Fall Colors Between Rhio's Ears

Fall Colors Between Rhio's Ears

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Bad Drivers

Paco (L) and April Aziz. 
I love the fact that both horses are clearly paying attention to something behind them to their left, as evidenced by their symmetrical ear positions.

We all have severe cases of Spring Fever, and a day like today only fed the fever!  It was sunny and in the mid-thirties, and we've had enough sunny warmish days that the snow banks are visually diminishing and the roads are mostly clear (in the sunny spots, anyway.)  So, Gesa and I made plans to ride her two Arabians, April Aziz and Paco.  Gesa and April finished a 12 mile novice endurance ride last year (3rd place!) and she hopes to start Paco this year.

We rode the edge of the paved roads from Gesa's house over to where we could pick up a clear gravel road, then did a couple miles on the gravel road before turning for home.  There were frequent icy patches to negotiate, and in some areas we really couldn't get off the road because the shoulder was solid ice.  The horses were extremely good, paying attention to their footing and NOT paying attention to things they shouldn't - like garbage cans, puddles, and traffic.

The vehicular traffic was a real problem today, however, and left us with a decidedly sour taste in our mouths.  Both Gesa and I ride roads frequently since neither of us own trailers, and our horses are very traffic safe.  Most of the drivers are very considerate and slow down and go wide around us.  Occasionally I have trouble with drivers who slow down TOO much, which for some reason makes my horses very nervous.

Today we ran into multiple inconsiderate drivers, including two that were downright dangerous.  These drivers would have been dangerous in any conditions, but with the ice today, it was especially nerve wracking.  The first bad driver came up behind us on the gravel road, racing past us on a very icy patch and purposefully gunning his engine & spinning his tires on the ice.  The second bad driver came flying past us head-on along the paved road, despite us gesturing him to slow down (it seemed that he sped up, actually!) and then started honking rapidly just as he drew abreast of us.  April & Paco behaved impeccably, without even a flinch, but I was pissed.  Gesa, who is German, said that those drivers would be ticketed in Germany for unsafe driving, as well as several other drivers who passed us while oncoming traffic was present.  It was interesting to hear that.   I don't know what could have happened if a patrol car had happened to be there for either of these incidents, but somehow I doubt it would have been anything other than a warning, if even that.

So, though the horses & the weather were both great, this wasn't the best of rides.  I can't wait to have better footing & trails open to ride!
Gesa with Paco (L) & April Aziz
(I rode April today.)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Lounging Around

Warm February sunshine is perfect for lounging - especially on a bed of hay (Rhio's favorite)

Rhio's buddies Cody (in purple blanket) and Winston also lounging around - notice they didn't choose the cushy hay bed that comfort-seeking Rhio did.

A close-up to show how naked his right front foot is - the bell boot did not survive the night!

Although the bell boot was no longer protecting the coronary band wound, the zinc oxide ointment is still there somewhat and he is totally sound.  In fact, we did about 15 minutes of lunging in the arena to get the heart rate up & the blood flowing - and mostly to settle Rhio's mind.  He doesn't like to sit around doing nothing, and 3+ weeks of it now is making him squirrelly.  In fact, I think it's why he's begun tearing his boots off - I think he's doing it with his teeth, just to amuse himself.  

Sound and happy to trot!

Head flipping right out of the photo!

I also climbed aboard my portly old man Cricket for a little ride.  We are stuck inside due to the treacherous ice conditions - just getting horses in from the pasture is dangerous.  But we had a nice little ride, getting back to the feel of it after so much time off on my trip.  

Showing off Cricket's nice round bum!  He was very underweight this time last year, so this sight makes me unbelievably happy.  In fact, he just got his senior feed reduced by 1/3 he's so tubby!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

It's Healing!

I'm back from my trip, and have to send a big shout out to my barn buddies who did daily care on Rhio's wound for me and are the reason it looks so fantastic right now!  Becca, Karen, Teresa, Kathy, & Chris - you guys rock!

How it looks today, 2-23-10.  You can see the coronary band has settled back down into a more normal position and there is really no swelling left.

For comparison, here is a photo from Day 1, back at the end of January.

The new booting situation - a rubber bell boot with a little duct tape for good measure

Apparently while I was gone Rhio got pretty tired of wearing his boot, and shredded several neoprene pastern wraps as well as one neoprene bell boot.  His heels were getting a bit rubbed by the boot, and it trapped so much moisture for so many days that his skin was definitely on the soft/squishy side instead of nicely resilient.  The ladies did a great job of managing this problem (above & beyond, really - blow drying his pastern with a hair dryer! as well as stalling him for periods of time to give him a break without the boot), but I'm really hoping that this new plan for protecting the area will work because it will allow his skin to breathe.  I'm using zinc oxide ointment (Desitin) to moisturize & protect the wound itself beneath the bell boot.  Fingers crossed that it will all be intact when I go out tomorrow!

Rhio is so over the whole fussing-with-his-foot thing

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


One of Cricket's hoof trimmings which the dogs didn't snatch up

Today was farrier day for my boys.  Red went first, and was a little squirrelly, even though I'd ridden him for about an hour before the appointment.  

Kevin working on Red's left front - the view we horse owners most often see of our farriers!

Kevin grins while working on Cricket's foot on the hoof stand.  Everyone grins around Cricket - he just has that effect on people.

Cricket went next, and offered up plenty of hoof trimmings & sole flakes for the dogs.  Kelso especially likes the flakes of sole.  
Kelso actually leaves the hoofprint shaped piece of wall to snuffle up flakes of sole - his favorite.

With the easy ones done, it's on to Rhio.  He can be very fidgety for the farrier, plus he has the coronary band wound which we need to address.  Kevin has to be careful not to bump or press the wound while holding the hoof between his knees for trimming, and also watch out for the rasp when he has the hoof up on the hoof stand - the wrong angle and he will rasp the wound!  This wound sure is in a bad spot.  Rhio stands incredibly well for everything, probably the best behaved he's ever been for a trim.  When we shoe him, I typically have to sedate him so he will tolerate having the shoes nailed on.  He's just a sensitive guy, I guess!  Red used to have to be sedated for shoes because Kevin hot shoes, and Red was completely freaked out by the smoke generated when a red hot steel shoe was pressed to his hoof.  Red learned that the smoke wasn't going to get him, and now will tolerate hot shoeing (with carrots provided in abundant quantities at the critical moments when smoke billows up from his feet).  Rhio doesn't care about the smoke, but hates having the nails driven into his hoof wall.  

We "float" Rhio's hoof wall beneath the injury, trimming it shorter than the surrounding wall so that it does not touch the ground when he stands on it.  In theory, this will help the coronary band come back down into a normal position by preventing the upward pressure of the hoof wall in that area.  

"Before" picture
The dark holes or "cracks" you see near the toe are old nail holes from the last set of shoes he wore in the fall.  This horse grows a lot of foot - his last trim was 6 weeks ago.  Compare the length of toe & height of the heel to the following "after" picture.

"After" picture
You can also see that the nail holes left over from his last shoeing in October are finally all gone with this trim.

The view from the bottom of the hoof.  You can see the flatter, more white looking area on the left - this is the cut-out area of the hoof wall you can see in the previous photo.

Kevin will be back in 3 weeks to work on Rhio again - everyone else will wait 6 weeks for their next trim.

Freshly bandaged & ready to go back out to his buddies

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Qi Boosting

Rhio meeting me at the gate

Time for another bandage change - and this time I'm going to try to jump start the healing with a little acupuncture.  We got a significant lake effect snowfall yesterday, and running around in deep, fluffy snow had completely soaked the boot & the bandage, despite the duct tape.  The wet boot then froze, so I had to bang on it a bit to chip the ice off the buckle.  Once past the hurdle of the iced-on boot, the bandage came off easily.  

Rhio has never had acupuncture before, and he's a pretty sensitive guy, so I wasn't sure how he would react to treatment.  My good boy was totally cool with acupuncture :)  I put in just a few needles, mostly around the wound area.  These are called "Ting" points and are especially strong points because they are either the beginning or the end of a meridian.  The front feet have the Lung, Large Intestine, Pericardium, Heart, Small Intestine, and Triple Heater ting points.  I use very small needles for these points, 1/2" long and very, very thin.  And they conveniently have colored handles, so they actually show up in a photo!  

Acupuncture needles in Rhio's foot

I left the needles in about 10 minutes (my timing wasn't exact because Rhio knocked the timer off the stall front and when it hit the ground, the battery fell out!) and during that time I worked on my own Qi.  Qi (pronounced "chi") is energy, and one of the best ways I know to boost my own qi is to spend quiet time grooming my horses.  So I spent 10 minutes replenishing my Qi while divesting Rhio of some of his shedding winter coat - therapy for both of us.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Use Those Lurching Muscles, Ladies!

I rode today with friends & fellow endurance riders Jodi & Rhonda.  Jodi is starting a new horse, a coming 5 year old Arabian mare Rana.  Rhonda rides a cute gaited, spotted something, Snickers.  We met at Jodi's house and loaded the three horses (I rode Cameo, an Arab mare Jodi & I bought together several years ago in hopes of having a foal from her - that didn't work out, but she's a nice extra horse to have around for trail riding) in Jodi's little trailer for the quick jaunt to her in-laws property, about 5 miles away.
Rhonda performing the snowbank mounting feat we needed today.

Heading across the hayfield / runway  with dogs Cooter (cattle dog) & Ripley (hound) in tow

We set off through hock deep (on the Arabs - belly deep on Snickers!) crusty snow, with the horses frequently stopping and looking back to the trailer while clearly exchanging glances indicating how ridiculous us humans were for asking them to struggle though this snow.  

Heading into the woods on slightly firmer footing - a few snowmobiles had run over this area & slightly packed it, although the horses still broke through unexpectedly. Rhonda & Snickers in the lead and Jodi & Rana following.

Crossing the hayfield / runway (Jodi's father-in-law flies planes) was the most difficult portion because the horses couldn't really count on consistent footing, and traded off breaking trail several times.  The fact that you don't really see deer tracks in this snow at all tells you something - it's really deep & difficult going!  The deer stick to the roads, driveways, and snowmobile trails to get around.  We are all riding bareback (Rhonda & I with bareback pads, Jodi truly bareback) - which gives us nice toasty warm buns, but also requires quite a lot of balance & flexibility to stay with the horses as they lurch & lunge through the deep snow.  It is a workout for both parties for sure.

The trails in the woods are more passable, which allowed us a little trotting and even a spot of cantering.  Whee!

Turn-around spot

Making our way back to the trailer, coming around the far end of the runway, with tired & sweaty horses, though we only rode for about 1/2 hour

The horses sure got their cardio workout for the weekend!  Lots of strength (resistance) training, too.  We're already looking ahead to our endurance season & starting to get everyone in shape.

After returning to Jodi's, we each grabbed another horse to head out for a quick jaunt on the road so I could test Jodi's FreeForm Classic treeless saddle.

Shilo modeling the FreeForm Classic treeless saddle over a Skito Dryback pad.

I rode Shilo, an Arab mare & endurance mount, to try the FreeForm saddle.  I was very comfortable in this saddle!  It felt like a "real" treed saddle in terms of the support I felt for my seat & position, but was also very close contact and I could really feel the horse moving, too.  It was a very brief trial, but I liked this saddle.  I will continue to look into a FreeForm and keep it on my list of potential saddles.

Jodi rode her other young horse, Kiya

Rhonda rode another spotted horse, Gypsy - but this one's a lot taller than little Snickers!

After our two rides, I changed Rhio's bandage and started to think about other options to help him heal.  I plan to start acupuncture treatments tomorrow, and also to discuss shoeing with my farrier at our appointment on Wednesday.  I wonder if unloading the hoof wall below the injury will allow the coronary band to come back down into a more normal position.  The injury is no longer draining and looks quite healthy, but the coronary band is not resuming a more normal location and that is worrying.  I did let him run around the indoor for a little bit today, to blow off some steam, and he is perfectly sound again in all gaits.  Yeah! 

You can see how nice & clean & dry it looks now (Day 8) but that coronary band certainly isn't where it's supposed to be!

For comparison, here's the injury 8 days ago when I started bandaging & treating.

Rhio playing with the "pony pacifier" treat ball while I rebandage his foot.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Unexpected Delights

Christine & Tomas with Killian in the background - enjoying the sunshine & relative warmth of a February afternoon while gazing across the white landscape of the hayfield, now carved up with plowed "roads" from the logging equipment - giving us great riding opportunities!

It's been a tough week for Christine with the passing of her beloved dog Diego.  He was one of my favorite patients, and one of the first dogs I did acupuncture on.  He was a really great dog and ruled the farm, telling everyone (including the 4 wheeler & the Ranger) what was what.  We all miss him.

She really needed a good ride, and I insisted we go out for an adventure.  The loggers are done with the work they were doing on the farm, opening up some previously heavily wooded areas as well as clearing the property line shared with the owners of Red's barn.  We've snowshoed out there, but hadn't ridden back there yet. It's amazing how different everything looks!
Heading out along the trail - this part looks the same, although a few scary grouse were hiding in the pines to startle us.

Rhio is still on the injured reserve list, so I put the bareback pad on Cricket for his 2nd ride of the week.  I don't think he knew what he was in for!  Kelso chose to stay in the car, so it was just Killian along for the ride.  He spent much of the time nearly underfoot, as he would run ahead, then plop down to chew snow balls out of his paws - right in the tractor track we were riding in!  The area between the tracks was difficult to cross & quite deep, so we had to either wait for him or get him to move.  Silly dog.  

Riding along the west edge of the hayfield.  To our right was a heavily wooded area that has been significantly thinned.  

We rode along the hayfield to Red's barn's property, along the newly-cleared property line, and a little loop around the trails on Red's barn's property (in the tractor tracks.)  There were lots of overhanging branches to negotiate around and a small pine tree down to carefully step over.  This was all excellent practice for Tomas, who is still fairly green out on trails.  He was happy to be out today & didn't hesitate to give Christine a little guff!  He kicked at Killian a couple times, and threw in a little buck or two.  It's definitely been too long since we've been out & about!

We returned along the east side of the hayfield, and decided to follow the logging equipment track where it crossed a very swampy area.  Wow - look at that!  It comes out in the gravel pit!  Too bad this will be completely impassable except in winter when it's frozen solid.  Around the corner in the gravel pit, we see the neighbor Katie aboard her horse West with her dogs Gunnar (Beagle X Basset Hound) and Cash (Cattle Dog.)  
The dogs exchange happy greetings while the horses stare at each other over the distance.  
Katie & West 

Katie, West, & Gunnar after Cricket squealed & struck at West!  Geez, old man, what were you thinking?!  

We rode out the gravel pit & crossed the road to see if we could get around the gate & into the county gravel pit (the road is plowed all winter, but the gate is locked.)  Cricket & I attempted to use a snowmobile track to cross over into the neighboring gravel pit's driveway, then cross back across the snowbank onto the plowed county pit road.  That wasn't such a successful venture!  Cricket got bogged in the deep snow & fell, which dumped me into the snow as well.  We managed to struggle through the snow & across the snowbank onto the county pit road, but despite my efforts at kicking & tromping a path around the locked gate, Cricket refused to traverse it.

Cricket standing by the gate post, calming refusing to go around it & clearly thinking I was nuts for even asking.

So, we had to go back the way we came.  Cricket was willing enough to tackle the belly-deep snow again and we emerged onto the plowed entrance area wet & snowy but no worse for wear (other than I probably went down a few pegs in Cricket's assessment of my intelligence.)  He sidled up to the gate, with Christine & Tomas urging him close enough to it for me to mount again.  
Patiently waiting for me & Cricket to reemerge on the accessible side of the gate.

We headed back home the way we came, this time accompanied by Katie, West, Gunnar, & Cash.  After encountering yet another unexpected person, this time on snowshoes with an English Setter, Tomas was on sensory overload and gave Christine a very animated ride home (yes, this horse can do a beautiful sidepass at the canter & a piaffe to die for!) - maybe not exactly what she was planning, though!  I couldn't help but let Cricket do his wonderful lope where the footing was good.  We came home all smiles - horses, dogs, & humans.

Cricket enjoying a nice big drink after our ride.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

A Little Bit O' This, A Little Bit O' That

My friend Gesa & I planned to meet & ride today.  Since it's February, that means using the indoor arena & her coming to my barn to ride my horses.  In the summer, we tend to trade off riding each other's horses when we can't organize a trailer to borrow to go somewhere (she has a truck but no trailer - I have neither.)

Since Rhio is on the injured reserve list, that meant I had to get Red over to the barn where Rhio & Cricket live, so I would have horse for her to borrow.  Luckily, Red's barn is just a mile through the woods and the properties abut each other.  Since both property owners have had some logging work done recently, the trails are fairly passable as long as you stay in the equipment tracks.

I saddled up Red with the bareback pad & bridle (this was a handy choice - see later!) and we set off through the woods with Kelso on our heels.  It was still quite chilly, around zero, so I was happy to have my Carhartts on - my bend-ability, however, was negligible & much ducking was required to negotiate the trails while avoiding as much of the inevitable snow-down-the-back-of-the-neck as possible. Also, I wore a backpack with a few things I intended to give/show to Gesa or needed for the morning (no saddle bags on the bareback pad.)  This turned out to be a more challenging prospect than I had imagined.  Even a light backpack really changes your balance!  Also, it was quite bouncy at anything more than a walk!  I don't think I'll make a habit of riding with a backpack.

We made it to the other barn with no major mishaps, although Red was snorting & blowing like we were on Mars.  I admit, with the logging, it did look different back there - but, really, come on silly pony!  I think he was just pissed that I'd taken him away from the morning hay.

Gesa saddled up Cricket with the Barefoot treeless saddle I'm borrowing, and I put Red's Synergist on him (so we could trade horses & trade saddles throughout the morning - trying each saddle on each horse.)

We mounted up in the indoor, and Gesa immediately got the "riding Cricket" grin!  He is a fabulous ride and absolutely everyone who climbs aboard can't help but grin ear-to-ear.  She really liked the Barefoot saddle, but had never ridden Cricket before, so didn't know how much was loving the horse (he has amazing soft gaits) and how much was the saddle.  We switched saddles, trying the Barefoot on Red and putting the Synergist on Cricket.  Then, we switched horses.  Gesa has ridden Red before and is pretty familiar with him.  She put him through his paces in the Barefoot & still loved the saddle.  Cricket & I puttered around and I became convinced that I didn't particularly care for the Barefoot.  It was quite interesting to switch back & forth between the 2 saddles, and on both horses - I think it gave us a good feel for each saddle independent of the horse effects.  

Red wearing the Barefoot saddle

Christine & Tomas joined us & the three of us played leapfrog (teaching the horses to pass & be passed while maintaining a steady pace - theoretically, anyway!) for several laps around the arena both directions, and Cricket gave me a marvelous little lope.  
Christine & Tomas, and Gesa & Red - illustrating what we were REALLY doing all morning - gabbing!

Kelso - reluctantly supervising while wishing the car was here so he could go sit in it

We decided to introduce Red to the soccer ball after we were done riding.  He took to it immediately, showing the most interest of any of the horses!  
Red nuzzles the ball while I adjust stirrups preparing to mount up & play - this was less than 3 minutes after he first saw the ball.

Yes, we're in the midst of kicking the ball!
Get that ball!

Once Red had demonstrated his soccer prowess (he was elected team captain, and so far sole member, of Team Edward) he was allowed to munch some hay in a stall while Rhio got his bandage changed. Today he was a perfect pony, walked right into the tack room, and his wound is looking slightly better. So far no trouble keeping the boot & bandage on even out in the pasture!

Finally, Red & I got ready to head home, leaving the backpack & Carhartt's behind. Rhio, Cody, & Winston took our walk through the alleyway by their pasture as an invitation to run through the deep snow behind us, revving Red up & setting the tone for the entire ride home. Red transformed into a fire-breathing dragon and about dragged my arms out of their sockets! I was thrilled to have chosen bit & bridle over riding in the rope halter today! Also I was glad to have ditched the Carhartt's because I was very sweaty by the time we got back to his barn. I think I did a lot of yelling, too - but I don't think it made much of an impression on him. Needless to say, there are no photos of our return ride because I couldn't let go of the reins to grab the camera nor would they have been worth looking at if I had - too much motion for still photography! I stuck like a burr to that bareback pad & managed not to get an eye poked out - so I guess we count that as a success :) It sure felt an awful lot like the start of an endurance ride - only we're not typically plunging through several feet of snow while attempting to beat recent Kentucky Derby winners and dodge overhanging, snow-laden pine trees.