Red says that we had a lot of fun today, and he's right. We did 20 minutes of walking under saddle today - our second 20 minute session and our 6th ride since he's been back in work. Walking around in an arena for 20 minutes can be a bit of a bore, so before our ride, I'd set up some cones for us to use. We rode for a while, using the cones for our figures. And then Red, by chance, knocked over one of the cones - and I had an idea . . .
Once, a long time ago, I saw Mark Rashid's horse set up a cone that had been knocked over, by stepping carefully on the side. Mark said that your horse can understand what you want in your mind and try to do it - and in fact be able to do it - if you pay attention and reward the slightest try.
So I decided to see if I could ask Red to set up cones that had been knocked over . . .
Now, Red and I were using the big orange - but soft plastic, not hard - cones, which make things a bit more comfortable. I took Red up to the fallen cone, and we stood there. If he tried to move away, I redirected him towards the cone. If he did nothing, I asked him to move across the cone. Perhaps just by chance, he pawed at the cone and stood it up. I praised him effusively, and we went for a walk. A light bulb started to come on . . .
Within a few minutes, we were knocking down cones and setting them back up all over the arena. Sometimes Red knocked a cone back upright with a hoof, and sometimes he gently pushed it back up with his nose. He thought it was a mighty fine game.
Red's very curious, and very intelligent, but seeing how quickly he caught on to what I wanted was just plain amazing - and fun, too! I think this is just a small example of how much our horses are willing to listen to us and respond, and how capable they are of this sort of communication.
If it's not one thing it's another. In the ever-ongoing veterinary saga that is my life with horses, both Pie and Dawn are currently battling a nasty case of what I refer to generically as "face crud". Both of them had a nasty fly bite (?) - in Pie's case on his cheek and in Dawn's case on the point of her jaw - which just refused to heal despite treatment with Neosporin. All of a sudden, Pie's bite got inflamed and infected and then just blew up - the whole side of his jaw - an area bigger than my palm - was marked by inflamed, oozing circles of infection. And within a day, Dawn's fly bite had started oozing and seeping and then there were crusty infected areas all down the side of her jaw, and today even behind her throat latch onto her neck - and she has a whole set of hives from mosquito bites to go with that.
We've been having very hot and humid weather, which is perfect for this sort of thing to happen. Pie's had scratches before, and this seemed a lot like that. And Dawn has had various types of skin crud and reactions to insect bites and stings before - once resulting in cellulitis all down her neck.
After some ineffective treatment in both cases with Neosporin, I'd started treating with silver sulfadiazine topically and SMZs orally once a day. And both horses had a swollen knee last evening, with little pustules and some seepage - they'd apparently rubbed their faces on their legs and transferred the skin infection to their leg.
Things weren't improving, so I called the vet. She said silver sulfa can keep wounds like this too wet, which can make bacterial infections (which these likely are) worse. She prescribed Quadritop ointment - a broad spectrum antibiotic with antibacterial and antifungal properties and also a corticosteroid to reduce inflammation. And we upped the SMZ's to twice a day (14 pills each time) - oral antibiotics to deal with both the skin infection and also the subcutaneous stuff that is going on in their knees and also in Dawn's neck. She said to wash with plain water when needed, and dry, and then apply the ointment once a day.
How did they get this? It could have been spontaneous, but the guys use the same halters to bring in all the horses, and there are two horses in Pie's herd with face crud. The halter may have transferred the bacteria to Pie's open wound. And in Dawn's case, I expect it was my shared grooming tools that infected her. In Dawn's case, it could be an abscess from her tooth surgery - the timing's about right - but there's not a lot of puss and she's eating normally and has no mouth odor. And the fact it's spread to her knee and neck also makes me think face crud rather than an abscess. But if it were an abscess, the treatment with SMZs would be what we'd be doing anyway.
All three horses now have their own sets of grooming tools, and Pie's set - the old set - have been disinfected with Clorox. I use separate natural sponges to clean Pie and Dawn, and separate clean towels to dry them - the sponges go into a water/Listerine bath to disinfect and the towels go home to be washed in hot water.
If things aren't improved by the end of the week, the vet will make an in-person visit.
More horse veterinary stuff - it never ends . . .
But Red says: "What about me? You have to tell everyone what I did today!"
Today was a very good day - I finally got to ride all three horses, even if two of those rides were only at the walk - it was still all just fine with me. It's about two and a half weeks after Dawn's dental surgery, and she was good to go - they're coming back to check her in September, but she's eating well and seems very comfortable. All we did today was about 15 minutes of walk work, although she would have willingly trotted - we'll do a bit of that tomorrow. We worked on circles and serpentines and getting softness with an inside bend - softness on the inside rein is the trick for that. It was lovely to be riding her again.
Red and I also had a very nice 15 minute walk ride, with cones. Lots of circles and serpentines and some leg yield, as well as intervals of "marching" walk. At one point he clearly would have trotted if I had asked, but I want us to get up to 30 minutes of walk work before we do any trot work under saddle. Iced his leg after, and he seemed pretty satisfied.
Pie has a sore on the left side of his face, about where the bridle lies. It's probably a sting or bite by a big fly, and it's been very slow to heal and also borderline infected. I've been cleaning and treating - we're trying to get it to dry out a little, and I'm using Swat around it to keep the flies off. I brought out my side pull - a very nice one from Buckeroo Leather that I haven't used in a while - and cleaned it up and we tried that out - it didn't touch the sore spot. I used to ride Pie in it back when I first got him, but he didn't do that well in it since he didn't know much about softness in the bridle at that point.
He was just great in it. He was just as soft and responsive as in the bit, and seemed if anything more relaxed. We didn't work that long as it was hot and very humid, but did some very nice work at walk and trot and then some excellent relaxed work at canter. His backing was excellent - he seemed to really like the side pull and we'll use it again soon.