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February 2, 2019

Little Shop Of Hoof Horrors

A big part of transitioning a horse to a new career is rebuilding his body.  Often it entails changing shape & developing different muscle groups.  How much change takes place is related to how different his new life is in comparison to his old one.

Sometimes this process includes a measure of falling apart before you can get to the re-assembly.  Sometimes you just have to let that happen.  If you have control issues (which I totally, uh, don't, erm...), this can be exceedingly difficult.

As Echo & I worked through Operation Farm-Breaking, the (much bigger) parallel process was his large-yet-small body.  Aside from the several hundred pounds of mass he needed to gain & the leg that needed to heal, his feet, while having ok structure, were too upright & boxy in racing plates that were keeping them too small (his hind shoes had already been pulled when I got him, so better back there).

Unfortunately, I didn't take any foot photos as the very beginning, but I do have a few photos of what happened next.  A couple weeks in, I pulled his front shoes to try to let his feet spread out to a more appropriate size & shape.  They proceeded to disintegrate in ways that I have never before seen a hoof disintegrate.

RF begins its fail, late Feb 2018
RH - I didn't know hooves could peel
His walls were so weak & flaky, they seemed to just fall apart.  You can see the layers just peeling away from each other.  Amazingly, he didn't seem terribly sore on them, but as much as I tried to keep the edges cleaned up with a rasp to slow things down, it mostly just failed.

RF in its most brain-exploding stage, early May.  I can't even...
I'm pretty sure farrier got tired of my barely-contained panic as I texted him ludicrious things like, "I'm worried my horse's sole is detaching & falling off?"  He was nice enough to roll with it.

I suspect that Echo was definitely missing some important trace minerals in his diet.  He was living in Florida, where there is a lot of nutrient-poor, sandy soil which doesn't produce very rich hay.  Either way, I immediately introduced him to my biotin-rich friend, SmartHoof pellets, along with a balanced diet based on Triple Crown Complete & a ton of grass, & tried my best to look at other parts of his body.

To little avail.  Along with thin, structurally-incompetent walls, he had similarly thin soles.  So we got this added to the fun:

One very impressive abscess, April
It often felt like one step forward, two steps back.  As the disintegration worsened, it became clear that his feet were not ready to be barefoot on hard-packed, rock-strewn Carolina summer ground while stomping at flies.  He had to have shoes back on.  That included several of its own debacles, including one instance of stepping on a hind clip:
You can see where it went in on right side
I texted the photo to farrier & told him, "Well, you can definitely see where his white line is now."  We got lucky & he didn't abscess or end up lame on that, he drove the clip into the white line instead of the sole.

We did a stint in glue-ons due to another debacle.  The hind shoes came off as soon as fly season tapered off, as additional bruising from excessive stomping & more wall disintegration had to grow out.  I was buying duct tape & generic vet-wrap in bulk.

If I had to treat one more foot, I was ready to throw up..
We're slowly accumulating more positive progress now, though.  His front feet have already gone up two sizes & I'm sure there's at least one more to go.  His hind feet are currently looking 1000% stronger - remember that peeling apart right hind foot from above?

RH yesterday (sorry, Keratex just applied)
He's actually completely barefoot at the moment.  I know we won't be able to stay this way - when the flies come back & the ground turns back to rock, he will need front shoes at the least.  But I pulled his front shoes at the end of December - I figured this was my last chance to let his heels spread out, while the ground has been VERY soft from the zillion feet of rain.  That right front, the brain-exploder, is much more solid looking (just ignore the dirt packed in the growing-out nail holes & the leftover epoxy from the glue-ons):
RF yesterday, also ignore my sloppy edge smoothing at the toe
We still have a ways to go, but now we have a little more to work with.  His walls actually didn't chip at all through most of January 2019, even when the ground was frozen.  I don't have any hoof boots that fit him at the moment, but he's doing fairly well riding in the field.  There's no rushing any of this - it takes a horse about a year to grow a new foot.  In Echo's case, I fully expect another year on his front feet before we are really stable.

The in-between stages of hoof (or anything) rehab often contain a whole lot of ugly.  Sometimes, the best thing you can do is wait, despite all your urges to Just Do Something.  And even though Echo's feet sometimes looked terrible, he assured me that he felt just fine:
Looking fancy in Aug (ok, maybe I just wanted to see something green, sigh)
If anyone knows where I can get a discount on Durasole by the case, just let me know.

January 21, 2019

Glove Quest, Round I-Lost-Count

Since it's ludicrously frigid outside (at least in the Northern hemisphere), I thought I would assist you in whiling away your time by helping you spend money.  You're welcome.

We all have our own physical quirks that make shopping for gear agonizing fun.  This joy is multiplied if you also want said gear to last more than one week & you don't make $100,000 a year.  When it comes to gloves, I have to scour size charts & reviews with extra fervour to determine whether something might fit my enormous hands with crazy long fingers.  I can't ride sans gloves because my delicate, wussy skin falls off when...it touches something.  Whee.

Also an expert on using things ALL the way up
I am still using my Horze Lyon gloves (reviewed here), which I still love & can't believe remain functional after 4+ years.  They don't have holes yet, but are wearing too thin to use in winter.  I've also been struggling with another issue:  phone use.

Miss you button: GET IT?!!
While I am definitely not sitting on my horse texting or browsing the interwebz, there are times when I need to operate the touchscreen (I MISS BUTTONS. SO. MUCH.) without having to remove gloves.  I use GPS sometimes, especially on new or extensive trails.  I've been using the free Equilab app to track riding/longe sessions, which means I want to start it right before I get on.  Half the time I forget to leave my left glove off when I lead Echo out to the mounting block, so I have to remove it to start the track.  Annoying.

In a much MUCH rarer, but much more important scenario, I recently had to dial 911 when I witnessed a nasty fall.  I was sitting on Solo & I was the only person who had my phone strapped to me (I use a calf holster, so that if I fall, the phone doesn't contribute to a back or pelvis injury the way it might on a belt).  Those seconds to pull off a glove felt really really long when I wasn't entirely certain whether the fallen rider was (a) alive or (b) suffering spinal or brain injuries (she wore a helmet, got a concussion, but was fortunately otherwise ok).  This wasn't an experience I'd thought much about before, but I sure do now.

I didn't need anything super insulated since I already have the SSG 10 Below (also wonderful & durable).  And I categorically refuse to pay $40+ for a pair of hand covers for horsey riding.  I set out on my quest.

Contestant #1:  Noble Outfitters Perfect Fit 3 Season Glove

Pros:  Technically less than $20 ($19-something at SmartPak).  Claimed to be "cell phone compatible."

Cons:  NOT touchscreen compatible.  I suppose technically you can still sort of use a cell phone while wearing these gloves.  I mean, they don't cover your mouth.  :/  But you certainly can't operate the screen; I even tried using my off-hand, just in case they were designed by some thoughtless person who assumed everyone was right-handed.  Nope, the right one was just as ineffective as the left.

I was also mildly irritated that the published size chart showed how to use a dollar bill to measure your hand.  It's 2019, people:  I'm not a millennial, but I still have fully embraced electronic payments & I would guess I'm in the majority of people who don't carry cash anymore.  After ~15 minutes of googling, I finally found a size chart with real measurements on it.  The gloves still didn't fit very well though & the material felt pretty cheap.

Summary:  A "meh" would be excessively generous.  Returned them.  Thankfully SmartPak makes that easy, although it would be even easier if there was a UPS store in my rural area.

Excuse usage dirt
Contestant #2:  Ovation Tekflex Stretch Comfort All Season Riding Glove

Pros:  I got these on clearance, but regular price is still less than $20 ($18.99 I think at Riding Warehouse).  The XL fits my giant mitts decently.  And they ARE touchscreen compatible, no misleading claims here.  I was pleasantly suprised at how super-grippy they are as well, they would be great in any discipline.  Material feels sturdy & I like that they extend a little farther down my wrist for more sun protection in summer/warmth in winter.  They aren't insulated but my easily-frosted extremities were comfortable at 40-45 degrees.

There is a simple size chart consisting of normal measurements using a ruler.  The olive green accents were on sale, but they do come with other colors.  The accents are very subtle though, which I prefer.  Especially when I was competing, I hardly wanted attention called to my not-always-obedient hands.

Touch pads on thumb/touchy finger
Cons:  None so far.  If I was being really picky, is it really necessary to have a product name with EIGHT words?

Summary:  I love these gloves far more than I expected.  I would definitely buy them again if they hold up.   

Giant awkward thumbs-up: thanks, Ovation!
What about you?  Have you found an affordable glove that you love?  How do you deal with the phone issue?  My old Sony phone had a "glove mode," which actually worked; the new LG is rather crappy & does not. 

January 13, 2019

Bridging The Space Between Us

Echo & I had physical & mental assignments to tackle.  Both would take time, but that was a resource I had available, particularly that first winter, when you don't feel like you're missing out if you can't ride in the cold/dark/wind. 

Welcome Home To Prison

As mentioned, Echo had some sesamoiditis in one ankle.  This was a new one for me.  You can google it, but as I quickly learned after diving into vet textbooks & scientific literature, there are many uncertainties around this condition.  In brief, it's an inflammation within the bone itself which creates mysterious channels (unknown exactly how they form), usually related to excessive concussion (so not uncommon in racehorses).  The sesamoid bones are strange free-floating bones at the back of the fetlock (under the yellow bulge in the graphic), wrapped in the suspensory branches where they split to go around the ankle.  As such, they have a poor blood supply & are among the slowest in the body to heal.

Of course. 

It's often separated into two grades of severity, based on whether or not there is associated soft tissue involvement (i.e. suspensory branch desmitis).  The prognosis is better if it is caught early & there is no ligament damage.  Echo had a clean ultrasound of the suspensory ligament in that leg, so the prescription was rest.  And no more racing.

Love his white dot
I was ok with both.  I needed to put several hundred pounds on him, so it's not like we were going anywhere in a hurry anyway.  I conferred with Dr. Bob:  his radiograph showed the bone channels were more pronounced than originally thought & he had a little chunk of cartilage floating around.  He's a lucky horse:  he was raced by his breeder & retired just in time.  From what I saw on the rad, his next race could have ended with a sesamoid fracture across that weakened channel & his story would be very different.

Fortunately for us both, the cartilage would be re-absorbed by the body, causing no concern, & soft tissues still all looked good, so Dr. Bob agreed we still had a good prognosis.  And it was already becoming apparent to me, even in the first few weeks, that this horse was going to be well worth some effort.

Echo had developed some minor fill & warmth in the ankle around these stressed structures, so Dr. Bob prescribed 6-8 weeks of small pen rest with wrapping as needed.  He injected it to help bring down the inflammation, preventing joint damage.  He wanted to take the most conservative approach to ensure we protected those critical tissues & I was grateful for it.  We also had the advantage of a young horse body which was still developing & still had all those healing powers my own body has long since forgotten.

The cutest prisoner
Inmate Development & Rehab Programs

While I didn't love pen-cleaning or trying to figure out how to prevent a bored young horse from eating plywood (tip: you can't), or the inherent anxiety that comes with waiting for anything to heal, this time did turn into an opportunity.  Echo had enough space to not feel trapped (approximately 3x the length of that picture...the space in the picture...not the actual picture...you get it), but not enough to say, elude me across 2-3 acres.  We had nothing to juggle on the schedule but "eat & relax," & this intelligent kid needed something to engage him.  I began what I call Operation Farm-Breaking.

A racehorse knows how to lead, how to be groomed, how to be tacked up.  He's used to baths & farriers & (often) clippers & loud equipment.  He's not Farm Broke.  A Farm Broke horse gets blanketed at liberty in the dark after the headlamp-wearing owner trips over the fence wire.  He is approached & haltered in a large field by a woman wearing 7 different colours & a noisy, hooded rain jacket.  His rump is used for draping said noisy jackets or jangly girths, which often slide off & land under his feet.  His owner drops ropes, tosses brushes, splashes water, drags weird-shaped objects, & moves things without permission.

This monster may approach at any time & will definitely trip on something
I started small miniscule:  the lead-rope-touching skittishness.  After making sure he would let me touch every part of his body with my hands (he did), I began by draping the rope over his neck, about midway & sliding it back towards his withers, just until he started to get uncomfortable.  I'd pause for just a moment there, pet & praise (he didn't yet understand how to eat treats, also common with OTTBs), then move it back up to the "safe" zone as a release.  Rinse & repeat ad nauseum for a few minutes every time I caught him.  Eventually, I could swing the end of the rope all the way back to his butt (this is one of the many reasons I only buy 10' leads, plenty to work with). 

This was also the base of my pledge to him on which I was to build everything else:  I will never unfairly hurt you & I will never ask you to do something you can't do.

Over the following days & weeks, we learned plenty, using the same gradual approach, including:
  • Blankets cause no actual physical harm, despite sliding across your rump like a two-dimensional cougar.  Same goes for rain jackets, plastic bags, & other loud crinkly things.  You don't have to love it, you just have to accept it.
  • Headlamp-wearing human is not a disembodied orb seeking to extract your soul; in fact, she often produces delicious morsels
  • Small objects presented under nose by owner's hand are actually delicious morsels for nomming.  Except apples, we still don't understand apples.
  • No human parts go in your mouth unless the human puts them there herself.  This includes clothing.  Owner may dress like a homeless person, but the clothes are not actually disposable.
  • Strange human presents no real threat & does speak rudimentary Horse.  Should always be investigated for morsels & can generally be counted on to provide some form of entertainment.
April: Learning is exhausting. Also, he is not a graceful sleeper.
Along with this went Bodywork By Me.  I had wanted Dr. Bob to do a chiro adjustment with spring shots in February, but he recommended waiting until fall:  Echo's body was so tight that any adjustments would probably just get pulled right back out until we retrained that muscle memory.  I re-toned my forearms with liberal application of massage to all those tight tissues & slathered SoreNoMore on that pulled butt.  Producing many sighs, drooping ears, lip licking, & reinforcing that most of the time, contact with Weird Human is a good thing.

Awakenings

As days became weeks became months, I began to see the returns on my investment.  Echo's initial guardedness melted away into an enormous, gregarious personality who wanted his nose in the middle of everything.  I didn't have to walk up to him in the pasture because he came to me as soon as he spotted me (which Solo has rarely done, he maintains that the world should proceed on his terms).  Each barrier we conquered made the next one easier as I gained his trust.

July 2018:  I can haz morsel?
His body made progress too.  That ankle was cool & quiet & we graduated back to normal turnout.  Butt muscle healed uneventfully.  The feet, well, I think that will have to be a whole 'nother post.  But they were stuttering forwards (and backwards...and forwards...and backwards) too.   His rangy frame began to fill out, drifting from "whippet-shaped" to "horse-shaped."  I'm not sure if it's because he's dark brown, but he has more substance to him than first appears.  He has nice big cannon bones & roomy joints & his head is FULL full-sized.  It was very obvious that there was going to be plenty more "filling out" in our future, but at least I could brush him without feeling like I was going break the edge off some sticky-out-y part! 

Feb vs Sept:  please don't ever make me add up that feed bill
My favourite part, though, & the most rewarding by far, was the change in his expression & overall demeanor.  As I've said before, he was always friendly, always curious, but you could feel a reserve there, as if he was withholding judgement pending further review.  I felt like he was filing away experiences in labeled boxes or making a pro & con list on me:  "Hmmm, the blanket thing ended up fine & I got lots of morsels, file that under 'pro!'  But she occasionally has sparks on her fingers (winter static is begrudged), NOT COOL, that is a 'con!'"

After nearly 13 years with emotionally intuitive Solo, I am sensitive to (or try to be) the nuances of horses' personalities & reactions.  No, they aren't human (thank goodness), but they absolutely have both emotions, intuition, & intent, along with the ability to read that of other animals -- a necessary skill for a prey animal living in a herd.  Pondering how to reach across Echo's moat of reserve & knock on the door meant also examining myself & the signals I was sending.  The more I observed him, it felt like he was waiting.  But for what?

Cautious reservation
I realized I was withholding too.  In my fear of "something bad" happening, in my compensatory attempt to protect my battered self from more disappointment, more sadness, I was keeping my own heart at a distance & trying not to get too attached to this fragile animal, just in case it didn't work out.  I enjoyed Echo, I was kind to him, but in a rather businesslike manner.  And I think this very intelligent, very sensitive horse, who was already responding to my purposeful changes in projected mental energy in groundwork, also picked up on that distance. 

He was waiting for me.

With a deep & shaky breath, I leaned my shoulder to the heavy lid of the box around my heart.  I haven't gotten it all the way open, I don't think that setting exists anymore.  After all, Solo is already in the box, so I can't let him escape.  But as Johnathan Safran Foer sagely wrote, "You cannot protect yourself from sadness without protecting yourself from happiness."  With some metaphorical & actual fresh air & sunlight, I am making some tentative forays into the edges of hope & trust.   

As I do so, Echo is lowering the drawbridge & opening the door to reveal a cool, confident exuberance paired with a desire to please & venturesome spirit that I can't wait to keep exploring.  And it's written all over his face.

The world?  Bring it.
     

January 3, 2019

Buy A Horse, Lose Your Mind

I got ahead of myself a bit, but I've had "young horse ponderings" on my mind a lot.  I will backtrack now, though, because I can't leave out the past 11 months of madness.

I certainly can't skip the story of how Echo hurt himself after less than 24 hours of being owned by me.  Actually, it was more like 16 hours.  You can't make these things up.

Benchmark had told me that this was one extremely body-tight baby.  I expected a certain amount of knotted-up muscles - even though Echo only shambled though four races in his short career, he still went through training & gate-breaking. 
What do I do with this?
What I saw as soon as he walked off the trailer was that every muscle in his rail-thin body was strung so taut that it made me sore & a little tired just watching him move.  It's hard to describe, but it was apparent even in the way he held himself that everything was just TIGHT, like all the muscles just contracted at once & then never let go.

But he didn't limp (yet...) & he was still brightly curious about this new world.  And I planned to make exactly zero demands on him in the near future other than that he stuff his (rather large) face & entertain Solo.

Upon arriving home after our walk through the woods, I led Echo into the run-in shed (where Solo had followed us along the fenceline).  I took it slow since I have a collection of possibly scary things just inside the shed including a blue shopping cart for holding brushes & flapping black tarp over hay.  He couldn't have cared less.

I have my central paddocks & run-in set up so I can divide each horse into their own space when I want to, so I put Echo in one half while Solo craned across the tape from his side.  The divider in the shed isn't hot, it's just a visual barrier.

Who're you??
What have you done, mom??
The rest of the tape is hot though.  I left it on because Echo needed to learn that tape should be respected & he had already lived in electric fencing for the ten days he was at Benchmark's farm.  Enter young horse curiosity. 
More sniffing of the new not-orange interloper
Right after I took the above picture, Echo decided to see if this new fence was interesting.  So he sniffed it & put his nose on it.  As it zapped him, he jumped back & sideways.

And then he took a few hobbling steps on 3 legs, with one hind leg barely touching the ground.

And I melted into a puddle, wailing faintly, on the ground right there & ceased to exist.

At least, that's what it felt like.  After inspecting now-even-more-pathetic baby, I surmised that said ridiculously tight muscles, when introduced to sudden contraction & loading, had more than they could take.  As soon as I placed my hand on his hamstring, he winced & I could feel the rippling spasms of a muscle flipping out.  Echo said he would like me not to touch that please.  I appreciated that he said it very politely.

What IS this place?
I didn't see any issues anywhere else, so I decided to apply a tincture of SoreNoMore & rest & leave it be.  This horse had just gone from a racetrack in Florida to a snowy farm in Delaware to a paddock in North Carolina in less than two weeks.  He'd gotten on a trailer around 3 am the day before & spent the night surrounded by horses he'd never met.  That's a lot for anyone.

In addition, even though he was polite & friendly, he was rather stand-offish about his space, which would continue for the first week or so.  He seemed concerned that I was going to try to trap him in the shed, so he would make a quick exit if I came in.  He was very sensitive to any ropes & skittered off like a deer if they even hinted at touching him, especially any farther back then about mid-neck.

I was caught a little off-guard by this.  Encore had been an in-your-lap Labrador from day 1.  With Echo, I had to leave a halter on him in turnout, which I hate (yes, it was a breakaway, but still).  But while he'd let me come up & pet him out in the open, he'd scoot away backwards if I tried to put a halter or rope over his head.  Once I had one on him though, he was perfectly fine to lead & cross-tie.
Eating his first snack with grave suspicion about the new human
I persisted in tiny increments.  I wasn't asking for any work, not even real groundwork.  But it was January/Februrary - I needed to put blankets on this skinny thing (which he thought were terrifyingly loud & offensively touched him ALL OVER, the horror), I needed to check his feet, apply more layers of SoreNoMore.  And I wanted to teach him that I brought good feelings, warmth, comfort, &  food.  Lots & lots of food. 

I also wanted to teach him that I respected his needs & that his space was indeed safe & he was guaranteed to get it back after he tolerated my brief ministrations.

Part of that Look I saw in the first pictures became even clearer that first week:  this was a very intelligent & very sensitive horse.  He watched every move I made & responded to shifts so small that I hadn't been previously aware I was making them. 

We had a lot of work ahead of us.  Not least of which included the manifestation of four equally functional legs.
Echo:  I don't know what we're looking at, but I'm looking at it

December 27, 2018

A 4 Yr Old Is Not The Same As A 6 Yr Old

Y'all.  Not even close.

You are permitted to laugh.  I do.

Encore was halfway through his sixth year when I got him.  He was a sensible creature with plenty of life experience, having put in three solid years on the track, but his brain didn't really completely mature until he was eight.  Only then did I feel like I had an adult horse along for the ride.

Shortly after bringing Echo home, I remembered that I had repeatedly muttered to myself during those two Encore years, "I'm never getting a horse younger than this."

Oops.

Don't get me wrong, Echo has a brain just as phenomenal as Encore (I'm just going to go ahead & apologize if the two 'E' names get confusing, I tried to find a different letter, nothing fit as well).  Quite possibly even better.  A prime example:

Because the shipper delivered Echo at dusk, I borrowed a stall from Trainer Neighbour for the night.  I didn't want to throw him out in a field where he didn't know the fencelines in the dark.  And to the shipper's credit, they had a rule that they would not unload a horse at night to pasture, for the safety of the horse.

The next morning, I walked over to lead Echo home.  This involved taking him through Trainer Neighbour's arena, past the chickens, guineas, mirrors, gravel piles, ground poles, lawn chairs, then on a short trail through woods along my back fenceline to my gate.
Echo discovers mirrors:  "Is that a new friend??"
I got about halfway home before it occurred to me that I was leading a still-technically-3-yr-old, who had just raced two weeks ago, who I didn't know, who didn't know me, through the woods full of crunchy leaves (had he ever seen woods with crunchy leaves?)...alone.

I had at least waited until Neighbour was home & she knew what I was doing, so she could come look for my body if I didn't text her within a certain time.

Fortunately for us all, Echo never put a foot wrong.  He was alert & curious, but perfectly mannered.  We arrived home without event. 
...alone...with a new baby racehorse

PSA:  Be smarter than me.  Bring a friend (employ bribery if needed).  I was lucky.

Echo has continued to impress me ever since with his intelligence, sensibility, & surprising level of self-assuredness in such a  young horse.  However, it is also VERY clear to me that he is still...such a young horse!

I've worked with young horses before.  But in my head, I guess I had these age bins or categories in which I expected horses to be roughly similar in terms of maturity.  As if there was some magical line where what I might expect from a 1 to 3 yr old changed to what I apparently expected from a 4 to 6 yr old.  

Who're you calling goofy?
All of you who have owned youngsters may now laugh even louder.

Surprise (to no one but me, probably):  a 4 yr old is still a BABY horse.  A very large, goofy, exasperating, hilarious baby. 

Just like every other creature, horses do vary as individuals.  I've certainly met 4 yr olds who were physically & mentally "filled out" enough to do grown-up things like be in riding lessons & go to horse shows.  It quickly became apparent that I had not purchased one of those.  Which was fine because my budget for horse activities is precisely $0.00.

So what's the difference?  These are a few things which stand out to me:

1)  His attention span for work maxes out around 25 minutes.

And it is surprisingly consistent.  Recently, I have been sneakily asking him to stretch that to 30 minutes.  You wouldn't expect 5 minutes to be a big deal, but it is, I can definitely feel that he gets mentally (& physically depending on the activity) tired at that point.

Walking AND trotting...IN A STRAIGHT LINE...is exhausting
Because he is an incredibly honest & intelligent try-er, I am always very careful not to push too hard.  I want to keep things feeling pleasant so he doesn't get sour & more importantly, so he never learns that he can't do something.  One of my core training philosophies is that I want my horses to think they are super-heroes:  I am always setting them up to succeed in training so that when we are faced with an especially challenging situation in the future, they will always try, because it will never occur to them that they might fail. 

If we accomplish an accomplishment in less than 25 minutes, no problem, we stop early.  He gave what I asked for & I want to keep that bright, fresh edge to his energy.  Nothing dulls an intelligent, generous horse more than drilling.
Narrow as a board in January

2)  Equipment sizes are not final. 

Part of the reason I shopped with a horse size range is that I don't want (& can't afford) to buy all new stuff.  But even though Echo is adult-sized height-wise, I have definitely seen changes over 11 months & I can tell that he has yet to fill out horizontally.

He already had a bigger head than Encore when I got him, but I've still had to let out his bridle another hole this fall.  His butt is now sticking out of the spare 78" sheet that was a dress on him last winter.  Solo's old medium splint boots no longer fit & his feet have gone up almost 2 sizes.  Fortunately, my beloved HS Duo bit was a little big on him to start, it now fits just right.  No way could I afford to buy another one of those!
Ran out of sheet before we ran out of horse
3)  EVERYTHING GOES IN THE MOUTH! 

Everything:  Leaves.  Sticks.  Solo (this is not well-received).  My hair.  Sleeves.  Blankets.  Shed walls.  Broom handles.  Lead ropes.  Cross-ties.  Leg boots.  Brushes.  Any tangible object that can be reached.  Except apples.  Apples remain mysterious objects which smell really good but have an unexpected level of crunchiness & so cannot be trusted enough to chew.  Even when a human cuts them into pieces & rubs them on the side of his tongue to tempt him.  Also, humans are weird. 
IN MY MOUF!!
Along with that goes an insatiable curiosity.  Everything MUST be investigated, now!  That can be a really good thing, I like a horse who wants to inspect things that startle him.  I far prefer that over one who just tries to run away.  But there have been times where I'd like Echo to be a little LESS curious.
It appears you may need some help...
One day, I needed to trim off some plywood edges (which had been chewed by a certain Baby Monster) with the reciprocating saw.  Which is a very loud & very powerful tool.  Solo is used to loud tools, but I waited until the horses were done eating & had moved out of the shed.  After they left, I fired up the saw & started cutting.

I focus very intently when using this particular saw, as it has so much power that it could easily slip or jump if you wavered, leading to serious injury.  Did I mention it's also very loud?  And it echoes off the metal shed roof.  Flies were out, including many bitey ones, & I felt a particularly tickly one on my elbow.  I took my finger off the saw trigger & turned to brush off the fly...

AI HELPS U!!!
...to find that Echo was standing right behind me, nose on my elbow, fascinated to explore what the weird noisy human was doing with his chew wall.  I nearly had a cardiac event on the spot.  Aside from the fact that his face was so close to the saw blade, he did NOT have handy safety glasses.

He lived.  I lived.  And overall, I am finding this bright, inquisitive creature a pleasure to work with.  He is sensitive in all the good ways & attentive to even a slight change in energy, showing me there is yet another level of training finesse in which to challenge myself.  

A question for YOU, those of you who have spent time around young'uns:  do you have a favourite resource that deals specifically with bringing along babies in their own time?  How do you keep things varied & fun?  Are there things you wish you'd done differently?  Are there things you are so glad you did?  What would you add to the list of "notable baby differences?"  Please share in comments!