Saturday, October 24, 2009

What Has Your Horse Taught You?

I have realised over the last week just how much Fox has taught me.

Fox has taught me patience, the importance of awareness and openness in communication with horses. Commitment, focus, the importance of goals but at the same time, the knowledge that things sometimes don't happen quite the way you want them too or as quickly as you want them to and being ok with that. He's taught me more practical things, especially this last week about physiology, anatomy and function. He's propelled me on a learning journey probably unmatched by anything I have done before. And most importantly that I have SO much more to learn (especially about feet, I never want to go through a bad farrier again!)

He's been a hard, demanding teacher at times but sometimes that's what it takes to wake up someone stuck and content in their old ways. He has slowly grown to trust me and this has been a huge reward all by itself.

This last week, with nothing to do with him but cold hose and rub him with tennis balls has actually been rather nice. The pressure is gone. It's just you and your horse, hanging out not demanding anything of each other. Fox will stand patiently while I hose his leg, something he never used to do. He stretches and yawns as I massage him with a tennis ball. In some ways it's far more enriching than what we used to do. It takes up far more energy and requires much more of a focused approach. It's a carefully thought out routine of handgrazing, massage, cold hosing, booting and administering of various potions and powders.

I do miss riding though. I know Fox is going to be a far better horse after this process is finished. But I miss it. My dad suggested maybe finding another horse to ride while Fox is out. I'm still toying with the idea but am leaning towards the conclusion that another horse would either take valuable time away from Fox or would be neglected while I focus on getting Fox better. It's a tricky one. Maybe I can find someone that will let me ride now and again.

Back on track now. There is a somewhat common view that every horse has something different to teach its person. Anyone out there had the benefit of an equine teacher? What did it teach you?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Bad News

We had our appointment with the physio yesterday. Man did she have news for me!

I already suspected tendon/ligament damage. She confirmed this. Damage to the deep digital flexor tendon and possible the suspensory ligament as well. He has severe pelvic tilt and damage to his hip/femur joint. The current theory is that he slipped over and crashed onto his hip. On a positive note his sacral iliac is nice and stable, she was very surprised.

More than this though is the news that my farrier has been fucking Fox's feet up in a way I couldn't even imagine. His feet are all out of balance with too steep lateral walls causing misalignment of his legs. This is not just one leg but all four. When she pointed it out to me, it was so obvious I can't believe I didn't notice it before. This has also contributed to the likely hood that he has degenerative joint disease as well. The hind leg he has damaged has the worst trim which the physio believes contributed to the tendon damage. He has thickening of the tendons in both front legs too.

He has chronic wasting in his hamstring and gaskins. Where there should be muscle, there is none. His neck is out, he has clicking in his right femoral joint from his weight pushing through on impact. He has also got scarred muscle across the top of his jump where he's had a major impact probably trying to rush out of a float and making contact with the bum bars. My poor poor horsie. I will try and scan the chart she gave me. I don't think any part of his body is unaffected. We're looking at 4 months plus for rehab.

Our plan of attack

1. New farrier - he will sort out Fox's feet make them level and probably put a remedial shoe with a pad on that back foot with the severely steep lateral wall that is causing the crushing to the outside. He is also apparently excellent at diagnosing tendon damage.

2. Cold hosing - 20 mins twice a day.

3. Confinement - Fox now only has a small corner of his paddock by his pony friend to stop him running around

4. Pain relief - Devil's claw, no bute!

5. Back On Track boots that I am ordering tomorrow (pay day)

6. Supplements, supplements supplements - my list includes chelated magnesium, MSM and glocosamine on top of his toxin binder and mineral mix.

7. Homeopathic remedies - have a high success rate of helping treat inflammation and helping tendons recover.

8. Tennis ball exercises - these are exercises given to me by the physio that I do for 20 minutes every day.

9. Physio - She will see him once a week for the next few weeks then every three weeks.

10. Ultrasound - this will happen when his leg is a bit more stable as the closest one is a 40 minute float ride away.

11. Hand walking - when the farrier has sorted out Fox's feet we can start handwalking. 5 minutes the first week, 10 the next etc.

It's going to be a long road to recovery but the physio's prognosis is optimistic. She doesn't think there is anything we can't fix with the right treatment. Except of course the DJD that I have my fingers crossed we are only treating as a precautionary measure. Unlikely, but one can dream!

Sunday, October 18, 2009


We has it.

I arrived to feed Fox on Friday evening. I noticed straight away. He wasn't tracking up, looked like he was almost walking on tippy toe, and didn't like putting any weight on it. Worst of all his fetlock made a strange almost popping movement every time he put it down. Checked all the way up and down his leg. He had a puffy fluid filled just above his fetlock. It was warm to the touch but not painful. He also has some extreme sensitivity on his back around the point of hip. Very bad :(.

I cold hosed his fetlock for 20 minutes and saw an improvement in his movement. I put him away for the night to re-asses things in the morning. Vet's here are unfortunately a bit useless when it comes to horses here. I read Andrea's Eventing-A-Gogo blog with envy at the resources.
The next morning, Fox was moving a lot better he was tracking up a lot better, putting more weight on it and best of all the horrible popping movement was gone. I cold hosed him again which seemed to help again.

This morning I cold hosed again and by the evening the puffiness was pretty much gone his movement was almost back to normal but still resting it quite a bit. Which leaves the soreness of his back/pelvis. I am calling a physio first thing in the morning. Hopefully she will be able to figure out what's going on.

As there is two points of soreness, it's hard to figure out what's actually causing the lameness. The hip, the puffiness above the fetlock which could be tendon or ligament damage or a combination of both. I will keep cold hosing in the meantime and hope the physio can come very soon.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Update on the fire

It turns out the fire was caused by some little punks smoking and drinking. Not the smartest thing to be doing in a hay barn!! The police know who they are but I am not sure how much can be done. Grrrrr.

The owners are also uninsured. They will rebuild but not sure when.

As mentioned in a previous comment I lost a bag of chaff, an old canvas cover and a neck cover that clips onto my light cover. It could have been worse though. Normally all my covers are in there but both the good ones were hanging over the gate in Fox's paddock due to some very inclement weather we've been having. So maybe only $100 worth lost instead of $500+.

We got there at about 10.15pm and the fire fighters didn't finish up till nearly 3am. The nature of a hay fire means the tiniest spark left in one single bale could reignite the whole thing. Every single bale needed to be pulled out and thoroughly doused to prevent any flare-ups. Good job fellas!


I hate the damn things! I have four coming up for my course at the end of the month. Two on the same day even, the bastards!
As such I am not going to be getting much riding done as all my waking minutes seem to be studying but I will try and keep up with the groundwork. It's a shame because both Fox and I need to go out and ride. But afterwards I'll have all the time in the world. Until I need to find a summer job that is :(.

I'm trying to keep focused on my goals to keep myself motivated. Which isn't easy when the sun is shining outside. The dogs are clamoring for a walk and I can see my saddle from where I sit. Maybe I should hide it! I'm trying to get a Bachelor majoring in Psychology. I have to pass with B's to get my Masters after which I hope to do a postgrad in Clinical Psychology followed by several years of practice till eventuality...... I hope to open and run an Equine Assisted Psychotherapy Centre for young adults. Big dreams huh!

On to horse related stuff. we did some groundwork on Tuesday. Fox was so good. It's still surprising to me that he behaves. We played the friendly game which is being so helpful for him. He let me touch him pretty much everywhere, even inside his ears. We had a bit of a breakthrough when touching his nose too. He let me run my hand down to his nostrils and keep it there for about five seconds. It was brilliant. Simple things! He was a lot more relaxed. Just stood calmly, with only the occasional tail swish indicating resistance. His head was nice and level, a clear indication he was chilled as when he gets tense, the first thing that happens is his head comes up.

The Tellington-Jones book arrived back at the Library today so I'll be perusing that over the next few days. Hope to give you some feedback soon. From the quick flick through I had, it looks interesting. Not sure about that bit though. The shanks!! I couldn't see what inside the mouth looks like and I think the rein attached to them is supposed to be loose but still. They're pretty scary!

Onwards and upwards!!!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Here are some pictures from the day after the fire.

Whats left of the shed

The melted bits on the tractor

300 bales of burned soaking useless hay

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Three Types of Training

This is probably the best conformation pic I have Fox.

It seems to me that most of the training methods I have found that could be useful to Fox and I follow three very different paths.

The first: Tried and true practical horsemanship. The guys who have been around horses their entire life, know their ins and outs. Tough and firm but fair.

The second: Science a la Andrew McLean. Methods based on scientific studies of how a horses brain works, why a horse reacts the way he does in different situations and how a horse learns best.

The third: Spiritual. I'm not sure this is the right word for this but it follows the lines of Linda Tellington-Jones and a man named Klaus Ferdinand Hempfling. This is the genre I've probably done the least research on and I am desperately waiting on a Tellington-Jones book to be returned to the library so I can find out more about her methods.

The key thing here for me is that I am probably using bits of all three in varying degrees of competency. But can I keep mixing and matching all theses styles? Will I end up confusing Fox which will negate my aim for open honest communication? Am I thinking too much into how much it will effect Fox? It seems to be working so far but I really do tend to overthink things!

All I know is that by changing the way I think when I am around my horse and being aware of every little thing I do with him has changed Fox's behaviour considerably. He is still a little too ready to invade personal space and other bad ground manners and we have yet to tackle float loading but the improvement is major. From a stubborn obstinant horse, I now have one that I like hanging out with.

Monday, October 12, 2009


Well had a very interesting weekend! Driving home from a friends place, I glanced over towards where Fox lives. Obviously wouldn't have been able to see anything since it was dark but you still look. I was totally surprised to see a big orange glow. I was positive it was where Fox lives. I couldn't see any fire trucks. So my partner and I raced there. The hay shed was fully ablaze! The guy who lives over the other shed was madly trying to move his vans out of the way of the flames. We had both called the fire brigade by this time. There was a tractor next to the hay that we tried to save. My partner had a fire extinguisher and the other guy and I took turns manning a hose until the fire trucks arrived. Here are some pics.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Catch up

Well the weather has been great and both Fox and I are feeling good.

Monday I didn't have a lot of time so I decided to try lunging. Wow, what a difference in attitude from Fox. Not sure what has brought about the change, maybe the groundwork, maybe me not letting him get away with stuff. He was responsive to all my voice commands, walk, trot and whoa. He was attentive and his ear was on me the whole time. He switched directions calmly and smoothly and best of all no stink eye not even once!!! I set up some trotting poles and a little cavaletti jump to make thinks a bit more interesting. Fox calmly trotted around, stretching down nicely over the poles. He did do quite a big jump over the jump that was probably no more than 20cm high, silly horse.

Did an hour of schooling on Tuesday. Started with stop go signals. Fox responds really well to light aids from my legs to go but stop signals need a lot of work. His head pops up and his mouth gapes even though I'm not asking in a very strong way. So lots of work on that. Did some steering and figure of eights for suppleness. Fox felt like he needed a blow out so I let him have a canter around the outside of the whole arena. He leans something wicked on the corners and is bent all the wrong way so we probably won't do too much cantering until he is a bit more balanced. Because he was so good, we finished with a few jumps which Fox was a bit keen for. Another thing to work on.

Wednesday was more schooling and a quick hack. We worked on transitions, mainly on getting that stop signal lighter and light so Fox doesn't feel he has to gape. Did some serpentines and circles again for Fox's suppleness. He is the most stiff horse. Had a nice little hack down to the estuary. I let Fox have a bit of a paddle but he wanted to splash so that was the end of that!

He has a couple of days off now and I'm going to try and go for a nice long hack in the weekend should the weather cooperate. I also need to pull his mane, trim his tail and rasp his hooves. He's a bit of a wild beastie at the moment.

I have the number of a qualified horse chiropractor who has been recommended to me. With Fox still so stiff I'm sure there must be something going on. Still need a saddle fitter too. To my inexpert eyes it looks ok, no rocking, no light, lines up with his shoulder, lots of clearance along the spine and no dry spots. But maybe I'm missing something.

Needless to say, my partner thinks horses are great!! All this money being put into a giant poop machine!

Friday, October 2, 2009


I've started doing some stretches with Fox. He really seems to enjoy them especially the front leg ones I do every morning. And as an added bonus, he doesn't mind his front feet being picked up any more.

I haven't had any time to ride this week. the weather has been rotten and we're going away for the weekend. Meanwhile Fox is getting fat in his paddock. Hopefully the worst of the weather has passed and next week I can rip back into riding.