Catching Up With Indy

It has been a very, very busy week for me.  This is a good thing especially considering that it is winter in New England!  I do realize though that I have been neglecting my blog and for that I am sorry.

Any spare time in between work has been spent with Shady and Indy.  It’s important that I make time for them.  Indy is quite bored being stuck in a stall and Shady is getting back in shape for the upcoming competition season (more about her soon!)

Indy has been doing really, really well.  His hocks look great and the swelling is getting smaller and smaller each day.  We’ve been adding a minute each day to our walks and today we were up to 14 minutes.

Keeping Indy from being bored has reached a new level.  Last Monday, during our 8 minute walk, I realized that something had changed.  Since then, every walk has some extra spunk in it.  Indy feels good – and he thinks he is ready to play.   I can feel him, radiating with energy, ready to explode.  Sometimes, he just can’t hold it in anymore and he has a minor explosion of power.  While I can’t blame him, I am terrified he will hurt himself.  I must say, he has been very good about exploding away from me, but not pulling on the lead rope.  I have switched to a rope halter for our walks.  I did not want to put a chain over his little, delicate nose, but accepted that I needed more control.  He’s not too fond of the rope halter, but does listen to it.  Mostly.

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He wouldn’t make a normal face while I tried to get a picture of him in his rope halter.

Since the weather has been so nice, I have begun walking him outside a bit.  We leave the barn door open so we can quickly head back in if need be.  Though today I had to shut it because the other stall bound horses got very upset and were causing a ruckus.

My intention of adding the outside bit was to help re-accustom him to the outside world again, so when he does go back out it won’t be a massive over-stimulation of things.  I’m sure I’m kidding myself; he is going to explode when he goes back out.  But this is the excuse I’m sticking with.

I haven’t gotten any pictures of him walking outside as I don’t want to take my attention or my hands off of him.  We practice halting a lot, while we stare at things.  Sometimes we continue on casually.  Sometimes all four feet leave the ground in a happy burst.  I’m happy to report that despite the occasional excitement, the swelling hasn’t increased.

I’ve been giving him snacks during the day as well, to help keep him busy.  He loves his chopped hay and his Cavalor VitaCrunch block – these keep him busy for about 45 minutes.  Some small relief from the boredom of four walls.

The other day, we had a delivery of a set of stocks to the clinic.  Most horses found these to be very scary indeed.  I took it as a little mental exercise for Indy.  He snorted at them, tried to go around, then realized that I was on them and asking him to do the same.  Like a good boy, he sighed, sniffed, and climbed on up.  He hung out for a bit, then backed off slowly and carefully.  I was very proud of him!  To mix up our walks, we occasionally round the corner and go in the stocks.  It’s like trailer training, in a way.

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You can tell from my ridiculous smile that I was very proud of him.  

We will check back in with the doctor tomorrow, but for now the plan is to keep walking, adding another minute each day.  It’s hard to be so patient, especially when the weather has been so nice for February, but we need to make sure he is completely healed and not going to have any setbacks.

As you can see, clearly our progress is exhausting:

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Testing out our new hocks

I am excited to say that Indy’s legs are looking amazing! After the extended stall rest period, the swelling in the hock is decreasing and the lower limbs are staying tight. He has been cleared to resume hand walking, starting at five minutes and adding one each day.

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It is a little hard to see, but they are getting smaller each day!

Today was our eight minute walk, and apparently it was super exciting.  Indy, who has been very quiet and quite patient throughout, was full of it.  It was tough to be firm with him and not let him do what he wanted, which was to buck, rear, kick out, and throw his body around.  I say it was tough because I can see that he is very happy – his legs feel good and he is in no pain.  I could literally feel the joy radiating off of him as he tested his new hocks.  Coming to that realization was an emotional moment for me and a big relief.

Thankfully, all it takes is a firm “no” or a “ho” when he is getting frisky.  He will stop, take a deep breath, and continue on, behaving.  I am so glad I took all the time I have with him; he would be quite a handful and possibly dangerous if I hadn’t.

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Ridiculously cute

We have been slowly weaning him of the anti-inflammatory drugs and tomorrow he will be completely off of them.  This is his next big test; if the swelling continues to go down without them then we are in the clear.  We will continue to lengthen our walks and work towards going outside again.  If all goes well he should be back out in a week or so.  He will be restricted to a small paddock for another several weeks, but at least he will be out of his stall.

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Indy had some interesting entertainment – he was fascinated and very gentle with them!

Shady’s Turn

Shady is a horse that truly enjoys having a job.  She’s got a great work ethic, great mind, and gets rather bored and grumpy when she’s not doing anything.  Our plan for this year is to compete in Eventing, as well as start on our way towards a bronze medal in dressage.

She had Indy May 21st, 2015, and hasn’t really been back to consistent work since December.  We spent most of the summer hacking and ponying Indy along on trail rides.  We were boarding at a facility that was more foal friendly and had less riding amenities.  That was fine; that was exactly what we needed at the time.

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Not a bad way to spend the summer, hacking around bareback with Indy in tow!

December we moved to a wonderful facility that was both perfect for Indy and had plenty of riding options.  We could finally ride consistently and get back into work!  We even started jumping again, which we hadn’t done in over a year.

Bringing a horse back to work can be difficult – both mentally and physically for horse and rider.  Mentally, both of us have to remember that we aren’t in Preliminary level Eventing shape anymore.  I have to keep in mind that she isn’t going to be able to jump right back in where we left off.  We can’t do the beautiful, collected canter we had before.  We can’t go hop around a four foot jump course.  Not yet anyway.

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Going to be a while before we are back in this shape!

Initially, she felt different of course.  Thus began the great debate in my mind – is she just weak, or is something wrong?

What do I mean by she felt “different?”  Well, I noticed several things.  Having owned Shady for 13 years, and backing her myself, I know what she should feel like.  She usually has a big, swinging walk and moves well through her shoulders with a loose back and active hind end.  She had a shorter stride than usual, most notably in the front.

In the trot, she feels a bit “hitchy” or “stabby” in the hind end.  She’s also been forging a lot in the trot.  Forging, for those who haven’t heard the term, is when a horse’s hind foot strikes the bottom of the front foot.  This occurs while moving, just before the hind foot lands and the front foot swings forward.  It can be indicative of many issues, including sore stifles and/or a tight back.  Shady’s conformation also predisposes her to forging as she has a short back and long hind legs.  I could write a very long post all about forging, but for the purposes of this blog, we shall leave it as something I noted that was different.

When cantering, she is tight in the back and moves much more forward and freer when I am off her back in a galloping or jumping position.  When I put my leg on to ask her to come more forward and through, she speeds up and hollows instead.

Another strange note – Shady has always had difficultly bending through her midsection going left.  Left lead canter has always been harder as well.  She likes to lean on her left shoulder and try to get me to carry her with my left hand (the very common “lefthand-itis” that so many of us have).  So, when she started going better left than right, I began to get a little concerned.  It is not like her to pop out her left shoulder and have difficultly turning right.  Her right lead canter has never been more difficult than her left.

I decided to start with the weakness theory.  I began putting her on the lunge line and doing more in-hand work to help strengthen her without my weak self being on her back and in her way.    I warmed her up at first and then attached the sidereins.  At first she would hollow and stiffen against them; then she would settle and begin to round.  Still, the hind end didn’t look quite right.  Not horribly wrong, many people would not notice.  But I, knowing my horse, did.

After lunging I would ride her for about 20 minutes, making sure to be as correct as possible with my position and aids.  She felt better, but I would still feel a step here, another step there.  I added in simple strengthening exercises – going forward, coming back, walk and trot poles, lateral work, lots of transitions, and frequent changes of bend and direction.  I also did as much hacking and walking up hills as the weather would permit.

Shady faced every ride with perked up, interested ears and a great attitude.  She’s never pinned her ears, misbehaved, or otherwise acted like something was wrong.  However when February rolled around and she still wasn’t quite right, I wanted to investigate further.  Weakness by now would have gotten better or gone away.

So begins the investigative process.  I have put Shady on an injectable joint supplement.  I will go more into detail behind this decision and the desired effects in subsequent posts.  Today I also had her blood drawn to have a Lyme titre done.  She does have Lyme; although she has been symptom free for over four and a half years, it could flare up at anytime.  Back in November she had a battle with anaplasmosis, a tick borne disease that she beat without needing medication.  Ticks that carry anaplasmosis are likely to also be carrying Lyme as well.

We should have the Lyme results back early next week, and we will go from there.  One step at a time…

Growing Pains

Unfortunately, at the end of last week, Indy had a minor setback.  He had been taken off the anti-inflammatory medications, left unwrapped, and was going for short walks, which he enjoyed.  He had started to get some edema in his lower left leg, so I began putting standing wraps on.  The clinical staff and I weren’t very surprised by this; he has been stuck in a stall for two weeks, had had extensive work done in that leg, and to top it off, I swear he grows bigger every day.

After a couple days with the standing wraps, I got a text from my friend at the clinic.  I found it slightly humorous, as she clearly knows me and could tell my reaction.  It basically said, “I wrapped Indy’s leg back up, it was a little swollen, I didn’t want you to panic when you got here.”  Hmm. Here I was thinking I was hiding my fears and anxiety pretty well.  I guess not.

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He doesn’t seem to mind.

He got his stitches out of his right hock as that one is behaving well and looks great.  They are going to stay in the left hock a little longer; didn’t want to change too much all at once.  We aren’t too worried about this at the moment.  Well, I try not to be super worried anyway.  It makes sense.  The surgeon spent over an hour just in the left hock.  He cleaned it up really well and it looks great on the X-rays.  There was a lot more damage in the left hock than the right and when we combine that with the constant growing and remodeling, well, it just may need a little more time to heal, that’s all.

So the wrap went back on the left leg for a few days, and he went back on the anti-inflammatory meds.  He does get pre and pro biotics in his feed, as well as a supplement to help protect his stomach from ulcers and the harmful effects of his medication.  His appetite is great and he hasn’t had any abnormal manure.

His wrap came off yesterday and his leg looked much better.  It is still swollen in the hock joint, but much smaller than it was before.  We are optimistic that the swelling will go away completely.  It could take even up to six months, we shall see.  The plan for the moment is to give him more stall rest to see if the swelling stays minimal without wraps and anti-inflammatories.  If it does, then we can start our little walks back up and get back on track to going outside.

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The picture on the left was taken right before his surgery.  You can see how swollen the joint is.  The picture on the right was taken last night, two and a half weeks after the surgery.  You can see the swelling has gone down quite a bit.  It’s just going to take time, especially since he insists on growing like crazy!

In the meantime, he celebrated Valentine’s Day with a Mash & Mix, which he loved (you can hear lots of slurping and drooling)….

and he has figured out that there is food in his toy, but he hasn’t figured out the best way to get it yet.

 

Yes, I know he’s cute, but no, I’d rather you didn’t.

I’ve shared a lot about Indy since his birth. Not only do I love bragging about him and sharing cute pictures, but I wanted to share my experiences to help others learn.  I like hearing people’s opinions and thoughts, as well as answering questions. I have learned a lot throughout this amazing journey!

That being said, I do have to draw the line somewhere.  Since he has been born I have had calls, emails, Facebook messages, etc from people requesting everything from coming to see Indy to asking if they could take him for a walk.

Yes, I know he’s cute. He loves attention and he loves to give kisses. He would be happy to curl up in your lap or hang out in your pocket for the day.

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Enjoying a good ear scratchin’

But guess what? He’s going to grow! Judging from what we’ve already seen, he’s going to be big. So, despite how adorable he is, I have to be a parent and teach him about personal space.  Which means, no, I don’t want a bunch of strangers handling him.

Not having my own barn means I have to board them, which is fine, because I have a great indoor, trails, things I couldn’t afford to have for my own property.  This also means I am subject to other boarders, and their friends and family.

I remember when Indy was three weeks old I was approached by someone that lived at the farm we were at.  He was not a horse person. He had to tell me a “funny story.”  His father had come to visit, and because his father had had dairy cattle, they assumed that gave them the authority and privilege to enter my horse’s paddock.  His father was also “wicked brave” and had his whole hand in Indy’s mouth!

You can imagine how furious I was.  Especially since I had been clear to the property owner that I didn’t want anyone in their stall or paddock.  I got pushback from the man when I explained to him that I didn’t want him in the paddock.  He told me that it was fine, the horses were good and his father knew large animals.  Apparently I hadn’t made myself clear.  So I firmly explained that nobody is allowed in with them regardless of what experience they thought they had.

Suddenly, I was the rude, selfish one.  He didn’t speak to me again.

Let me explain my side of things.

Putting Indy and Shady’s health and comfort aside, a major concern is liability.  If I gave anyone permission to go in their stall, paddock, or otherwise handle and interact with them, I have now taken on full liability.  Yes, they are both very well behaved. However, as we know, things can change quickly with horses.  I don’t really want to spend the rest of my life paying someone’s medical bills after I have been sued due to the unpredictable antics of a young foal.  So no, I won’t be allowing anyone other than barn staff to handle my kids.

Note in this video where he his being a baby, doing baby things like biting at Shady and kicking in my and my boyfriend’s direction.  Lucky for us we were always very much on our toes and aware of this behavior and the likelihood of a foal to be a foal.  He has since grown out of the kicking habit, and never actually connected with anyone.  I do believe that somewhere in his mind he knew it was wrong.  Still, as with any horse, you’ve got to always be aware that things could happen, and happen very, very fast.

Liability aside, let’s talk about Indy’s training. Animals thrive on consistency; it’s cruel to confuse them.  I have worked hard to teach Indy to keep his mouth, and teeth, to himself.  It’s been really, really tempting to give him treats. But I resist, as hard as that may be.  I’m not lazy with his training. I am as consistent as I can possibly be.  With that being said, why would I want him to be subjected to inconsistency? How confused would he be if one person allowed him to mouth or bite them, then the next disciplines him for it? Do I want someone else to decide to discipline him their way?  No; I don’t.

All horses are adorable when they are foals.  Does anyone find an ill mannered four year old to be their favorite? Would Indy still be cute as a full grown, pushy, mouthy horse? Nope. He’d be that jerk horse in the barn that nobody likes to deal with.

Unfortunately, when people want to come “play with” your baby animal, they most often aren’t thinking about the future.  Indy will be spending his entire life with me and I want to have a wonderful partnership with him.  I haven’t had to even raise my voice at him, thanks to the consistency since he was born.

So the next time you ask me if you can do this with him, or if your family member can do that, please understand why I’m saying no.

Recovery – Day 11

We are at the halfway point of Indy’s stall rest and he’s still doing great!  He’s now allowed to hand walk for 5 minutes, adding a minute each day.  The goal is to be up to about 15 minutes of hand walking before he goes on out limited turnout.

His walks are both a physical stimulation and a mental one.  He enjoys exploring around the clinic, meeting new horses and snorting at strange things.  It’s a fantastic change of scenery for him!

Today was a little too exciting.  We rounded a corner and Indy tossed his head and hopped into a little buck.  It was adorable and brought a huge smile to my face, but at the same time, a slight pang of horror, worried that he would hurt himself.  He was polite enough to aim his body away from mine, which was great, but I still needed to be a parent and let him know that wasn’t okay.  A slight lead rope tug and a firm no was all he needed.

Last night, I finally got him to understand how his toy works!  I filled his toy with his grain and put the toy in his feed bucket.  He had to move it around in order to get to the grain and he quickly realized that when he moved it, more came out.  He was very excited and proud of himself.

(if you listen closely you can hear the lips smacking and some slight drool)

When I came in this morning I was told he had been playing with his toy all morning.

His legs are looking super.  The incisions are healing nicely.  Two days ago, he was getting a little stocked up in the lower legs.  This is fairly common when a horse is on stall rest, and especially after a major event like his surgery.  I put standing wraps on him for a couple days, and today they were back to their normal, tight selves.

Today, Indy also got a surprise visit from Shady.  I wasn’t going to bring her down, unless he got depressed or something happened, but now it’s her turn.  Shady went down for some hock x-rays.  I will do a more detailed post about her soon.

When we opened the door to come in Indy had been laying down napping.  He recognized her footfalls on the pavement and jumped to his feet with an eager whinny.  They had a nice moment, then Shady went to do her thing and Indy didn’t mind.  I was worried when I brought Shady back to her paddock that they would be upset, but they weren’t at all.

Day 7 of Indy’s Recovery

It’s been a week since Indy’s surgery and I couldn’t be happier.  He is doing great and seems to have accepted that he doesn’t go out anymore.  That makes me sad, but I am glad that he isn’t going stir crazy.

He finds the barn cat, Roger, fascinating.  He loves little animals and is very gentle with them.  When I was hanging out with Indy two night ago, Roger came to investigate.  Indy smelled him all over and nuzzled him with his upper lip.  Roger seemed to like it and rubbed back into him.  It was adorable!

The next morning when I came, Roger was sitting outside of Indy’s stall door.

I also got Indy a toy, hoping that would give him something to do.  I got him a large wobbly Kong, the popular dog toy.  I’ve got friends that use that to keep their horses entertained.  You put treats in it and as they wobble it around the treats fall out.  Usually keeps horses busy for about an hour.

Sadly, Indy isn’t very interested in the toy.  He noses it around, but the treats or chunky pellets get lost in the shavings.  I’m not too surprised; he’s very laid back and mellow.

On the positive side, his bandages came off yesterday and his legs look great!

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The silver stuff is an antibiotic, wound sealing spray.  You can barely see the two stitches.  There’s still some inflammation, but I think the legs are already smaller!

He also had new x-rays taken and everything looks good so far.  He will start remodeling the area and laying down new bone.

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Left hock, where the biggest damage was.  You can already see a big difference here where it has begun to heal.

Hopefully soon we will get the go ahead to start small little hand walks.  Otherwise, it’s 7 days down, 14 more to go before he can go out in a small paddock!

Shady and I have been having great rides.  I go visit Indy for a bit, then ride Shady, then go back to see Indy and tuck him in for the night.  Shady always smells me when I see her; she must smell him.  Then he smells me when I go back.  They seem to be doing fine being separated.

We went for a bareback hack the day after our jumping session, which she thoroughly enjoyed.  With the weather being so nice lately, we’ve been enjoying the trials after each ride.

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Had a nice sunset ride, this was the view from partway up our big, bum-building hill.

I’ve been really focusing on my position; in particular carrying my hands and sitting up straight.  Shady has responding by coming through better from behind and being more consistent in my hands.  Imagine that – I improve my position and she goes better!