Friday the farrier declared the abscess blown and Cruze good to go back under saddle. I watched him walk off sound and happy with full length strides and was satisfied with our plan moving forward.
Saturday morning I brought him in for breakfast and saw this
Guess some big orange butthead heard the news and needed to find some way to remain “retired”.
Good news is that it is superficial, there is no swelling or heat and he is sound on the leg. For the moment anyway.
Bad news is that it’s over a joint and healing that could either be easy or a royal pain due to the motion of the skin. For now I put him back out instead of in his stall mostly for my own sanity plus the above no heat, swelling or pain thing.
I’ll check on him regularly for the need to be stalled. In the meantime if anyone knows someone in the market for a sorta sound accident prone pain in the butt gelding please let me know.
Confession time: in the 9 years I’ve had Gem and Pete I have had to call the vet out twice. Once when she cut her hoof half off and again that same year when she had a colic scare. Both were due to the bad boarding situation she was in and we quickly left. Even with her hoof injury she never took a single lame step.
Lameness isn’t something I’m experienced with and when it comes down to it, I’m a newbie with problematic horses.
Cruze has continued to be off going right under saddle while being perfectly sound gallivanting in the pasture. I stopped riding him last week when it started getting worse instead of better and decided to just wait until the farrier came out to get his advice on the situation. I was finally able to secure a new farrier that came highly recommended by Trainer and whose work I have personally seen on an event horse and liked.
I always start a new farrier off with Gem. She not only has freakishly amazing feet, but is also an angel in the cross ties, half the time falling asleep. It’s a nice introduction to how I train my horses to behave for the farrier. She was her awesome self with no issues and no concerns. Then it was Pete. He is a bit harder since his feet like to crack and he is prone to white line. He was also a good boy, stood still, picked his feet up in advance of being asked and walked off better for it.
Then it was Cruze. He can be a total jerk with his legs often pulling them violently away from your hands. He no longer does this to me as I scolded him severely for it but he tests new people still. I quickly corrected that and apologized. Bad manners for the farrier is very embarrassing.
I filled him in on the last two months of hoof woes. The lost hind shoe exposing lamina resulting in being crippled and getting his first vet call. Then becoming sound only to repeat the process on the front which has not resolved any where near as quickly as the hinds. Plus the pesky right side lameness in the better looking hoof that is getting worse and not better.
Right away he diagnosed that issue. Cruze had freshly blown out an abscess on the lateral heel. Ugh. I admit to feeling like an ass. I had noticed the spot looked odd last week but thought it was his hoof boot rubbing which is why I ditched the boots. He continued to get progressively more lame and I didn’t even think to make sure that wasn’t an abscess brewing.
Thankfully it has blown and should grow out and he gave the green light to hop back on him thinking he should be as sound as his feet will let him be once again.
Of course I have family in this week so I won’t get to test that theory for a while.
Other than that the verdict on his feet is that they suck. In general. More specifically he has paper thin soles that remain “squishy” (his words) even after two months of pasture, being bare and hoof supplements topically and orally.
My question to him was: could they thicken with time and a better hoof growing down or is this genetically him?
His answer? They will certainly improve with all that but if I want to ride him on anything but mattresses and jump him, I should shoe him and forget about it.
Unfortunately he still doesn’t have enough hoof to shoe, so the plan is another 6 weeks bare, use keratex three times a week, and then shoe with leather pads for a cycle. Hopefully we can ditch the pads after the initial go and remain in shoes. He said I could go bare behind but I’d have to be very careful on the footing and if I’m planning on eventing I’d be best off just shoeing them too.
So that is that. He needs to grow enough hoof to not end up in a cycle of pulled shoes and lost hoof wall, but this guy’s opinion is that I should just shoe him all around as he was sound shod before. As long as this guy is as good as his reputation makes him out to be, he should be able to trim/shoe him in a balanced manner to counteract his tendency to want to be high right and low left and get him moving better so we can go back to having fun and growing as a team.
We will see what six more weeks brings us. In the meantime I’m going to hop on him hopefully sometime soon and see how he feels now that the abscess is blown. Hopefully he will be sound and ready to roll at least for flatwork lessons and ground poles.
A lot of his ground behaviors have improved tremendously since I got firm with him over his biting and I have not had to repeat the correction since. Things he now does nicely like a well behaved boy:
Stands quietly and without moving in the cross ties
Picks up all 4 hooves without whipping his head around to bite me or ripping the leg out of my hand
Stands to be bridled without running away
Allows the bridle to be buckled without trying to eat the straps or my leg
Goes into the arena without stopping twenty times along the way to stare off in the distance for other horses
Enter the arena without screaming at all. Not one single time.
All those are major steps in a very short period of time and the big orange man gets tons of praise and pats each time he does so. It’s been refreshing to not battle those any more.
Under saddle things are still hit and miss. The ride immediately after the one when he ugly bucked me off was lovely. He was clam, cool headed and went to work. I stopped after only walking for about 20 minutes to reward his change in attitude.
Then three days passed before I could ride him again. That ride was eh. He did all the above nice behaviors but then under saddle he kept snaking his head back and forth and threatening to be very bad indeed. I was able to shut it down and work through it and after 10 minutes he settled. The rest of the 40 minute walk/trot ride was nice. He rooted down a lot and wasn’t fully paying attention to me but I worked him through Exercise 1 of the Jumping book and added some trot poles to perk him up and keep it interesting and he did ok.
He is still a little off trotting right. He isn’t head bobbing any longer but does short stride so I am keeping the trot sets short and working mostly on having a non explosive transition.
Last night I decided to try lunging him first. I admit I despise lunging before riding. Deep in my bones despise. I’d rather not ride than have to lunge before I can get on my horse. But I figured I’d give it a whirl and see if it made a difference.
I don’t think it really did much for him. He wasn’t an idiot on the line. In fact he listened extremely well to my body language and voice commands and was in general very gentleman like. I don’t know if he was just in a good mood or what but he did just fine.
What it was good for was my eyes on him to see how he was moving and what he looks like. In the first trot transition, he tucked his chin, snaked his head side to side and leaped into the trot. Now riding this is what slightly terrifies me and makes me very tense as it feels like he is either going to bolt or rear or a combination of both. Watching it from the ground it looked more like he was just flailing into the trot instead of truly being awful. The second time I asked he went into it just fine like a normal horse.
When I got on him he tried to tell me he was done and couldn’t possibly work after 5 minutes on the lunge. He eventually caved and realized we were still working and while he tried to be a butt head the first transition and then again during the trot when he was bored, I was much calmer about it and ignored him instead of getting worked up.
That really helped and he soon settled and got down to working. His rooting against my hand never showed up and I’m not sure if that was due to stretching his back super low on the lunge or because I wasn’t getting tense. Probably both. I made sure to really praise him and give him scratches with every transition to the trot that he performed calmly and in balance and just ignore those that had some flailing involved.
Honestly if he hadn’t had such a nice PPE and hadn’t been sound before his feet went to crap I’d be super worried I bought a lame horse. As it is his movement improves daily and I have a few weeks of shod delight to compare to.
I did order a new bit for him as he was going in a myler d ring snaffle and the seller said that was his favorite of all she had tried with him. I’ve been having him go in a regular French link snaffle. I don’t put a lot of faith into a bit change making a lot of difference but I want to take all the factors out of play that I can.
Speaking of that I’m also starting him on two weeks of ulcer meds. Between the move to green pastures, the crippled feet and bute use he has a laundry list of risk factors going against him. Might as well treat and see if it makes a difference. He eats well and isn’t girthy but you never know.
Once he is 100% sound I also plan to have the massage therapist and chiro out to work out any issues that walking oddly created. Basically I’m trying to set him up for success physically so that he doesn’t have any excuses.
I really really want a lesson on him but I am waiting a bit more until he is sound going right. He is so close but not fully there yet and there is no reason to rush this at all. He is young and we have a long future together to get over sticks and gallop down the lane. My closer goal is to be able to take him to the hunter paces in his boots once they begin next month but we will see how he is moving at that time.
Right now I’m just trying to work slowly with him to build an understanding and figure out what he needs to be successful. I want this partnership to work and I am willing to put the time in.
Hooves fascinate me which I suppose isn’t that surprising given my profession as a foot doctor. Biomechanics and foot function are interesting and complex topics in both humans and horses. That doesn’t mean anyone else finds it to be as well, so while I chronicle the changes in Cruze’s front feet for my own sake in the journey, I won’t mind if anyone decides to skip these posts.
Unfortunately I never grabbed immediate pictures when the shoes came off in the pasture four weeks ago. I was too worried about getting him comfortable again to bother making him hold still for a picture. There have been early changes but not drastic enough to ruin this series, so I’m starting out today as his baseline.
His front right is the better of the two. It has a higher heel to start with and a shorter toe. The sole is more concave though he still needs to lose sole out by the toe.
The hoof keeps breaking as the old nail holes grow down and I am hoping once that all goes away the wall will be stronger. He has almost no wall to walk on and while the angle of the hoof will take a year to grow fully out, he should get a stronger support base a lot quicker.
He is more sound on the front right and I expect that hoof to make changes quicker than the left which started out from a worse position. The heel on the left is extremely low and lacks support. The sole remains flat and has a lot of changes to make.
He is doing a lot better on the front left but his hoof print shows a lot of sole contact happening. I expect him to rock back on the heel as that lessens.
It is nice to have some baseline pictures to use as this process slowly moves forward. He gets a lot of motion in the pasture, has the paved driveway to walk down twice a day, is getting Farrier’s Barrier applied regularly and is on a hoof supplement daily as well. Plus he gets his high end complete feed, so nutritionally and physically he should be set up for success.
I began writing this a week ago and as of now he is walking at a normal tempo down the paved drive instead of slowly crawling and asking to go in the grass. That’s a huge win in terms of comfort. I also noticed that he has changed from toe touch to flat foot touch which while still not the holy grail of heel touch is a step in the right direction. I expect his soundness to be complete once he begins rocking back and landing in the heel. That will also jump start the changes he needs to make.
Time is my friend here and I’m in no rush to go beyond the basics of riding at the moment, so hopefully things move along well enough before the ground gets mushy in the fall rainy season.
Phew! What a weekend we had! Life on the farm has been slowly getting into a routine which generally involves one weekend inside (cleaning, grocery shopping, fixing things), the next outside (mowing, barn chores, fence fixing), the third doing something fun with Wyatt (beach trip, hiking, swimming) and the last I’m too tired to move and remain lazily in the hammock.
This past weekend was farm weekend and it was a doozy.
It started with an early morning ride on Cruze Saturday. I’ll get more into him in another post but he was an absolute angel from tacking to riding to untacking. He was the horse I tested and fell in love with. Tough love for the win.
After that it was time to tackle the tack room move. The office is nice because it has a ceiling and door plus is right next to the cross ties at the entrance to the barn. I started clearing out all the garbage tack left behind by the old owners.
Then it was scrubbing the floor, ceiling and walls with the broom. If the main electric box wasn’t exposed I would have brought the hose in but electrocuting myself wasn’t on the to do list.
With that done I mixed up bleach water and wiped everything down that I could. It was so much nicer than when I started. My next step was to clean all my tack in the current room, but I needed to stop when the hay guy texted me to say he was coming in.
So…I may have no idea how much hay we need. I ordered 150 bales and it didn’t sound like much but when I saw the truck pull in I gasped.
Dusty made fun of me the entire time we moved and stacked it. One for ordering so much hay for three horses on enough pasture with winter grass that we likely won’t feed hay at all and two for cheaping out on $0.50 a bale ($75 total) and not paying them to bring someone to stack it for us. Moving 15,000 pounds of hay in 90% humidity is no joke. Note to self: in three years when I need hay again, pay to have them stack it.
By the time we finished that chore I was done for the day. Wiped out. Kaput. We had to run some errands and I was planning a landscaping project at my office, but there was no way that was going to happen. Instead we ate tacos at the new taco place in town which is my new obsession. Bang bang shrimp tacos forever. It helped that our waiter took our order and then went home leaving us behind. After waiting 30 minutes we asked a random waitress to find our waiter and when they realized he left, the manager came over and comped our entire meal plus gave Wyatt desert. Free tacos are even better.
Sunday was mowing day. Thankfully the pastures don’t need it as the big one is resting, but it still takes three solid hours to do the “yard”. Dusty hopped on the tractor and bush hogged the next section to be added as pasture. Next step for him is fencing. He is a bit mad at me at the moment as I’ve changed the pasture plans to make three instead of two but the horses aren’t using the pasture space by the pond and I keep having to mow it and then watch it get unused. The new plan is to cut off the back pond pasture from the large one, then take out the lane between it and the second pond pasture making that one large back pasture. It will give us three pastures to rotate.
After spending the morning mowing I declared the afternoon fun time and spent it at my parents’ house playing cards and joking around. I was exhausted, dehydrated and sore but it was good to knock so much hard work off the list. We have visitors coming in a couple of weeks, so our normal life rotation will be thrown off as we clean the house getting ready, but having them here will force us to stop working and relax a bit which is never a bad thing.
As I led Gem out after dinner the other night it dawned on me that a lot of readers do not know her very well. Most of you joined my story towards the end of our time together and that isn’t very fair to my bestest mare. She is now fully retired, living large and happy outside eating grass and not being asked to jump over anything or perform another 20 m circle in her life.
It was my last year of medical school and I had time on my hands. Having spent my youth with horses and now finding myself as an adult with spare time and change, I was finally getting that itch back in my soul. An internet search (this was pre Facebook so it was websites or bust) led me to an 11 year old 15h bay Arab mare – $800. No picture, no other write up. I have no idea why I went to look at her, but when I saw the scraggly, pot bellied, hair less mare standing in a paddock of knee deep mud I knew she had to come home with me. I didn’t even ride her. I handed my check over to the 16 year old boy who was selling her so he could buy a truck and went home to find a barn and arrange transportation.
Gem proved both difficult and above my pay grade from the start. She would stand perfectly still while I begged, pleaded, kicked, used a crop and uttered many a swear word to try to get her to walk on. Eventually, out of the blue, she would bolt madly forward and careen around the indoor arena at mach speed. That is if I could even catch or bridle her in the first place. She had a nasty habit of walking annoyingly away from me just out of reach in the pasture and then bolting backwards as soon as I tried to get a bridle on her in the barn aisle. For months I had to bridle her crammed and cornered in her stall.
Eventually I figured out I was out of my league and moved her to a “training” facility at $1000 a month to include 5 professional rides and 1 lesson a week. I’m not sure that the trainer ever got beyond lunging her and certainly never sat on her though I know a few unlucky kids took lessons on her. By the time I moved to WI, three months and a lot of money later, I was told Gem would never be able to canter outside of a circle, would never go down a trail and don’t even think about jumping. Ok…so maybe the last proved true though she has proven she can jump when she decides to.
I was determined that my little bay mare could be a normal horse and the next year was spent renting a house at a boarding facility which gave me plenty of access to the mare. I was patient and worked slowly from the ground up to build her trust in me. By the end of that next winter she was cantering like a champ and come spring of 2011 we were hitting the trails with her BFF Pete. Unfortunately, we were evicted from that rental when the landlord was foreclosed on for gambling our rent money away instead of paying the mortgage and I moved Gem to a new boarding facility. This place proved magical for us as it had an indoor, outdoor dressage ring, outdoor jump arena, trails and a cross country course giving us a lot of opportunities for exposure.
Gem and I got exposure to a lot of different things and I even jumped her for the first time. That year was the first time I hooked the trailer up and drove it by myself. Gem gave me wings in a lot of different ways.
While in WI, Gem and I completed our first 25 mile limited distance ride placing 8th followed by our second placing second to last. That first 25 mile ride was the first time I rode without Dusty and thankfully I was taken in by a group of women. With two miles left I let them go ahead figuring Gem would be tired and rode the last miles completely alone for the first time ever. Before heading south, Gem tackled her first ride and tie with Dusty and me, placing first.
When we made it to SC, I was determined to focus on endurance and so I hit the trails all alone. My plan was to go out 30 minutes and turn around. I didn’t care how far we made it or how fast we went. After an hour of ride time, we arrived back at the trailer having covered 0.75 miles. It wasn’t looking good for an endurance career. A month later she stranded me at the trail head for two hours refusing to get on the trailer.
Fast forward and Gem did improve on the trail alone. We have logged thousands of miles together on the trail, covering triple that travelling in the trailer solo, over mountain, sand and flat terrain in TN, SC, NC and GA. We completed our first 50 mile ride, followed by a second and had plans to move up in 2015 until she cut half her foot off needing emergency surgery and 30 days in a fiberglass cast. Honestly, I thought our riding time together was ended that summer.
Gem proved me wrong yet again and bounced back that fall without missing a beat. She went on to complete a difficult 100 mile ride at Biltmore in the spring of 2016 and the long course Ride and Tie East Coast Championship in the fall of 2016. After that ride, I decided to hang up our long distance gear. Gem was in top form, both physically and mentally (she dumped me twice during the R&T championships in pure Gem evilness), but she was nearing 20 and had proven herself enough. I felt like we had nothing left to conquer, having crossed all my goals off the list, and Wyatt was growing more demanding of my time.
The winter of 2017, I purchased new gear and introduced my endurance machine to eventing. She immediately gave me the middle finger and told me where I could stick this new plan. Even with her outright displeasure with this change, she took me to our first CT June 2017 where we placed 4th of 9 and got over the 18″ stadium course without a rail or time fault. She also hauled my butt around a schooling jumper show at 2′ with out killing me or knocking a rail. All told, Gemmie and I went xc schooling five times as well.
Gem and I struggled with the new discipline until this past spring when I finally started listening to what she was trying to tell me. She was unhappy. Sure she has always been a pistol full of opinions, but this was different and it was time to let her rest.
At 20, she is happy, healthy and sassy. She has remained sound for the entire time I have had her, even through her injury and surgery she never took a single bad step. She had one minor colic scare a few years ago, but that is it. She was barefoot for every training and competition mile except the 100. Physically Gem is a beast that I will likely never get the honor of managing again.
Mentally, Gem is still sharp and quick and ready to put me in my place. Over all the years and miles we had reached a solid understanding: I chose the trail and the speed, she chose her footing and how to maintain that in whatever gait was best for the terrain. I didn’t micromanage her and she didn’t try to run off or poke along. It worked great until we changed to working in the arena where I began learning to micromanage her body moving shoulders this way and haunches that. In her mind, I broke our contract. It is a bit of a shame that she is retired so sound and healthy. In another life, she could easily still be working for another 10 years at this rate, but my favorite black tipped ears are starting to get grey around the edges and she more than deserves to spend the next decade being boss mare in the field and looking down on anyone who dares enter her personal space.
The last nine years have been very special in so many ways. Graduating, residency, becoming a mother, starting my own practice, buying our farm. Through it all, by bestest mare has been there to keep me humble, remind me that there are more important things in life than work, give me wings to chase down dreams and be a rock when I melt down. Nothing went according to plan with her and yet every goal was reached, every dream came true. I owe a lot to that little bay mare and I hope to see her pushing boundaries in my pasture for many, many years to come.