Winter has swooped in on the coattails of Sandy the Terrible, and it was a cool and chilly day to work the horses. I never complain about my outdoor arena, because I own it, it’s my own land, I can ride in it anytime I want to, and I’m fortunate to have it. But it’s a cold mutha on a breezy day in the 40’s!
Today, Indy hacked and is accepting the new canter paradigm — where we canter for more than three times around without losing our hocks, our rear end, our backs and our incentive to listen to the leg….it’s actually working, he’s working through the back more and more and the downward transitions are getting smoother and more on the bit each time. It’s a good thing he’s hacked a couple times this week because I just clicked on the computer and found the hunt will be going out tomorrow at our closest fixture, and with Rugby’s foot still in the soaking stage, he’s the stand-in for Number One Hunt Horse this week.
Rugby allowed me to soak him twice today; to say foot-tubbing is not his favorite thing is an understatement. He stands on the crossties in the washrack, and when the black rubber tub comes out, he begins to look around for the escape door; and when I tell him he has to stand, he plants, but starts to shake. He hates the rubber tub underneath him. Once I put his left front owie foot in the tub, I am tethered to him. If I step around the corner, or out of sight, even to duck in his stall for a moment to pick it out, he panics and tries to step out, it splashes, he panics some more, it gets knocked over, more panicking and it’s all a mess…. So I take all the dirty tack in the tackroom out first, then hang it on the hook near the washrack, so I can do something while sitting with Rugby and the tub. As long as I am standing there doing something (cleaning tack), he will stay put. Occasionally he begins to panic and tries to move, inching his back feet up under his belly but without moving the fronts, so he ends up like a seal on a ball, and … you guessed it…. tries to panic. So in addition to cleaning tack, I have to load both pockets of my jackets with cookies. Every time he begins to panic, I have to slide a cookie in his mouth. While he won’t reach out and take it like the other horses, he waits for me to shove it in his mouth, he does crunch it up and eat it. Then he’s calm for a while. When he is about to have another attack, he will roll his eyes and flip his ears back and forth and start moving the back feet up for the seal thing…..and I have to put down the tack sponge and run over to shove a cookie in his mouth.  Half an hour in the tub is about six cookies. But I am getting him soaked and the abcess is far less painful to him now. We’ll take a look at it tomorrow and see if there is more to cut away, but it is already much cooler and less heated and he’s walking better on it.
Let’s talk about McLucky. Lucky had a lame summer. If it wasn’t one thing, it was another. Finally I found some extra cash to throw away and took him to a local vet who has just started a new practice. This whole episode did not go well, from the trailer trip where he competely washed out and scraped himself up kicking at flies in the trailer, to the vet taking one look at him and declaring she “wasn’t going to get hurt” examining him … and reached for the chain shank. He acted up while being jogged and having his joints crunched up and was a very pissed off dude just being there, so when she couldn’t find anything serious and we thought we ought to exray and ultrasound a few things, I gave up and just let her tranquilize him into calmness. We found a hole in a tendon running back of the hind pastern (which was the bubble mystery solved), and then found a couple hooks on the hock joint exray. Thank you very much, $300 poorer, I took him home with “good luck, find another one”. The following day he blew out an abcess in the left front heel. The following day. So rather than blame a vet, I prefer to think of it as a teachable moment; even when you put a set of hoof-testers on a horse, if you don’t know the horse, and can’t read his reactions, you’re not going to see what is bothering him. Your vet sort of needs a relationship with your horse. The upper level riders who have vets who drop by the barn once a week cover that base. The basic regular horse person, like me, who have a checkbook whose balance is usually in two digits if they are lucky, cannot afford to have a vet dropping by weekly, or even monthly. So we have to be even sharper and better at trouble spotting. Ah so.
Anyhow, I’ve worked on Lucky’s abcessed foot a bit and it has definitely improved, and also started working on his big knee. He wears the light boot twice a day for an hour, and I’ve experimented with a couple magnet boots for him to wear and it’s helping. I would like to find a couple hundred dollar bills under a rock and have that knee ultrasounded, or maybe cold lasered to see if it helps it a little. If I really hit the lottery I’d try to get him to VEI in Middleburg. So he jogged out on the lunge line about Wednesday last week and he’s SOUND, the first time in about two months! Yeah! So he’s been started back, and today I lunged him in both directions and cantered him both ways too and he was pretty good but a bit sassy. He is a little aggressive when he thinks he’s RIGHT, and tonight he knew Brian had put the grain in the tub at feed time, but I was still washing his tail on the washrack, and he LET ME KNOW I was interrupting his eating time with all sorts of twitchiness, slapping his feet, moving back and forth, flipping the nose, wagging the head— come on, you idiot, I have GRAIN in my tub — would you PLEASE hurry up with my tail!!!! Lots of expression….so I hurried up and put him back, thank goodness, FINALLY. He is so funny, he is just almost human about stuff… I am hoping he stays good so I can get him semi-schooled. Even though he has only been back lunging a few times, he relaxed and stretched down a few strides today. Before, it was taking a long time to get that stretching. The fact that he is offering to stretch earlier and longer is a very good sign. He is a breathtaking mover when he relaxes.
And finally a new boy! I have wanted a Tully Cross horse for a long time, and I now have one! Hamish arrived just before the Big Frankenstorm, and he spent only one day outside before being brought in to be out of the hurricane for two days. Hamish was  bit bewildered — new buddies, different paddocks and stalls, not sure who was the boss….but he has a lovely eye, and good brain, and he’s figuring it out. The rain (over 10 inches that we had dumped on us) kept all the paddocks soggy for a couple days so it was almost midweek before I could do something with Hamish. He’s a three-quarter bred Thoroughbred, one-quarter draft, but he’s got all the drafty look with the TB mind and ability. He lunged a little this week, and got a saddle try-on-session (oops — he’s a rotund boy and I’m not sure what I’ve got in the tack room will fit perfectly right now, so he’s on a work out regimen, and I’m on a saddle hunt.) Today he lunged and was even better, so I sat on him and walked around and he was absolutely a star. Hamish is only six and has evented a little bit and hunted a little bit so he can do anything, and as his owner says, “he wants a job”. He does. He loves being worked with, as soon as you scratch his butt with the brush he goes, “aaahhh, that’s the ticket”. He hunts treats in your pockets and feels personally affronted with only one cookie when at least three would be much more civilized, please and thank you. He is still trying to bond with a buddy, and hasn’t found one yet he loves, but he probably will pick Odie once I get the pastures back open.
So back to the barn we go. Keeping my eyes and ears open for a wide tree saddle and keeping my eyes and ears open for trouble in the herd…knock on wood….should have all sound by next week! Lord willin’, and the crick don’t rise.