Thursday, December 1, 2011

Chiro Visit and Drifter Puts on a Show

Our vet/chiro visited today - her old horse who was a bit colicy seems to be doing fine now.  The three remaining horses who haven't been blood tested for EPM - Dawn, Sugar and Misty - were all given neuro exams and had blood drawn.  Sugar's owner has noticed that her gaits have started to feel a bit "mushy" and that she's somewhat unwilling to move out on the trail.  And there was one weird episode where Sugar's owner was grooming her and all of a sudden an area of muscle along her back started to twitch and spasm.  And in fact she had some spinal nerve deficits in that area and also some other abnormalities related to her hind end.  Dawn and Misty had their minor issues, but nothing significant, which may mean that they aren't infected, but we're drawing blood anyway to make sure since the four other horses at the barn - Pie, Drifter, Charisma and Scout - have all tested positive.  It's likely that all the horses have at least been exposed, as they share hay and pasture.

Pie had a good chiro session.  He did have some very crampy areas in his neck and shoulders - lots of little tiny cramps which were probably more from his nervous system and muscles recovering from the EPM, and also a sore area below the withers, which explains the soreness when saddling.  His neuro symptoms are basically gone.

Drifter's neuro symptoms are also gone, but as I suspected he showed signs of ouchiness in his right shoulder, right withers and in the sternal area - it is likely that he slipped in the mud and pulled something.  Then we put him on the lunge to watch him move, and that's when the fun began.  All we wanted was a few trot circles in both directions.  But he had different ideas at the start. He put on quite a show - rearing - I saw a lot of belly and flailing front feet - and plunging, and kicking out, and attempts to bolt, as well as lots of blowing and snorting.  I had the chiro fetch a lunge whip to give us some reserve ammunition and discovered that he is very respectful - even afraid - of lunge whips - I'd never used one with him before.  I didn't have to use the whip at all, just hold it and the acting out (other than the bolting) stopped instantly - ultimately I dropped in on the ground behind me so he would stop tearing around like a mad thing.  Finally, I got some trot circles - he was slightly short-strided on the right front in both directions.  I stopped with each direction change to go up to him and pet him on the face to tell him he was (now) a good boy. I ended with him walking part of a lap in both directions so we could end on a good note.   When I do lunge work with him, I'm going to keep a lunge whip with me (although I may not have to hold it) both so he can learn how to respond correctly on the lunge line and also learn that he doesn't have to be terrified of a lunge whip.  I'll also use lots of praise - verbal and rubs - to tell him when he's doing things right.

He was too hot by that point to do the chiro work right away, so he got to chill in the paddock for a bit while other horses were being seen.  His chiro work went pretty well - he did have some pretty sore places that the chiro was really able to help.  I'm to give him a day off tomorrow and then we can start back to work.  He clearly feels more like himself than he did when he was afflicted with EPM, and "himself" is a feisty, challenging horse who's willing to be somewhat aggressive and see where it gets him - he may also have been sore but that wouldn't have justified the degree of acting out nor the amount of balking and ultimately rearing under saddle earlier this week.  I see more groundwork in our future - despite his performance today he actually does know how to lunge (we have no roundpen and our arena is big and doesn't have a fence that's in good condition so liberty work isn't really an option) - and his leading is already much improved as a result of some brief work I did with him at turnout time this morning, and there were no attempts to bite me at any point during our work with him today, which is already a big improvement.  He's a horse who needs clear and firm boundaries and I need to set and maintain them and never let things slip - his increased feistiness came on pretty quickly after his treatment and I didn't get on top of it to the degree I should have.  And even though his testosterone levels are within normal limits, his adrenal glands may be a bit overactive - this can lead to aggressiveness - so we're starting him on some cyproheptadine which can reduce adrenal over activity.

Just another exciting day with horses!


  1. Chiro work is so beneficial. I find Drifter fascinating. You got yourself a handful but you seem to enjoy the challenge and be more than equal to it. I have found that lunging can be a useful teaching tool -- I often use it to teach quiet transitions. I always have a whip but use it as an extension of my arm -- raising, lowering, pointing -- never aggressively. Although it is helpful if the horse starts to come into my space.

  2. I'll bet they all feel better now that they had their chiro work.

    Drifter sounds like quite a challenge on the lunge and now that he's feeling better with other behaviors too. With the cold weather coming and not being able to ride everyday I guess he's in for a lot of ground work.

  3. Drifter sounds like a pistol! good consitent work with him sounds like the ticket though

  4. Woo, sounds like Drifter went into a faster mode! :) I have a Chiro visit set in a few wks for Laz and am hopeful a few visits will help him relieve some tightening as well. Does Drifter usually lunge well, or is it the act of lunge/whip that triggers ill training from his past? Rearing can be so scary all the while beautiful too

  5. Glad the chiropractor's horse was OK and that she was able to come out to help yours along.

    Sounds pretty positive on the EPM front, so that's good.

    It is so hard to judge just how much discomfort a horse like Drift may be in when he "acts out" like that. I have some of the same issues with my Tucker. He really feels the need to "tell me" when something is bothering him and shows it in his behavior. It's hard to know just what's wrong sometimes. Guess we both need to learn to speak "temperamental horse" a little better. *lol*

  6. Kate, Sounds like you had good sessions and good improvement. So interesting to add the lunge whip and to discover his response to it. And to see his improvement with the biting is great. He is learning a lot, it seems. And all this while he is still on his EPM treatment. I wonder if something about the treatment may inadvertently be causing some of the unusual behaviors. It sounds like you have great ways to address the behaviors and help him through them.


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