Monday, July 28, 2014

Red's Vet Visit and Pasture Photos

While I was waiting around at the barn for the vet to arrive to check Red out, I had the chance to take some pasture photos.

Here's Dawn leaving the barn after our early morning ride - we started to ride again a few days ago and we'll be riding until her second visit from the dental surgeon:

Getting down to the important business of eating grass:

Pie and Red were also out with their herd - that's Pie on the left and Red on the right:

This picture really captures how red Red is - for a horse who hasn't been in work he's looking pretty good:

And Pie, not as red but just as fine:

And a final photo of Red, Mr. Curious:

The vet finally called to say that she was on the way, so I brought Red in, groomed him and then we hand grazed until they got there.

I told her that he had fallen down behind in the barn aisle on June 15, and had scraped the front of both fetlock joints and pasterns, but wasn't unsound after - although he'd had two small wind puffs show up on the right hind in front of the suspensory ligaments, which indicated his pastern joint was complaining.  Then, on June 24, he'd come in from turnout with a ding on the front of his right hind cannon bone, with some swelling along the extensor tendon.  At that point he was not completely sound at the walk and very off at the trot, although always weight-bearing. I had treated with ice and bute, and within a few days the swelling was mostly gone.  His soundness slowly improved, but the wind puffs were still there.  Then, two days ago, the wind puff on the outside of his ankle was replaced by a more diffuse swelling - still no tenderness to palpation.  He was fairly sound at the trot and canter in the pasture until he slowed down in trot to transition to walk - then he would take some short strides.

The vet said that the swelling around and above his fetlock probably indicated that the joint was slightly unstable due to a strain of internal soft tissues supporting the ankle joint.  Although he had no sensitivity to palpation, there was a bit of heat in the joint.  If he'd had a bone chip or bruise to a weight-bearing structure, he would have likely been much more lame after the injury.  The suspensory ligament did not seem to be enlarged, although one collateral ligament was slightly larger than the other - but this was the same on his other hind leg, and was likely normal for him due to the way he moves behind - he "tight-rope walks" - bringing his hind legs toward the center line, and this can result in enlargement of one collateral ligaments due to remodeling from uneven loading.

On the lunge, there was a very slight shortness of stride at the walk - in the last part of the stride he would lift the right hind slightly early.  At the trot he was much sounder than he was even a few days ago - we joked that he didn't want to go back to the vet clinic - and the short stride didn't show up until the last couple of steps as he was coming back to walk.  The vet flexed both hind pasterns - the left had no response, and he was only slightly off on the right hind after flexion, not bad at all considering that the ankle was having some issues, she said.

We could have done x-rays at this point, but since he'd never been severely lame and was improving, we didn't do that.  Also, we could have done ultrasound to determine exactly what soft tissue structures were affected, but since it wasn't going to change her recommendation, we didn't do that either.

Our instructions are 30 days more rest - he'll stay in full turnout, since he's not tolerant of stall or paddock rest and will likely protect the leg more if he's happy and relaxed.  I'll ice the leg - he'll tolerate the ice boot for short periods.  And we'll use Traumeel ointment once a day on the ankle - my vet frequently uses natural/herbal remedies.  Then we'll recheck.  Sounds like a plan.  I turned Red back out and he moseyed off before breaking into a nice canter followed by some pretty sound trot.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Vet Coming Monday . . .

It's been a month, and Red's still off in the right hind.  He's improving, but the improvement is very slow lately.  He has a lot more trouble when he's having to sit back and use his hind end when slowing down or going downhill.  At this point, I need to know what's going on so I know what to do with him - if it's a soft tissue injury, he may need some months off, or if it's minor, riding at the walk wouldn't hurt him. If it's hock arthritis flaring up, more exercise rather than less may be beneficial.  If it's some other sort of joint injury, I need advice on how to deal with it.

Anyhow, my vet is coming on Monday to do a full lameness evaluation.  My vet is very good and affiliated with a nearby veterinary hospital.  She's good in lots of ways - listens well, has a pleasant manner with horses and people, is very thorough and careful, and is also very smart and knowledgeable.  We'll know more on Monday . . . more vet bills . . . sigh . . .

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Ground Work - a Rare Thing for Us, and a Note on Red's Soundness

I almost never do ground work of any kind.  I usually do ground work to check things out progressively with a new horse where I don't know what the horse knows or doesn't know, to teach the horse a specific skill (ground driving can be very useful for this), to help a horse who is too distracted or fresh to be able to focus and work (and to allow for some "bucks for safety"), or to briefly lunge to check soundness.  One thing I don't do is a lot of lungeing - I don't like the wear and tear on joints, and I don't need to lunge to assess my horse's mood - that's usually pretty obvious as we groom and tack up.

I usually just get on and ride.  But today, for a change, Red and Pie did some ground work with me.  It's a great way to do some work when I don't have the time or inclination to ride.

Both boys worked on "trailer loading" - as in loading into the wash stall or into their stalls, with me giving a go forward cue from the side with a dressage whip - gently tapping until they take a step, repeat.  Both boys "loaded" well, and also backed into the wash stall too.

Red and I worked on his inside turns, just at the walk.  He tried some trotting, but I kept him at walk - we're not trotting yet.  I wanted clean turns, where he turned and stayed out, not cutting in.  It was easier in one direction than the other, but he did it very nicely by the end of our session.  We did zig zags back and forth across the arena.  The trick for me is to make sure I lead with my new leading hand and turn my body so he knows to turn and keep going, and that I don't step away from him as he turns, since that tends to bring him in towards me - most of this is about how clear and precise I am with my body language, rather than about what Red is doing - he's a great feedback mechanism.  Red and I also did a bit of side passing and turn on the forehand in hand.

Pie and I worked on getting him to go forward on the lunge at the walk.  Pie makes it clear that he doesn't think there's much point to lungeing - too much unnecessary expenditure of energy - but he grudgingly cooperated.  (Pie doesn't think there's too much point to most things people do - except when the provide hay or grain.)

Yesterday I had the chance to observe Red moving in the pasture.  It was beastly hot, and I was bringing Pie in because of the heat, and Red came after us at the trot and then the canter.  He was perfectly sound, including when cantering on the left lead, which puts more stress on the right hind (the leg that's been troubling him recently).  He broke to trot, trotted sound, but then as he slowed to a more collected trot in preparation for walk, he wasn't sound on the right hind - he can't collect, which puts more stress on the joints and supporting structures.  I'm thinking joints - either the hock or the fetlock joint - but then I'm not a vet . . .  I'm not riding him at all this week, and this weekend I'll put him on the lunge again to see if he's improving . . .

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Red is Still Lame . . . :(

Red is still lame on his right hind at the trot on the lunge.  No worse, maybe a little bit better.  There's no heat, no swelling, no tenderness that I'm able to detect.  The lameness came on a day or so after he was apparently kicked with a glancing blow on the front of his cannon bone on June 24 - just a nick, although there was some swelling of the extensor tendon along the front of his leg.  The swelling resolved pretty quickly with some icing, and his soundness improved as well although he's not been 100% since.

I have no idea what's up with him, so I guess it's time to call the vet . . . again.  The problem could be anywhere in his hind leg, and he doesn't seem to be improving much.  He's completely sound at the walk under saddle - in fact his walk is big and swinging - and he motors around pretty happily out in the pasture.  It's a mystery - just hoping it isn't an expensive one, considering all the vet bills I've already had this year . . .  And he's not a horse who can tolerate much if any stall rest or penning up - and of course that's how Pie, his companion for his recovery from splint bone surgery, developed ulcers . . .

He's happy and otherwise healthy, so I'm trying not be discouraged . . .  I love riding this horse, and he's amazing to ride - the most athletically gifted and sensitive horse I've ever ridden - but it seems that we get to do very little riding.

As one of my friends at the barn says, with horses if it's not one thing it's another.  The corollary of that is that with horses, it's always something . . .

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Norman (and a Girlfriend)

I realize I haven't had much on the blog lately about the retirees - Norman, Lily and Maisie - who live in Tennessee at Paradigm Farms.  But today there was a photo on their blog I had to share - it's Norman-the-pony with one of his girlfriends.  He's a little guy - only about 12.2 hands - but he's got a big personality, and the mares in his herd seem to really love him.

It's good to see him so happy in his retirement.