Monday, August 26, 2013

Getting My Ducks in a Row - Fergus


In reality, I haven't actually got this duck in a row yet, but I'm working on it. Up until now there hasn't been any real hurry because Fergus has been on break since February (a product of having too many horses to ride, rather than not wanting to ride him), so like many things around here, it has been on the back-burner. Given that I hope to start him up in 100 milers again next year, I need to get the problem sorted out.

* * *

Unbeknownst to me, Fergus developed a couple of rubs either side of his withers during Tevis last year. At Foresthill, my vigilant crew distracted me ("look! Elephant!") while applying Desitin, and off I went again, blissfully unaware.

Keeping in mind I can't actually see Fergus' back from the ground, it wasn't until pre-Virginia City 100 prep six weeks later during the washing/primping/obsessing phase that I noticed that he had scurfy callouses on his withers and Crysta admitted "oh yeah, he got those at Tevis and we deliberately didn't tell you about them". This is what crew is for - to prevent you from obsessing over which you cannot do anything about.

The day before Virginia City 100, 2012. You can see his newly-minted wither callouses
I put his pad on and felt around underneath and concluded that in my efforts to protect his back and pad his Skito appropriately, I'd probably overstuffed the pad and it was causing bulges right about where he didn't need them. So the pad got destuffed and off we went and did VC100. No back soreness, no obvious rubbing.

Fast forward to 20 mule Team 100 in February - Mr Mild Manners became an overachieving GIANT HORSE and proceeded to move out as BIG as I've ever felt him move before. He rubbed the cr*p out of my legs in the first 12 miles (trying vainly to keep him to a subdued dull roar) and I knew that if he didn't calm down, my crippled body wasn't going to get close to finishing the next 82 miles. Luckily he did calm down and returned to his normal self, but not before skinning the insides of my legs.

What extra-special-BIG movement can do for you - the insides of my legs 50 miles into 20 Mule Team.
If it did this to my legs, what might it be doing to his back?.

Again, he finished with no back soreness or obvious holes, but the callouses were definitely still there. Come summer time, his fluffy winter coat shed out and, voila, two large white patches either side of his withers, a rear left-hand white patch, as well as some "frosting" either side of his spine. Not what I wanted to see.

Photo taken standing on the hay pile above him:
  • Pretty sure the wither spots are my fault from overstuffing the pad and two-pointing a good deal. 
  • Think that the patch in the left-rear was from when pft was still riding unbalanced from his broken leg. Now that he's more balanced and lost 20 lbs, think that problem has been remedied. 
  • The frosting along the spine - not sure, but wondering if it's heat-related from him building up friction from his BIG movement?
So I concluded that although I've been using Skito pads almost my entire endurance career, apparently it wasn't cutting it for Fergus and it was time for a change.

From looking at his back, I don't believe he's suffering from a 'saddle poking' issue - I don't see any atrophy of back muscles:
Curiously, the area that is "frosted" also has raised hair along it.
I didn't notice this until I was taking these photos.

Another problem is because his back is so long and there's SO MUCH real estate available, my saddle tends to slide back off the raised part of his withers onto the flat part of his back, causing the front of it to sit too low and tilt me forwards slightly (I don't have this problem using the same saddle with either Roo or Uno - where the saddle sits closer to their raised withers). So whatever pad we end up using, it needs to be able to be shimmed at the front to raise up the front of the saddle.

Instead of sharing a pad with the other horses, it looks like Fergus will have a special one of his very own.

Using Sensation treeless saddles, it made sense to go to the source, so I emailed Kate in the office and sent her some explanatory photos. She suggested either replacing the foam padding in the Skito, especially if it was more than three years old (, that would be a "yes"...); or getting one of their new endurance pads made with Eco-Gold padding ("Ultimate impact protection with a combination of shock-absorbing technology; Reduced friction, rubbing and pressure points" - yup, that would be what I'm looking for).

Since I'd like to try something different for Fergus—particularly with a view to the idea that his big movement may be causing some heat friction—the Sensation endurance pad is the route I'm going to take.

(as an aside, another thing she mentioned was the temperature sensitivity of the foam used in Skitos - that it tends to become "mushy" and loses some of its support when riding in heat. I'm thinking that if I like the Eco-Gold padding, it may be that I replace all the foam in my existing Skitos (in need of overhaul) with this kind of foam).

(and as another aside, Christoph Schork used one of these pads during Tevis this year and said he really liked how cooling it was).

Today I emailed Kate at Sensation to set the ball rolling so that Cinderella will be set up ready for Fall Training (if we ever get organised enough to start such a thing)(right now I have three horses lined up in my head for "Fall Training", so we'll see).

Friday, August 16, 2013

Getting My Ducks in a Row - Uno


Quite how Uno's feet degenerated into their current mess is distressing to me. He's always been a "bar" overachiever, but his feet got away from me without me realising that they had. During his last trim less than two weeks ago, it dawned on me that nearly the entire back of his front feet was now bar material ("bar pooling") and the seat of the corns had vanished underneath it. His feet were solid blocks of dense material. No concavity. No sole shedding. Just blobs of hard stuff.

My problem is that he grows a lot of toe, but very little heel, so it's a balancing act to try and not take anything off the back, while keeping the front under control. As a result, he tends towards spatula feet at the best of times.

I don't like to get too aggressive with sole trimming - which is probably also part of the problem - I suddenly realised it had all built up and it was time to get serious about getting it back under control. Not pretty.

Yesterday morning I put his front feet in boots and filled them with water (... and then went and fetched a third boot when I noticed the water trickling out of a hole in the toe of the boot). I topped up the water again last night when I fed.

So he wore his water boots for 24 hours and this morning I set to doing a hack-job on his feet. It's scary digging around in there like that, and I imagine he'll be a little footsore until things even out, but I think I got the job done. Sorta.

(Note I took the following photos with my iPhone so there may be some distortion due to it being close up. I know his heels aren't super-healthy, but don't believe they are quite that contracted.)

Left front, post-hack job. Talk about dubbed toe. :(
Right front, post-hack job. Not quite as extreme...

I don't love these feet, but need to avoid his toes getting long to protect his suspensories from over stretch
(Yellow outlines show the area of bar that I removed) The soaking in boots actually made it possible for me to peel the bar material away, sliver by sliver with my hoof knife. Towards the end it got harder and harder to tell what was bar material and what wasn't. I suspect I could have taken more off, but chickened out.

He had what appeared to be slight bruising either side of his frog near the front. 

I also spent some time opening up the central sulci (in his case, deep slits) to let air in and get No Thrush powder down in there. And did the same with the space between heels and frog.

Left heel: example of what happens when Uno decides to wriggle at the exactly the wrong moment as I'm nipping. The good thing is, even though this was only two weeks ago, by the end of this morning's trim, the rest of the heel had been rasped down to match the missing part (see next photo).

Towards the end of the trim, after I'd liberally powdered his feet, I noticed a black crack near the front of the frog on the right. Gentle poking with the hoof pick cause it to chunk off, so I got busy pulling off sole and revealed quite a bit of new sole on that right side. Like I said, normally I wouldn't touch this stuff - just let it come out on its own, but clearly in Uno's case, his dry, rock-like feet had opted to retain everything, resulting in flat, solid feet.

So the hour and 15 mins spent chiselling away at his two front feet seems to have been relatively successful. Certainly he wasn't lame at the walk and didn't show any discomfort while I was performing the hack-job. I'm hoping that the lessening of bar material will cause his feet to be able to flex more and in turn be healthier. And if I can eliminate the thrush in his heels, hopefully he'll start to land heel-first and grow more heel.

I may repeat this soaking again in a week and see if more sole material seems inclined to come off.

And if I can find somewhere non-smoky to ride this weekend, I'd like to take him out and see how he feels - hopefully more willing to move out once I get boots on.

Getting My Ducks in a Row - Hopi


In the last few weeks, Hopi started to look a bit funky - he's not thin exactly, but his hip bones were poking out, ribs peeked through, and his top line started looking very prominent. In addition, the hair on his rump got peculiarly tufty.

To complete the picture, he seems to be having an all-out war with "someone" (thinking Small Thing) and is covered in scuffs and bite marks. He's not bottom of the pecking (biting?) order - that spot is reserved for Uno who just wants the quiet life - and Hopi and Small Thing regularly eat together, so it doesn't appear to be that he's being chased off the hay. Hum.

The strange thing is, during this time he has become the most relaxed and cheerful I've ever seen him. He's talkative, friendly, and plays a lot.

Hopi's Tufty Butt:

After eyeing him for a while, I concluded maybe he needed a worm purge, so duly purchased 1,000 ml of fenbendazole (10% suspension) - enough to purge four horses should I feel the need to do so. Otherwise, enough to treat my five horses for about the next decade.

'Course, as soon as I ordered the stuff, Ann pointed out that I should probably get him a fecal exam to make sure that's what was really going on. She even gave me a kit* to do the deed.

(*Kit = small pill bottle with a pokey spoon attached to the lid. Instructions were "Take some poop off the top of the pile, keep refrigerated".)

Thursday was the day and I set about getting Hopi to poop on command. This used to be a simple matter of looking at him or putting a halter on him. But apparently nowadays that wasn't going to cut it. He ambled along behind me, quite happily, looking around at the world, totally relaxed.

Hopi acting like the highly-strung arabian he is...
Ah hah, I thought, and loaded him in the trailer. 

Most self-respecting horses, at this point, will poop within four seconds of getting in the trailer. Nope. Loaded and unloaded him several times and took advantage of the situation to impress upon him that leaping out of the trailer as soon as the door was opened wasn't appropriate. Manners about jumping out were instilled, but still no poop. 

I ran him up and down a bit. No poop.

Finally realised it was getting late and I needed to get to work, so tied him in the barn with a hay net and ran indoors to get ready. 

Wondering what to do now - to alarm him sufficiently into production,
but not enough that he wonders what he did to deserve such treatment.
Now nice and tidy, but still no poop in the barn, I decided to try and load him one last time and - voila, finally he produced the much desired substance. Put him away and then squatted in the dust in my work clothes with the pill bottle and the pokey scoop and retrieved a sample.

At Auburn Animal Medical Large Animal, I handed over my prize. Apparently if you send your poop sample to the lab, they will charge you around $200 for the privilege of inspecting it under a microscope. Auburn Animal Medical realised the stupidity of this - who's going to test for worms when you can pick up a tube of wormer for less than $10? So they purchased the necessary equipment and now do "fecals" in-house for a mere $25.

And here's the rub. The vet office called that afternoon - Hopi is negative for worms. 

So now what? I should test him again in a few months to make sure they aren't at the encysted stage. But in the meantime, this morning Hopi got stationed in front of a large pan of sloppy feed - Elk Grove Pellets and Ultium feed, with a helping of E-Se-Mag (Vitamin E, Selenium, Magnesium) and we'll try that for a month and see if it helps. And I'm waiting to hear from the vet as to whether I should go ahead and administer a five day fenbendazole purge anyway.

* * *
Edited to add 08.26.13:

Hopi tucking into his enormous pan of goodies. Note offending ribs in the background. He's been gobbling this stuff once a day for ten days now, and I'm not convinced it's done much so think that a worming purge is in his future. However, I'm going to wait until after we get back from vacation so I can supervise in an obsessive manner.