Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Start With What You Know

For the sake of brevity...Let's just say that I have exhausted every avenue I could possibly think of in the last couple of years with this horse. I've tried leaving him alone to 'let down', I've tried keeping him up and handling him at every opportunity to show him I'm not a threat. I've hauled him to expose him to life, I've saddled him and ponied him a thousand miles. I've brushed, treated and tried to turn him into a pet. He's been treated for ulcers, both gastric and hind-gut and I've tried several 'calming' supplements on him. There was never a discernible difference in his attitude.


My first indication that there might be a little something going on physically with this horse was late last summer when I noticed that his left front leg was starting to look twisted. It was like his cannon bone was moving to the outside of his leg. I had noticed that when he traveled that he landed on the outside of that foot and once I noticed that the leg was starting to look wrong, I really got to looking at that foot and took some measurements. I was pretty sure I was doing a sufficient enough job of leveling him. There wasn't much to work with on his feet except trim the inside heel and quarter and remove the stubborn flare that insisted on showing up on the corresponding inside of the hoof. When I couldn't seem to get it corrected within a couple of trims, I decided to take him to my farrier and see what I needed to do to fix this. When the farrier checked him over and measured his feet...he ended up having to put a 3 degree wedge pad under the outside heel and graduated it to nothing toward the toe. It took that much to get the horse standing on a level foot again. Of course, he was extremely sore in that shoulder and his opposite hip...but the farrier said to give him a few days to see if leveling his foot got rid of the body pain. It seemed to work, so I went back to work on the horse and actually made a little progress. I started taking the horse over and working with some Mexican race horse people and they were completely unconcerned about how this horse acted. Haha-Those guys just snubbed me up and away we went. The 'race horse' mentality seemed to suit this horse, so I went with it. But then the race horse people left for their winter circuit down south and I was on my own again.

When Megan said she was going to Arizona with me, I jumped on the opportunity to take the big bay and be able to spend a lot of time getting some miles on him out in the open. Snubbed up or not...miles are miles. I got quite a few rides in on him in those 6 weeks, but this time instead of getting better, the big bay seemed to be getting more and more tense about being handled and ridden and I was starting to notice some changes in his musculature. Particularly at the base of his neck. The muscles were getting hard and lumpy and started bulging in front of his shoulders. One thing I can say is, the horse never felt quite right when I was riding him down there...His gaits felt awkward and herky-jerky and he just felt stiff and uncomfortable. So I quit him again. Something physical was bothering him. I suspected his front foot again and this time I decided to throw some chiropractic work into the mix. But all of that was going to have to wait until we got home to Colorado. I have a trusted 'team' in place here in Colorado and I didn't want to waste money and time going through people in Arizona.

I didn't waste any time when I got home. With Moon and Buddy the highest priority for feet, they went to the farrier first, but I got the chiro out to work on Frosty and the big bay immediately. Frosty's adjustment went as expected but the big bay's?...Oh holy hell! He didn't mind the chiro touching him at first...but once that first adjustment was done...he just fell to pieces and didn't want anything to do with letting that guy touch him again. It took about 45 minutes for the chiro to work his way through the horse's body and the mess he found was mind-boggling. I haven't had a horse out this bad in about 15 years...neck, withers, hips and even displaced ribs (on both sides). RIBS. I've never had a horse with displaced ribs. The ONLY horse I ever had that was out this bad was a little horse that had had some pretty knarly stuff done to him and nothing like that had ever happened to this big bay. The only violent thing that I know this horse to ever have experienced was his own bucking fit the ONE time he blew up and hurt the trainer. The chiro got a particularly nasty pop out of the base of the horse's neck, but told me that he believed there was some significant deep tissue damage in there and for the first time ever prescribed alternative therapy...either lasering or some P3 treatments. He did not think acupuncture would be sufficient to get to the root of the problem.

Needless to say...I was kind of pissed. The first thing that came to my mind after seeing where the most significant damage to the horse was (base of neck, wither and ribs just below the wither) was that his horse had had a leg incorrectly tied up and/or had been thrown/fallen down. You have to remember, I grew up starting horses back in the day where it was standard to tie a hind leg up. My dad was an EXPERT at it and taught all of us kids the CORRECT way to do it. Unfortunately, there are people out there who think they know how to do it and end up causing all kinds of physical damage to a horse.

Let me be perfectly clear...I am NOT opposed to tying up a hind leg on a horse!!! But if you are gonna do it...make damn sure you know how to do it right!! Of course, I got on the phone and made some calls to see if that is what happened to the horse and it was vehemently denied that was ever done to the big bay. I accepted the responses...but what was going on in this horse's body doesn't exactly match the story. I'll explain why...

This is the correct way to tie up a hind leg...Scotch Hobbling.

The most important thing to note is how high off the ground the hind leg is when the hobble is tied off. Getting the leg forward and UP under the belly PROTECTS the horse from doing damage to himself. The problem most people run into when they try this, is they do not pull the horse's leg up far enough, they only half-ass pull the leg off the ground and when the horse goes to struggling/kicking...They get a lot of force behind the kicks (which defeats the whole purpose anyway. :-/) and that wrenches the base of their neck, hurts the withers and can displace ribs. Ta-Daaa!! My dad was adamant about pulling the hind leg up as far under the belly as he could and told us kids from day one to NEVER half ass pull the leg up. He said, 'Get it up or don't bother cause all you'll do is get yourself kicked or hurt the horse.'

The only comment I have about the link I provided is...DO NOT tie a horse up if you ever Scotch Hobble. The guy was obviously just using a gentle horse to demonstrate the method, but tying is a NO-NO!!!

So anyway, whether the horse's leg was incorrectly tied up or not I don't and won't ever know...and is irrelevant now. It is water under the bridge, except if I had known, I would have jumped on the chiropractic issue a couple of years ago and we wouldn't be where we are now. One thing for sure, what was/is going on with this horse's body suddenly makes the twisting leg problem clear, as well as why he was getting more and more tense and over-reactive the more he was worked and the resulting changes in his musculature. PAIN!...and a lot of it.

The next day I took the horse to my farrier and had his front feet shod. I wanted to make darned sure he was standing level on that left front foot. While there is still some deformity to the leg, he no longer requires a wedge on the outside...

As you can clearly see in the above picture, the left front and the right hind have significant and corresponding deviations of the limb. The interesting thing is...It was a deviation in the front leg that I noticed first and that is what we addressed last year. It was only this year that I started to notice the deviation of the hind leg. The front leg is straightening and then the hind leg started to twist?...Something was very clearly going on in this horse's body and that is when I knew I had to get the chiro involved. Just from the little bit that the chiro was able to accomplish with him in his initial visit told us we were dealing with a horse that is suffering from some really deep body pain.

Unfortunately, even though I have not pushed this horse hard...either mentally or physically...He is at the point where he became mentally locked down, very evasive and a little dangerous in his unpredictability. He doesn't just hurt when he is being worked...he obviously hurts all of the time and a horse that lives in pain 24/7 acts differently than a horse that only feels pain when asked to do something that causes the pain.

I needed to go one step farther with this horse than I have ever gone with a horse before. For his sanity and my safety...

To be continued...








11 comments:

Chelsi said...

I have been reading your blog for years now, as you know, and after reading these two posts I have say, no matter how kiss-ass it may sound:) that once again I am so impressed with the depth of your knowledge and ability to communicate that knowledge without a hint or pretentiousness. I very much admire you as a horsewoman and respect your never-ending quest to learn more. I think it is safe to say that most people would not put the time, effort or money in to a horse such as this. It is also safe to say that most horses like your Big Bay do not have such a lucky fate. Hats of you to you.

Cindy D. said...

Yup...what she said.

Waiting to hear the rest.

Chelsi said...

*Hats off to you :)

Cut-N-Jump said...

I agree with Chelsi too. Not a lot of people would put much into finding out the Why? behind what is going on here.

It makes a lot of sense though, that if the horse is in that much pain, all the time- it's gonna be ugly when you push the envelope.

It will be interesting to hear how things go with the bay and if/when he turns around for the better. Sounds like you are off to a good, solid start on figuring things out. Kudos girl! Lucky horse.

BrownEyed Cowgirl said...

Thank you, but if ever I owed it to a horse to figure out what was going on, I owe it to this one. He wasn't someone else's problem horse that I ended up with, he's one of my own and has been falling apart before my eyes and it has taken me far to long to make him a priority.

kestrel said...

good for you for spending the time to figure it out. I wish there was a horse equivalent for Lyrica or Cymbalta. I've met a couple of horses that get injured and then travel wrong, making the injury permanent. It does seem to run in bloodlines, just like fibromyalgia runs in families. I can't wait to hear the rest!

WishIHadAHorsey said...

What they all said!

Can you explain what the purpose of tying up a leg is? While I owned a horse and rode 30'ish years ago, I do not recall seeing that done.

My fingers are crossed for Big Bay - he is in good hands with you.

BrownEyed Cowgirl said...

There are several good reasons for tying up a leg...If you have a horse that is pretty broncy, you can tie up a hind leg and sack them out and/or saddle them. It's a good method for a horse that is touchy about having the hind legs handled...doesn't want to stand or is prone to kicking. It was also my dad's method of laying colts down for castration...Before people used vets and sedation drugs. :-)

Thirty years ago is about when I started riding colts and pretty much everyone in our area started them the same way. Most of these ranch-raised colts were lucky if they got any handling and if they did, it was usually back when they were weaned. So when they got run in as 3-4y/o's, what my dad did was rope, snub and halter about 10 of them. The halters had long lead ropes on them that the colts drug around and we spent a couple of days catching them by those leadropes and seeing which ones were the gentlest. When we got a few that we could get up to and pet, dad would run them in a big pen, tie a hind leg up, sack them out and saddle them. Then he would let the leg down and let them buck around while he saddled another one. When all of the saddles we had were on colts, he would start moving them around that big pen. The ones that stopped bucking first were the ones we were supposed to get on. We'd grab their leadrope, get them to the center of the pen, cheek them around and get on. Then dad would chase us around the pen with all of the other colts. LOL...I know...sounds crazy as hell, but there are other, quite popular, clinicians/trainers that use the same method to this day. Day 2 we would add a snaffle bit, generally by day 4 we were heading to the pasture on those colts. If they were rank, dad would snub us up for the first little bit, get us to the pasture and then turn us loose so we could head up a big hill. The secret on those rank colts was to not stop at the top of the hill. Go up and go right back down the other side before they caught their breath and then just keep going. ;-)

So anyway...I will say, one of the things we never had was a kicker. Not after the first couple of days anyway. My dad's method took that out of them right off the bat. And while it has been many years since I have full-on tied up a horse's leg, I still use ropes to teach them to pick up a hind foot and still have never had one that was a kicker.

Carroll Farm said...

I don't have your number - but thought I would let you know that Heather won her first check tonight. 2nd place in the 4D. YIPPEE

kestrel said...

I also grew up around 'ranch' started horses, and strangely enough they were some of the best, most reliable horses around. It may have not been the kindest in the short run, but it was usually figured out in a matter of days, and in some ways was kinder than letting a horse get sour habits embedded. (Did I mention spoiled horses are the ones that scare me?!)

I use a lot of what I learned from old cowboys, especially the ones who were old and wise enough to never pick a fight with a horse just to prove they were tough...but never let a horse think it won the fight.

fernvalley01 said...

we use a scotch hobble here from time to time with those young ones who struggle with farrier work. Done right it is a very safe and effective tool, done wrong... well you know too well. Hard to say if you will ever know the truth of what happened, but at least you are working with the horse to fix it