It was a very busy day yesterday. Our farrier was coming early to do trims. I don't ordinarily ride Dawn on Thursdays, but since I had to bring her in (the boys were in pens since their pasture is far away), wait for the farrier to arrive and then wait for two other horses to get done first, Dawn and I rode.
We were going along nicely - we'd done our walk warm up and were a number of minutes into our trot work when something very odd happened. Dawn is generally more soft and supple tracking left, although the difference between right and left is gradually disappearing as my position is more consistently even. We were tracking left at a forward, soft trot, when bang! everything changed in an instant. She was still sound and even, but her footfalls were rushed. The contact/feel in the reins went from soft/live to dead, particularly on the left rein. She was either lugging on the left rein or avoiding contact altogether - in fact she felt a bit bowed up. And then she started shaking her head - uh, oh . . . something was really bothering her all of a sudden.
I jumped off and started investigating. Dawn's had a lot of dental issues, so I started with her mouth. The bit was at the proper height, and her lips, teeth and tongue looked fine, and her tongue wasn't over the bit. Nothing was obviously wrong with her face. Nothing in her ears. I checked out her hyoid apparatus - the bone and soft tissue structures that anchor the tongue - they can be found between the jawbones and sometimes get out of alignment - everything was fine there. Her jaw moved freely from side to side without her being bothered, and her TMJs seemed comfortable.
If it's a bit/contact issue, it's usually either the mouth or the neck - usually the poll. Bingo! When I put pressure behind her left ear, she flinched and started bobbing her head up and down and shaking it from side to side - I think the head shaking was her attempt to release the pressure from either a muscle cramp or nerve pinch. I started working on her poll area, all around both ears and along her crest. Within a few minutes, she was relaxing and chewing and seemed quite a bit happier - it was probably a cramp. I got back on and things were much improved. I got off a bit later in our ride and did some more - at one point she chose to move her head sharply to one side and there was a loud crack - something else releasing. I got back on and she was completely back to normal - lovely and relaxed and soft and forward.
Glad we were able to get that figured out! If it recurs, I'll have the chiropractor out to do more proper work on her neck and poll.
Then all three horses got their trims. Everyone was perfectly behaved. Red was relaxed with his ears up - I could see him thinking: "I have a new name because I'm now a new horse - look how good I am! It's time you forgot that old horse with the different name (the one that used to nip and kick and strike and slam his feet down if you even tried to pick his feet, much less give him a trim), since I'm not that horse any more." I think I'll take him up on that - those old stories don't do us any good - he's just one of my good horses now and that's all we need to say about that.
Then, in the afternoon, I was back at the barn. All three horses were pretty dirty, so it took quite a while to clean them up. Pie and Red were having a day off - I almost always give my horses a day off from riding after their trims although they usually don't need it. We were waiting for the vet, so I took my time and really enjoyed our grooming sessions. The vet had given me an estimated time of 5:30. Now, one of the great things about my vet is that she's part of an equine hospital, which means she's very experienced, particularly when it comes to lameness issues. But then one of the not so good things about my vet is that she's part of an equine hospital, because if there's an emergency that comes in, that takes priority - this is true of any vet but the emergencies at the hospital often are more serious and sometimes involve surgery. So they were an hour late, but that was OK with me.
Pie got his rabies shot, and then was sedated, with an extra drug to keep him from kicking, which he was inclined to do last time he had his sheath cleaned, even with sedation. I expect it was pretty uncomfortable that time, since he'd probably never been cleaned before, was very dirty and had a number of sizable beans. This time he was pretty dirty again, although he had only one small bean. We're going to keep him on a six month cleaning schedule. Red kept a close eye on proceedings through the gaps in the wall between their stalls.
We left Pie to sleep it off and Red was next - he only had to be lightly sedated - and wasn't as desperately in need of a cleaning. He did kick out once - the vet said the water was probably too cooled off. Red tends to push through sedation and stays as alert as he can, but once they were done he went to sleep and started snoring.
After a while, when the boys were starting to wake up a bit - not enough to put their hay back in their stalls - I put up Pie's stall guard and he came to the door and leaned out, still pretty dopey. I opened Red's door and he woozied his way out without his halter on - I wasn't worried as I didn't think he'd go far in his dopey state - getting stopped momentarily when his hip got stuck against the doorframe - he figured it out and weaved his way to Pie's door.
Red stopped there and they stood together for a few moments, heads together, eyes squinted - like two companionable drunks. Then they did a little grooming - I've never seen the two of them groom before - until Red woke up a bit more and nipped Pie on the chest - Pie squealed and backed into his stall.
I walked both boys around a bit, including in the arena, to gauge their alertness. It took about an hour for both boys to be back to normal. It was now about 8 - I gave them the rest of their hay and headed home.