Friday, 29 March 2013

Pondering in the sunshine

In the time since my lost post we've had some more snow, beautiful sunshine and more mud. Everyone is talking about the weather and it is really starting to get me down so lord knows how the horses are feeling. The glimpses we've had of spring are amazing but it is still oh so cold. I am definitely not putting my thermals away just yet!
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Buddy and Bert grazing in the snow last week
Buddy has fallen foul of the weather and we've been battling the smallest patch of mud fever the last week or so (so small the camera couldnt even pick it up to take a picture for the blog) but it has been persistent and wasn't responding to any typical, non vet, treatment. So, after another "Buddy's hopping lame" text from my YO (Buddy is the wussiest horse in the world) I called my vet, Chris. He has been so supportive and I may well do a whole post about him soon as he is awesome! Anyway, back to Buddy... Chris prescribed some flamazine cream and bute to help the swelling and time off the field. After a day Buddy realised his leg was no longer falling off (typical man) and we are *hopefully* coming out the other side.

Unfortunately for Buddy he isn't getting a holiday and it is work as usual - we're just avoiding mud and sand! So whilst on my hack this morning I was enjoying the sunshine and pondering.. As I often do. There was a post on the Phoenix forum a week or so ago about the definition of soundness, particularly in barefoot horses, which then led to a discussion about why shoes relieve discomfort and hide soundness issues in most horses. 
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Pondering about proprioception in the sunshine
Soundness in barefoot horses is an interesting topic and one I obviously have a particular interest in. As far as I am concerned Buddy is 'sound' at the moment but he would definitely not be able to trot over a rocky surface without looking uncomfortable.. There is where the discussion starts as is he truly sound if he is not 100% over all surfaces? We are getting better over more challenging terrain but we still have a way to go yet before we are rock crunching.

This then got me thinking about proprioception as this, as far as I'm concerned, is one of the key differences between a shod and unshod/barefoot horse. Nic has posted about this a couple of times on the Rockley blog and they were topics I read with a bit of disbelief prior to me feeling it for myself. When Buddy had shoes on he stomped over every terrain with the same stride pattern and there was no difference whatsoever. Now it is a completely different story, his stride changes depending on the surface he is on. He is even aware of the slightest change in type of Tarmac, when there is a bit of mud on the road and if the grass suddenly gets a bit boggier. I know from speaking to other Rockley owners that Buddy is not alone in this phenomenon. He is now protecting his body from any jarring that he simply wasn't able to do before and I wonder what impact that will have on his long term soundness... Surely it can only be a good thing?! But if a vet watched that change in stride would they consider it an awareness or a lameness...
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Handsome Horse (and doesn't he know it!)
I'm sure this is a topic I will come back to over time, I'm hoping especially so when I watch horses out eventing.. I'm wondering what the impact of increased proprioception will have on Buddy across country. I can't wait to find out!

Thursday, 21 March 2013

The ups and downs of rehabbing

Another educational week for me as I've been living off the high with constant improvement and I've been tentatively waiting for something to go wrong and it did this week! 

Trying to fit the right level and type of work is difficult in the winter and as I was faced with a beautiful early morning and a working from home day I took the opportunity to take Buddy out for a lovely hack. Usually I work to a two days on, one day off routine which sometimes falls to 3 days on over a weekend but one of those will always be a gentler session in the school. I use an app on my iPhone called Endomondo which tracks where you went, how far it is and average speed to name a few. I've found it so useful to track my mileage but also to compare the speed at which we do certain hacks. When B came back he was slower than when he was in shoes over the same routes but is now pretty much at the same speed and he is definitely not at his best yet so we'll be flying round soon a la speedy Gonzales!!
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Endomondo App from one of our journeys this week

As my work the following week was scheduled to be a bit busier I thought I might have to give him a couple more days off so I worked him for four days straight.. And three of those were hacks. He was fantastic and is showing an improvement every time we go out and is so much better over stony tracks. He had Monday off and was fine to go out in the field but on Tuesday morning he came out a bit footsore. Cue a text from my YO telling me B was lame and me feeling sick all day as I was stuck in meetings and wouldn't be able to get there until late :0(
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At home after a hack with his best friend Bert
When I finally got to the yard he had improved although was clearly a bit uncomfortable. I ran through all the possible reasons in my head.. grass, thrush, too much work. To cover all bases I treated for thrush, he'd been off the grazing for the day so all I could do was wait. I went up to the yard in the morning and he was completely fine so I'm pretty convinced that it was just too much work. Wrist slapped and lesson learnt - DO NOT OVERDO IT... BUDDY IS STILL REHABBING EVEN IF HE FEELS AMAZING!

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Laminitis App

However, grass is still a concern and I am conscious that we are entering a dangerous time. I will see what Buds is like this evening and if he's a bit footsore then I know it is the grazing and I will have to start managing that. After doing lots of research I have upped his salt intake due to the raised potassium in the grass at this time of year and have upped his magnesium intake as a preventative I also use the laminitis risk app which is a good indicator. I would much rather keep him without a muzzle if at all possible but I would much rather a comfortable horse so we will deal with it all one step at a time.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Time to learn

The last week has been brilliant, Buddy's feet are improving every week and our work is improving even faster. Since my last blog we've had two lessons and they've been hard work but absolutely brilliant. 
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Sending kisses to his readers
Our main focus is keeping Buddy straight and improving his canter. On the flat Buddy has a bit of a yee haw canter and I've let it continue so now is the time to start knuckling down and improving it as it will pull our marks down in a test. The exercises we have been doing are pretty simple but all focused on keeping Buddy into my outside rein as he tends to twist into and out of the canter and evade my aids so to improve the canter we have to focus on the straightness first. 

Both sessions we have started getting him in front of the leg and really reacting to my aids as he can be a lazy monkey! Lots and lots of transitions to keep him thinking forward and anticipating make sure that as soon as I ask he is there. Last night we started with a few serpentines which highlighted that he wasn't into my outside rein as it was a little bit messy and hard to control. We then moved on to some lateral work, using shoulder in and leg yield to get that connection. I found the shoulder in exercise particularly useful and as soon as I rode out of the movement and asked for straightness Buddy immediately lightened and gave me a wonderful feeling. Next we worked the canter on a circle, checking that we still had that outside connection. Buddy is much more established on his right rein and I noticed a massive improvement last night, on the left rein he is a bit more manic (!). We continued doing lots of transitions, correcting any drift as soon as it happened and rewarding the right behaviour. He is definitely improving so I need to continue practising outside of my lessons and I'm confident in a few weeks there will be a complete change and we should hopefully be ready for our first dressage outing at the end of April.
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Buddy chilling having a graze
In our other work Buddy has made a massive improvement over the last couple of weeks in terms of his ability over smaller stones, so much so that I actually walked up the driveway both days at the weekend without him flinching... cue big smiles from me!

In other news, Rolo is not doing so well and his second blood test came back worse than last time so he's having a liver biopsy today to see if we can get to the bottom of it. Good vibes would be appreciated for him.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Mud, malady's and management

Buddy has reached his third week at home and the time has flown. I'm still not as effecient as I was prior to Buddy going away and its taking me ages to get all my jobs done which my husband feels is a little trick so I can spend more time at the yard but it's not true, I'm just inefficient!
As per the post title there have been three themes running through the last couple of weeks, I will start with the first - Mud. Urgh I have never known anything like it and we are finally starting to dry out so I've got no idea how we managed to keep the fields open for most of the winter. However, with mud comes mud fever... Buddy had managed to avoid it despite being known as 'Muddy Buddy' but last week he came in with a fat hock. I obviously had heart failure wondering what he'd done but he had a small cut on his hock and I think this is where it snuck in. So, to be different, Buddy had mud fever on the top of his leg but nothing on the bottom. Seriously! So after lashings of sudeocrem, keeping it dry and out of the mud we finally got rid of it and so he went out again at the weekend.
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Muddy Buddy (on a very good day)
 Unfortunately Mud Fever wasn't our only malady - but luckily it wasn't Buddy making the most out of his insurance this time! My MiL's horse Rolo had a bout of colic which ended up in a few late nights and a dash to horsepital in the middle of the night. As I am the only one with transport it was down to me to drop him off and pick him up. He perked up after a night at the vets but came down again with it on Friday. We're waiting for some blood work to come back but its currently showing an infection in the liver/small intestine and the vet also suspects ulcers... I will update you when I hear more but some good vibes for him would be good.
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Buddy says "Get well soon Rolo"
I'm also feeling that I'm into my barefoot routine now.. As he is going out now I'm managing to stick with Nic's recommended 2 on 1 off that Buddy had at Rockley. As I work it is virtually impossible to fit in any hacking during the week so all my road work has to be done at the weekend. I try and do a longer hack of about 4/5 miles followed by a 2/3 mile hack which he seems to be coping fine with. However I can't wait for the summer to come so that I can spread my hacking out thoughout the week. Even though its a bit boring, I'm sticking to having similar bits on the route so I can compare how he feels on the surfaces. This week I felt a massive difference and he only struggled on the stoniest bits so hopefully he'll soon be rock crunching.
Week 1 to 12 at Rockley
Photos courtesy of Nic Barker
I've also finally managed to do my compare and contrast pictures AND I've taken some updated ones. The contrast still astounds me when you think his feet have done all this in such a short time frame. I've noticed that there are fewer horses arriving at Rockley in such a state, some of them are already barefoot and just need a bit of a tweak to keep them right, but it just shows to me that I must remain super vigilent and ensure his feet stay on the right path. So I will be taking pictures at 3/4 week intervals just in case.

Wk 12 vs wk 15 (LF)
If you look at his week 12 pics you can see that he has grown a few more cm's of hoof and so I'm hoping he will have a full hoof in about 10-12 weeks.

Wk 12 vs Wk 15 Sole (LF)
The sole shots are a bit deceiving as they are from a different angle to Nic's (I'll aim to get better!) but the biggest change in this shot is that the collateral grooves are getting wider and deeper. I'm not sure if you can tell from the phot but his sole is definately becoming more concave which would explain why he is feeling better on the stonier bits.
 We still have a fair old way to go but we are heading in the right direction still (I hope!).