Fall Colors Between Rhio's Ears

Fall Colors Between Rhio's Ears

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Power Straps

It's been a long time since I've blogged.  I have lots to tell!  But, I will try to contain my post to just one subject: Power Straps.  What, pray tell, are power straps?  Well, they are a godsend! 

You may remember that last spring, Rhio and I had to do all our conditioning on asphalt roads.  In a month, he'd completely worn out his hoof boots at the toes.  Then, the rest of the summer, he was either shod or barefoot and we didn't have to do any road riding.  The horses have moved again (as have we), and are now living in an area with lots of quiet gravel roads (and hills!).  So our rides from the home farm are all on gravel, and to prevent excessive hoof wear, I know that Rhio requires some hoof protection.  I have a single pair of intact, useful hoof boots.  They are Red's.  They are just a bit too big for Rhio. 

We rode out for about 6 miles total last week, and I tried a wrap of athletic tape around Rhio's front hooves, to help the boots grip.  Unsurprisingly, and with minimal trotting, they eventually twisted on his hooves and clopped loudly with every step.  It was apparent that they weren't going to work for any real riding, and I needed to either order new boots or figure out a "fix."

I have a bin of hoof boot stuff - old boots, hardware for boots, accessories for boots, etc.  In my stash, I had some power straps.  These are a device that will tighten the top of the boots, and perhaps help them to stay on Rhio's feet a bit better.  I'd never used them before, and I was only slightly dismayed to discover I didn't have a matching pair -- 1 blue, 1 silver, 1 black.  So, pick two of the three and let's install!

This morning, I gathered my needed tools (Philips screwdriver, scissors, leather punch) and sat down to apply the power straps to the boots.  The instructions were a mere 3 easy steps - no problem!  As with most of my previous boot modification and maintenance attempts, this was more difficult and needed more technique than the 3 easy steps had implied.  I did not utter any curse words, but it was a near thing!  Eventually, I had them both installed and it looked just like the pictures, so hopefully they will work!
Unadulterated boot, leather punch, blue power strap, screwdriver (it would have been useful to have a third hand as well, but that wasn't on the tool list.)

Hardware for attachment, and the silver power strap.  I had to punch holes in the power straps, as well as trim them to length (they are marked by the size of the boot you are applying them to.)  This step was easy.

Hole punched in boot.  It took a bit to figure out what size hole to punch, and I still had to open it up a bit with the screwdriver as well. Also you can see the V-shaped opening between the two sides of the boot. This will spread open under tension when the boot fits properly.  It is too loose on Rhio, and so the power straps actually squeeze this V together, to give the top of the boot more tension when applied to the hoof.

Two boots with two powerstraps! Success!

They're on!  You can also see the white athletic tape on the hooves. 
Today's ride was 10 miles of walk, trot, and even one nice canter up a hill. The boots went on easily despite their newly-tightened top circumferences, and I still used the wrap of athletic tape for extra insurance.  We had zero issues the entire ride, so much so that I forgot he had the boots on, and happily cantered up that hill. 

It was a lovely afternoon ride, almost 60 degrees, sunny, and a light breeze.  We went two miles down the road solo, met up with a new friend and her mount, then did a 6 mile loop "around the block," before finishing our last two miles solo.  Rhio didn't much care for leaving his newfound best buddy behind for the last two miles home, and whinnied and carried on like a very sad pony.  However, he maintained his forward trot and in no time, we were back home to his new herd, just before the sun set.

Post-ride and looking good!

The new herd (plus Rufus the mini donkey, who isn't in the picture)
We are looking forward to many miles of conditioning along these roads, up and down these hills, and with our new friends.  I'm confident the boots are going to work with their newly-installed Power Straps!

Pretty boy Red was very happy to have Rhio return!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

What About Rhio?

Sorry, sorry! I have been terrible at keeping up with my blogging this summer!  There is much news in my horsie life, but I will try to contain myself so this doesn't get ridiculously long.  The boys have moved to a new boarding barn, about a month ago.  Things are going relatively well there, and Red is getting to be a horse, part-time.  More about Red in another post! 

Rhio has had a tough summer.  On May 30, the boys moved to the farm out west of town, with trail access and lots of other boarders.  Red got hurt.  Rhio spent a few weeks hanging with Red in the small paddock, but as Red went on stall rest for his fracture, Rhio went out with the herd (one of three at this facility).  His herd was 6-7 horses, with 2 mares in the group. They had a pasture during the day, and a large dry lot at night.  The freedom to run around, and gallop up and down the lane leading from the dry lot to the pasture, was very good for him.  He loves room to move!  He buddied up with another gelding pretty quickly; interestingly, it was the other lightest-in-color horse in the group, as most of the group had dark coats.  I hate to say it, but horses do frequently seem to discriminate, or at least pick their friends, based on coat color!  We had direct trail access, and friends to ride with; life seemed good. 

In a matter of 2-3 weeks, Rhio had lost almost 100 pounds, despite daily grain and daily beet pulp.  One of the horses in the herd was especially rough and violent toward the "new" horses in the group: Rhio and the other two, newer geldings.  He was a bully.  Rhio is a pacifist and a conflict-avoider.  He chose to stay in the dry lot well into the morning, after the herd was at pasture, just to avoid this particular horse, who was guarding the lane to the pasture and not allowing the newer horses to go out.  I did not fully understand when I chose this facility that the horses were not given hay at night, but taken off pasture without feed for 12-14 hours every night.  For "easy-keepers" and horses that don't work very hard, this might be ok. (Although I really don't believe it is okay for any horse to be routinely fasted for long periods of time!  Their gastrointestinal tracts and physiology are very negatively impacted by this type of management; they are designed to eat 24/7 as their stomachs produce acid continuously, regardless of whether they are eating or not.) For Rhio, this management scheme, unsurprisingly, spelled disaster!  Additionally, the pasture was totally overgrazed and did not provide adequate forage whatsoever. 

I went to the barn every day.  All summer.  For the first half of the summer, I went twice a day. It was 22 miles one way from my house.  I bought my own hay.  I fed Rhio supplemental hay, in addition to copious amounts of beet pulp, alfalfa pellets, and his ration of pelleted feed and fat supplement.  I quit riding him, except to ride him out to graze along the trail.  I hand grazed him.  I watched him acquire bites, kicks, scrapes, and wounds.  I watched his ribs become more and more visible.  I cried.  I fumed.  I lamented, yet again, that I need to board my horses and cannot have them at home.  But the one thing that needed to happen, couldn't.  I needed them to move to a better place, where they would be fed.  But I had Red, injured and on stall rest, unable, physically, to endure a trailer ride to a new home.  I was stuck.  They were stuck.  Looking back on it now, I had no idea how stressed I really was. 

Some of his wounds.

One time I tried to ride, and dismounted within a mile to let him eat, because he was desperate for food.

At the end of August, I decided it was now or never, and Red had to be ready to move.  I found a new place only 8 miles from my house, with plentiful pasture and a few herd mates.  There is a barn with stalls if need be, and good hay.  The downside: nowhere to ride except the asphalt roads with no shoulders.  But, I wasn't able to enjoy the trail access I had, anyway, since I wasn't willing to ride Rhio in his stressed, skinny state. 

The day we moved (heartfelt thanks to my friend S. for spending her evening hauling my horses with her rig!), the boys loaded right up, Red in a protective, supportive bandage on his injured leg, and we hauled them about 45 minutes to my friend L.'s house.  We dropped Rhio off there, where he spent an overnight with his endurance ride buddy Bravo (eating non-stop, according to L.) and took Red on to the new boarding barn nearer my house. I met L. the next day, and we were off to the Northern Highland distance ride near Merrill, WI (north central Wisconsin).  Rhio and I hadn't been to a ride since June! 
Rhio and Bravo staring at ???
Ride camp was in a huge alfalfa and grass hay field.  We set up a pen and the horses were in heaven!  Rhio and I happily completed a 25 mile LD ride on Saturday with L. and Bravo, placing 6th.  It may be the only ride I can remember where Rhio willingly gave up the lead and followed Bravo the whole day!  It is so interesting how the horses work out for themselves what the proper order of the group shall be, and it is SO much easier to go along with their decision!  I hemmed and hawed quite a lot about whether to compete Rhio, given his 100 pound weight loss and lack of conditioning. However, I decided that his years of competition and fitness gave him enough base to handle 25 miles, even with less body condition than I would prefer.  I was not wrong, as he let me know in no uncertain terms that he was loving every minute of being out there on trail.  I do believe he managed to visibly gain weight over the weekend, despite competing.  We had a super weekend, and on Sunday, Rhio joined Red (who was VERY happy to see him!) in the small paddock at the new barn, happily munching hay.
Riding with Bravo!

Oh, we love this!
Rhio did not require paddock confinement, and so he has been on grass pasture 24/7 since moving to the new  barn.  He has had the pasture to himself, mostly, only in the past two weeks spending some gradually increasing time with the herd.  The acclimatization with the new herd seems to be going well, and I am happy with the slow, methodical method the new barn owner M. uses to introduce the horses.  I go every day with their beet pulp mashes, but I think the main factor in Rhio's weight gain (he is back to normal) has been the 24/7 pasture and zero stress from the herd. 

Enjoying the new pasture.
He has, unfortunately, been dealing with ulcer-like symptoms for the past month. To truly diagnose stomach ulcers in horses requires a very, very long endoscope and a look-see around their stomach.  I haven't done this with Rhio, so I cannot say for certain that he has ulcers.  However, when he starts not finishing his grain or beet pulp, walking away from it, and starts licking his buckets clean again after going on a horsie antacid supplement, I feel pretty safe in declaring that he has ulcers.  I am sure that the ulcers developed at the previous barn, between the emotional/herd stress, the prolonged fasting on a daily basis, and the weight loss, but he was too hungry to show symptoms while there.  In retrospect, I should have had him on the antacid supplement all summer, and I wish I had.  However, I am happy to report that he is now cleaning his buckets thoroughly and seems to be very happy and relaxed.  He's put his weight back on as well, and is growing in a nice winter coat already. 
Zoomies in the new pasture!  And, yes, that's Red in the background - out in the pasture!
Since the ride the weekend that I moved them, we had only ridden once from the new barn - a 5+ mile easy jog around the paved roads (while the Packers game was on, so the traffic was extremely minimal!  I highly recommend strategic ride scheduling to coincide with Packers football when you live in Wisconsin).  He is ready to go-go-go, but we have nowhere to really ride - big downside of the new barn.  Enter my very good friend B. and her husband T. - they hatched a plan for Rhio to go have a week-long sleepover at their house (an hour north of me), so B. and I could ride together a whole bunch.  Woo hoo!!!  I declare this a most excellent plan, as my husband is out of state this week and I'm on my own.

On Sunday, they picked us up and all three of us went to their local trails to ride.  Fun, fun, fun!!!  Rhio and I had a blast seeing trail for the first time in a month, and we did an easy 8+ mile ride on a gorgeous fall afternoon.  After settling Rhio into their back pasture, we hatched plans for more rides during the week.  Yesterday, B. was able to get off work early and we trailered the 5 miles to the local trails, and did a real conditioning ride.  Rhio was on fire, leading B. and her boy Scout on a 12+ mile trot/canter with an overall average pace nearly 7 mph.  Zoom, zoom!  That is plenty fast enough to complete an endurance ride in the time allotted, with extra room to spare.  We saw turkeys, Cooper's hawks, and a porcupine "running" down the trail in front of us as fast as it could go.  Rhio was so, so forward and happy; it was a blast to ride him.  I noticed that when he led (99% of the time), he used his back, rounding it up under my seat and moving out in a really balanced, efficient, effortless stride.  Those adorable ears were pricked, eagerly looking down the trail in front of us.  There was so much joy in both of us, it's really hard to put into words.  During the 1% of the ride that Scout led, Rhio traveled with a hollow back, head and neck thrown up in the air, ears back, head weaving from side to side (so he could look behind us - apparently he takes back-of-the-pack responsibility to make sure nothing sneaks up on us VERY seriously!), gait all bouncing and atrociously uncomfortable to ride.  Huh, I can't say that I've ever noticed before quite how different he moves (very poorly) when he's not leading.

Rhio checks the map at the Machickanee.
Machickanee trails
Post- 12 miler at the Machickanee.
This is B. on Scout - Red's half brother!  Both born in 1995, with the same daddy - they likely grew up together and were weaned together.  And boy do they have some of the same traits!  For example, both like to carry a mouthful of grass on trail - so when we slow down to take a breather, they have a meal at the ready.
We have another ride planned for tomorrow, and again Saturday with T. and then Rhio will go home.  It's like a week of the joyous vacation for us both (yes, I'm calling extreme athletic pursuits "vacation") - then back to "boring" home.  We have one last endurance ride planned for the year, the second weekend in October.  With this week of conditioning, and if my musculoskeletal issues allow, we will be doing the 55 mile endurance event to round out our 2015 competition season! 

By the way, Rhio did earn his 1000 mile UMECRA award this year and we'll be getting a plaque at convention in January!  Woo hoo!!!  We actually earned it at the first ride of the year, but it's taken a while to straighten his mileage record out and get it officially noted.   I am definitely more interested in the longevity awards in my sport: 1000 mile UMECRA horse (1000 miles in competition, including all divisions), 3000 mile AERC (seems like a pipedream, but it's a goal to work toward - you get your horse's picture and story in Endurance News for this one!), and Decade Team AERC (10 years of endurance competition as a team - Rhio and I have 6 years as of 2015).  I'm very proud of my pony, and feel very accomplished to have reached 1000+ miles in competition with him - we have been partners every step of the way. 

Friday, July 17, 2015

It's Been 48 Days

7.3.15.  It is a beautiful tail, but the treats go up here, please!
It's time for a Red update!  It's been 48 days since his injury, and 28 days since diagnosing his fractured splint bone.  Red has been living in his stall 24/7 since June 19.  Mostly, he has been doing extremely well with the confinement, however three days ago the barn owner found him bucking in place in his stall in the morning!  One of the worst things about an injury like this in our equine friends is the need for confinement in a 12' by 12' box.  Horses are NOT made to live in boxes, and they know it.  They are herd animals, requiring companionship, and their entire physiology is designed to walk, walk, walk all day, nibbling bits of forage as they go.  Nothing about living in a box can replicate this, or even come close to truly meeting their needs.  And yet, we put them in boxes, often for our own convenience, and they (mostly) do well.  What wonderful, adaptable creatures they are!
7.6.15  I love the window in my stall!  And I love to wear my breakfast, in case I need a snack on the fly. 
Red is no exception, and has shown amazing adaptability.  I am doing my best to maximize his physical and emotional comfort, but I know it is not, truly, enough.  I want, so much, for him to be a horse again!  But in this, I, and he, must have patience, a lot of patience.  He has hay in a slow-feed net all the time, which allows him to "graze" in small amounts throughout the day and night.  He has horsie friends right next to him at night, and every day I bring Rhio in to visit with him.  He has a fan, to help him stay cool and to help reduce the bugs in his stall.  Tomorrow, I'm going to put up a Jolly Ball for him to play with.  He gets yummy, antibiotic-laden beet pulp mashes twice a day.  I keep his stall bedded in sweetly smelling fresh shavings.  I brush his shedding hair and comb his thick mane and tail.  I hug him and tell him I love him each and every time I see him.  I suspect anyone who walks by him says hello, as he is very gregarious and will stick his head out his stall window to check things out.  But he is not free to be a horse, and he won't be for a long time yet.
6.29.15 Canoodling with my brother!

7.15.15 Mini herd time

7.13.15 You gotta use your lips to get hay outta this thing!

The day he was bucking in his stall, I decided he needed a mental health day.  I took him carefully out of the barn to the hose, and bathed him (while he ate grass and clover).  We walked along the pasture fence, grazing.  He had a nice, satisfying roll.  And then he reared, bucked, and starting carrying on like a wild two year old!  I cannot blame him, at all.  But I also cannot let him do that, as he is far from healed, despite the fact that he now walks without a limp.  We walked in hand, with him snorting and spooking at every little thing.  Thank goodness for his excellent ground manners, as he did not run me over, step on me, bump into me, take off without me, or any of the number of things a 900 lb critter could do to a wimpy human at the end of a rope attached to his head.  But let me tell you, given the inkling of a chance to take off running, bucking, cavorting, and generally carrying on, he certainly would have love to do so. 
7.15.15 First green grass in weeks!

7.15.15 Grazing in the small pen.

That day, and the next day, he got about an hour of grazing in a small pen, only a bit bigger than his stall.  He loved it.  At the end of his second day of this, he was just discernibly limping on the bad leg, and it swelled again, both clear indicators that the exercise and extremely limited freedom were too much for the level of healing.  Man, what a disappointment!  I was sure hoping he could have a little time each day outside in the small pen to eat grass!  Alas, it is not yet to be, and he is back to 24/7 stall rest.  I do let him wander around the barn aisle while I clean his stall, and he loves that. 

7.13.15 Anything in this stall?

7.13.15 Can I stick my head in here and see if there's grain in this bucket?

7.13.15 Anything to eat in the garbage?

7.13.15 Mom, do you have any treats for me? I can't find any food here!
The wound itself is nearly completely healed, and looks wonderful.  I have been trying to begin weaning him off the bandage, as after this many weeks in it, the leg tends to swell when left unbandaged for any length of time.  The system by which tissue fluid is returned up the leg is a series of very weak vessels called lymphatics.  The pressure of the bandage has essentially been doing their job for them, and they need some time to start working properly again.  Hence, the attempt to wean the leg off bandage use, rather than just stop bandaging all at once.  His little setback from too much freedom the past couple of days, however, has hampered the weaning process, and today I had to put him back in his full limb pressure wrap.  

7.15.15  Nearly healed!
What's his prognosis?  I still can't say with any certainty.  He has about a day left on antibiotics, and is currently off of his pain reliever/antiinflammatory.  It appears as though the infection is cleared up, since the wound is healing very fast with no drainage and he has been sound at the walk; I am hopeful, but only time will tell.  I expect the fracture to have a bony callus around it, stabilizing it, about 6-8 weeks after injury (so, around now) and then the fracture must heal within that callus, which will take at least another couple of months.  Possible complications include a piece (or pieces) of the splint bone working their way out of the leg (best possibility) or into a vital structure such as the joint or the suspensory ligament (worst possibility), due to the pieces being dead and the body needing to 'get rid' of them.  Also the fracture may continue to be unstable, and/or the carpal-metacarpal joint it is a part of may be unstable, indefinitely.  The bone may not heal.  And/or, the joint which was infected may break down into degenerative joint disease rapidly and irreversibly, leading to permanent pain and disability.  Any combination of these things could occur, or none of them might happen.  At any rate, it will be a long time until he gets to be a horse again.

7.14.15 Bug bites causing a huge swollen, crusty, hairless area on his belly.  This is when it was mild!  It is about 3x as big now. 

7.14.15. Chilling in the aisle, looking for the herd.

Thursday, June 25, 2015


There is no such thing as a "simple" puncture wound.  Since Red's May 30th injury, things have gone from bad to worse. I had a nice, long, descriptive post written.  I was just getting ready to add the photos.  And it disappeared into cyberspace.  So, instead you're getting a descriptive photo essay.

June 1, less than 24 hours after injury.  Swelling is marked, he's not using it, and I'm using cold hosing and icing along with bandaging and wound care. 

June 2. The view from behind bars - little did we know at the time how much time he'll be spending in his stall (months).
June 3.  I've removed all my foolhardy sutures and am flushing the wound daily with hydrogen peroxide, followed by saline solution.  I'm bandaging with a poultice pad to help draw out the pus.  (The other leg is just wrapped for support).

June 3. Copious cold hosing helps with swelling and pain, and cleans out the wound.  It's looking pretty good.

June 4.  I paid a ridiculous amount of money to have this therapy boot (Easy Boot RX) overnighted to me.  He is not using the injured leg and I'm worried about over-stressing the good foot and the possibility of developing supporting-limb laminitis. This boot helps support the good foot.

June 4.  This is his stance most of the time. 
June 7.  This is what the discharge looks like right after I take the bandage off, before I've cleaned him up.  

June 10.  Standing at the hitching rail with Rhio, either before or after going for a little handwalk for grass.  He's walking pretty well by now!
June 11.  Working on his leg in the barn, with Rhio for company.  Maybe you can see that he's putting some weight on it even while just standing.
June 12.  The wound is filling in with healthy granulation tissue, but he's still really sore on it.   I'm beginning to be suspicious there's something else going on...
June 15.  Selfie time!  I've been at the barn every single day since the horses moved, twice a day some days. And it's 22 miles one way from home. 

June 15.  Still hosing the leg.  The wound looks great superficially but there is still copious thick yellow drainage and serious lameness.  He's spending some time in the small paddock, but most of his time stalled.
June 16.  It's time for more investigation.  This is joint fluid from the lower carpal joint.  It's cloudy and dark yellow.  It should be clear and pale yellow.  Looks like infection - off the sample goes to the lab for analysis, and culture if it is indeed infected.  Results: obvious infection, and there are two types of bacteria - E. coli and Streptococcus zooepidemicus.

June 18.  On the left is a bone fragment, which I located when cleaning the wound after having injected antibiotics directly into the infected joint.  The body had been trying to push it out, hence the copious thick drainage from the wound.  Now, where did this come from???
June 19.  The wound doesn't look quite so healthy as it did back on June 12.  Red's feeling pretty punky still, with pain indicators (high heart and respiratory rates despite antiinflammatory pain relievers).

June 19.  Icing the leg makes him feel better, so I do it every day between bandage changes.
June 19.  Plain film radiographs show an obvious and serious fracture of the lateral splint bone.  This is where that chunk of bone came from, and it looks as though there may be one other small loose fragment that will work its way out.  The fracture is non-displaced, meaning all the pieces are still in their original location.  This is VERY GOOD, especially since he has not been kept on strict stall rest but has been walking around in a small paddock and handwalking on lead.  This bone is non-weight bearing, meaning that it can actually heal on its own.  The pieces, if they were to move, however, could get lodged in some very important structures, such as tendons, ligaments, or the joint.  So it's really important that we keep him from walking much, so that we have the best possible chance it will heal on its own.  Of course, the fracture is further complicated by the fact that not only the joint, but the fracture, is infected.  So the first order of business is to knock the infection out thoroughly, if possible.

June 19.  Right before the local vet came to xray.  Red's last day in the paddock for months to come. 
June 20.  Red gets his first regional limb perfusion.  I'm still waiting on final culture and sensitivity results to make sure he's on the correct antibiotics.  He's currently getting both injectable and oral antibiotics twice daily.  This procedure allows me to infuse a very high concentration of antibiotic into a vein in the area of the infection.  With the use of a tourniquet (thanks to a noble sacrifice by my mountain bike, as a bike inner tube works great!), I can leave the antibiotic in the area for 20 minutes, long enough for it to diffuse into all the local (infected) tissues.  This should achieve a killing dose of antibiotic into the joint, into the fractured bone, and into all the other tissues of the area.  It's a very targeted treatment for situations like this, and also a new technique to me.  By the end of this, I'll feel like an old pro!

June 20.  Red now sports not only a lower leg wrap over the wound, and supporting the lower leg, but a bandage up over his knee as well.  This technique is called a 'spider' bandage, as you have lots of long tails which you tie together to allow the bandage to bend as the knee bends.  This is also a new technique to me, but so far, it's working!  I have used a dish towel to make my spider, place over normal bandage quilts for padding. 

June 20.  Red loves having a window on his stall so he can hang his head out. 
June 22.  We've finished another regional limb perfusion and are waiting for our time to take the tourniquet off and bandage him back up. He gets to walk three steps out of his stall each day for me to clean it, and I do his treatments in the aisle.  Poor guy.  He's such a trooper, though.  I couldn't ask for a better patient.

June 22.  Get well cards made by the little girls whose horse Lucky is next to Red.

June 24.  View of his front legs from behind.  Can you see how swollen the left still is?  And it's so much better! 

June 24.  View from the front.  This left front injured leg is on the right side of the photo.