Thursday, 28 January 2010

Dance in the Dark

Grace's sire is Catherston Dance in the Dark. Well we were doing a little 'dancing in the dark' tonight. Although to be totally honest it was actually walking.

But I was surprised at how brave Grace was. We were looping round the livery premises in near darkness, notching up 20 minutes over a variety of surfaces. Grace managed very well on hard core/road planings, but she still struggles with the odd loose stone on concrete.

We are doing this twice a day and will work up to 40 minutes twice a day. Then we will have a rethink.

Monday, 25 January 2010

Tying up - ACP and Bute

We stuffed ACP (Sedalin) and Bute into Grace. The former to dilate the blood vessels to minimise muscle death and the latter to ease her pain. Thank you vet for that and thanks to the universe that we just so happened to have a supply of both readily to hand. Fast treatment is important to minimise damage.

Grace didn't move all night - as evidenced by the pile of pee and droppings all in the same place.

But this morning she discovered when I asked her to move over so I could muck out, that she was feeling a bit better.

By this afternoon I could tell by the mess that she had been moving around. We went for a tiny walk (Grace wanted to bounce but I insisted) and she seemed a lot better.

She has drunk and is continuing to drink loads. Probably to the good as it will help flush the toxins (from the dying muscle) out of her system.

Oddly regular dinner doesn't seem to taste as nice as the special mix laced with medicine.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Tying Up Syndrome

It was all going too well. Down to earth with a bump. Grace tied up today. No obvious cause, although she had received high levels of stress yesterday. More news tomorrow.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Stretching Exercises and long memories

Grace's pecs, once very mushy from some sort of injury, have now solidified. A bit too much as it would appear that her front leg action is being restricted somewhat. So I thought it would be a good idea to do some stretches. But of course first I would have to show her that I meant no harm.

I decided to wait until the right opportunity arose and it 'felt right' and to introduce the stretches a little bit at a time. This morning that moment came.

So I just started to lift Grace's front leg, as you would do to stretch out the skin after girthing. I'd literally just started the lift when Grace plopped down into a 'dog play bow' with both elbows on the floor and her near fore still in my hand. She looked very happy and I looked gob smacked.

Well, I can't really beat that - she did the stretch and then some and no trauma or anxiety required. Amazing Grace does it again. I've been beaming all day :-)

One down moment. Farrier decided to hot shoe (another horse) just outside her box. Grace was TERRIFIED. I will have to see what I can do, if anything. For the moment we are both swallowing bitter bile over what has been done to her in the past.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Barefoot baby steps

Grace is a very interesting (new word for challenging) horse to work with. At first glance, its' all there. Conformation is good, she is highly intelligent, very willing and a real pleasure to be around.

It's only as you start to unpick the package that you realise what a long road is being travelled, and all in tiny, baby steps.

Look at the first picture - This horse is in agony. She has jammed her front legs under her to try and unload her heels which are sore from long term fungal/thrush infections. But her toes hurt from an earlier bout of laminitis.
All this pain has secondary impact - she is not using her hind end properly because of the pain in her feet and her back has got screwed up with the tension - so that hurts too.

In the second picture Grace looks much happier. Her front legs are where they should be; in a good comfy vertical so she can use her stay apparatus effectively when she needs. Her quarters and thighs are showing the benefit; developing muscle and tone because she can use them properly. And her back, once taut with muscle tension is now relaxed and starting to double muscle.

We haven't done anything fancy or complicated with her. Mostly we have worked on her diet - weaning her off sugar and onto a high forage hay based diet which is supplemented with high levels of magnesium among other things. She isn't even in proper work yet. Just the occasional free school or lunge to check progress.

The videos below aren't great - taken with my phone while I was scooting about. But I think you can see how Grace has improved over time - look particularly at how her back end is working.

And remember this is just removing her shoes, a change of diet and her own pootling about.

I am starting to get excited about what we might achieve with a more structured and regular work programme. But I know she is carrying a lot of damage, so I am trying to remain very chilled and pragmatic.

Regardless though, I am thrilled that this horse which was once so sore is now getting so much better. Next time I will try and capture one of her more spontaneous moments.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Chocolate Pony in the snow

Grace showing friend how to dig for hay buried under the snow

Don't leave me behind!

No horses in this one, this is my local countryside. Pretty?

If you click on any of the pictures in this blog they will blow up to a larger size.

Translation required

Because I don't speak horse so well and Grace has a quirk I don't understand.

It's slightly hard to explain so bear with me! Some important things to outline:-
Grace is:

- Used to being led around on her own
- Happy to lead behind or in front of another horse and can cope with them disappearing
- Generally quite brave. She might look or spook at something the first time, but not habitually
- Beta, she will defer to other horses and is freaked out by some people, usually men

Yesterday there was only one other horse out with Grace. We brought them in together. On the way back to the stable Grace exhibited behaviour I have not seen before. Much spooking, bug eyed, bouncing and double barrel kicking out. It didn't matter where the other horse (a friend) was - behind, in front or alongside.

Now I know there have been trespassers in their field and I know how some people really do alarm her. Mostly men but not always. There were people in the field yesterday and today. The only thing I can think of is that either the stranger danger or maybe a fear of something coming up behind freaked her out.

Anyway, as I said, I don't speak horse that well so I can only speculate and hope that she is never that afraid again. I also hope that the trespassers get more sense because one day one of them might get hurt. (I mean really - tobogganing into the middle of a group of horses - what were they thinking?)

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Just who is training whom?

You know how you read in horse training manuals about how you should think of new things to teach your horse and to keep it simple and break everything down into easy steps?

Well Grace has read the book.

And every time she sees the word 'horse' she substitutes 'human'.

But she has gone one better than the book - 'cause I'm getting the training and she is getting the treats!

- This post is inspired by the almost daily new 'tricks' that Gracie thinks of.
This week she has learnt to count.

From the horse's mouth:-

'When training my human I will only accept a maximum of 10 reward clicks before I expect a treat regardless of what I am doing.'

'As my human has a variable speed limit - to put it kindly - I expect a click every 5 strides to confirm that we are still ok for walking.'

Friday, 1 January 2010

Medical miracles don't happen overnight

Oh its so very hard. Grace has improved so much. People who don't know her well don't realise just how far she has come in a relatively short space of time.

We are facilitating Grace's healing, both mentally and physically, but there are no magic wands to be waved. The most serious damage is a mix of mental scars and internal physical damage and what took years to inflict will take considerable time to undo.

It is easy for some to believe that because her external physical scars have healed that everything else is ok. Oh how I wish it were that easy. And some bits are easy, horses are remarkable self-healers and our greatest gift is to facilitate that process (which means no meddling). The biggest parts of the facilitation are patience and a deep respect for the horses' need to be a horse.

Which means living like a horse; with a fibre rich, low sugar diet; lots and lots of movement 24/7 over a variety of surfaces with access to shelter, water and loafing spots as required; living in a stable herd and not being forced to put up with less for the sake of human convenience. (Haven't got there yet with all those things - oh how I long for a PP.)

Her external physical scars are almost invisible under her winter coat. But when I watch her work I can see how her pulverised pectorals are making moving the front end challenging; she sometimes does this kind of weird short stepping skip as the whole area locks up. It is amazing though how generally cheerful and willing she remains.

With regards to her feet, her digital cushions are extremely under developed as a result of life long inappropriate foot care. Her soles are thin, she is prone to thrush and is still recovering from multiple bouts of low grade laminitis. We can do a lot to help Grace overcome these challenges by letting her be a horse. But all of the healing has to grow in; millimetre by millimetre and any screw up in her care sets us back - which is why I am so fanatical about keeping the sugar out of her diet as much as possible. I need to incorporate a lot more movement into her life to help her feet grow healthily - both quantity and quality. Not easy to arrange but I will do my best.

On very bad days we do give her pain relief, but not as a regular feature. You might have noticed from the photos that she was over at the knee in the early days - this is resolving, as are the sore back and hips. But there will be other longer term issues which are still healing and if she gallops about unaware of the various aches she could do herself a lot of damage.

Trimming her feet is challenging. She can only hold a foot up for a short time and her physical/mental limitations mean that conventional methods of steadying a foot are not an option. It took time to teach her that having her feet trimmed was ok. It will take time to teach her that interested onlookers don't mean her any harm. One day I might be able to co-opt an assistant to help support her while I trim. But a few moons will rise and set before that happens.

And finally - most days I get a reminder of just how smart Grace is and just how far she has come and how far she has to go. Sometimes the reminders are just a post-it note, others they are writ large. Today was the latter.

Three things happened; 1) a group of trespassers were in the field with the mares and Grace was very upset and defensive trying to protect the herd. 2) A man she doesn't know well ignored advice and ran his hand over her and moved towards her back end. He narrowly avoided being kicked. 3) I skipped out round her in the stable and put a bale of Aubiose down and did a bit of trimming with a slew of observers and much activity. I'd never have managed any of this when I first got her without being kicked and although tied up she was very good about it today.

So a mixed bag. Some happy moments, thank you friend, family, Grace and Sophie, but much strife (entirely from humans) too.