The opinions expressed in previous entries may or may not express the current opinion of the author.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Fun and Games

Today I thought it would be fun to get all the horses to be polite and stand still while I doled out treats. I pictured how calm and pleasant it would be if they would all hold a position and quietly wait for me to pass around goodies. I actually felt very enthusiastic about this project, and bounced out to the field with a pouch full of tasty morsels.

Naturally, George came over to claim first dibs. We worked on George standing still, resuming his position if he broke it, and then waiting in position while I walked away and returned. At first he got grouchy when I asked him to replace his foot back into position once it had moved forward. But I did the bridgey thing and kept the treats coming, and pretty soon he was rock solid.

So rock solid, in fact, that when I turned to work with Miss Bridget, George just stood in position looking cheerfully expectant, and every now and then I would send a congratulatory intermediate bridge word over to him or step over and give him a treat.

Bridget was less cranky (not at all cranky, in fact) about being asked to move back into position after stepping forward. But she was a deal more persistent about trying to move.

However, for a moment or two, I had George and Bridget secure enough that I could walk away and give a treat to Rose, without either of them breaking position.

It all turned out to be remarkably enjoyable and gratifying.

Next I started with George on the amazingly clever game in the video in the post before last. I do believe he started to figure it out.

As my kids used to say:  "Oh the fun-ness!!"

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

"Pony Flicks in Fetlock Joint When Walking"

Once in a while, out of curiosity, I take a look at my blog's statistics - how many page views, how much traffic is coming from China and Russia (seriously?), what sites are referring people to mine, what pages are most looked at, and so on. I would say that close to 100% of the time the No. 1 page viewed is the one about Buck Brannaman and the dangerous colt, a subject I've written about a couple of times in this blog.

Another interesting piece of information is what search keywords lead people to find me. Today, as usual, the first search keyword listed involved Buck Brannaman, and, and in the No. 5 spot were the words which are the title of this entry.

These words immediately caught my eye, as this issue was exactly what lead me to start trimming my own horses. Our elderly mare had started to "flick in her RH fetlock joint when walking."

When I started trimming Misty, I discovered that she had very high heels and layer upon layer of folded over bar and false sole in the seat of corn. It took me a while to get brave enough to dig it all out, and looking back, I may not have succeeded.  Misty's walking did improve; but she was well into her 30's by the time I started trimming her, and I think there was permanent damage to her fetlock joint or her navicular bone. She never did walk completely normally, and in the last few months of her life, the problem got worse again.

I think that the "flicking" was due to Misty landing on her toe, whereupon her fetlock would flick, or click, back to allow her heel to drop, before she could pick up her foot again. I imagine - and this is only speculation - that she had considerable heel pain, from all that junk packed into her seat of corn, which would have caused her to avoid landing heel-first. And I know that a toe-first landing, followed by the heel dropping and being picked up again, can cause navicular disease.

The flicking foot didn't look especially long, as her hoofs grew very upright. Her former owner told us that Misty was said to have one or more club feet, which would be one way to describe the vertical habit of her hoof. She also held her pastern very upright - another sign of heel pain, as the horse tries to bring weight forward and up off the heel.

Here is a photo of Misty's hind feet, taken not long before she died in 2009 - she looks overdue for a trim here. You can see a "healing angle" growing in on the LH. You can also see the upright pastern and bruising under the wall. The toe is much too long, and the heel is underrun. Sheesh. I think it likely that at the time this photo was taken, I was not able to see how underrun that LH was. You can see that the RH (the one which flicked) is rather upright - the heel looks very high, but in the next photo, which shows the sole, it's hard to see how you could take the heel down much more. The second photo shows how crazy-too-far-forward breakover is, yet who would guess that from looking at the foot from the outside?

If confronted with these feet nowadays, I would probably (I hope!) handle it a bit better, although I'm still clambering up the learning curve and don't expect to reach the top. But the main reason I wrote this post was to say to Mr. or Ms. "Pony Flicks in Fetlock Joint When Walking" if they're still out there and happen to find this post: Find yourself a good trimmer - your pony probably has really sore heels!

Gold Stars All Round

Yesterday, I girded up my loins and sallied forth into the pasture, armed with three new tubes of ivermectin, generic brand - purchased, to my surprise and delight, for like only four dollars each.

I felt there was some necessity for loin-girding in as much as my little darlings are all totally spoiled and accustomed to molly-coddling and to having their opinions taken into account at every turn. They are like the offspring of those earnest middle-aged parents whom you encounter in 57th Street Books kids' section, intent on having an intellectual discussion with their 5-year old on the merits of a Paul Klee art book. Which is the way I want it, mind you, but sometimes, well, sometimes you kind of have to summon up a bit of emotional slash mental energy to discuss Paul Klee with a five-year old.

Pah! Silly me! George was, like, a complete little angel. He opened his mouth and ate his medicine and then his carrot, and then stood aside and let me get to the mares. Bridget, too, was a perfect little paragon about the whole thing.

Rose, of course, did not want to have anything to do with the procedure at first. She did her cute, rather pathetic, Rose thing of turning her head away so that her nose is all the way over touching her shoulder. Or the not so cute thing of jerking her head up into the air. So I let her do all those things to her heart's content and persisted with naming and explaining, inspired by Kayce Cover and the rhinoceros. (Synalia  press site, scroll down a little.)

I thought perhaps we might actually be there all evening, but after not so very long she stopped turning away, stood quiet, and opened her mouth. She even let me back to squeeze a little more in after a dollop had dropped on the ground. Wow!

Chloe was let off the hook as the tube of wormer I had on the shelf turned out to be past its expiration date.

And on the topic of Kayce Cover, here is a really cool video, which inspires me to try out the awesome game they are playing therein. Whaddya think?

Monday, April 15, 2013

George's Delicate Bubble

George has not been speaking to me lately. I assume it's partly because I haven't been doing much of anything with him for a while, and also partly because he has been very annoyed about the lack of spring grass this late in the year. He has only had one thing to say to me for the past couple of months: "What the heck? Get me some grass!"

A few days ago, I took him out for a grazing walk. After I returned him to the "pasture," he was very gentlemanly in allowing the mares to each have a turn to come out as well. However, once everyone was back in with him, he stood by the gate and stared his most meaningful stare at the pasture across the driveway, where the grass had attained an inch or two more in height than in his current abode. I'd been intending to wait a few more days, and possibly until it had rained again, before moving the horses. But really, it's too hard to make them wait - they need that green grass now that spring is on its way, and they can see it staring at them on the other side of the fence. So I moved them over.

George approved. When I went in this evening to play with Bridget, George came over, shooed Bridged away, pressed his side up against me, and stood peacefully. After a bit, he moved forward so I was positioned next to his tail, where we stood for a while longer.

George has been looking rather beatific lately - even despite the lack of grass (for which I personally am entirely to blame, so he has had no particular need to look annoyed except when talking to me). In general he's just been looking a little more radiant or sunshiney or something.

When I took him out for the grazing walk, we played the Bored Game first. Then I asked him to back up, which he's gotten more philosophical about than in the past; then I suggested he move his hindquarters over, which he did - that's not much of a problem for him. Next, I asked him to move his shoulders over, and them's fighting words for George. I was very careful not to touch him. I simply pointed at his shoulder and said, "Scoot" in a friendly voice. George pinned his ears and grumbled and wanted to chew my clothes. I persevered, so he turned his head away, whereupon I gave him much encouragement in the way of intermediate bridges (thanks, Maire, and more on this later) and then he finally moved his little tootsies over and away from me. No difficulty in making him understand what I wanted - just a finger pointing from several inches away - but so difficult for him to bring himself to comply with my request.

Today, when we were relaxing together, I felt - is it my imagination? - that George might be growing a thin bubble. In the past, I've always felt that he had no bubble at all and that that is why he is so uneasy around the other horses. He's ok with Rose, who has a fairly thin bubble herself, and who doesn't pose a challenge to him. But the presence of Bridget, whose bubble is the size of Texas and who has a very forceful character, causes him to become tense and defensive. He feels exposed. But today - again, is it my imagination? - I felt a kind of warmth or aura around him,  just a tiny, tiny bit (microns only!) larger than his actual body.

I don't want to intrude into his precious personal space and make him feel more exposed than he already does. I like the new feeling of warmth coming from him, and I'd like to encourage him to cultivate it. So this evening, instead of asking him to do anything, I thought maybe we could do a little bit of "Name and Explain" (thanks again, Maire, and more later maybe). I started with his knee - I touched it and said "This is your knee." No problem. Then I touched his elbow, saying "This is your elbow." This triggered the stink eye and pinned ears. So I thought we'd better name first and touch after. So I said, "I'm going to touch your knee" and did so. Then, "I'm going to touch your elbow," and did so. This time he didn't react. But the third time I touched his elbow, he just up and left. Which is ok.

The unfolding of George has been and continues to be a mysterious process. When I first knew him, he was very bold and in-your-face. He liked to keep you in front of him, in the crosshairs. He was still liable, on occasion, to bouts of aggressive behavior. He seemed outgoing and would approach people confidently, but I've come to learn that George's head is his shield rather than an organ of communication (as it is with Bridget), and that it is when he puts you by his tail that he is letting you in. Bridget is all in her eyes - they beam out through her charming screen of forelock to make contact with you. George is somewhere deep within himself. His eyes can signal menace or anger, but when he looks happy, his eyes are innocent, his look diffuse.

The next day, I was sitting on the kitchen step drinking my tea, and a warm breeze was blowing. I closed my eyes and felt the wind on my face and listened to the birds singing in the trees and the geese calling in the distance.  I have been becoming a little jaded about the visible world around me. It has been failing to enchant me. I realized, as I sat, that I rely on my sight to connect me to the world around me, and that there is a whole tangible world of perception that is not experienced through the eyes.

Perhaps I have been coming at George head-on, eyes-first. I must learn to be more diffuse like him, to approach him obliquely, to listen and feel rather than watch. A bubble can be a fragile thing - perhaps even from a distance a pointed finger is too sharp.

Monday, April 1, 2013


I was going through old photos on the computer and came across some pictures of Bridget back when she was called Pandora and still lived at the rescue barn. I took these photos during a period of time when I went to visit her a couple of times, probably pretending to be "helping out" but secretly thinking of adopting her. She lived in a large pasture with a creek running through it, and her pasture mate was none other than Rose, whom I found very standoffish and slightly intimidating. Who knew she was going to come live with us too?!

Always ready to follow along to see if there's some fun to be had.

Now what?

Having followed me to the gate, Bridget protests being
left in the pasture with that boring grown up, Rose.

You can see she was in a phase of not quite having grown into her head. When she was very little, she had beautiful conformation, and now she's grown back into pretty nice proportions. But, hey, who cares about conformation! It's what's inside that counts, right?

The rescue owner always wanted me to adopt Pandora/Bridget, but I always thought she was so nice that she would work out well with lots of different people, and there was no need for me to be that person. I think I recall that after my visits to her in the big pasture by the creek, I realized I didn't want her to work out well with someone else - I wanted her to work out well with ME.