Monday, November 30, 2009

I still don't think it's his Hooves

So the trimmer came to work on Rugby's hooves yesterday. He and his wife listened as I explained everything about Rugby's slight unsoundness. The trimmer (who I'll call A.M.) went with me as I walked to the paddock to bring Rugby in for his trim. He followed us up the gravel driveway and watched Rugby walk. There was no indication that the rocks were bothering my horse. He was not bobbing his head at all at the walk and striding right up into his front hoof mark as he walked. A.M. said if there was any foot soreness or tenderness, the gravel should have brought it out, even just at the walk.

We discussed possibilites of a stone bruise. I told him that the best I could trace it back to was that lunging session 2 weeks ago where the horse got rambunctious and I thought he may have strained something further up the leg. I also mentioned how I noticed the soreness seemed worse when working in the deeper, sand arena than when on the harder blue stone footing. A.M. said he felt quite sure that I was on to something as a horse who is footsore should be more sore on hard ground and yet he seemed better there. A muscle soreness would definitely be more aggravated when pulling the leg through deeper sand footing. As A.M. cleaned Rugby's hooves in preparation for trimming, he remarked on the huge amount of growth that had occurred since he was trimmed 5 weeks ago and he also would carefully check the balance of the hooves. And then he set to work.

My horse grows the bars of his hooves and the wall like crazy. The bars were forming deep ridges by the time he was to be trimmed. A.M. said there was obviously good circulation to the hooves here. There were no signs of bruising as he trimmed the foot and the amount of growth was also an excellent sign. My horse has no hoof cracks and the pronounced flaring he had when A.M. first started trimming him have been greatly reduced and balanced. He did note that before trimming, Rugby's right front toe was more worn down that his left. That told that there was a definite change in his gait and was consistent with my noticing he's more sound to the left than to the right. There was no reaction, tenderness or heat in either front hoof while being worked on. Also a good sign.

So in conclusion, we both felt strongly the problem was not coming from his hooves. A.M. explained that there are so many times when someone sees a horse is barefoot and there is something wrong with the horses' gait, the knee-jerk response is to put shoes on the horse. And that may mask the symptoms for a while but it does not solve the problem. We both decided that if we were to see if the issues were coming from the hooves, boots would be the next step. We measured him for boots and while there are very few options available for big, warmblood feet, Easyboot makes a size 5 that should fit him nicely.

I took the Big Guy out to lunge and ride in the blue stone arena after A.M. left. I was curious to see if there was any difference - good or bad - after the trimming. My conclusion was this:

- Rugby walked sound on both sides.
- He lunged sound to the left at the trot
- he lunged at the trot to the right with very slight, only occasional head nodding
- He rode sound in both directions at the walk.
- He trotted sound under saddle on the long straight sides of the arena in both directions.
- He trotted sound under saddle to the left and almost sound to the right on the turns into the short sides of the arena.
- there did not seem to be any difference in wear to the toes of either hoof after work.

In all, the condition has been slowly progressing to better. It certainly has not gotten worse, even after the trimming. I think the Big Guy strained something and has needed the time to just heal through it. He's not walking out of the stall or from standing for awhile as sore as he was a week ago. I'm going to keep him on the rest/light work/watchful eye regimen for another week and see where we are at by next weekend. I'm curious to see how he is when I go to check on him this evening after work and dinner.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Oh Sheet!

Well, it was windy and cold here yesterday and most of today. So I figured it was time to see if the sheet I bought off Ebay would fit the Big Guy. When I measured him a little over a month ago, he was an 84. Great - all of my horse clothing is a size 80. (I now have bunch of sheets and blankets soon to be available for sale if you are in need of a size 80 and interested.)

I found a nice simple size 84 sheet for less than $45.00 with free shipping! It is red on the top half and black on the bottom with black trim. I thought it would look smashing on Mr. Black and White. Last night was the night to see what he'd do with it. His former owner had mentioned that she blanketed him but I didn't know how well he tolerated wearing one. He watched me unfold if and I let him sniff it all over as I slowly eased it on his back and spread it over him. I fastened all the buckles and took him for a walk outside in the wind so he could get used to it rustling on him. He very quickly got comfortable wearing it.

So I crossed my fingers when I left that he'd wear it through the night and not shred it after I left or somehow magically remove it from his body without undoing the buckles (seriously, I knew of a horse with this amazing talent!). When I went to work with him tonight, there he was, all cozy in his clothes and not a tear or mark on them. So far so good!

Rugby was just about sound tonight, even trotting. I even rode at the walk for awhile. Tomorrow the trimmer is scheduled to come and I'm hoping we get an answer or a solution.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

To Be Thankful

Wishing all in the blogosphere a Happy Thanksgiving. Even if it's not a holiday you celebrate, we all have something to be thankful for. It may only be a small something or a positive that has to be seen past an unfortunate circumstance but there is good to be found if you try.

I'm thankful for my family, such as we are. I'm thankful to have a job, a home and some of life's little extras. Speaking of which, I'm thankful to have found my horse, Rugby. Our partnership was not exactly what I hoped for from the start but seems to be blossoming into the earliest beginning of what I hoped for and maybe more.

I fit in some horse time early this afternoon. Just some groundwork before heading back to the chaos at home. Rugby was a lot better today. Sound at the walk, and trotting to the left. Just slightly ouchy trotting to the right. Will see if the weather lets me try a bit of light riding tomorrow. We had fun stepping up on the catwalk with just his front feet only, then asking him to carefully step back off, then up on again. He was licking and chewing the entire time I did this with him and really seemed to like this game. I could see him thinking this one through as we did it!

Today I also decided to test Rugby's clipper tolerance. I've been too chicken to try using the clippers on him since I bought him but after the plastic bag exercise, I felt empowered to go for it. He stood like a statue with his rope halter and lead on as I trimmed his muzzle, ears and bridlepath. I was so happy to see that his ears were no issue! I didn't have an extension cord so trimming his front fetlocks was not easy. That and the fact that my blades are getting dull. I didn't do a great job but the point was more to see how he would react to clippers and it was another test he passed.

So, I'm going to go hang out and relax off this belly full of turkey. A Happy day to all!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Still not Sound, but we did Groundwork anyway.

I went to the barn last night to do some kind of training with Rugby. It was already almost 8:00PM so it was going to be groundwork. Besides, I wanted to see how his gimpiness situation was doing too.

On the way out the door I grabbed a couple of plastic grocery shopping bags. I figured it might be fun to play with him with these and see what he did. I was pleased to see when he led out of the stall he wasn't as ouchy as he had been so I hoped for the best. I picked his hooves and gave him a fast curry and brush, then changed to his rope halter and lunge and went out to the arena behind the barn.

Rugby seemed like he just wanted to stay in his stall. He balked 2 times when I led him out the door and then gave a sigh and followed me out. I rubbed his head and promised him it would be a short, easy and fun training session. Rugby lazily followed me around as I pulled one ground pole out, then flanked it with a white resin lawn chair on each end. Being careful to turn the chairs so the lunge would slide smoothly over the arms and not get caught in the molded lip around the edge of the chair, I sent him out at a walk and lunged him over the pole between the chairs.

He seemed a little more interested and didn't hesitate to stroll over the pole and through the chairs. He was walking well but as soon as I asked to trot, he trotted off reluctantly and very slowly into this half-hearted jog and I could see he was ouchy. Okay, this night's training would just be done at the walk. So then I kept lunging through the chairs, changing direction and closing the gap between the chairs each time we changed. I had the chairs 3 feet apart and he just aimed himself for the middle and walked through. I was happy with that - so was he.

Then I led him through some jump standards that were about 3 feet apart at the posts and only 18 inches apart at the base. He lowered his head down, looked at the squeeze and carefully followed me right through. Nice to know this big horse has no issues with narrow places.

I tried trotting again in a different part of the ring and nope, he still wasn't quite right so I let that go. Then we led across the catwalk. That's become his new favorite exercise. This time I halted him about 1/3rd of the way across. He seemed surprised that I asked him to stop and actually had a look of anticipation on his face. Then I gently touched his shoulder and asked him to step back, without stepping off the catwalk. He carefully took a step and then 2 more for me and I released and let him walk forward. I stopped again just before the end and backed him 3 steps. Perfect. So I let him walk off the ramp and gave him big praise and let him just hang out for a minute or two after that.

Then I reached into my pocket and changed the string on my training stick for the plastic bags. Rugby perked up and watched me attach the bags to the loop on the end of the stick. I stepped back and let him sniff the bag on the stick. He seemed mildly interested at best. I then proceeded to touch him with the bag, first on the shoulder, then down the legs then across his back then back to the shoulder. All he did was roll his eyes and look at the bag but the feet never moved. I just did this for a few seconds and released by stopping touching him with the bag and giving him a neck rub with my hand.

We played with the bag and the stick for about 10-15 minutes. He seemed to find it mildly amusing. He never flinched or spooked. I was passing the bag between the hind legs, over his head, under his tail - nothing. I waved the stick and fluttered the bag over his head - nothing. I took it off the stick and threw it at him - nothing. Then I just took the bag in my hand and "groomed" him with it by rubbing his face, ears, legs and body. Nothing.

Okay, so this horse seems not to give a rat's tail about plastic bags. Rugby is so different so far from most horses I've met. Things that should scare him, generally don't. I see such potential for him as the field hunter I hope he will one day become. Now to get this soundness thing straightened out.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

But I Like my Horse Barefoot

What do you say when you want to keep your horse barefoot(unshod) and you are getting the, "I think he needs shoes up front" suggestion. My horse has been barefoot since I bought him last March. In the beginning my trimmer had work to do to correct the poor trimming my horse came with and get past some minor cracks and flares as they grew out.

At this time his hooves look the best yet. However, in the last 2 weeks, he has been showing an "ouchiness" when led from his stall or if he moves when he's been standing for awhile. There are no cracks. The walls look strong. The frogs have been shedding a lot and the crevices on each side of the frog are kind of deep but there seems to be no tenderness. No bad thrush, although the paddocks have been very wet from the weather we've been having.

I have watched Rugby as I do groundwork with him and once he's moving he seems to work out of it. Occasionally he seems more uncomfortable going over deep footing or uneven ground or he'll take a misstep if he steps on a rock or twig. The best I can do to trace it back is about 2 weeks ago I took him out to do lunging and groundwork in the polo arena and he was feeling very fresh and in his antics on the line I get the feeling he may have overexerted himself and strained something higher up in the limb. There's no heat or swelling anywhere below the knees. Maybe it's a stone bruise to the hoof?

It hasn't gotten worse than what it is. In fact, he gets a lot of time off during the week and it seems a little better. I figured if he strained something, rest is the best thing for it so I let him hang out. When I worked with him this weekend, I tried lunging/riding him in the blue stone ring behind the barn which has harder but more level footing than the polo arena and he seemed to be moving better on that ground than in the softer sand footing of the polo arena. Hmmm...

The barn manager asked me this weekend if I noticed his gimpiness. I told him yes and that it seems to be getting better. Then he told me the vet noticed it too when they were floating Rugby's teeth last week and he thought maybe I should put shoes on Rugby. That maybe his feet are tender from the wet ground and the shoes will give him support. I listened, said thanks and yes I will consider it. My hoof trimmer is scheduled to come work on Rugby's hooves this Sunday. I want to talk to him about it first and see if he notices anything unusual with the feet and if Rugby is better or worse after the trim.

I want to keep the big guy barefoot. Not just because it's less expensive but because he's got good hooves for it and because I'm not convinced that shoes are the "fix" for this. I was always a shoe advocate but I've had my eyes opened to the benefits of barefoot. If I felt that his hooves were not adapting well to being unshod, I would have him on shoes already. Winter is upon us and my training time is impacted by the weather and footing conditions. Rugby will be getting a lot of hanging out time. I'd like to let him stay barefoot, just leave it alone and see where it goes. The horse isn't being asked to compete or even do more than walk/trot when worked.

Has anyone else had a situation like this, where you are being told you should go back to shoes and you just don't feel that's the answer? I want to trust my 35+ years of horseman's intuition on this one but would like to hear from you if you have had a similar circumstance and what the outcome was for you.