Procrastinators R Us

It’s February, and I just got around to taking down the Christmas lights.  I mean, just, as in, ten minutes ago.

I tend to procrastinate.  A bit.

It sometimes carries over to my hoof trimming duties.  In a perfect world, I trim Mimi every 2-3 weeks.  That way, I don’t have to ever take off too much at one time.

But sometimes, it gets pushed out to four weeks.

And then I have to deal with this:

Ack…toes.  And Pony Heels.  Front hoof.

On the surface, they’re not too bad.  Underneath?  Ew.  Winter Feet.

Hind hooves.  More heels.  Not seen is the side flare.

Ever seen the movie, “The Neverending Story”Great movie if you like fairy tales.  Which I do.  But I digress.  The point of that is that keeping up on Mimi’s heels is my own personal Neverending Story.  Just when I get it under control, it starts all over again…

And she still has a weird growth line on the right side, just in front of her heel area, where she blew out that abscess.  Y’know, a year and half ago.

Deep frog clefts, made all the worse because it’s really difficult to get in there and trim down her bars, even with my handy little bonsai trimmers.  Part of me has become compulsive about wanting to get all that crap outta there, since I don’t want a repeat of the abscess incident, which I suspect was caused by something getting up under those bars.

White line.  We have separation.  Part of that is coming from the fact that she lives in a stall for part of the day and enjoys walking through her pee spots.

Bit I think a lot of what I’m seeing is the post-vaccine detritus that comes out in their hooves.  Shots given in late October…about three months later…yup, that’s probably the worst of the post-vaccine natural reaction finally growing out.  But that’s worthy of an entirely separate blog post and why I reluctantly given only the very necessary vaccines these days.

But after I got off my procrastinating duff, we got this:

Fronts.  Toes seriously dubbed back.  Heels lowered.  A bit too
low, since she was a little ouchy.  Impatience + procrastination
don’t make good trimming buddies.

Right front.  White line tighter.  Little less stuff crammed in there.
Ignore the weird chunks out of her frog.  My bonsai nippers are
like mini half-rounds and nip out little half-moon chunks.

Hinds.  Not as dramatic, unless you look from the front, where
it is Flare-B-Gone.

Only negative was, as I said, she did get a bit ouchy in the following days.  Which makes me feel bad, even if I know she’s a bit of a pain-wimp.  It is my first time making her ouchy in the two and half years I’ve been trimming her, so I guess that’s something.  And with our concrete-hard winter pasture right now, it’s understandable why she might be feeling all the little rocks and pebbles.

The Princess and the Pea”, anyone???

"Pony" is a four-letter word

Today was a “pony” day, said with much disgust and shaking of the head.  We were due for it…she’s been an angel for the past couple of months, but the “pony” part of her personality is never far below the surface.  Today, it was standing up and doing the hula.

*blinks*  Now there’s a mental image for ya.  (All of the costume classes I did, I never gave Mimi the indignity of a hula skirt.  Missed opportunity…)

We cranked out about half an hour of arena work, heavy focus on the trot and canter (and some rider torture in the form of riding without stirrups).  Brought my GPS out , just for kicks, and discovered that we covered about 2 miles with our laps around the arena.  Cool.  Better than nothing, and it is a sand arena.

She wasn’t all bad.  I dusted off the jumping hackamore and got it adjusted properly, and she was working beautifully in it.  Seems to be a great choice for arena work, and she was even softer in it than the S-hack.  She had a fabulous whoa today, too…but that might have had something to do with the fact that she “didn’t wanna work.”  I don’t think it’ll translate over to the trail quite as well, since Ms. Curb-Your-Enthusiasm needs a little bit of a reminder that blasting off at Mach 3 is not on the recommended itinerary.

But I like keeping arena and trail gear separate.  It’s something I’ve done for years, ever since show days: western bit for western classes, kimberwick for english flat classes, snaffle for jumping classes, and hackamore for gymkhana.  So it’s a principle she’s well-versed in: “X means fun, Y means work.”

Worked on her hooves…they’re looking really good right now.  Picture taking fail today, since I was pretty much done in by the time I got around to working on her feet and out of patience for messing with the camera.  Her hooves are slowing down in their growth as her system readjusts to the ever-decreasing amount of daylight and redirects its energies towards growing a fine, fuzzy winter coat.  In 95*.  Proof right there that horse hair growth is controlled by daylight hours, not temperature.  At least I don’t have to worry about clipping her this winter, and the subsequent “to blanket or not to blanket” question.

It was also warm enough for her to get a shower (Horrors…I removed her protective layer of dirt coating!) after we were done, which made for east-trim hooves.  She was thoroughly hacked off that I had the nerve to get her face wet, and proceeded to whip me with her (soaking wet) tail during the rest of the process.  Thanks, pony.

All was well at the end, since she did her spiffy little bowing trick for a carrot.  Never mind that she almost fell over, she was so excited to see a rare, elusive carrot appear before her.  Carrots cure all ills, at least in her mind.

Pony Feet

This month marks seven years that Mimi has been barefoot.  Yep, we were part of the barefoot thing before the barefoot craze really hit.  Long story short, she had really crappy feet, with a history of lameness and a near-miss with laminitis.  I figured I didn’t have much to lose, besides my sanity.  And even that was already questionable.

Despite the expansion of my vocabulary (hoof boots…they bring out the colorful in all of us), it’s a move I have not regretted.  My only regret is not doing a better job of tracking the changes in her hooves over the years.  I look back at early ride pictures, and before that, to our show ring days, and cringe at the bean cans that appear to be strapped to my pony’s legs.  It’s hard to believe they’re the same hooves.
I noticed the biggest changes when I took over doing our trimming just over two years ago.  I had a lot of help and guidance along the way, but I’m largely a learn-by-watching-and-then-doing educated “trimmer.”  I couch that in quotes only because I’m not doing this professionally, and I won’t trim other people’s horses.  I’m competent at trimming my pony because I know her feet and I know what works for her.  So don’t take what I’m doing as gospel.  I trim largely based on how I was taught, and then go off of what “feels” right.  I can’t explain it better than that, only that I just know what feels right, and I have to say, it seems to be working.  Only one occasion of soreness, thanks to  a very aggressive heel trim.  (Note: Do not take off four weeks’ worth of heel growth in one trim.  Just don’t.)
So yesterday, I actually managed to get pictures.  I’ve spent a lot of time working on my trimming skills, and less on my photo skills.  It’s really hard to juggle a camera, a hoof, and a fidgety pony, all in crappy barn lighting.  So the photos aren’t the best quality.  But at least I finally have photos, and it’s my goal to take pictures of her feet, starting now, on a monthly basis.
Despite not riding much this summer, I’ve been diligent about trimming her feet.  She gets trimmed about every 2-3 weeks.  She’s in turnout about 12 hours a day in a three-acre pasture (by “pasture” I mean mostly dirt lot with the barest whiff of grass growing…11 horses in one space does a number on growing things) with an attached sand arena.  Those 11 horses keep each other moving all day/night long.  So she still gets a lot of walking exercise, which contributes to continued hoof growth.
However, the ground isn’t abrasive enough where she’s at to really do much for self-trimming.  It keeps her walls under control, but there’s not much loose sandy stuff to get in and scrub out her soles/bars, or keep her toes/heels in check.  Which is where I come in.  In typical pony fashion, she grows a lot of heel.  I’m constantly having to nip off 1/4″ or so of heel with every trim.  She grows a moderate amount of toe, but nothing that can’t be taken care of with a pass of the nippers.
So now, I give you photos, with attached commentary along the way.  Again…this is just what I do and what seems to be working for me.  I’m not an expert, and always have something to learn, so gratefully accept any input someone might have.  It’s an ever-changing field with endless possibilities for knowledge expansion.  Which is part of the fun.

Front hooves.  Should have taken the “after” photos from the side side.  Her RF is pretty good.  Her LF is her “bad” hoof.  When I trim, I start at the RF and move around her in a circle, finishing with the LF.  Consequently, I’m tired by the time I get to that last hoof, and it doesn’t get as much attention paid to it.  Compounding matters is the fact I am right-handed, and have a hard time rasping the inside of the RF.  As a result, her heels have become imbalanced on that hoof.

So this time, I started with that RF hoof and put my energy into fixing it.  Result: harder to tell from the angle I took the “after” shot, but it looks much better.  Another trim should have those heels balanced again.  It was bad enough I wasn’t comfortable taking off that much heel in one go to rebalance it then and there.

I finally got all the flare from her front hooves under control…the toes are finally short enough and she’s not growing out any funky growth/stress rings at the moment.

Hings.  Toes are pretty good.  Heels are a little high.  The scooped-out quarter on her LH is through no deliberate act of mine…she blew out that chunk of wall several weeks ago, and I’ve just done my best to smooth that section.

Right Front.  Has some excess wall around the toe.  Heels are high.  After: White line is actually tighter in person than it looks here.  It’ll never be 100%, due to the stall environment she lives in…she can’t help but trod through urine on a regular basis.  The joys of boarding…it’s something I have no control over at this point.  There are always sacrifices and trade-offs to be made…I put up with a lot because of the fabulous turnout.  Space and that amount of turnout time are at a premium and hard to find.
I hate her bars.  It’s pretty much a non-stop challenge for me to keep her bars under control.  They grow fast and prolific, so it’s a constant battle to keep them from laying over and getting “stuff” under them.  Also, her feet are small enough that everything is sort of crammed in there…not much space to work around in there, so differentiating between bar and sole gets a bit interesting at times.
Right Hind.  Took off the excess wall and the heels.  Her hind feet always look pretty good.  I’m thrilled with her frogs…I can’t believe how much they’ve spread out.
Right Hind.  More of the same.  Had some weird bar growth on the right side that I scraped away.  Rasped that blow-out quarter so it was smooth.
Right Front.  The “bad” foot.  You can see how much higher the inner heel is.  This was also the hoof she had an abscess in last year…exactly a year ago.  It’s still growing out a little strange from where it blew out right at her coronet band on the outside heel.  (Why can’t my horse be normal and blow out her abscess through her sole?)  I don’t like how deep her frog clefts are on her front hooves, especially this one.  I suspect there might be a bit of thrush at work, although she’s not sore/tender at all.  Nevertheless, I squirted some pure tea tree oil down in there.  Had to do some scraping away at the bars, especially on the right side.  I managed to get the heels a little more even, but there’s still work to be done.
I should have taken shots from the front as well to check for side flare…next time.

Pony Pedicures

I have to say, I’m completely tickled about doing my own hoof trimming.  It’s been a little over a year now since we started doing our own trimming entirely, and I love the sense of accomplishment that comes from having horses that aren’t at all sensitive, and have even been able to start doing some training rides entirely barefoot.

With not riding much this summer, their hooves haven’t needed as much regular work.  About six weeks ago, we took the plunge into getting our first set of proper hoof nippers to make the times we were trimming much, much easier.  (Try trimming hooves in the summer in the desert…you’ll understand.)  That, combined with a brand-new SaveEdge rasp, have made my trimming life so. much. easier

It’s been about three weeks since their last trim, and they had some hoof that needed to come off today.  Especially Mimi.  Her high pony heels were getting a bit ridiculous.  It’s an ongoing battle, one I can never really let up on, to keep her heels where they should be.

Beamer’s feet look awesome right now.  He’s been needing to shed some sole out for the last month, but like a good girl, I’ve left it alone until it was ready to come out on its own.  The past week of rain and humidity did the trick, and when I picked out his hooves today, large amounts of dead sole flaked out without any extra encouragement.  Beautiful, fresh sole underneath…perfect!  Toe callus still intact and not going anywhere…also perfect!  He needed some sidewall taken down, and his toes trimmed back. 

One of these days, I will remember to bring a camera down to the barn again and get some updated pictures of their hooves.  I’m beyond thrilled with how they look, even if we’re not riding that much at the moment.  *sigh*  Still battling Beamer’s face wound, although his shoulder is looking really good…almost healed…maybe another week and that will be good to go.  Really, really hoping to get out and ride next weekend.

I’m on break from school for the next three weeks, and will be using that time to at least do some hated arena work with Mimi.  Although I just discovered today that her little pea-head is even tinier than I imagined, and that I actually need to get her a new bit if I want to do any proper schooling…all the bits I own are about 1/2″ too big.  Only took me 13 years to figure that one out…*eye roll*  Unfortunately, 4-1/2″ Myler bits aren’t all that easy to come by…I’ll be on the eBay prowl for one of those now.

Nine weeks until Man Against Horse in October…at this point, I’m making no hard-and-fast plans of going.  That way, if I do happen to get to go, it’ll be a pleasant surprise, instead of crushing disappointment.  Can’t have plans go awry if you don’t make them.

That said, I really only have seven weeks to get ready, since I’ll be on vacation for one weekend, and crewing at Sonoita for another.  If I take some time to do arena riding during the week, plus riding on the weekends, I think Mimi would be ready…just in case I do get to go.  *fingers crossed, but not holding my breath*

Peaks and Valleys

First off, I would like to offer an apology for my long absence from blogging, and correspondence in general.

Like the toughest endurance ride, 2010 has been a year of ups and downs for me — and it’s only May.  My absence from blogging is both a long and short explanation.  The short version is that I lost a lot of my enthusiasm and momentum after a disheartening start to the ride season, and before I could regain my footing, my personal life came along and knocked me for another loop.

In trying to deal with life and the turmoil, I’m afraid I’ve very much retreated from one of the things in life that was always my refuge — the horses.  When your refuge is one of those things causing so much discontent and unrest, it becomes difficult to find your balance again.

After many weeks of soul-searching, I feel like I’m finally starting to gain some peace in my life again, and I’m ready to offer an explaination for what has been going on for the past four months.

The best place to start is probably chronologically, which would be at the start of the ride season — the Land of the Sun ride in Wickenburg.  After being postponed and rescheduled due to foul weather and flooding in January, the ride was held in the beginning of February.

The ride started out very nice, but ended for me at 35 miles when I pulled Mimi after she started to tie up.  Rather than typing out the whole explaination again, this is the email I sent to one of the endurance e-mail lists I’m on.

So, I’m sure as most of you saw on Facebook, I pulled from Wickenburg yesterday when Mimi went weird on me at about 35 miles. She had been doing fabulous all day, pulling my arms out in her cheer and enthusiasm during the whole first loop. About 10 miles into the second loop, she really slowed down, to the point where I was having to peddle and cajole her — definitely not normal for her, as she normally is very free-moving, and all it takes is a loosening of the reins to get her to move out at a ride.
Then she stopped to pee, and she peed very dark urine. :((( Never a good sign. We were very close to a water stop at the point, so we proceeded very slowly up to the water. I tried to get her to drink, but she wasn’t interested, so we sat at the water trough with me syringing water into her mouth, making her drink one sip at a time. She also had no interest in food — VERY unusual. Her respiration was super-high, and she her flanks were really tucked-up and doing this weird fluttering thing with her rapid breathing.
Her pulse dropped down to 36 within about five minutes, but then spiked to 44 a couple minutes later. And she just looked very unhappy. She’s not a subtle horse by any stretch of the imagination, and can be a drama queen, so it’s very easy to read her expressions and emotions. And she looked very sad and worried. Her mouth was tight, and her eyes very worried.

With all of those factors combined, I wasn’t going to continue, so I pulled her there. Fortunately, we were at a place where it was very easy to get a trailer in and out, so we loaded up and got the quick shuttle back to camp. When we got back, I had one of the ride vets look at her, and all of her metabolics checked out with all As — good gut sounds, normal hydration, loose muscles.

She never got really tight in the back end, but she did look stiff when we stopped. Both Dad and I walked her out and trotted her in hand after we had been at the water stop for about 15 minutes just to see if she would “snap out of it.” She wasn’t moving as well as she could, especially since her earlier trot-outs at the VCs had been beautiful, so I didn’t think 15 more miles — and the toughest part was still to come for that loop — would do her any favors.

It’s a maddening situation, as I don’t really know what to call it or what she did. I don’t think it was a true tie-up. I think it could have gotten to that if I pushed her. So what do I call that? Pre-tie-up? I’ve been researching my brains out this morning, and I’m no closer to pinning down any one cause.

There’s potentially several factors at play:

-The weather turning cold, windy and rainy as we were heading out for the second loop. She did the same pre-tie-up thing at a Wickenburg NATRC ride about four years ago, but that was within 5 miles of the start, and due to insufficient warmup. However, she’s also done a couple cold, rainy rides since then without a problem.

-Dehydration? She could have drank better overnight (she’s drink better if she didn’t poop in her bushel bucket…grrr…I’m going to start putting out multiple buckets for her at night). She ignored the two water troughs out on the first loop, and didn’t drink until VC1 at 13 miles. Kind of normal, kind of not. She typically drinks within 10 miles. She drank really well at the VC, then again on the way back to camp. At VC2, she drank well as soon as we got in, but didn’t drink at all back at the trailer during the hour hold.

-E’lyte imbalance? I e’lyted her with small doses in the morning before starting, at VC1, and at VC2. It was a breezy, cool day, but they were sweating a lot, especially in the beginning.

-Unaccustomed climbing? There were a lot of ups and downs and hills, but we train in terrain that’s very similar to Wickenburg.

-Fighting me too much? She was feeling really, really good, and just wanted to GO in the first loop, so we spent a lot of time having “discussions” about not pulling my arms out and not running over the steep, rocky ups and downs. Don’t know if she got herself too worked up doing that? She was feeling very competitive and forward. Our last two rides, we’ve had a space bubble since early in the ride, and she was happy to tootle along on a loose rein. This time, we were riding a bit faster, and there was always another horse within visual range. Both she and Beamer were being very competitive, but the trail was such that we had to make time where we could, because of the slow, rocky sections.

-Food at VC? I actually had a crew this time, but I’m wondering if her intentions were too good…in trying to get our ponies to eat, she was plying them with a lot of alfalfa and the ride-offered bran mashes, plus some oat hay. Mimi, being a protein-and-insulin-sensitive pony, is on a limited alfalfa diet, and a no grain diet. My fault for not communicating to our crewperson. I don’t know if something like that could be a contributing factor? Too much protein?

Or maybe it’s something I’m totally missing, or a combination of a lot of factors. I’m going to call my vet and see if he can come out tomorrow and if a blood panel will still be good at that point.

And after the visit from our vet the Monday after the ride:

Well, I got Mimi’s blood panel back from the vet today. Her AST and CK levels are elevated — 3016 for the AST and 8030 for the CK. Everything else falls within the normal range. Per my vet, she did have a tie up episode, but probably a minor one, as her muscles never got tight and crampy.

Best I can figure, after all the theories have been banded about, is that she wasn’t drinking enough and we need to work more on actually drinking at rides.

The vet had several recommendations, but no real answers.  After cogitating on this for the past several months, I think there were a few other factors at play: the six weeks or so leading up to the ride had been very wet and rainy, and they didn’t get out as much as they should have.  Quite frankly, I think it comes down to she was ill-conditioned for the ride and what I was asking of her.

She’s 17 this year (in less than a week, actually!), she’s not an Arab, despite how much she tries to act like one, and because of that, she’s not going to hold her conditioning the way an Arab in their prime (like Beamer) would.  I feel bad, coming to that conclusion, because it puts the blame squarely on my shoulders where it belongs.

It is also leading me to the conclusion that maybe it’s time to retire her from 50s, but that’s another topic for another post, as this one is getting long-winded enough.

The following is the other side of the story — my personal life, something I tend to leave out of this blog for various reasons, mostly because I figure that people come here to read about my adventures with my pony, not listen to me whine.  But I’m going to temporarily lift that moratorium, because that is a major part of what is going on right now.  To anyone that might feel uncomfortable with the subjects, death, dying, and personal religion are going to come up.  Several things have been happening, all kind of at once:

– As everyone knows, the economy sucks right now, and like a lot of people, we’re feeling it, financially.  As such, going to rides isn’t really a feasible thing right now, which is more than a little bit depressing and tends to cut down on one’s motivation to go out and train.  I don’t like admitting to this — never an easy position to be in  — but it’s one of the reasons I’ve not been showing my face around the local rides.  Let’s face it — even though endurance is one of the cheaper equine sports out there, it still costs money.  And ride entry fees aren’t going down.  And with very few truly local rides, travel expenses quickly add up, even to show up and volunteer.

– Right about the time Mimi should have been getting out again,  I came down with pneumonia and spent a couple weeks down for the count, and probably about five weeks away from riding.  Naturally, this would happen at the prettiest time of the year.  It’s been about two and a half months since that happened, and I’m only now starting to feel like I’m recovering.  (Not helped by the worst seasonal allergies I’ve ever had.)

– Finally, I’ve experienced a lot of pain and turmoil in the last couple months that has put me on a path of a lot of questioning and bewilderment, and as a Christian, I’m not proud to admit this, but I’ve spent a lot of time being very angry at God and wondering why all of this is happening. 

First, I lost a dear friend to cancer in March.  She was only 26.  I still can’t understand why someone that young, vibrant, and full of life could be taken so soon.  She fought to the end, and I will forever admire her grace, determination, and positive attitude.  I don’t know if I could have done the same.  She’s my newest guardian angel watching over me, and I’ll always cherish the memory of our friendship and her encouragement.  Miss you, Siobhan, but I know you’re using your performance talent and sense of humor to entertain all the other angels in Heaven right now.

On the heels of this, I just returned from a very difficult trip back to Pennsylvania for one last visit with my grandfather.  He has been fighting a very long, difficult battle with prostate cancer that then moved into bone cancer for the past two years, and about a week ago, his hospice nurse told the family she was giving him maybe two weeks to live.

Despite it being a painful, emotional trip, I’m glad I went.  There’s so much about the situation I’m still confused and angry about, and not even going to begin to try to delve into here.  I’ve got questions that could probably even make theological scholars scratch their heads, but I know they’ll likely always remain unanswered.  The biggest question, of course, that everyone asks is, “Why?”  I haven’t figured that out, and maybe I never will. 

This is also the first grandparent I’m losing, so I feel particularly raw and vulnerable, having been relatively sheltered from the whole notion of death and dying up until now.  I know that the inevitable end is very near now, but I feel a lot more at peace after this trip than I was before I went.

It’s been a lot to take in over the past four months, and I feel like I’ve spent a lot of time wallowing in the valleys, managing to scale a little peak, only to quickly slip down the other side.  Now, I feel like I’m gradually starting to come back again, thay maybe the next slide isn’t going to be all the way to the valley floor again.  There’s that saying, something about “darkest before dawn” that I think is very applicable at the moment.  Things will get better, it just might take a bit more mountain-climbing to get there.

Despite all of this, I have been maintaining Mimi’s bare hooves myself still.  Her feet are looking fabulous, and I’m mroe and more happy with them with each passing month.  I bought a loop hoof knife, which makes trimming her bars a lot easier.  For the first time ever, I was able to take her on several rides entirely barefoot.  Granted, it was only about 6 or 7 miles, with very little trotting, but she was totally sound and comfortable.  Also more on this subject to come, since it’s enough to make a whole seperate post.

Thank you, all of my readers, for hanging in there and listening to my very rollercoaster life.  I can’t promise an immediate turnaround in my blogging habits, but I will say that I aim to try for slightly more regular postings…in other words, no more abandoning you for four months.  :)