August 24, 2014


Today, when I was riding Pie, I tried to approach lateral work - bending through the corners, circles, leg yield, etc. - with the thought of giving him precise openings to move into.  Rather than thinking of  leg as pushing him over - which creates a brace - thinking of leg as a very soft cue, with my body - upper body/posture/head/focus open and allowing for forward, and outside leg creating just the right amount of freedom for him to move into.  Pie approves.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Proof That One-Size-Fits-All Deworming Programs Don't Work

Back in the good old days (not that long ago, but you know what I mean), I did rotational deworming, administering a different dewormer every 6-8 weeks throughout the year.  Did it work? Maybe, but it also probably contributed to parasite resistance to dewormers that were being used.

The new thinking on deworming is to do periodic fecal testing, and focus deworming efforts on those horses that show up as high shedders - this doesn't necessarily mean they're unwell due to the parasite load they carry, but they tend to be the ones that can spread worms in the environment.  And good manure management - manure removal and at the very least harrowing so manure is broken up - can make a big difference.   I followed this protocol at my old barn (very small, and with very good manure management practices), with very good results.

In the past several years, since at my current barn my horses are turned out in large herds - the mare herd that Dawn is in has about a dozen horses and the gelding herd that Pie and Red are in has close to 20 geldings - and since my barn practices zero manure management in pens and pastures and has no worming policy for boarders, I had reverted to something approaching my old practices.  I did spring and fall deworming, and also did daily Strongid.

Well, I've been proved wrong.  I recently fecal tested Red, and he came back with a heavy load of strongyles.  I've just completed treating him with a Panacur 5-day Powerpac at the recommendation of my vet (Red and I are both glad that's over with), and will do a fecal retest in about two weeks.  I also just tested Pie, and he came back as a zero - effectively no worm load.  They are turned out in the same pasture everyday, and follow exactly the same feeding and deworming protocol.  Pie appears to have an inherent resistance to parasites, and Red does not.  So the same program doesn't work for both of them.

My theory that a regular program was required to, and would, protect all my horses at the new barn proved wrong - I'm going back to fecal testing and treating my horses as they require.

Old dog, new tricks . . .

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Photos of Dawn's Removed (and Cleaned) Teeth

After about a week, the teeth are clean enough for public viewing.  Dawn continues to do very well and eat up a storm, and once you see the photos, you'll understand why she's much more comfortable now even though her mouth is still healing.

These teeth are from the left side of her mandible (lower jaw).  The tooth that was removed last month was from the right side of her mandible.  It's hard to believe when you see these photos, but the tooth that was removed last month - the 409 - was in much worse shape - only the buccal (cheek) portion of the crown was left and the tooth was listing towards her cheek, putting it above the dental arcade and also abrading her cheek.  Removal of the 409 last month resulted in much improved eating, even with the two teeth shown below still in her mouth.

A paraphrase of the dental surgeon's report before the surgery to remove these two teeth:
308 is fractured with only a small buccal portion remaining in the mouth.  This tooth appears to have complete endodontic failure, and has a large periapical lucency [indicating periodontal or root disease].  The 309 appears to have mesial root resorption and bone loss.  This tooth is probably being affected by the periodontal disease present around the fractured 308.
Here's the buccal (cheek-side) view - the 308 premolar is to the left (towards the front of the mouth) and the 309 molar (towards the back of the mouth) is to the right - the gum line at the top of the 309 is clearly visible.  The 308 has developed a nasty hook in the middle. The two tooth fragments below the 309 are pieces of the root - the piece towards the middle broke off during or after the surgery, and the piece to the far right was actually broken off the tooth in situ (visible on x-rays), and was pushing up against and aggravating the adjacent tooth.  That fragment didn't come with the 309 when it was removed, and x-rays after the teeth were removed showed it was still there - the surgeon went right back and got it out - that's the degree of care they used.

Here is the lingual (tongue-side) view of the 308 premolar (to the right - towards the front of the mouth) and 309 molar (to the left - towards the back of the mouth) that were removed - the severe damage to the 308 is visible in this photo:

Here's a top view of the teeth, which shows how much of the lingual (tongue-side) aspect of the 308 was missing - I find the folds of dentin and enamel fascinating - my own dentist has asked to see the teeth since he was so interested when I was describing their structure:

And here's a close up of the 308 - even after a week of soaking and drying, there's still pieces of old hay packed down into the roots that won't come out - it's hard to imagine how uncomfortable this must have been for Dawn:

Dawn should really benefit from having these teeth out.  She's always had difficulty maintaining her weight, particularly in the winter, and this should now be less of an issue.  And untreated periodontal disease, besides being very uncomfortable, also can lead to overall poor health.

My equine dentist, who referred me to the dental surgeons (my regular vet/vet hospital also uses this same dental surgeon for all their dental surgery), was very pleased that the surgeons were able to help her out.  Having good (make that great) professionals to help out my horses when needed is very reassuring.