Saturday, February 7, 2015

Zen at The Barn

I have learned a lot about horses since we bought this one, Bones.

He is a truly lovely horse.  But he is an older horse.  And there were some inherent problems with him going from being a yard ornament to being ridden six days a week by two different riders, one of whom was riding him pretty hard.  We bought him in July, and by October this regimen had taken a its toll on his spine and he was limping.  So the first person we called was the horse chiropractor.   About this time the woman who half leases Bones ramped up her search for a horse of her own, and stopped riding bones altogether.  She just looked farther and farther away for a horse.
   This is the horse chiropractor giving him some acupuncture.

The Chiropractor adjusted him, at the tune of a couple hundred dollars, then of course no one could ride him hard for a couple of weeks.  He was on "rehabilitation" which means pretty much half an  hour of walking, no real trotting or cantering, and certainly no jumping.  Then the Chiropractor came back to look at him and said that the adjustment problem was fixed, but now he was more lame than ever with another problem.  The vet was at the barn that day and she looked at him and said it was probably the scratches.
Backtrack a month or so.  The woman who half leased him from us told me he had scratches on  his feet.  I thought so what, he got scratched somehow, it will heal.  Whatever.

Oh how wrong I was.

Apparently SCRATCHES is the layman's term for TERMINAL ATHLETE'S FOOT of the horse.   Sort of.  It was awful!  $735.00 awful.  

It is this nasty condition that manifests itself as these scabs on the horses's skin just above the hoof.  Only happens on white feet, by the way, which is why some people will not buy a horse with white feet.  The way to treat it is to rip the scabs off, and apply medicine of one sort or another.

Bones's scratches got pretty bad. His feet were all swollen and as he healed from the back problems his scratches got worse and they caused him to start hobbling again.  I think Blondie was afraid she was hurting him when she would pick the scabs off, which she was, so she would pick very daintily at them.  She gets off a little chunk the size of her pinky fingernail and that was about all the pain she wanted to put him through. So we called the vet to help.   I went out to the barn and watched the vet attack them, and she drugged him up, then shaved off all the hair on his foot and the proceeded to shave off the scabs.  It was horrifying.  It bled.  Then she put him in isolation in a stall, so he was out of the wet pasture.  Being in a stall cost me $5 a day for shavings, and $10 a day to have someone else muck it out if we couldn't get out to the barn that day.  And of course Blondie wasn't riding him.  He HATED the stall.  He started weaving again, and was pretty unhappy.  After nearly two weeks in the stall he was able to go out into the cross country field, which isn't as wet and muddy as the pastures, but still isolated.  He was still unhappy.  He was there for a couple more weeks, and then they decided it was dry enough and he was unhappy enough that he could go back into the pasture with the other geldings.  
This is what swollen feet look like after the scratches have been shaved off.

 He's rocking his flash dance leg warmers.

Two weeks rehabilitation turned into four and six… She would be off him completely, or on for rehabilitation rides, but then his head would bob and she was off again and we'd call the vet.  She was basically off him for while he was being treated for one thing or another from the end of October until the middle of December.  Then he got well enough to actually have a lesson.  The scratches were doing better, until just before Christmas when she had a practice ride and his head was bobbing on the trot again, meaning he's lame again.  So she was off of him and we talked to the vet.  The next time the vet decided his front feet were still not trimmed right, he was still out on his heels when  he needed to be on his toes.  So Blondie was not riding him while we wait for the ferrier to fix his feet, and for him to recover from being off on that.  

I took this picture when he was so frisky and excited to be out of the stall and back being ridden that he couldn't contain himself.

So finally by January he was back, and she had another lesson.  The scratches were still there but getting slowly better.  But now every time she rides him she is in fear of that head bob.    Each time she rides, as we are graining him, I attack the scratches.  He hates it.  He pulls his foot out of the way, again and again.  I move to the other foot.  He has sometimes kicked at me with the opposite hind foot when I'm working on the back one.  We all hate it.

In the mean time, with no one able to ride much, the woman who half leased him from us stopped leasing him from us.  She was looking hard for a horse and stopped coming out to the barn.  
I had worried that for a long time Bones liked her better than he liked Blondie.  She jumped him higher, she treated him more, she just loved the heck out of him.  But around the middle of December she found her own horse.  He was new and greener and needed a lot of work.  So the woman who had leased from us was coming back to the barn but she totally focused on her own horse.  There was one day toward the beginning of January when I came out to watch the vet work on Bones and this new horse was in the stall next to Bones's.  I was chatting with the woman who had been leasing from us while the vet ground down her horse's teeth, and she told me she had gone into Bones's stall to say hello.  She said he took one look at her and turned his butt toward her, and then walked to the other side of the stall and put his head in the corner.  He was shunning her.  She said it was so obvious, such a different reaction than the one she used to get from him, it was very obvious he was mad at her.  Of course, she said, that is the way it has to be, she is very happy with her new horse, and Bones needs to be in love with Blondie.  I thought he would still love the woman who had leased him, who loved him so much, but he had moved on when she did.

So Bones is back, Blondie has had a couple of lessons on him and they are jumping and everything again.  We are still dealing with the scratches, but it's much better, much smaller patches and I've figured out a routine.  I took this Tuesday, before my phone told me the memory was full and shut down.  She jumped higher by the end of the night, but it's on my other camera.

Thursday we were at the barn and I decided to the scratches treatment a little different.  Instead of waiting until he was cooled off and attacking the scratches while he ate his grain, I told Blondie let's do the scratches while he's cooling off.  You can treat him just a little, can't you?  She said she'd keep him occupied.  I don't know if she was worried he was too hot to treat him or what, but she said she'd stay by his head while I worked on his feet.  It is impossible to work on his feet without something to distract him.

I was picking at the scratches and noticed he was tolerating it.  He stopped lifting his foot out of the way, stopped trying to get away from me.  I commented on it, and told her to keep doing what she was doing.  Finally I asked Blondie what was going on and she said "Shhhhh!!"  She said she kind of put her forehead on his and just rubbed on his face and looked him in the eye… he would half close his eyes and she would just talk softly to him.  She said when I talked his eyes would pop open and she'd have to calm him down again.

She is very tickled that he trusts her and she has been developing her horse whisperer skills.  With him at least.