Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Boats are holes in the water into which you throw money

My husband told me the title of this post a few weeks ago, shortly after Yoshi went lame. It's not so much a knock on my spending; we split our shared costs proportional to our respective incomes and then keep our own separate accounts with no judgements. It is however an exclamation on the immense expense that comes with keeping horses sound. Yoshi's soundness challenges come close on the heels of euthanizing my mare. This whole mis-adventure over the past 1.5 honestly has me thinking about quitting altogether. Right after Zinger died I wasn't sure if I would own a horse again. I'd had him for 15 years, loving another horse as mine seemed so foreign. I gave away his blankets. I kept his bridle and his grooming supplies as well as my helmet, boots, half chaps etc. I eagerly sold his saddle. I had no attachment to that and bought it while I was poor and in school. I hated it, but he was picky and he loved it. I tearfully cleaned the brushes and his bridle and packed them up with my boots and other gear into my tack trunk.  And when we moved a few months later, I packed it all into the moving van and then unloaded the whole trunk into our spare bedroom. And there it sat.

Right after Zinger's death I started running a lot more often. Since running competitively in high school I had become a very casual runner. I hadn't worn a watch since high school and usually ran 1-4 times a week, no more than 3-4 miles at a time. After he died I ran to cope. And I ran to fill my time. Turns out you have a lot of free time if you eliminate 3 hour barn trips 4-5 days a week. I was running almost every day, taking more day trips with my husband, and visiting family and friends much more often. But I still found myself searching for riding lessons with people with lesson horses. I didn't have a particularly easy time finding a place, most lesson barns in this area teach kids up-down lessons or teach people on their own horses. Because while I was ready to see a horse again, I was not anywhere near ready to own. Finally I found a trainer who had a couple of horses that could be used for lessons. I had a happy 6 months with weekly lessons with her. Then Leila fell into my lap. I hung all my hopes and dreams on her. I finally had money and time to take lessons consistently, to go to shows, to haul myself and friends to trail rides. That fell apart in the worst, catastrophic fashion I accepted pre-accident she wasn't going to be the forever horse who helped me accomplish my dressage goals, but I thought she would LOVE to be a kids pony club horse who did a beginner novice event one weekend and played mounted games pony the next. Instead she got to be none of those things. While she was trying to heal, I was lucky enough to ride a lovely warmblood mare who had been sitting for 3 years. She was absolutely phenomenal and looked like she could be the horse I could get serious about dressage on before searching for another horse of my own. Instead she damaged a rear medial oblique sesamoidean ligament in January. Exactly what the damage was is still unclear, but it didn't look like a good injury to come back from. She will hopefully heal enough to be sound for her owner who wants to occasionally walk or trot her around a field for 10 minutes, but she is unlikely to be sound enough to do any sort of serious work again. This pushed me to speed up my horse hunt. And the rest is basically detailed here already.

Yoshi makes horse number 3 in just about 6 months that is not sound. It's strange because unlike most of my years of owning Zinger, I actually have disposable income now. Zinger and I strung along while I was in school - I ate about $50/month of groceries so he could have his alfalfa hay. The barn owner let me work off most of my board and even was kind enough to let me increase the work when I could and when I needed to like when my car needed new tires. Yoshi can have whatever he needs that makes him sound. But he still isn't. I realize this is all premature, he may yet be sound when we get his feet straightened out. But there's still some effusion in his front left fetlock that has a little voice going in the back of my head. And I'm not really a voice in the back of my head kinda person, y'know? I'm one of those annoying "If anything can go well, it will" bumper sticker (no I don't actually have one) type of people. I don't tend to worry about things until they're actually a thing. I just have a gut feeling this is not going to turn out well. I'm sure that gut feeling has been shaped by the negative experiences since Zinger's death in 2018, but it still has me considering different... hobbies? lifestyles? life options? I'm not sure what to call horses. Riding is more than a hobby, more than a sport. 

I feel like if I quit I'd get drawn back in eventually after the heartache ages a bit. But I'm not sure. The practical side of me says that if I sold the truck and trailer and quit dumping money into vets, farriers, board, and supplements, that we could do those renovations on our house much sooner. We could take more vacations. We could save for an early retirement. I'm not sure what I would do with myself though - start identifying as a "runner" instead of a "horse person"? Acquire more cats? Pick up a new sport or hobby? Knitting? There's surely no emotional roller coaster in knitting. And while yarns can certainly be pretty expensive, they don't hold a candle to the amount I've spent in the past two months on Yoshi.

Pico princess says "F you, don't you dare get more cats. I am all you need."

Monday, March 29, 2021

Happy 7th Birthday!!

Today is Yoshi's 7th birthday! I'm so excited partially because I actually know his birthday. I knew my first horse's b-day since he was a registered Appaloosa, but I had no idea on Leila and Zinger. I had grand plans to bake him an oat and apple cake, but I worked all weekend and work the next four days as well, so those grand plans went by the wayside. Instead I picked out a cherry pop tart, a cinnamon bun, powdered sugar donuts, and an oatmeal cream pie for him at the gas station on my way out to the barn this morning. While he tasted all the things, he was not a fan of any of them. He tried a second bite of the pop tart, but then vetoed it. He and my friend's horse, also a 7 year old thoroughbred, spit most of the treats out on the aisle. And then tried the crumbs again multiple times... hoping they had somehow become tastier with barn aisle dirt on them? Fortunately some of the other horses in the barn were more than happy to eat the rejected treats. I had remembered to bring out carrots, so he got two of those and then a nice hand graze with my friend's horse. 

They're so cute together

He definitely does not fit this halter... such a dainty face! 

Friday, March 26, 2021

Saddle time

Yoshi continues trucking along with clicker training. I discovered he is much crankier about his right side. I suspect this is an OTTB thing, but it also could be just him. 

Side note, I hate when people assume that every dog that is afraid of things has been abused, so I'm trying not to assume that every weird quirk in Yoshi is an OTTB thing. Seriously on the dogs, my own dog that is now my dad's dog is terrified of almost everything. Do I think she was ever hit? No. She doesn't react to a hand raised or even accidental boops with the foot that happen when living with a dog. I do think she spent her formative years in a backyard with no socialization and no exposure to normal things like cars (driving past her and riding in), music, etc. This makes her really reactive to anything new or loud. 

Anyways, back to the horse. We have made progress with politely standing in a relaxed fashion, and he continues to want to come out to play each time, quickly engaging with me now instead of wandering the round pen looking for scraps or staring at other horses. I started asking him to yield both sides of his body with a nudge just behind the girth area. Left side no problem, right side ears pinned and swinging his head at me. I had to adjust to be a lot less picky about it to begin with, not waiting for inside hind crossing in front of outside, just rewarding any movement away from the pressure. Today we started to finesse the movement a bit, rewarding the actual crossing over I was initially looking for. He also primarily wants to stand on my right side (with his left side to me) when I am rewarding relaxed, attentive, head straight behavior. I flipped the treat pouch to the other side of my hip and tried using my other hand to give treats to make sure it wasn't me being uneven, but nope, he feels more comfortable and confident with me on his left. So I'm trying to pay attention to evening that out and working both sides equally.

I did get some saddle time in this week. His old owner generously let me come out and ride one of the horses at her barn on Tuesday. It was a lot of fun and turned into a mini lesson after I let her slip out of the second jump in a line. Several good tidbits: 

  • Hands in front of shoulders, always - said after I was lamenting my leaning/jumping ahead and lack of release
  • If you don't correct the run out she won't even know that she has done the wrong thing - I let her loop back around the ring and approach the jump a second time rather than stopping and circling in the direction of the runout. I know better, but I was so much to blame for letting it happen to begin with that I didn't want to correct too strongly. 
  • Get the bend on small walk circles, making sure she can yield her jaw and neck both directions. Then move it up into trot. 
She was very big on correcting things as they happened. Not letting the mare go around too quick at the trot or on the wrong lead. Overall a pretty interesting and educational ride. I really liked the mare, she was quite willing and smooth. 

I rode with her again yesterday, this time on a training level eventer whose owner might be interested in a trade for a horse like Yoshi. This was a very interesting lesson/ride to me. We started out okay at the walk and trot, but I wasn't demanding enough of him - not enough round, not enough forward. Once we addressed that, we moved on to the canter, the gait that I apparently cannot ride. This is not a this horse problem, this is a me problem. It starts with the canter transition during which I want to flop around like a fish out of water. The best advice I've gotten on this was actually very simple "Don't stop riding during the transition." For whatever reason I stop asking them to stay round, stop asking them to stay forward and just try to chase them into it. I'm not sure why. Zinger's canter transition was a very simple sit, squeeze up with the inside leg. And he did it beautifully. I'm not sure if his was so easy that when that same move doesn't instantly get a canter transition I panic and start monkeying around doing useless things?? We got a few transitions that were better after doing a lot of trot-canter-walk-trot-canter-walk/halt. I have an easier time with walk-canter because I don't start uselessly chasing the horse into the canter from the walk, but she picked up on this and made me ride them from the trot. Once in the canter the horse wanted to pop up and down instead of going forward. This made me stiffen and drive with my seat which drove his back further down, shockingly. More leg, less inside rein. When I could figure out how to use my outside rein and not pull on the inside, especially not the left, it went much better. This is so remedial as I type this out, but damn if I don't have to keep learning it over and over again. 

We also worked a good bit in two point which was fun. For galloping cross country: up in two point, shorten reins, press hands into sides of neck further ahead of shoulders. To half-halt bring shoulders back slightly, leave hands where they are, support with leg. Going over fences you just shift back slightly 6-8 strides out. When you do this without changing rein length you will be shortening the reins and compressing them which you need to do to jump well. Coming up to down banks and ditches you give some rein so they can drop their head and look, but you widen your hand as well to funnel to avoid any side to side attempts to duck out. To see this all demonstrated while she was sitting on one of her sales horses was neat. It all works together so you're not constantly shortening and lengthening reins. 

Next week I'm going back out to an eventing trainer I rode with most consistently about 1.5 years ago, next week. We did weekly lessons for a while until I got my mare and ended up boarding at a different barn. She always picks apart my position and bad habits, and I am excited for her to do that next week. I was hoping to get some time in on my friend's gelding this weekend while she is out of town, but unfortunately he is lame right now, probably feet as well. 

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

WW: Manatee

Brief explanation for those not from Florida... Our waterways are often home to the West Indian Manatee. These "sea cows" are lovely and unfortunately slow moving creatures. This means they often get hit by the propellers on boats in the area and end up with scars. You rarely see a manatee without scars across their back. My friend made this comparison, and I cannot stop giggling about it. 

Monday, March 22, 2021


Progress on several fronts today. First we worked on jogging in hand - it was embarrassing when the farrier asked to see him trot last week and I couldn't get him to trot in hand. I think part of that was just how sore he was, but part of it was lack of training. We started out with a dressage whip today until I got a "yes ma'am" from just a cluck and me starting to jog. Although I clearly was not jogging to assess lameness, I at least didn't feel/see him majorly head bobbing beside me. So there is that. 

Casted on clog 

A little bit of the dental molding is visible between his heel bulbs there. You can also see just how much material there is between his foot and the ground. 

Bottom view with the casting material at the edge. The plastic base is visible although dirty. 

Magical clogs. He also started his gelatin today. Hopefully in 5 weeks we will have more foot. It's weird not being able to see part of his foot, although looking at these pictures, I can at least look for new growth from the top (and make myself crazy doing so...). I guess weekly progress pictures wouldn't hurt, what's a little chunk of my google storage space. 

We also had our first clicker training session where he seemed to really get it. He was much more interested in playing this time from the start. He understood that head straight in front of his body but paying attention led to a good stream of click-treat. A few more sessions like this and we can hopefully move back to the actual target. 

Grooming was also much more pleasant today, no pinned ears. He's also mostly healing from his huge number of bite marks, which is probably helping his attitude. He does have one new wound - a puncture just dorsal to his right eye. I'm not sure if he got bit there or if he found some errant piece of fence to stab himself. He was a very good boy and let me hose it off and apply swat near it. My friend checked on him over the weekend for me and reported that it looked much better today, so at least we're headed in the right direction. Good to hear because it is very close to his eye and makes me a little twitchy. In addition to being good for grooming and wound treating, he tolerated camp kids running up to him and petting his face, shoulder, and barrel (before I nixed the first and last). I groomed him in the outside wash rack to start, but brought him into the barn aisle to keratex his hind feet and take pictures of the fronts. I thought the camp kids were all outside riding or watching the other group ride, but he got ambushed by a few. The kids got a lesson in asking before approaching strange horses and then in horse facial expressions and body language. He was overall pretty good, mostly thought they should feed him treats since that's what they had been doing with the other horses. I shooed them away before we could run out of kitty minutes, his and mine. It makes me nervous to be responsible for children around a horse that I don't trust completely. This camp is only a week, but last summer there were about 3 weeks straight of camp with kids there from 8 AM - 4 PM. Weee!! I usually tried to get in and out by the time they were getting started for the day. Helps that it was about 80 degrees by 8 and 90 degrees by 10, extra motivation to get done early. 

Friday, March 19, 2021

In Loving Memory

Zinger: He was my heart and soul, my rock for 15 years. He was there through my parents divorce, undergrad, professional school, and for a half a year of my first real career. He was the horse that was better than I ever deserved. I don't think I'm just being an overly proud owner when I say anyone who ever met this horse loved him. He was a large dog in a horses body. In addition to being the most chill horse I have ever met, he was extraordinary talented and well trained. Before I got him he competed through prelim. He injured a back suspensory and was given to my instructor's daughter. When she stopped riding him, I bought him from my instructor. We went to a Peter Gray clinic at the farm he came from and the person who gave him away commented "If I knew he was going to come back like this I wouldn't have given him away." He was effortlessly correct and lovely in his dressage. Other than our first show together, he never scored below a 65%. We competed through second level together. If we had been together during a time of my life with more money and time, he could have done so much more. He allowed me to feel passage and piaffe during my dressage lessons. His collective remarks on tests were always so complimentary, and he routinely got 9s on his stretchy circles. But he wasn't just a dressage horse, he did everything. He stopped at a jump once, ever, in the entire 15 years I had him. I fell off and immediately started crying. Not because I fell, but because I was so afraid of what was wrong with my horse. Turns out he hated the saddle I was trying that day. Usually his move was to turn into a wildebeest and hollow, but that day, that was the way he expressed it. Completely understandable, but just a testament to his willingness the rest of the time. We never competed above 3'6" so I never tested the limits of his scope, but I could screw up and put him in any spot and he would jump. During one clinic the instructor had us all walk our horses up to a painted stone wall with a lot of contrast. He wouldn't go closer than about ten feet, but when we cantered towards it he went and jumped the hell out of it. He never said no to any jump, any adventure, any question that was asked. 

He also trail rode solo, went on hand walks with my relatively non horsey husband while on stall rest for a ligament injury, and gave pony rides to my dad's girlfriend's grandkids. He was everything I could have ever asked for in a horse and more. He didn't mind our various moves and always greeted me with a bright eyed, ears pricked face over the stall door or pasture fence. He died suddenly when he was 25. He was fine in the morning, chasing the other horses off of their breakfast, and was dead in the early afternoon. Just down in the pasture with no signs of a struggle or flailing. I hadn't imagined that ending to our story.  I'd imagined a surgical colic that I wouldn't put him through at his age or a slow decline, but not a sudden, unexplained end without time to say goodbye, to thank him for everything. I've realized over time it probably was the way he would have wanted it though. We still went for rides. I'd even jumped him up the small bank at the barn a few weeks prior and he tried to gallop and buck afterwards. He was still in charge in the pasture. He never struggled to stand after rolling. And that's the way he left the world. I owe nearly everything about my riding to him. He was so simple, so correct, so honest, and so giving. Without him I wouldn't have met some of my best friends. I got to share him with a few special people; one friend jumped him sometimes while struggling with lameness with her horse, another was his second mama who would trail ride him when he was sound and hand walk him when he was recovering from his injury. I got to spend 15 wonderful years as his person. I'm still heartbroken it wasn't more, but 15 years of that goodness and love seems pretty generous. 

Leila: Leila did not get dealt the cards she deserved in life. I started working with her in September 2019. She had been neglected in a field. I say neglected because she was skinny and unkempt, but not abused. She trusted people and loved them. She flourished on attention and loved being doted on. I unknowingly started her under saddle in a bareback pad on trails. And she was fine. No fuss, no carrying on, just figuring out what the person was asking. She took to jumping the same way, once she realized what was being asked, she just said "yes ma'am" every time. Over the summer at the end of a hot jump lesson, she stumbled and summersaulted about 3 strides after a jump. And when she went down she stayed down. Thank goodness she didn't fall on me, but she really hurt her neck when she fell. She took a while to stand because she couldn't move her head and neck well to balance. It wasn't until I walked away to put my saddle on a nearby jump, after I managed to get it off of her, that she stood. We had her neck x-rayed after to check for fractures. Fortunately they didn't see any. Unfortunately x-rays showed moderate to marked cervical osteoarthritis. In a horse that hadn't been ridden until the previous fall. The best I can figure, she had some kind of pasture accident that left her with significant arthritis as a young horse. It all made sense then though. I'd felt like she'd had difficulty flexing her neck. Other people had told me she was just green and needed more time and training. But she was so willing in everything else, the unwillingness to flex side to side and ventrally didn't fit. I still feel guilty for continuing to ask that of her without better investigating it. I was concerned enough that something was wrong that I had a chiropractor out. The chiropractor didn't like the way her teeth had been floated and said we couldn't work on her neck until her incisors got floated again, so she'd never even assessed her neck.

Post-accident, Leila never went back into work. I tried to slowly rehab her, but she was persistently weak and neurologic behind. People suggested making her a trail horse but I couldn't do that to her. She was the sweetest, most willing horse, and I knew from her rehab and starting her under saddle in general that she wouldn't express pain in a way that would make most people listen. Added to that, my husband has had a disc replaced in his neck and can speak to the daily pain of cervical arthritis. So I made the very difficult decision to euthanize her. We stuffed her full of carrots and laid her to rest on the farm of the friend who rescued her from the field. Parts of her story still haunt me, but I know the end was right for her. Euthanasia is taking their pain and making it ours.  Rest easy sweet Leila girl. You deserved better than this world gave you. 

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Relationship classes

The silver lining of Yoshi's lameness is that we definitely need some help and time building our relationship on the ground. Under saddle he is an extremely uncomplicated, straight forward horse. Ask and you shall receive. This was our second ride together, going over a small course over jumps he had not seen before. 

When I brought him home he was dancey-prancey in the crossties and while getting tacked up. Once on? All business. Steering was just fine, and he was walking, trotting, and cantering when asked. My friend rode him during the week I was out of town right after getting him on trial - she said the first day she didn't ride him because he worried her with his antics in the crossties. The second day she got on him and said he felt like a much more trained horse than she had anticipated. 

He works hard to understand new concepts - when we introduced leg yielding in my dressage lesson we started down the centerline and asked for a leg yield. Leading outside rein, soft inside rein just to maintain bend, and then inside leg. Faster walk. I half halted and applied inside leg. Faster again. Half halt again and then a "bump bump bump" with the inside leg and lo and behold we moved sideways. The next centerline he moved sideways with the first application of inside leg. 

On the ground? Well, I'm not quite sure. He started out basically not letting me groom basically behind his shoulder. He would pin his ears, swing his head, and dance. I attributed a lot of it to half of him being raw skin from getting bit by his pasture mate. Unfortunately even with new pasture buddies and now multiple changes in them, this seems to be his perpetual state of being. Having watched him antagonize other, more dominant horses, I am unsurprised. I switched to using only the tiger's tongue grooming block (brush? scrub?) on him instead of even a jelly curry. This seemed to be mostly okay. We even had one day where he actually started to relax and enjoy getting groomed. His lower lip went floppy and his eyes were half closed. Since then we have ups and downs. Right after starting 24/7 turnout, he seemed genuinely happy to get groomed all over. Since then he has gone back to occasionally swinging his head at me and picking up hind legs. Now that I'm thinking about it, maybe that was because the first day I came back into town he hadn't been groomed in a week. Might've been kind of itchy and therefore more tolerant than usual. 

I don't want to force things on him that make him physically uncomfortable. But at the same time, expressing feelings by swinging your head with your mouth open is not acceptable in my book. I've been trying to strike a fine balance - I listen and watch basically the whole time I'm grooming. If he starts to look uncomfortable, I switch from the brush to just gentle stroking with my hand. Trying to establish that he has to allow touching everywhere, but it doesn't have to be uncomfortable. However, trying to keep an eye on him while grooming all the parts of him is more challenging than it sounds. And it turns grooming into a fully focused activity. I can't chat with anyone while I'm grooming him or I stop paying close enough attention to his signs and end up with a horse who looks like he'd like to take a chunk out of me. 

I clicker trained my mare before him starting with target training. She thought the game was fantastic and quickly figured it out, including the keep your head to yourself part. Yoshi thinks the game is fantastic and also thinks that mauling my hands and the treat bag are part of it. I started both of them in the same way - target near the face, when the nose bumps click and then treat with head straight forward. Yoshi gets the target part, but then the head straight forward is really challenging. I am obviously the main problem here, my timing is not good enough to click and also give the treat to him only when he is straight forward and relaxed. My mare made the whole thing much easier, but she had a much sweeter disposition. The difference either coming from their different backgrounds or natural dispositions, which is unclear at this point. So I've taken a step back now and started trying to JUST reward the relaxed behavior, target removed all together. He is only vaguely interested in engaging with me when it is challenging for him to figure out the question he is being asked. I'm hoping more engagement will come as we get to know each other and as he learns what is being asked. 

His pasture backs up to the barn, and as far as I can tell, he spends the whole time he is out by himself during the day (he gets friends at night) bothering the horses through the backs of their stalls. He started out with his head in the stall of another young TB who mostly loved to chat with him, but he has now moved on to the older gelding who belongs to the barn owner and has zero desire to constantly have company in his stall, even if it is just a head and neck. They squeal and charge at each other over the door. Yoshi has actually started pulling his head out of the stall to stare at me as I walk up though, the first sign of interest that he's shown. It does help that right now basically everything, other than grooming, that we do together right now is definitely positive and fun. Hand walk to good grass? Excellent. Clicker train while in the round pen? Still excellent, there's usually grass to pick at and hay scraps in there even if the clicker training isn't super fun. Get put back in field? Excellent, here comes lunch of soaked alfalfa cubes. 

I'm sure we will get to the easy-going positive relationship at some point, it is just interesting and confusing to me how he is a whole different horse on the ground. Even after establishing leg yields under saddle, a request to step his butt over on the ground was met with ears pinned and tail swishing. Strange stuff. I'm curious to look back on this post in a few months and hopefully see big changes to things! 

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Not quite your dancing shoes

Yoshi got set up in some new shoes today. Although calling them shoes is a huge understatement. They are... Multi-layer engineering feats? His wedges were removed and a pathetically small amount of foot was trimmed up. Granted it had only been 4 weeks since he was last done because I wanted him out of the wedges ASAP, but still... The barn dogs were tres disappointed in the pickings.  

Then the magic started making his clogs. I'm realizing now I have likely just lucked out over the past 20 years of horse ownership, but I had never seen clogs before, and I had never seen a shoe casted on. I wish I had taken pictures, but I was too busy simultaneously gawking and trying to keep Yoshi compliant. It's a fine line, he actually does best just cross tied most of the time. But at certain times he needed to be held or very carefully fed treats. When I'm right in front of him he starts to nuzzle, nudge, and occasionally use his teeth on various parts of me. Hence cross ties working better most of the time. But when the farrier was buffing the outside of the hoof or actually applying the casting material he needed single treats fed very slowly in order to stand very still and not yank his foot away. He actually got an A+ from this farrier with the comment that he had been the smoothest application of clogs ever. Yay baby horse! This is why you're worth all this expense and heartache so soon into our journey together. Not that standing can't be taught, but it really speaks to his mind and personality that he is this way just 5 months after his last race and without ever really having this skill taught. 

Back to the shoes... I guess clogs are traditionally made of plywood (probably why they're called clogs), but Yoshi's were made of this neat plastic. It is used for manufacturing and shipping containers apparently. After the tiny bit of trimming, his foot was set on the plastic and traced. That tracing was then cut out with a saw and a leather wedge pad was added. This allows the angle of P3 to be corrected with as little actual pressure on his heel as possible. His sole was cleaned, treated with durasole, and then some other material was applied, I forgot to ask what that was. This whole contraption then was glued and casted on. The farrier said he had a paper thin hoof wall and that's why he was using the glue and cast. I wish I had taken a picture because the wall really was ridiculously thin. I don't know enough about feet to pick up on subtleties so I wasn't expecting much when I picked his foot up to look while the farrier cut the plastic, but even I could easily see that the wall was insanely thin. I'm honestly not sure how the shoes he had on stayed on. And I understand why the set before that had 9 nails per foot. Before putting the clog on, the farrier pressed dental molding into his frog and the clefts of his feet. This firms up to something that feels like gum that has been chewed on for a while- strong enough to provide support but soft enough to hopefully not make him more sore. In order to do the cast he had to wet the casting material and then wrap it over the clog onto the foot. This was all then wrapped in plastic wrap for a few minutes while the cast hardened. 

His hind feet were just trimmed up. He has more wall and more heel on them, but the farrier still felt once he started working more he would probably need hind shoes as well. Yoshi was still mildly lame after his new shoes, but much better than he had been just 1.5 hours before in his old shoes.

He said next time we'd "try to get him in something a little more practical". So we shall see what that looks like and cross our fingers for hoof growth between now and then. I started him on biotin 3 days ago and the farrier recommended gelatin, so I ordered that. Can't hurt, might help, and given the cost of all the x-rays and these shoes, what is another $20 per month?? After 3 cycles we're going to recheck rads and see what kind of progress we're making. 

I leave you with these sad foot pictures... 

The worst one. Sad, non-existent heel. 

And the official lameness begins!

Roughly... 3 days after making it official, Shidoshi went lame. On his left front, the one with the hard swelling just below his fetlock joint. Funny enough, the night before I'd received the official rad report from rads of that fetlock taken in November. 


"Moderate to marked undulating to lobular mineral production of dorsal, dorsomedial and dorsolateral cortex of mid-proximal P2

Moderate undulating periosteal proliferation, dorsal cortex of the MC3 distal metaphysis

Moderate dorsal soft tissue swelling

Moderate distal condylar sclerosis of MC3, greater medially

Focal flattening and ill-defined decreased subchondral bone density of the mid portion of the MC3 medial condyle" 

The comments section provided the following interpretation "If there is no evidence of pain on palpation of dorsal P1, this finding may not be clinically relevant at this time." And then, the kicker, "The MC3 condylar damage is of greater concern for long term soundness."

Research and phone calls with my friend who is an equine vet helped me interpret the report. Basically there is a relatively newly diagnosed disease in racing thoroughbreds. More attention has come to it recently because it seems to preempt the traumatic fractures and breakdowns that are so tragic and garner so much negative press. The bone on the distal cannon bone responds to stress inappropriately by becoming weaker rather than stronger. Palmar osteochondral disease. Plantar if you're dealing with a hind leg, but this is in his front. Treatment? Retire from racing. Well that box is checked off. But what about his treatment and then prognosis as a sporthorse? Not a whole lot of info out there. What my friend told me based on conversations with two surgeons is the prognosis is good with 90 days of pasture rest. For full return to work, any level of jumping. 

This information made me panic a bit less while waiting for an appointment with a surgeon here locally, but it was still pretty anxiety inducing. I bought this guy after retiring and ultimately euthanizing my 8 year old mare for cervical arthritis, and I was pretty stressed by thinking that I might be retiring another young horse before he even got a chance to show what he could become. 

Since I went out of town (again, I don't usually travel this much...) shortly after he went lame, he has roughly two weeks off on pasture rest before our appointment. He also moved fully to pasture board, which is a mixed bag for him. On the one hand I can now groom all over without vague waving of a hind leg or swinging of his head indicating he is displeased with what I am grooming and might express it further. It's unclear if that came from 24/7 turnout or from getting to know each other. The definite down side of being a pasture pony now were the difficulties finding someone he could be out with safely. Two separate horses tried to chase him into the pasture fence and he wound up with even more bite marks than he had when I bought him. More concerning is his propensity to put his feet over/through the no climb wire fence and cut up his legs. I returned to find the front of a front leg torn up a bit. My husband and I walked the pasture fence lines and bent in every single tiny protrusion of wire that we could find. It would probably help if he didn't constantly bug other horses over the fence... But... Horses. 

I was gone for a week and when I got back he still had effusion in his left fetlock. This was gone by the time I hauled him down to see the surgeon Friday. The clinic doesn't allow people into the barns but you can still watch them flex and jog outside. The surgeon introduced himself and then started right off with the cheery "He really went through the ringer at the track, huh?" Why yes, I suppose you could call it that. He rattled off findings from his passive lameness exam: Very sore over both front heels, decreased range of motion in the left front fetlock, positive to palpation of proximal front suspensories, and more in the hind legs that my owner brain glazed over. Then they jogged him. And he was dead lame. So lame that I didn't even notice which leg, but felt like it might've been the right front, not the problem child left front. He asked if he could block his feet so we could do something actually productive with flexions. Sure, yes, let's do that, anything that will make him look better. 

And after blocking the right front he did look much better. Mildly lame in both fronts with a mild left hind lameness as well. Slight positives to flexion of both fetlocks. He took rads of his fetlocks and hocks and ultrasounded both front legs. The proximal suspensories both were mildly enlarged at the proximal aspect but there were no tears or very significant lesions. The distal cannon bone looked improved from his December radiographs. No signs of arthritis within his hocks or fetlocks. Feet showed a negative palmar angle - bad news bears 

The lower line is parallel to the ground, the palmar angle is measured with a line from the wings of P3 along the solar surface to the tip of P3. His angle is about 1.7 degrees, but this is artificially improved by the wedge - see how that has lifted the heel? His soles are also very thin - about 7mm of depth at the heel. 

His left front foot was a little bit trickier for me to look at. 

His sole depth is uneven side to side, the medial aspect is to the left in this image and you can see how there is more sole depth laterally 

The uneven sole depth means that in the lateral view the wings of P3 are aligned straight, but the shoe, the bright metal opaque eye catching shoe, is uneven. 

Here we look like we have a positive palmar angle, although just barely (4.3 degrees). I'm not sure how many degrees the wedge shoes add, I had trouble measuring that since the shoe is not the part of the image that is straight. I imagine without them he would either be even more barely positive or slightly negative.

I'm so far from an expert in equine imaging and podiatry, so the above are just my attempts to document and figure this out for myself. The wedge shoes he is currently in help correct the angles by lifting the heel. However, they also then put more weight onto the heels of the foot, crushing the tubules more and worsening his ability to try to develop any kind of heel depth. Also making him more sore. It isn't clear to me right now what the correct solution is. He is getting new shoes put on today - wedges with support across the frog to share in weight bearing. According to the internet this can help. But, there are still people who say this will only further crush the heels. 

This was better news to me than terrible ligament damage, changes to the navicular bone, or radiographic changes to his fetlocks. This doesn't rule out changes to the cartilage in the fetlocks though, and the plan, after getting his feet straightened out over 3-4 shoeing cycles, is to inject his fetlocks. Then I can slowly start bringing him back to work. 3-4 shoeing cycles means 15-24 weeks, which puts us squarely in the hottest part of summer, June 29 - Aug 31. So coming back to work slowly should be just fine. He's also on adequan in the mean time - loading dose protocol of every four days for seven doses and then moving to once every two weeks. 

Getting his weight up is a whole 'nother project that I'll save for another post! 

Thursday, March 11, 2021

It's Official!

Shidoshi had several tests to pass. First, we went cross country schooling with my friend from the barn, her semi-baby thoroughbred and our trainer. He was amazingly good. He jumped everything presented to him on the first go around. The banks were a bit of a struggle, not in terms of willingness, but in terms of figuring out what to do with not just two long front legs, but also two long hind legs. He tended to get up the bank with the fronts and then do some odd combination of bunny hopping or otherwise awkwardly flinging the hind legs up after. Having four legs to coordinate is HARD! Especially when you are doing something other than flat out galloping. He did something slightly different each time though, which I appreciate as a mark of intelligence. We walked it the first few times and then when he trotted he tripped decently. The next time he thought faster might be better but responded well to me bringing him back. It's still very much a work in progress, but there was progress. The ditch was similar although easier to figure out. He was so relaxed the first time he put a foot into it. The next time he jumped it cleanly. So cool! Not spooked at all by putting the foot in it, but still figured out that wasn't the best way to do it. 

In spite of very easily going through puddles after rain, he was a bit spooked by the water. He stopped about 10 feet away and stared, I could feel his heart pounding. He almost followed the other horse in, but hesitated a bit too long. The second trip the other horse took through he did follow him in. We walked through it from every direction then incorporated it into a little series with two jumps, a trot through the water, then a trot up and down a mound. He trotted right into the water, no problem. Test one passed with flying colors! 

The second test was seeing what my dressage trainer thought of him. Fortunately, he LOVED him. He was amazed at how recently he had come off the track and how quiet his mind was. In our first lesson he was already starting to come round and soften over his back. He declared that he was amazing and at his price was a steal. Hooray! I brought him back for a second lesson the next week because I was concerned I was messing him up - we had some right head tilt going on - the mare I was riding before him also had done this some - common denominator... hmm... He quickly helped correct that - a combination of pulling with my right (inside) hand and not maintaining contact with the left (outside). AND in spite of his declaration from our first lesson that we would not canter for a month, we got to move on to a few canter circles. Shidoshi was fantastic. I had started exploring/learning how to truly canter with the mare I was riding before him, really communicating with her back and as the dressage trainer describes it "Squeeze to slow, squeeze to bend" - he doesn't ask for half-halts during the canter, rather a reapplication of the aids used to ask for canter every other stride in order to engage, soften, and maintain an even rhythm. Shidoshi quietly accepted this and responded beautifully. He quickened and tried to run a bit when I pulled on the inside rein, but as soon as I fixed myself, he softened and kept a steady, even rhythm. It was an AMAZING feel! 

The final, and most important, test was his PPE. It was postponed by a week because he managed to slice the front of his hind leg up in a fence, probably kicking over it at the grumpy mare in the barn. While he was fine and sound the leg was quite swollen to the point that trying to palpate tendons would not have been possible. His PPE went well, negative flexions all around, no surprises with heart, eyes, mouth etc. And so it was made official! 

JC name: Shidoshi
Barn name: Yoshi - this happened while I was not renaming him until it was official but none of us could actually call him Shidoshi 
Show name: Lyrical 

Welcome home dear heart, whatever your name is!