Monday, November 13, 2017

Beautiful fall days deserve a few photos

This fall has been beautiful; warm and sunny for the most part and perfect for a few rides outside, more lawn mowing, and some hiking. The great weather sort of lulled me into a false sense of "this will go on forever," a sense that was abruptly shut down when the temperatures dropped from 70 to 40-something overnight early last week. We've since had a couple hard frosts. Ugh. So, at this point, I'm looking back wistfully at these shots from late October and earlier in November.

This was the fall decor at the corner of the road and the barn's driveway.

I took this photo on a quick run to the barn to give Bestie a good-bye kiss on our way to Tennessee for a weekend trip. It was hazy in the early morning, but the fall tree color was still beautiful, especially combined with the glassy silver pond and blue sky.

And last but not least, on another gorgeous day, I caught Bestie (on the right) hanging out with her pasture mate Sweet Pea. The brown specks on the grass in the background are Canadian geese who were aimlessly drifting around the pasture and irritating the mares with their crowding and lack of respect, ha ha. 

Monday, October 23, 2017

Feet and flexibility

Given the photographer error that produced the lopsided shots above, one might think I'm writing about the barn footing, but no, I'm actually writing about Bestie's feet. 24 days without rain led to dry hooves with little chunks missing along the edge, as seen in the top photo. She had started to get ouchy again on gravel. Farrier Monique worked her magic last week and Bestie's feet are back to smooth and healthy again; in fact, Monique said her foot has expanded and that her heels are better developed and not so short. That's the good news.

The bad news was that as Monique was trimming her, Bestie seemed to have trouble lifting and extending her left hind leg. Monique remarked that she seemed pretty stiff. So part 2 of this post is Bestie's appointment with Marie Corcoran, who offers Tune Up Therapeutics including Reiki and massage to ease the ailments of stiff horses.

The appointment was scheduled a week after the farrier visit. First, we took a walk in the driveway while Marie watched Bestie's stride - she wasn't tracking up.

Back in the barn, with Bestie on cross ties, Marie started at Bestie's head and worked her way toward her tail. Right away she noticed that Bestie's hyoid bone was not in correct placement, which can lead to TMJ. I had never heard of the bone before, and in fact, I wrote "highway bone" in my notes. :) To adjust it was a matter of getting Bestie to work her tongue to the left. A fix that took a few minutes.

Next Marie practiced Reiki for relaxation and healing along the bladder meridian, holding her hands just slightly above Bestie's coat from her neck and slowly moving along her spine to her tail and down her rear legs. It was interesting to watch Bestie relax and zone out. 

After the Reiki came massage. On Bestie's left side, her tricep was tight. Marie also discovered a lump in front of the girth, inside Bestie's left front leg (more on that below). Bestie reacted to pressure along her topline, showing a bit of discomfort along her top line, basically from the midpoint of the saddle point, to where the pad ends. She also was quite tight in her hamstrings. Marie described the muscles as feeling like "hard plates."

Her right side basically mirrored discomfort in the left side, although not to the same extent. On both sides, her tricep, deltoid and scapula area were very tight, compensating for the tight hamstrings.

The final treatment was a stretching session, one component of which is shown in the photo below. And ewww - that puddle on the floor below Bestie's head is all drool from the field clover.

It was great to see Bestie loosening up as the stretches were held and repeated, and at the end, when we walked again, she felt much more loose and looked more comfortable. Of course, toward the end of the session, her timer had gone off so she was READY to get back to her hay. But overall, during the appointment, she was very relaxed and occasionally turned her head to check out what Marie was doing. We have a follow up in two weeks.

So, the lump. There was some talk that it seemed like a fatty tumor, age related, but Joe happened to notice it a few days later, and he thought it was a hematoma. Connected to the swelling in her lower front right leg - who knows? She's the senior, or maybe I should say Auntie Bestie, in a field with the little girls now - the three youngsters - so it seems unlikely that there's been some altercation. Boo-boos are always such a mystery with horses. The good news is that the swelling has gone down. I gave her two days off after her treatment, and then rode a couple times later in the week, keeping our pace to a walk to give her leg swelling a little encouragement to reduce. We've had some nice relaxed rides, combining the indoor time with a loop around the fields.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Treating the creeping crud

For a few weeks I've been finding rough spots on Bestie's back legs below the fetlock joint on the front or side of her legs. Little dime-sized rough spots. Luckily, one day I happened to be scrubbing her in the wash stall while barn owner Joe was treating a horse in the wash stall across the aisle. He asked me what I was doing, and I admitted defeat - "I don't really know ... trying to clear mystery spots that I think may be the result of tick or other bug bites." He took a quick look and identified them as scratches.

Scratches as dime-sized circles? Who knew? A) Bestie has never had scratches before in her life. B) My familiarity with scratches was from Dude, who periodically got greyish/blackish crud spread/sprinkled like pepper on the back of his hind legs below the fetlock.

Joe swears by the MTG for treatment, so that's what I've been using. And it is pretty amazing. I scrub her legs with a cleanser, rub just a little dollop of MTB into the affected area, let it soften the spots, then pick off the rough crud, and the next day - the spot is gone, there's no noticeable hair loss, the skin feels smooth. Honestly, the most time consuming part of the entire process is washing the MTG's bacon-ish smell off my hands.

Today she had another little spot, but that didn't come as a surprise since I haven't used the MTG in a few days because she's been clear. Hopefully the spots clear for good once the weather cools. After a teaser week of fall weather, it's been horribly hot and humid. Seems like perfect weather for creeping crud.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Girls just wanna have fun

Thank you, Cyndi Lauper. :) 
Going back to my *many* hours of MTV video-watching with that title! 

It's true of riding, though - I just want to have fun, and assume that Bestie does, too. But sometimes I don't feel like trotting in circles, or doing serpentines, or figure 8s, or any of the other patterns Bestie and I typically do in the ring. That's when we take a leisurely walk around the perimeter of the fields.

We lucked out one day last week with something new and different. Seems the barn hosted some sort of training and left all the little features set up. The arena was filled with them. It was fun working our way over the ground poles and colorful pool noodles, through the barrels and the little cone path, and winding around the line of vertical poles. Day 2 was even more fun because a team of drywallers doing finishing work in the adjoining new addition had Latin music blaring (and they'd occasionally belt out a tune). That gave our ride a festive feel.

The only "feature" that Bestie took a second look at was the grouping of four plastic pink flamingos laid out to form the corners of a roughly 20 foot by 20 foot square in one corner of the arena. Kind of funny. We did one round of backing between them, but I was worried about horse hoof meeting plastic, so we didn't do too much in that area. 

Today I swung by the barn later than I typically do and found that she had already been turned out. I went out to feed her the apple I'd brought and spotted bot eggs on the inside of her legs and on her chest. After getting the safety scissors, I put her halter on her and scraped them off while she stood quietly, with her mare gang clustered around watching. At one point Bey Bey started lipping my hair while I was crouched down. Too funny! Bestie seems pretty patient with her, I guess because she's a youngster. Hoping to ride tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Be gone, bot flies...

...and take all  your other fly friends with you. Seems like they all descend in fall for one last buzzing, biting frenzy. Bestie and I are Done With Them.

But - all these years with horses, and this was my first bot fly egg removal! 
I don't even remember an instance that my daughters had to do it when they were riding. Maybe not such a problem in Vermont? In general, based on daily spider web removal, stink bug seasonal invasions, and other bug appearances in my life, I'm finding Virginia to be a lot more buggy than VT.

Anyway, after I grazed Bestie today and put her on the cross ties to groom her, I noticed the little yellowy-white specks stuck to the insides of her knees. Maybe 25-35 on each leg. I knew enough to identify them and realize they needed to be scraped off. The photo below of the inside of her left knee was taken after I had been at it for several minutes; there were only a few eggs left.

Below, the tools of the trade ... well, sort of. For years, our bot knife has languished in a box of little used horsey stuff (location unknown after the move ... garage?), so until a kind person at the barn today lent me hers, I used the grooming scissors to scrape the eggs off. A bot fly egg removal hack, you might say. The little flashlight was indispensable as without it, I wouldn't have been able to make sure all the eggs were removed. Especially because I didn't have my glasses. But aside from that, in my experience, barn lighting is typically not the best for doing anything tightly focused - braiding, bug removal, inspection of boo boos. You need the big guns for that stuff - flashlights or small plug-in spotlights.

After getting home I did some random searching to see if there was anything else I should be doing or anything else I need to know about bot flies and their yucky practices. Found this great overview about bot flies (yikes, THREE kinds??) from Freedom Health LLC, which makes gastrointestinal support products for horses. 

Thursday, September 14, 2017

How much can one horse drool?

The answer to that question? A LOT.

As gross as it is, in the photo below I was trying to capture the amazing amount of drool in Bestie's feed bucket, but she kept sticking her nose through the stall bars. So the drool puddle is just barely visible to the left of her nose.

The drool is due to a fungus on the clover in the field. Harmless; more on that here from We got some rain, and the clover has grown and reflowered, so the horses are drooling again. The clover growth of course has been sort of cyclical, dependent on rain and whether the field has been mowed; a while back one group of geldings was drooling, but the mares weren't because their field had been mowed.

Today Horace at the barn said the other mares aren't drooling nearly as much as Bestie, so he wondered if she has some secret stash of clover that she's hoarding. I wouldn't put it past her.

At least she's been fine to ride. The first bout of drooling caused her to cough at the trot, so we did a lot of walking those few days.

I've been watching her water consumption - all the drooling made me a bit concerned about dehydration, but she seems to be fine. Our usual routine of hand grazing while I groom her prior to riding has been shorter on the days that she's drooling as I don't think she needs any more clover than she's getting during her overnight turnout. We've had a couple good rides this week, both in the indoor and outdoor, with a stroll around the fields to finish off. The weather is still nice and warm but not so horribly humid as it was over the summer. I love fall riding!

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Outdoor ring fun - the bridge

Bestie can be a bit unpredictable, calm and willing on some things, emphatically against others. Crossing the bridge shows her calm and willing side. Who knew?

The photo above really doesn't do the bridge justice; it looks a bit ho hum and almost rickety. But in reality the bridge is a sturdy little thing that's several feet long and just high enough to make crossing interesting. It's just one of many items that can be found in the outdoor and indoor rings that help familiarize horses and riders with trail-like features and that function as general confidence builders. We've mastered the mattress and the tire step-in - no biggie, says Bestie, but not the "gate" or the carousel-like spinner that the horse is supposed to push with its chest.

Crossing the bridge for the first time was sort of like our first time walking over the mattress - she just did it. Didn't balk at all, didn't look at the bridge, just calmly walked across. The only time she's had any hesitation with the bridge was one time recently at the end of our ride when I directed her toward it and she sidestepped right before putting her hoof on the bridge, but when redirected, walked across. I think that sidestep was her little way of telling me she was Done With The Ride.

We've had a few good rides recently. It has been fairly quiet at the barn, so easy to get in the indoor arena. We've been doing trotting patterns, mostly with my feet not in the stirrups so I can work on my seat and balance, followed by a little bit of time in the outdoor ring going over poles on the ground. Summer has definitely been a challenging season for finding riding time, with the hot and humid spells our area has experienced. I've tried to ride every chance I've had when both the heat and humidity have dropped.