Thursday, March 23, 2017

The horse roller-coaster

As I said to a friend in an email this week, owning horses is not for the faint of heart.  I feel like I'm on a constant roller coaster of emotional highs and lows since losing Traveler.  I'm sure some of the peaks and valleys existed between him & I too, but now I'm just sensitive to it. And losing Tesla, and debating whether to even start over again; well it isn't easy on the mind or heart.

All 3 of these boys of mine have proven to be "difficult" in different ways.  Traveler had his share of trust issues and learning to be done under saddle to spare his back (and my rear for his love of fast trotting), but he turned into an amazing horse and we were a team; Tesla had some saddle fit issues and stubbornness over trailer loading, but once we got through those we were on an upswing until Colic took him from me.  Prophecy, well he has some "lost time" we can only assume he wasn't treated the best, with ill fitting tack, and crappy hoof care. His greenness is showing through on his emotions and while we are working through the hoof and saddle issues well, the emotional side is a bit slower a recovery.

As I described in the last post, our ride Sunday evening was hardly back to old standards.  So Monday I decided to see if I could get him focused on me in the round pen, and then maybe ride, or at least go for a hike.  We started out with more easily being caught, so that was a nice change.  We groomed fairly relaxed, despite that the barn that once stood in front of us was completely disassembled (new one going up) and was being used as a playground by the cats; he was shedding crazy like and making me eat horse hair so I paid close attention to his sides to remove loose hair where the cinch sits and checked his feet. Tacking up led to the usual displays of disdain in his facial expressions and a few kicks at his belly for cinching.  Bit & bridle added, reins hooked in place with my rein safe and off to the round pen we went.  And then things got interesting and confusing.

I had absolutely very little of his interest.  It wasn't that he wasn't paying me attention and that it was elsewhere, he was actually very "sulky" and grumpy, not even trying to look at me, but also not focused on anything outside the pen. He would just stand and look grumpy when stopped.  I changed my tactic and just sat on the block waiting for him, yet he just stood, sulking, looking somewhat off to the side but not at anything, head lowered. I even left the pen (and took this pic) with no interest from him.  Highly unusual - this being the horse that picked up and brought me his line not even a week before and loves to knock over the block trying to pick it up.
I decided to just take him on a hike to ease both our frustrations and we walked a short loop and came back to the barn to remove tack. He never showed any signs of being off when he was moving, and no heat found.  But when I worked on his back he was showing some sensitivity to the back right and left wither area.

I had come home Sunday very discouraged not sure what to think and Monday I was heartbroken. My thoughts went towards training and figuring out where I went wrong - what was I doing that was making his respect dissipate, losing interest in me, and resulting in this stalemate in the round pen along with many difficulties getting responses out of him the past two days?  I began to doubt that he is the horse for me... thinking that maybe we aren't the best match and he needs to be someone's project horse to bring along where I can't.  But I know things were good a few months back, and they have been better recently, but now we have had a complete shift in just a few days (minus the emotional meltdown at Blackwater)...

Tuesday - Ok, take a step back.

1. He was back sore...  I wonder if he took a spill or slip in the mud to have the diagonal soreness? (not present the week before and didn't see the reactions on Sunday doing a quick spot check).  I contacted the barn manager to discuss, and while we don't know of anything in particular, she offered to do some stretches on him to see if it helps.

2. The belly kicks... they were much more than usual, and even occurred when standing alone in the pen (with no bugs out). Going back to Dr.DePaolo's acupuncture video, the areas he is showing tender on the back lend to possible ulcers and hindgut acidosis (or ribs/sternum out of place).  It just so happens that he started the Excel gut supplement this week by chance, and according to conversations with the company it may start to provide relief in as a little as 3 days.  I have also gone ahead and ordered some omeprazole paste to start him on a week long course and see if there are changes.  I have always suspected ulcers, but the vet, chiro, nor the osteopath he has seen seemed to think it, so I have only had him on Daily Gold.  I had made a decision a few weeks back to try the Excel instead, and I guess it was good timing...but boy will I feel guilty if ulcers has always been it and I should have done this months ago!

Tuesday afternoon I spoke with the trainer we are scheduled to start working with on a private lesson basis this weekend... I told him about our recent bad days and we discussed postponing till I get him figured out, or continuing on.  He feels strongly towards ulcers as it seems an acute flare up of issues, and as we spoke he said something that set of a *bingo* in my head: "Most ulcers are episodic, but some horses just can't emotionally calm themselves causing it to be more chronic."  Hmmm.... maybe we are on to something here then?  We decided to go ahead with this weekend and assess his physical condition for work on Saturday together. He is kept the 'optimal way' for horses with ulcers anyway (24/7 pasture, no large grain meals) so all I can do is see if treatment gives relief.  I know this trainer has much experience in dealing with horses and physical issues so we will be able to assess if in fact he has thrown himself out of whack again and get that straightened out next if so.

So here we are it is now Thursday, which happens to be day 4 of the Excel at their performance/treatment dose.  DEC said many see improvement in 3-7 days, but it could also take up to 3 weeks on it alone.

Initial responses to the sore areas straight out of the field: a few dirty looks, but not trying to nip me or cow-kick.
Whether it is from the Excel or the stretching, I really don't know. I did not use tack at all today, just gave him his first dose of the omeprazole paste, groomed, let him have dinner, and then did some work in the round pen.

He was much more himself, and played with things again which brings me great relief...  We did some more brushing after and then I sat with him in the grass to graze a bit.

Tomorrow I am getting a Back on Track back pad in exchange for some hoof boots laying around :) I hear BOT products can really do wonders for horses (and people) and while I can't afford a sheet for him, this back pad can be used under a blanket, etc if I so choose, but my plan is to throw it on him while grooming, before and after work, to help relax his back.

So the next big update will be after our lesson/clinic this weekend... stay tuned!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

ice, hooves, and birthdays!

A week long recap...
Last Sunday was a nice enough day weather wise so Kayla & I took the boys for a trail walk.  Sprite (her TB) likes to think boogeymen are everywhere, so leave it to my trusty hiking buddy Prophecy to show him that trails can be relaxing and fun to wander!

Of course he acted like a dang toddler the whole time reaching out touch my shoulder, grab my hood, grab a twig or leaf ... silly thing. But, Sprite was fairly relaxed himself and we hope to continue on these walks together at least once a week.

Monday the storm rolled in...
And left us with some ice here at home, which cancelled the preschool and a 2hr delay for the county.  So I got a day home with Skyler to work - except we lost power right after my shower!  So, we ran around town and met Doug for lunch.  Then we had to pick up Asher from school because all after school activities were cancelled due to no power at his school as well! (they are only 2 miles from home)...I was finally able to get some work in late afternoon and have the kids watch some movies.

It was pretty while it was here; quickly melted and turned to mud ... Here are some pictures from our property romp with the kids early that morning.

Fortunately it did not dump on VA as much as they thought it would, so my long awaited appointment with a new farrier/trimmer was able to still happen Wednesday!  We have a plan to help Prophecy grow more hoof vertically instead of laterally, and I will learn how to keep up the trims in between.  I am now on the "schedule" for when she is in our area every 5 weeks and she has a thought for another more local guy that might be willing to become part of our team to keep his hooves functioning the best.  It was very interesting to have someone to explain the anatomy as we worked through the trim, and she made a few changes on the back hooves as well to see if it alleviates some of the lower back/hip 'lock-up'.  The WLD isn't as bad as I thought would be, and I will persevere with the white lightening on occasion and artimud to pack the gaps. It appears the area of concern on the right front outer quarter is more of an "anatomy thing" that isn't detrimental to him, just something to keep up on.  For now, no x-rays, and we will work to get his feet where we want them before putting shoes on.  No reason for shoes at the moment, as we can use the Scoot Boots for conditioning. Shoes will be for when we get to some competing - hopefully late summer or fall.
He gave her a run for her money on the back hooves, especially that back right he has always been sensitive over holding up.  She put up with his red-headed antics patiently and commented on his toddler like mentality... such an impatient guy who must keep that mouth busy!  Next time I think we will try the duct-tape trick on the nose and see if it occupies/entertains him a while!

Before...(not quite 5weeks post last trim)

All done

I decided to make it a round pen day for Prophecy.  He does pretty well, until I ask him to switch directions, then it we have a mis-communication for a bit on him thinking I want him to yield his hindquarters or back when really I'm just trying to send him off!  We worked through it, not our most successful day, but he knows how to lighten the mood.  I had left him to walk over in the sun as it was cooling down... I'm not sure if he was saying "I'm done, here's what I think of this" or "Hey, aren't we still going?"

Dragging the line to me

Happy St. Patrick's Day, Doug's 40th and Obi is 4!
After I was done with Prophecy I went back to work to decorate Doug's cube... I also had some help decorating a conference room for Friday morning and we pulled off a surprise breakfast for him.  We went out to lunch, and then he took the afternoon off to enjoy at home.  Then we had steak for dinner and enjoyed a Ben & Jerry's Cherry Garcia Ice Cream cake!

Obi & Asher relaxing

Sunday was Prophecy's birthday (9)!  I went out and rode a bit, just over 2 miles. First "ride" since we returned from Blackwater actually....and I wish I could say it was back to our old selves... While it generally went better - he got into a big fit of throwing the head and body around and refusing to go where asked nicely.  Eventually my patience of moving forward just a little a time, calmly without flailing about, got us to our end point.  I walked him back in and then made him work some more in the round pen after.  We ended on a good note and gave him some carrots to enjoy and a toy out in the field for a birthday treat.



So what is next for us? Well, I have an appointment with a trainer that was recommended by a few friends about an hour away to do two 1/2 day private lessons/clinics starting this coming weekend. I'm hoping to figure out what the holes are that we need to fix and how to work through them myself with him.  If things go well with that, my hope it is to go to Bull Run trail ride with him at the end of April which is 3 days of riding for fun, and would be good mental and physical work for him - if he can handle it.  If not, well then we wait to do something else later.  I will get this figured out!