Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Dawn Gets It and Noble Is Ailing

Yesterday, Dawn and I had another excellent work session. I saddled and bridled up - no lungeing or groundwork - and we went right to work. First we did some minutes of warm-up softening work at the walk - lots of circles, figures and making sure the pace and relaxation were there throughout. Then we went right back to our trot work. It was immediately apparent that she absolutely got it from the work the day before - with very little delay she softened immediately, maintained a soft consistent contact and didn't curl up. Just to prove the point that hyperflexion (or rollkur to use its fancy name) isn't soft and doesn't allow the horse to engage its core and move properly from back to front, every time she hyperflexed, she got on the forehand and would stumble. I kept my hands somewhat high to help her, which seems to make a difference. We quickly moved up through 5, 7, 9 and 11 soft steps at the trot in both directions. She was right on it. I was also able to get her to maintain her pace without speeding up when I gave her a release - a few circles the first time to help her self-regulate her pace and she got that too. I was able to work in rising trot the whole session without her wanting to go fast, which was also an improvement - I want energy and impulsion but not fast.

There were a couple of occasions when the people working in the vegetable garden provided distractions - there was a lady who was popping up and down and also making snapping noises harvesting corn. Dawn did one small spook and occasionally wanted to look but immediately came back to the work since I maintained my focus.

In our breaks, we walked over the "safe" pole and also edged up on the "scary" pole - she didn't want to walk over it but without pushing or urging her forward - I didn't want to push since this tends to block forward motion and I also didn't want to focus her on the thing that was scary - I was able to circle her around in various directions and make figures that brought us pretty close on both sides - she was able to touch the side barrel with her nose and even smell the pole from both sides without alarm. We also did a little bit of walk/halt transitions and also some backing - both were much softer - I think the work at walk and trot on softening is coming through elsewhere.

Then when she was rested - she's pretty out of shape - we did another set of trot softening. We didn't work long as she told me that her muscles were tired. The softening was hard for her and she wanted to revert to the curling up as that was her old, more familiar way of going. We got 5 nice soft steps in each direction and stopped with that. It takes a while to establish new patterns and ways of going - I think Dawn will be pretty quick on that - but she's also using her body and muscles differently now and will need time to adjust to that and build stamina for the work, as well as building muscle memory.

We did a bit more circling to approach the scary pole, and when she was right in front of it I dismounted and led her back and forth across it several times - she was much more relaxed about this than the last time. I think pretty soon she'll walk right over it under saddle without a problem, but I'm not in a hurry.

* * * * * *
My old Noble isn't doing well. He's 30, and has had his ups and downs, but has been doing pretty well up until about a couple of months ago. He started dropping weight, even though he was eating his grass and senior feed well. He's gotten pretty thin - I can see his ribs - although his coat still looks good. His nutrition is good, his teeth have been seen to - he's got all but one of his teeth and our excellent dentist says he's got great teeth for his age, and he's up to date on his worming and shots. About a week ago, his manure changed - it's much darker, pretty unformed although not wet, and not as abundant. On close examination (I collected some this morning to show the vet), there is a lot of undigested grass and hay in there, and some small hard round bits - could be grass seeds, could be parasites. He shows no signs of pain - no pawing, rolling or looking at the sides (and he's a demonstrative horse who would tell me), although he's somewhat listless and tired looking. The odd thing is that he seems to be interested in food - he nickers for it but then only eats a little - and is very interested in eating grass - he pulls me to the pasture, although I've also just seen him standing there very still, not eating, on a number of occasions. The most worrisome thing is that he's no longer drinking well - he has access to fresh clean water in his stall and outside and is a big user of his salt block - he seems to think about drinking but then doesn't do it - very similar to the eating behavior. He's getting more and more dehydrated, but still doesn't want to drink.

I also watched him graze last night - he eagerly took bites of grass, but as he was chewing, lots was just falling out of the side of his mouth. We suspect he may have had a minor stroke a couple of years ago - he went through a period of not being able to eat well and his tongue would just hang out of his mouth, but he recovered from that. It may be that he's having trouble swallowing, perhaps due to another small stroke - there are no signs of choke - and that's keeping him from eating and drinking well. When I gave him carrots this morning, he eagerly ate them although a lot fell out of his mouth. He has no fever - I took his temperature this morning and if anything it was a bit low.

So I put him where he wanted to be - out with the other horses - and called the vet, who will come this afternoon. I asked the woman doing the scheduling, whom I've talked to many times, to send a vet with a good and gentle bedside manner - she knew just what I mean since there's a spectrum of vets at their practice, and some are more patient and soft with the horses and some get impatient - Noble is a very sensitive guy, doesn't like vets and also is still somewhat headshy after all these years - we've been together since 1997 - when I got him you couldn't lift a hand towards his face without him running backwards and he still doesn't like his ears touched although he lets me if I need to. He deserves gentle treatment and respect. I won't be doing anything heroic with him - if it's his time, then it is. He's been the very best horse ever, and I'll certainly miss him when he goes. I spent a lot of time last night at the barn holding his head and stroking his neck and shoulders and telling him these things - he knows how I feel.

22 comments:

  1. Sounds like things are coming togather nicley with Dawn. Sorry to hear about your old genlteman, Noble ,whatever the outcome, my thoughts are with you.

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  2. Kate;

    I'm sorry to hear about Noble.

    We've seen that sort of behaviour here quite a number of times. Sometimes it's easily remedied and sometimes not so much so. In any case, please know that you and Noble are much in our thoughts around here today.

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  3. oh no, poor noble - are you really sure his teeth are ok? i'd be tempted to get a second opinion if my horse was dropping grass despite regular dental work - but i guess you know his history. i'd never heard that about strokes causing difficulty chewing but it makes sense.

    poor guy, i hope he improves.

    ~lytha

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  4. Oh dear! Noble, I hope you get to feeling better! Be good for the vet, so she can help you.

    Good work, Dawn and Kate. Baby steps turn in to leaps and bounds.

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  5. Gosh, I hope Noble is OK. Fingers and toes crossed.....

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  6. Oh Kate..I am very blurry eyed as I try to find the right keys and the right things to say...Noble is, as his namesake. I pray you know what he is telling you and it will be all right. I am so with you, no heroism please...

    Be well, and know that so many are with you in prayer and loving thoughts.

    KK

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  7. Sounds like things truly are clicking with Dawn and I'm sure she's enjoying the work now so much more. Jingles for your Noble, I hope you have a good visit with the vet and can identify the best strategies for the Old Man.

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  8. Sending good thoughts for Noble, and a recommendation to try out Eleanor Kellon's Complete Senior diet, served wet. It's amazing for the oldies (not good for IR horses though) - if part of the issue is that he's just not digesting/absorbing his nutrients as well, this diet might well help him out.

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  9. Thinking of you and Noble Kate. Hope we hear news that all went as it should for you both.

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  10. Another great session with Dawn!

    So sorry to hear that Noble is not feeling too hot, I hope for the best possible outcome for you both x

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  11. You and Dawn are really clicking along lately!

    I am sorry to hear about Noble. As Jason said we've been through this several times. Sometimes the sitution is easily addressed (he could have an abcessing tooth that wasn't present when his teeth were last floated for example), other times not so much.

    I hope the vet visit goes well for you and Noble.

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  12. You and Dawn are really clicking along lately!

    I am sorry to hear about Noble. As Jason said we've been through this several times. Sometimes the sitution is easily addressed (he could have an abcessing tooth that wasn't present when his teeth were last floated for example), other times not so much.

    I hope the vet visit goes well for you and Noble.

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  13. Kate...I hope the Vet can figure out what is going on with Noble. I have a 30 year old pony who can't chew her hay anymore, but can eat grass and grain. I give her soaked beet pulp in her grain and soaked hay cubes at night. She has held her weight. If this is sudden, I agree with the other posters that something may have changed with his teeth.

    Love your header shot. Dawn is coming along beautifully. I give you a lot of credit for continuing to work in this weather. At the moment we are catching a break from the humidity...My horses and I are not very interested in working when it is hot and muggy.

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  14. Thinking about you and Noble today. Hugs to you both :)

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  15. Poor Noble! Hope all goes well!

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  16. Excellent progress with Dawn! I like what you're doing, I've been following it closely since I'm trying to get my horse back into the swing of things.

    I'm sorry to hear about Noble. Hopefully it's something simple and easily fixed.

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  17. Glad to hear that things are progressing so nicely with Dawn!

    and sorry to hear that Noble's health seems to be declining. I hope the vet visit goes well and that he can provide you with some good insight and guidance.

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  18. My heart aches for you and Noble, but I know you will do whatever is best for him. He will tell you what is kindest for him, I'm sure. Your connection is that solid and obvious. My prayers are with you.

    Dawn is making wonderful progress. I'm thinking she is already beginning to realize that going properly feels much better than going wrong. Once she likes it, you are well on your way to transforming her!

    Your gift of love and understanding for these horses of yours is rare and special. They are lucky to have you.

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  19. I really admire your attitude toward Noble. I hope that someday when Tucker is old and gray, I'll have the same strength.

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  20. I'm sorry to hear that Noble isn't doing well. It must be very hard, but i think your attitude is admirable. Hopefully when Missy is older and no longer the horse she once was, i'll be as brave as you and be able to do what's right for her, despite my feelings. Thinking of you!

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  21. You and Dawn are becoming quite a team. I have a feeling in no time she will be walking without hesitation over those poles.

    I hope Noble is alright. I'm sure if it's his time he will let you know. I hope it isn't though, he's a sweetheart.

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  22. Awesome work with Dawn. Really sounds like great progress. Poor Noble. I hope he picks up soon

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