Friday, January 29, 2010

Cruiser and the River

This is me on Cruiser at the first river crossing on a normal day.  Our trails follow along the river, crossing it a number of times. It is very lovely with plenty of blue herons, ducks, geese and kingfishers.  It has some big fish that will sometimes jump and startle the horses.

Mingo and the River

There is no way around our first river crossing.  Of course, it gets even higher than this--those are the days we don't cross at all.  We will ride up and down the hill leading to the river.  Unfortunately, it is only about 15 minutes round trip at a walk.  Alas, the river causes us much frustration.

Mingo is a brave and very careful horse when it comes to crossing high rivers.  He takes one slow step after the next.  He has never completely fallen in, like Cruiser, but he has slipped and "sat down" in the water.

My Little Mingo

This is one of my favorite pictures of Mingo.  He is actually quite young, here--I believe he is 3 or 4.  I was writing my book at the time, so we took a lot of pictures of his early rides just in case I found a publisher.  I think we did use this one in the book.

One of the reasons I like this picture is that this is the river ford that we had so much trouble with over the years.  It was proof to me that he could cross it.  It is quite a long saga.  Last fall, with the help of clicker, I got him crossing it again.  I clicked for forward movement--the main lesson that we have concentrated on this summer.  It really paid off, here.

You can see from the picture, here, why we don't want to cross the river when it is high like this.  


Here is my favorite picture of Thunder.  This is him "thundering."  He has quite a voice, and he uses it all the time.  It is the way he manipulates me.  He is constantly calling me--and I come running. 

Thursday, January 28, 2010

I realized I had the most boring blog in the world--no pictures.  I decided learn how to put them in.  This is my most precious cat, Thunder the Wonder Cat. 

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Just Stuff

I’ve got the winter blahs…January is almost over—one more real winter month to go, and it is a short one. I sure hope we don’t have any more of those big storms. Winter is such a drag.

I have been working Cruiser in the indoor arena, and it’s better than not riding at all, but I sure do miss the trail. No one has gotten out on the trail much until the last few days. The driveway has been a sheet of ice. We did have a good thaw that even melted the river, but we are going to have very cold weather, again, so it will probably start to freeze up, again. I decided to pull Cruiser’s shoes this last time to give his feet a break, so I just plan to keep him inside until I get the shoes put on next month. (If it wasn’t for the whole bowed tendon issue, I wouldn’t worry—we always pulled his shoes in the winter in the past.)

Mingo is status quo. The vet gave me a month’s worth of pills. We have been hand walking him, and he is doing fine—getting playful—just like his old self. All those irritating things he used to do, like grabbing the lead rope, I now welcome.

My boyfriend is babysitting Friday and Saturday, so I will be on my own. It will be a very relaxing weekend. I hope to get a little caught up on chores and maybe even some reading done. I will make a nice meal for Dad on Saturday. Sunday, Dad talked me into going to a Packard Meet at a restaurant. Their events are pretty boring for me—most of the people who are there are in their 70’s or above. It is an aging club. The women talk about grandchildren and health problems. The men talk about cars. I have known them my whole life.

I will still have time to ride in the morning and will get to visit my boyfriend in the evening.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The latest on Mingo

The sun came out today—the first time in a couple weeks.

We switched Ming’s pain medication on Monday from Bute to a pill they give dogs for arthritis. It is easier on his system. Since this whole thing started, whatever it is, Mingo has only laid down or rolled when he is on 3 grams of bute. When we switched to the dog pills on Monday, he still didn’t lay down. I got a call from my sister this morning. She cleaned his stall, went to dump the wheelbarrow and came back to a very dirty and happy horse. He rolled.
Either the dog pills build up in his system over a number of days, or better yet, he has actually improved enough on his own this week to allow him to lay down.

Things are looking up.

He is moving soundly under the medication. We are only handwalking him at this time.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Plan for Mingo

I talked to my vet this morning and gave her a full update. Ming’s neck is much better, but something is still hurting him in the hindquarters. He is not lame, but here is why I think there is still something wrong. When he was on 3 grams of bute, he would lay down, but not on any less. When I brought him to 2 grams, I put fresh shavings in his stall. He wanted to roll, but when he got down on his knees, he paused and got back up. Also, he doesn’t want to lift that foot up. He will, but doesn’t want to bring it back.

Since we have poked and prodded everything on his body, and he hasn’t reacted, it is something that is deep in his body—and I would have to take him back to the hospital for further diagnostics. Since that went so badly last time, I really don’t want to do that.

We are going to keep him on pain meds, long term, but we are going to switch to something that is more expensive, but less harmful to his gut. I am just going to make him comfortable and give him a lot of time. Whatever it is, I am sure that would be what we would have to do, anyway. The only thing is I don’t know is if it is the kind of thing that will get better or not. I will just wait and see. When he is getting enough painkiller, he is not suffering, he eats well and rests well. In fact, he is starting to get obnoxious, again.

Our plan is to do some hand walking and work more on our clicker training. We both enjoy it—and who knows—maybe if he heals and I can ride him again, he will listen better?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Cruiser's training

I have been feeling so down about Mingo that I can barely write. Silly me. I know from long experience that writing improves my mood—big-time. Yet when I get down, I can barely do it. I decided to force myself to write—and about something good—Cruiser.

Cruiser had his share of health problems with his bowed tendon and the insulin resistance that caused it, but he has been going strong, now for almost 2 years.

Nine months out of the year, I am riding him on the trail. In the winter, we are forced to work in the arena—actually get serious about what we are doing. I get sloppy with my riding over the summer, so I spend a lot of time trying to get my riding back into shape. It is amazing how when I want to circle to the left, my body tries to tell him to circle to the right, instead. Riding well in the arena takes so much concentration. It can be mentally exhausting, at times. When I get it right, Cruiser will reward me.

He has finally started to settle down and pay attention. I have decided that our main focus of the month is to get him perfect on transitions—and try to lighten my cues as much as possible. On trail, I tend to just use vocal commands for my upward trans—he is such an enthusiastic trail horse, that that is all I need. In the arena, he thinks vocal commands are optional. He is now going from a halt to a walk with the slightest of pressure. I’m really proud of that. He has never been so good in his 22 years of sporadic ring work. After some practice, he gets light with the trot transitions, too. Canter transitions have never been a problem, but when we get real good with the trot transitions, we will practice the canter ones, too, for good measure.

Downward trans in the arena have always been very easy for Cruiser. All I need to do is sit still and exhale. That doesn’t help me when I’m out on trail and he gets into a hyper situation. I then need to cue him with the reins—and he doesn’t consistently listen to them. I decided to work on our downward trans with the reins in the arena instead of the exhale. It surprised me to find that he was ignoring the reins in the beginning in the arena, too. I guess he really did need a refresher course on basic downward transitions. He is now listening to the reins 95 percent of the time.

Currently, he is traveling nicely on the bit most of the time and in a round frame. Sometimes he gets a little slow in the hindquarters, so I decided he is finally going to learn to speed up on command. I have never been successful with inter-gait transitions, but I think it is because I never tried hard enough. That is my new project this week. (I couldn’t start this one until he settled down.) When he slows down the hindquarters, I squeeze lightly and hold until he responds. It is working, though he doesn’t keep up the speed for that long. I figure if I am consistent and correct him each time that he starts to move soggy, he will get better and better. I’m just glad he is responding at all. This really is a first. I’m sure it is all the regular trans that I have been doing that has helped my inter-gait trans.

We’ve got about 2 more months at the most that we will be working primarily in the arena. I am looking forward to the trail, but this year, I am confident that we will not be wasting our time in the arena.

Clicker for physical therapy

I found a new use for clicker. Mingo is terrific with targeting. Ever since he hurt his neck, I wanted to monitor his ability to turn it in the sore direction. In the beginning, I would just lure him with a treat and he would tentatively reach for the treat. I did that for a few days until he did it confidently. I then got his target towel and worked with that. He will now willingly turn is neck to any angle and any height that I hold his target without any problems. He thinks it is a fun game.

He is also turning his neck on his own in the sore direction.

When I lead him, he still goes with his neck to the outside of the circle in the hard direction, but I can gently get him to walk with it on the inside of the circle for a half dozen steps without him reacting painfully. At that point, I click and let him stop for a treat. This is a big improvement. I see clicker helping him a lot with his physical therapy program.

The only time last night that he reacted painfully in his neck was when he got startled and moved quickly. I think the neck will be fully healed in time. I’m worrying more about the leg. He is sound as long as he is on the bute. We are phasing him off on it, and then we will see what happens.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Latest on Mingo

Well, let's see, where were we...Last Monday, the vet came out to see Mingo because of his very strange, anti-social behavior. We determined he had a sore neck. He wasn't lame anymore. She was very perplexed. Just to eliminate it off the list of possibilities, she took blood to test for Lyme disease. Horses don't get it here, but he was showing many signs of it. He doesn't have it.
She went back to the office and discussed his case with the other vet. She remembered us telling her that he was no longer laying down, and the only time he did was the few days we had him on 3 grams of bute. They feel it is possible, though there is no way to prove it, that he suddenly fell asleep, fell and hurt his neck. This happens with horses that are sleep deprived. It would also explain why the whole side of his body was tender for the first few days after his personality change. It may have been bruised.

A couple days after she visited, he started to limp again, but that started to improve the next day. His attitude was quickly getting better as his neck seemed to improve, and he was starting to like people again.

I called her up to see what we should do next..

This is when she suggested that we try to get him some rest. On Saturday, we started him for 4 days on 3 grams of bute, 4 days of 2 grams and then 4 days of 1 gram.

Of course, there is no limp, now. He is laying down to rest, too. He can turn his neck quite well, and will even do it without a treat to lure him. He can't walk with it to the inside of the circle on that side, but he will walk with it right in front of him instead of looking outside the circle. He is trotting sound.

So, now I'm just waiting to see what happens when he is no longer on the bute. The very infected sore on his pastern--the possible cause of the swollen leg and initial lameness is now completely healed. If that was the problem, then we just need to wait for his neck to feel better, and it might be fine by then. My gut says it is something else, and he will probably go lame when we are done with the bute.

The vet says that eventually we will find out--for better or worse.

I am getting so discouraged. Fortunately, Cruiser is doing very well and has been a lot of fun to ride in the arena. My visits to the barn are not complete unhappiness because of Cruiser. I wish I could get down the trail, but I no longer take Cruiser out in the bad conditions--and it has been so very, very cold and snowy. Besides, the river is frozen.

I wish I had better news to share...

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Problems with Mingo

Things seemed to be going so well with Mingo, and then he got strange. We are talking about a serious personality change. He didn’t want anything to do with people—especially me. He seemed to be very sensitive to the touch—trying to bite me if I touched him in the area of the leg that had problems. A couple times, he kicked out. When walking, he would suddenly pull up in a ouchy manner. Time to call the vet.

We determined he couldn’t comfortably turn his neck in one direction. He pulled up when walking with his head bent towards me—this is probably why he formed an aversion to me. I would lead him in a normal manner out of his stall—and it hurt him.

My vet feels there is definitely something wrong—that it’s not all a behavior issue—but she can’t figure out what it is. His bad leg appears to have made a complete recovery. He is walking and trotting fine.

She took blood and is going to test him for Lyme disease. It is a real long shot. Lyme disease is nonexistent in Northern Ohio, but it would explain all the problems he has had the past few months. It would connect all the symptoms that he has had. She used to work in PA, and she encountered it there.

He is still eating, but not quite as enthusiastically as before. Also, he won’t eat if anyone is staring at him. He will just stand in the corner and bob his head.

I am at a loss.