SUBSCRIBE TODAY Smiley face  Get updates via email! 




We Are Flying Solo

Enjoy Our Instagram Feed!

March 14, 2020

Update On Disaster Horse

Maybe that should be his new name...

Echo's shoulder has improved some this week.  I'm leaning heavily towards it being a kick & have absolutely no doubt that he was asking for it (he basically always is).  Reason being, he has shown no protest to me extending the leg & he did a big "downward dog" stretch himself this morning, which I don't think he'd be that in to if he had pulled those muscles.

He still has a lump there, although it's reduced a bit, which I'll continue to SoreNoMore, but plan on tapering back the bute & seeing what happens.  He's moving much better, I don't see any more tightness in his walk & he trotted up for his late-night snack last night.

I briefly got on him bareback this morning, just to walk him around & get a feel for things, as that can often give me a lot of information.  I didn't feel anything from that bruised foot (granted, he was still on bute, but that doesn't hide everything), which is good, & got no real resistance from the shoulder.

On Thursday, farrier removed the glue-on boots & put him back in the flip flop pads.  So far, he's looking pretty comfortable in them, which confirms that his initial discomfort with them last time was in fact that it was a suddenly firm surface under that bruise.  He's made enough healing progress now that it no longer bothers him.  We did use race nails (thinner/lighter) in the shoes this time, just for cautious bet-hedging. 
They're back (altho this weird-angle pic is from the first round)
Thanks to the commenter on that post who gave us a perfectly timed tip:  the EasyCare flip flop boots CAN be reused!  We pried them off intact with a screwdriver (by the way, the Adhere glue worked perfectly for 5 weeks).  The adhesive stayed stuck to the hoof, so the boots came off clean & ready to go if I ever want to use them again.  If adhesive does stick to the boot, it can be easily dremel-ed off.  This at least made the price slightly less painful -- if you get two cycles out of them, that's $30 a cycle, which is still a bit high, but much closer with other plastic/rubber/polyurethane footwear.

I am happy with the boots' performance overall:  they stayed on (always critical), tread still looks good, horse moved normally (you know, for a creature with 3 functional legs).  I would definitely add the pour-in material in the toe in the future, as there is just no way to get gunk out of there & there was some moisture trapped in there when we pulled them (we've been in a rainy period).  Echo's feet were healthy when they went on, so no harm done, but pad material would help prevent that buildup.  Alternatively, you could probably cut out some sole "windows," the way we've done with the pads, because the material is pretty sturdy (caveat, I haven't tried this, but I bet someone has).  

Please, Echo, can we just be boring for a while?
Discovering spring grass a couple weeks ago

March 10, 2020

Unlucky People Shouldn't Own Unlucky Horses

Echo insists on continuing to demonstrate his talent...for misfortune.  Combined with my own terrible luck, I feel like we are stuck on a moebius strip of exasperation.

You know his left front leg, the one with the bruised coffin bone at the end of it?  Well, it had been showing some improvement...until yesterday.

I came home from work to find him limping anew.  I initially thought we had somehow aggravated the foot on the short, walking trail ride I ponied him along on Sunday.  Oh no -- now he has done something to the shoulder ON THE SAME LEG!

I found a big, hard lump just behind his scapula that foamed up white as soon as I put SoreNoMore on it (which can be an indication of elevated temperatures which go along with inflammation/spasm in the muscles, which arnica reacts to).  At this point, my hypotheses are either:

  1. Solo kicked him.  Which I have absolutely no doubt Echo deserved, so I couldn't even be irritated at Solo.  If you get kicked by Solo, it's only after you have ignored countless warnings, which are not subtle.  Echo is not one to take warnings seriously if he feels entertained.  There wasn't a mark, but Solo is barefoot. 
  2. Echo torqued the shoulder playing Wild Rearing Plunging Mustang games.  Equally possible.
He didn't react at all when I poked it.  I've seen him roll & get up just fine & he's weight-bearing.  He had no problem with me lifting the leg, extending it in front of him, rolling the shoulder around in its joint.  Which is a little baffling, but at least tells me he didn't break a rib (or anything else) & he didn't dislocate the shoulder.
At least one piece of my tack is getting some use
I'll give him a few days with bute & rest -- oh wait, he was already resting, gahhhh.  If he doesn't improve much with that, then I'll call my poor, harassed vet again.  I'm cautiously hopeful it looks like nothing too major right now, as the lump had softened when I got home from work today.  I put some ice on it this afternoon, although I'm not sure it can penetrate much in an area with so much body mass.

Hopefully he will decide to quit all this nonsense before I forget how to ride a horse.  The key to preventing this kind of stuff is strengthening soft tissues through fitness -- which is a little hard to do when you can't work them.  That hollow, thumping sound you hear is just my skull hitting the table repeatedly.  I'm thinking it would be smarter to trade him in for a pet turtle -- it takes some serious effort to break a turtle. 

Can someone just pat my head & possibly pour some libations down my throat??

March 8, 2020

Two Suppling Exercises For Any Gait

Echo & I are just doing sporadic walking with occasional short trot spurts (less than 10-15 steps) currently, as I wait oh-so-impatiently for his foot to heal.  It bores both of us, but there are endless opportunities to work on important basics.  Things like lateral cues, contact & balance in transitions, responsiveness to aids.  We learned some new simple schooling exercises from Trainer Neighbour last fall -- here are two of them that I have been using very frequently.  Both can be done at any gait.

Exercise 1:  Stretchy Turn On Haunches

I just made up that name for it.  This one has been excellent for Echo's devotion to curling behind the bit.  Prerequisites:  you need control of your horse's shoulders such that you can move them sideways.

Walk on a long or loose rein.  When you are ready to turn on the haunches (TOH), shorten your reins up.  Then ask the horse to move his shoulders around to reverse direction.  I'm calling it TOH, but it doesn't have to be a perfect, hind feet immobile, thing.  The important part is mobilizing the shoulders & feeling them step around.

When direction is reversed, immediately slip your reins back out & if the horse has actually used himself, he should stretch over his topline, reaching down & out.  I was amazed that this worked immediately with Echo.  I had never done or tried to do TOH with him before, just taught him to move his shoulders around at the walk.

The words aren't exactly in the right place, but you get the idea
Repeat the exercise as desired.  You are looking for the shoulder motion in the turn & then for the stretch when you slip the rein.  I find this very effective in warm up.

At the trot or canter, I use an abbreviated version, without the rein slipping, if Echo starts to curl again. Just bring the shoulders sideways for a step or two, which shifts his balance & uncurls him.  You could probably also encourage a stretch this way, but I haven't had a chance to try it yet.

Exercise 2:  Spiral Circles

This is a variant on the classic spiral that I find helps keep the horse moving better so they don't get "stuck" in a circle.  Simply incorporate small circles (whatever is appropriate for your horse) all around your work area.  But as you get to the last 1/3 of the circle, cut in a little, then leg yield back out to your track.  Diagram, because words are confusing:

Arrows are where you leg-yield out, I just failed to angle them enough
I also like to incorporate transitions within a gait in these.  For example, if posting the trot, compress the horse into a sitting trot for the circle.  Or just half the circle.  Or just the leg yield.  Alternate.  You get lateral & longitudinal suppling this way, along with balance & strength work.

You can also add in shoulder mobilization to these circles, a couple steps here & there.  Keep them separate from the leg yields, so your aids are distinct (unless your horse is wayyyy more advanced than mine, in which case you probably don't need this post, ha).

Tell me about your favourite exercises -- especially if you have uncurling tricks!
Evidence from last fall: uncurling after some spirals

February 29, 2020

My Horse Is Wearing Flip-Flops In Winter

We've yet to nail down the exact footwear type that optimizes Echo the Baby Monster, but I feel like I'm getting closer.  I've been trying some "new" technology & there is a lot to like -- this post covers two alternatives.  As I've mentioned before, Echo dislikes anything that he feels pinches his heels; this can include a plain horseshoe, so I devoted some focused brain effort towards exploring options that still allowed me to protect the bottom of his foot while he heals.

Behind Door #1:  Flip Flop Boots
 
Right now, he is still wearing the EasyCare flip flop boots I brought up in the last post.  They are still working pretty well:  the epoxy is holding firm in the rain/mud/frozen/unfrozen roller coaster of conditions that is a Carolina February.  Traction remains good.  He seems to be moving comfortably in them (i.e. definitely doesn't prevent him from cantering & bucking across the field for dinner) & I've seen no signs of over-reaching (I am using bell boots with them because, well, it's a horse owned by me, therefore bad luck is probable, heh).  And the rubber is very sturdy -- vet commented on the radiographs that the sole of the boot was nearly the same density as the coffin bone. 
Solar view, complete with mud for "natural" look
As far as application, they truly ARE easy.  If your horse already had a good trim, you could definitely glue these on yourself.  I didn't get any pictures of farrier putting them on because it was dark & I was busy holding extra lights, but it went like this:
  1. Trim foot & rasp wall to roughen for maximum epoxy bonding.
  2. Set foot in boot (without epoxy) & mark (sharpie works) where you want to trim excess length off the back (if needed).  Trim with hoof nippers.
  3. Smear entire inside of boot cuff liberally with expoxy of choice (we used the black Adhere this time since that's what EasyCare recommended, but farrier commented that wasn't his favourite).
  4. Place boot on hoof, making sure it's snugged up against toe.  Hold long enough for intial setting, then place foot carefully on ground for the rest of the set time.
Left front (bruised foot) with boot
EasyCare has an excellent video with detailed instructions here, which is what I sent to my farrier since he had not used these before.  You can also squirt some pour-in pad material into the toe to help keep dirt out -- I would have liked to have done this, but we were worried about creating too much pressure on a sore foot & at the time of application, I still thought it was a bruise more towards the toe.  So we skipped it. 

Since nothing is perfect, the things I don't like:
  • These are rather stupidly expensive, at $32 for EACH ONE.  So a pair is $64 & they are not designed to be reusable -- according to the instructions, you have to cut the boot to get them off.  As a result, I will not be using these again barring emergency, because that is way too pricey for a single cycle (since total price with farrier labour is obviously more than that).  
  •  They do get junk in them.  However, not as much as I expected & I think it would be even less if we weren't in the middle of rainy, muddy paddock time.  When it has been drier & Echo has been in the upper field, he doesn't get anything in there.  
    • It's not too hard to pick out the back of the collateral grooves around the heels, but you can't reach the toe at all.  You could flush it out with a hose pretty easily though.
    • I got the flip flop model because I didn't have time to do a bunch of size exchanges & I figured they had the most flexiblity in terms of fit.  The trade-off is this:  a boot that glues around the whole foot will probably keep more junk out but then you also lose air circulation to the bottom of the foot.  Pick your poison.
Behind Door #2:  Flip Flop Pads

A couple of weeks from now, when the boots come off, we'll switch Echo to something I think is even more promising:  true flip flop pads.  I'd been wanting to try these for him ever since I read about them in this article.  My farrier had never used these either, but was willing to give it a shot. 

We actually tried a set about a month ago & they looked great.  However, Echo was pretty sore in them & again, I wasn't sure what the problem was yet.  We thought that one of the nails might be putting pressure on the hypothesized bruise, so we pulled the shoes/pads after a week.  I know now that he was sore because these pads are VERY firm, they are made to be reset & that sudden change from barefoot was too much for him at that phase of his healing.
Solar view of flip flop pads & half shoe
As a result, I don't yet know exactly how they will work out long term.  But my initial impression, on the foot that wasn't sore, was that these could be good for him.  The concept was designed by farriers & they've been in use for a long time in Standardbred racing (we used the Grand Circuit pads to match the thickness of an eventer shoe).  The pad itself covers the whole foot, providing even support across the entire width of the heels without any restriction on heel motion.  It's then held in place by a regular horseshoe which is cut in half. 
Shoe & pad thickness must match to create level surface for foot
The niche these pads particularly address are horses that need more/better heel growth, whether they are underrun or low or just weak.  The pads work by distributing pressure across the entire back of the foot, spreading out the forces that would otherwise be focused on the heels by a regular metal shoe.   

I like that this provides protection for toe wear, the area where Echo tends to get separation on his right front (in above pic).  It checks the box of "no heel squeezing," as per his majesty, Pony Princess Feet.  The pads come with pre-stamped holes in the toe, but we cut out bigger openings so I could keep things clean more easily (this worked great).  Farrier was a little hesitant at first that cutting might compromise pad integrity, but he stopped worrying about that as soon as he tried to actually cut them -- all his normal tools (pad cutter, hoof nippers) wouldn't do it, it took a lot of muscle & hacking with a very sharp hoof knife & that barely cut it.
You do need a chop saw to cut the shoes
I'll definitely share more info when I've had a chance to collect more data.  I've seen good reports from other users online.  They are much more reasonably priced than the boots, with the pads themselves around $16 a pair & can be reused.  The concept seems solid -- we'll see what the princess has to say about it. 

February 18, 2020

It's Not An Abscess

Echo decides to prove yet again that my paranoia is not unfounded.

We finally made it to the vet today for spring shots & the planned radiograph I mentioned previously.  It was supposed to be last week, but the rain prevented the machine from coming out to play & it was so wet, I couldn't get the trailer hooked up & out without tearing up half my property.

Turns out, Echo's prolonged on again/off again soreness on his left front is in fact due to some bone bruising on the medial wing of that coffin bone.  Which Dr. Bob also referred to as "crushing" & "micro-fractures."  Which I did not really appreciate because I don't care what the vet-land rules are, but these words do not all mean the same thing to me & shave several years off my life!  I am just going to call it bone smooshing because that is descriptive without being quite so terrifying-sounding.
Smooshing is right where the #4 is on this coffin bone
This type of injury happens when a horse's heel impacts something hard, such as a rock or a hard piece of ground, with too much force or just the right angle or it's Tuesday.  Fortunately for Echo & I, his smooshing is right at the tip of the bone.  Which means it will heal, is already healing, & he should be fine.  If you get smooshing farther forward on the bone (like by 3 or 5) or extending up into the joint, that is when it becomes a Really Bad Thing.  I am hopeful I never have to learn any further detail about that.

Since this has been going on since early December, Echo is already a "fur piece" down the healing road.  Having had a gnarly bone bruise, I am familiar with their slowness; Dr. Bob said this type of thing can range from 6-8 weeks for a mild one (like Echo's) up to 6 months for something more severe.  So we should be on the "improving" side of the curve & we should see continued gradual progress over the next month or so.

Also fortunately, my gut management instincts (& repetitive haunting of Dr. Bob's phone line) guided the correct course of action over the winter, even though I wasn't certain of the cause.  He's done very little work, which consisted entirely of walking & an occasional short trot for feels on soft ground.  He's been able to move freely in the pasture, which is what needed to happen for circulation which then fuels healing. 

And for the last month or so, as he's moving more & when we get more frozen ground cycles, both front feet have been protected with full support across the heels & frogs.  The exact devices will get their own post, because farrier & I have been learning about new technology, but right now, he's wearing a pair of EasyCare's flip flop boots & they are working pretty well.
One of his expensive slippers
These allow his heels full lateral freedom (which is his particular Princess Pony Foot demand), but provide a thick, sturdy pad under his entire foot while still providing good traction in mud or frosty grass.  All the details will come in the next post.

Until then, he has been cleared commanded to go back into more consistent work under saddle on the flat (with bute as needed) to use that 5-yr-old energy most constructively (although I am sure he will still engage in many spring frolics) & help the rebuilding process.  I am sure I will be ultra paranoid conservative about it, but I suspect I shall receive no arguments from Echo other than "SO WHYYYY IS ALL-CANTERZ A BAD IDEA????"

Definitely not as "benign" as the abscess I was voting for, but on the upside, it involves no wrapping & will be far less messy.  Another plus:  this was the only foot I didn't have radiographs of yet, so now I have images of all four (yes, horse owners celebrate weird things).  Joint spaces were clean & lovely, navicular bone was fine, soft tissue had no issues, & all the other pieces were where they were supposed to be.  And while it's been frustrating to watch his muscling disappear, I'm just glad that it's not permanent (at least not this time).

Answers bring a great deal of peace of mind, even more so when they are not catastrophic.  We'll see how the next 30 days go, but I'll be thrilled if they are completely uneventful...  
I know he's just hatching his next plot...but at least he will do it shini-ly