Wednesday, July 14, 2010
That's Just How The Hock Fuses
Ah, better days.
On Sunday I rode Sofie in the Big Field and she did much better than she had been doing. She didn't really want to trot at first, but with some persistance and finesse, I was able to get her to trot in various directions. She still had iffy moments where she thought about balking or getting upset, or getting a little out of control, but overall, it was a good ride. I rode right up to the breaking point, when she started to rush a little and wanted to trot all the time, preferably toward the barn, but not past it into disaster territory. I got off feeling very good about the ride.
Actually, I haven't mentioned the best part of the ride. I was walking Sofie toward the fenceline she doesn't like, trying to get her to move off my leg without her getting mad (a delicate balancing act), when directly in front of us, at LEAST half a dozen wild turkeys BURST out from behind some rocks and high weeds and flew off into the woods. Sofie jumped a little in place, but she did not spook dramatically at all, or spin and bolt, which was very gratifying, considering the visual assault. I wouldn't have blamed her at all if she had freaked. I've never liked turkeys (I was attacked by a chicken when I was little, and turkeys are basically big mutant chickens), but she has seen them on the trail, and apparently they are her little friends now.
So Wednesday I got to ride with a friend, which was really nice. I didn't free school Sofie very long because she was moving well (she even took the right lead once) and I wanted to see if she would do better with a little more energy, since it was hot. She was very calm and relaxed in the aisle, although she didn't want to hold up her right hind for cleaning. We got the horses tacked up and went outside, and Sofie was kind of sluggish and not thrilled with being ridden. I walked her for a while to warm her up and then started to experiment with trotting. She didn't want to trot, and while I got her to do it, she was just reluctant. A few times she thought about acting up but she didn't. She's been really good about NOT trying to kill me lately, but that doesn't mean she's tackling the work with any kind of enthusiasm.
We were getting nowhere in the yard, so I decided a trail ride was in order. Sofie was sluggish, even on the trail. I turned back partway down the trail, because she wasn't dealing well with hills and I didn't want to subject her to the hills near the end of the trail. So we turned back, and then I made the incredibly stupid decision to turn onto the other fork of the trail, knowing it was narrow, knowing there was a fallen tree lying across it so getting to the end of it was impossible, knowing the ground gets boggy whenever it rains. Sofie was pretty much like "Can we please just go back?" I got to where I could see the tree, I looked for an optimum place to turn around (there was none) and turned her. As she was turning, both of her hind feet sunk into the mud, and she had to yank them out. I could feel a bobbling, uneven-ness behind as we walked back to the barn, but she wasn't dead lame or anything, so I figured I'd ride back to the barn and get off. She perked up as we neared the barn, and I decided to turn her away from the barn to dismount. So I turned her (up an incline, like an idiot), and she stopped, and literally WOULD NOT MOVE. I pressed her on, and she backed up, but she would not go forward. She was planted. I finally got her to take one forward step (toward the barn, but at least it was forward, and I wasn't pushing my luck at that point). I got off and saw she was resting her left hind, which she continued to do in the barn as I untacked her. She had trouble turning and backing (even more than usual) and looked uncomfortable. I free schooled her, and she walked and trotted okay, although she was clearly hiking up her left hind. I felt horrible. She was already having a bad month, and now I'd screwed her up even more. It's just the worst feeling in the world.
Sofie does have a sense of timing; she usually hurts herself right before appointments with equine professionals. The very next day was her appointment with Chiro Lady, which was somewhat reassuring. I was still worried I would find her barely able to walk, or with her leg swollen to twice its size. But she seemed fairly okay. She was happy to see me, she free-schooled fine, apart from being a little stabby with her left hind. She was resting her left hind more than usual in the aisle, but some of the time she stood with her weight on both legs, and she also rested the right hind. She did NOT want to put all her weight on the left hind and pick up her right hind for cleaning, however. In the end I had to pick it up for a second and put it down again (it wasn't dirty, fortunately).
Chiro Lady showed up with her little Sheltie and a vet student who was going on rounds with her. The vet student was a guy (a very nice one, but still) so we were a bit concerned that Sofie had take offense at his presence, but she quickly assessed him as Non-Threatening. Chiro Lady had just been to see a horse owned by one of the fully-Rollkur-endorsing trainers in the area, and apparently he was a mess (gee, what a surprise?). So she was glad to see Sofie standing there calmly. Sofie really enjoyed her chiro work this time around. I mean, she was ridiculously happy to stand there and let Chiro Lady work on her. Chiro Lady was thrilled with her progress and had many, many nice things to say about Sofie. Her sternum, which prompted fireworks from Sofa during the first chiro session, was a non-issue, her jaw isn't tight, her teeth are occluding (I think that's the word) well and she was the picture of cooperation.
Chiro Lady examined her feet and used them as an example of What You Want In A Horse Foot for the vet student, even talking about the under-run heels and various other problems in the feet of the shod horses they'd just been to see, and how Sofie's feet had none of those problems and were, in fact, ideal. I think Sofie enjoyed being a hoof model. It beats the alternative, that is for sure. I have nothing but good things to say about natural trimming. Even with the shorter trimming intervals, it beats the hell out of paying for shoes, and it gives the feet a chance to improve.
Chiro Lady stretched Sofie's legs, even the problematic left hind, and Sofie cooperated fully. She even tucked her butt and lifted her back when prompted (Chiro Lady is much stronger than my mom or I am, that is for sure!). She said Sofie's weight was ideal and that she was in good shape. She was very pleased with the change in Sofie, and she even said that one of our clients knew us in some way, and they had said "What a difference in that horse." It feels good to know that what we're doing hasn't gone unnoticed. Sofie may be going through a rough phase right now, but she has still come an incredibly long way, and I cherish our friendship and also all of the people we've come to know through her.
I had hopes that she would be much better after the chiro, but given the fact that Chiro Lady didn't find anything glaring and Sofie still didn't want to put all her weight on that left hind yesterday, I should have known that would not be the case. As soon as I started walking her through the yard, she threatened to act out, and she repeated her protest several more times. She stopped threatening each time when I yelled at her, but it wasn't getting any better, so I got off after making sure she walked away from the barn for me. She's not the type of horse to suddenly decide to be incredibly barn sour and resistant. She doesn't act up at the walk. She just doesn't. I know enough by now to not blame this on a training issue. We were making huge progress in our barn sourness eradication, but now she's having hock trouble again. In March, it was the right hock, now it's the left one. I don't blame it entirely on the bogging-down-on-the-trail incident; she was having trouble even before then. It's not as bad this time, fortunately. In March, I couldn't even consider riding her until five weeks had passed. We've been able to push through it for two weeks now, but I won't do it anymore. She's not lame, but she can't tolerate my added weight, and I don't want her to have to hate being ridden. She can have some time off, with groundwork only.
Maybe this is a mixed blessing. Yes, it sucks that she can't be ridden right now. But she's moving around fine in the field with her friends, and in the arena while free schooling. And maybe her hocks are fusing now, rather than later. Maybe she'll be rideable again by the time the weather cools and fall arrives. Maybe winter won't be so hard on her.
She was going to have next week off anyway, because I will be going to the North American Nationals (NAN), a huge model horse show in Lexington, KY. Over 5,000 models are entered this year, and thanks to the insane generosity of one of my showing friends, 16 of my models that I painted myself will be competing there. Pretty crazy. Pretty daunting. VERY exciting.