Before and After

This is Howdy’s eye on day 0, the day I brought him home. His pupil is miotic – the pupil is constricted. I learned this week that horse pupils are rectangular or a bit oblong oval unlike human eyes and I’m a bit surprised that I never gave that much thought. At any rate, here we can see that his pupil, the sort of yellow area, is nearly constricted to a single line.

Then, of course, on Monday we went to ISU and, among other things, saw the opthalmologist who prescribed atropine, topical antibiotics and banamine.  The concern was that if the pupil didn’t move soon, the lens would stick to it, and then the horse loses some of his sight.  Whatever could be done to get that pupil dilated, I was in.  I was on the mission with twice a day treatments and asking the Universe to bring goodness.  The progression went like this:

A little opening on day one, 24 hours after treatment started

Day 2: Not much change, but not going backwards either

A very hopeful breakthrough on day 3. Not entirely open, but much better!

Meanwhile, I’ve been reading a lot about club foot, here, here, here and here; as Howdy is slightly clubby on his right front.   Today my farrier came out and had a look at him.  This after I had emailed him and asked him for his opinion on the wisdom of buying a horse with a club foot.  He said, “I do a fair number of them.  They’re not my favorite, but they do pretty well.”  So, my farrier arrived and looked at Howdy and announced that he was not very concerned about his hooves.  He said he thought we could work with them without much trouble and he had a lot of horses in work with worse clubs than Howdy’s.  Glorious joy to hear!

Howdy had a trim.  Here are before and after photos.

Monday in the stocks at ISU.  The right hoof (on the left side of the picture) is the one with the slight club stance. The blue line highlights the broken line between the leg and the hoof wall. The left leg has a more correct line.

Today after the trim. The leg/hoof line on the right leg is much better! I like it a lot, and I hope he does too. Care must be taken not to produce too much change in the hoof angles because of course that affects the bone column of the leg. We’ll watch and see how he does!

The Ophthalmologist

The start of the PPE had been in the morning, when the vet also looked at my other two horses, who are recovering from tendon injuries.

Sammy got the green light to go back slowly back to trot and canter work. (File picture with Megan Clements)

Elliot is at least off stall rest now, but it will be at least 6 months until he gets the green light for anything other than walk under saddle.  His injury was both more recent and more serious than Sammy’s. Things don’t look rosy, but we are an optimistic and determined tribe.  🙂

Back to Howdy: My vet reviewed the radiographs we took of knees, hooves and hocks and there was quite a lot to talk about it.  Some of it was very good news: clean hock and knee joints, no sign of navicular – a good start. The new words I learned were osteochondroma and crena.  The first one could matter and the second is just a cool tidbit of information.

This is a shot of looking straight down on a hoof.  Howdy has a large crena, shown in this image. Not indicative of anything it seems, but kind of cool.

 

Here’s where things get a little dicey. That very tiny shadow is a cartilage covered bony protrusion. It could interfere with the deep digital flexor tendon of the distal radius. The little circle thingy that is labeled is literally a remnant of a digit. Horses are really walking on their middle “fingers”. The other digits are fading away, but Howdy is apparently getting in touch with his eohippus side. Taking “old school” to the next level.

After seeing the rads, there was a long wait for the ophthalmologists to see Howdy about his eye.  They told me in the morning it would be around 5 p.m. by the time they could see me, so I left the horses at the vet school, went out to lunch, took my dog for a short, cold walk, did my year end books on my computer and bought me some new barn boots on sale at a store nearby.  Woot.

Duggie got cold in the morning waiting in the truck, so she donned her babushka

And then in the afternoon she got to come in the waiting room at the vet school

End of day finally came and so did the ophthalmologists.  They dilated both eyes and peered in, and bottom line is, yup, horse has an eye infection, a good deal of pain and a miotic (constricted) pupil.  Started topical antibiotic and atropine and banamine.  Even if I don’t buy the horse, I’m not letting an eye infection get out of control on my watch if I can help it.

Howdy behaved well all day, and it was a long one.  Jay helped me settle the horses into the barn and we had a little supper and went to bed.  I sent up a prayer that Howdy’s eye would heal and went to sleep.

On going pre-purchase

Waiting on the opthalmologist

We radiographed everything except possibly his ears.  I did this partially for myself and partially for a baseline in case I decide to market him.  Hooves looked good other than that I was right about a slight club foot on the right front.  Dang, hate being correct that way.  But she said it was mild and probably could be managed with shoeing.   Hocks looked clean – yay.  Stifles looked clean – yay.  Left knee looks good – yay!

But there are three ‘howevers’.

  • However, he has an osteochondroma (little bony protrusion) above his knee that may or may not have caused his left front knee to be positive to flexion.  If it proves to be the problem, it can be removed for about $1,000 and a week or two recovery time.
  • However, we don’t know what caused the slight effusion on the right stifle (though sound as he is behind, and as many bite marks as he has from pasture life, I’m guessing it is a pasture bonk)
  • However we don’t know what is going on with his eye, though it appears to be an infection.  Ophthalmology is coming to look at it this afternoon.

Any of these things separately are probably not a problem.  All taken together, they might not be a problem.  Or any of them singly could be a deal breaker.  This is where a bit of faith and luck, tolerance and being real come in. Horses have a lot of moving parts, both literally and figuratively.  The question becomes, “How tolerant are you to risk?”

For me, I don’t have to answer that question right now.  I’m still waiting on the ophthalmologist.  They’ll call me when they get to him.  I think I’ll go barn boot shopping here in Ames.  Weeeee!

Pre-pre-purchase

Howdy licking the grate, Elliot eating and Sammy working up another whinny

I am hanging out at the Iowa State University vet school with three horses.  Howdy, for his pre-purchase exam; Sammy, for his recheck on a torn check ligament garnered last July at FRVPCHT horse trial; and Elliot for a suspensory avulsion from his sesamoid and a cracked splint bone from a pasture incident in October.  Let’s just say that 2016 had its not-so-fun moments.

But I’m thinking we are going to get a yellow light, if not a green light in putting Sammy and Elliot back to work.  They certainly appear sound.  We’ll see what the ultrasound says.

And now I am looking at Howdy walking around in his stall, licking the auto waterer, munching hay, thinking he might roll and I’m thinking, “I know he’s got something wrong with his left eye.  Is that a club foot on the right front?”  And then he coughs twice and I’m thinking I’ve got a respiratory infection on my hand too.

Time for another cup of tea.  Thank goodness I don’t have Jack Daniels in the trailer, because I’d put some in it.

Just did the flex test. Mild reaction to left knee and mild effusion on the right stifle.  Also some reaction to hoof tester on right front.  Opthalmology will look at his eye this afternoon.  Hopefully this early afternoon.  He is in for radiographs of front hooves, knee and hocks right now.  Ugh.  Blah.  Arg.

Stole me a horse

So I’d been in contact with the owner of Howdy, who lives offsite from where his horses live.  The horses are managed by a person who lives onsite.  The owner said he couldn’t be there to meet us today when we went to pick him up in the early afternoon, and he advised us by text to go to the house and get the manager when we got there.  So we got there, I went and knocked on the door and got a yippy corgi to respond, which I took as a good sign, because no one could sleep through that.  I waited a few minutes and no response.  Then I RAPPED on the door, got the yippy app refreshed, but no human response.

Jay and I had a quick conversation about how to proceed from there and we decided that since we had it in a text that we could take the horse, we’d, well, take the horse!

So, we went to the paddock, and by this time all the horses had come over.  There were about 8 of them, some still racing next year and some yet to race, but Howdy was easy to spot because he did this  (again):

So, feeling like old time horse thieves, we snapped a lead rope on his halter and got him out of the paddock.  Jay trotted him for a soundness check for me, and Howdy trotted like a giraffe, but a sound giraffe anyway.  Howdy’s head was what seemed like 4 feet above Jay’s head, and Jay is about 6’3″.

So, what were we to do but load the horse on the trailer?  He loaded right on with no hesitation and stood there like an old pro.  We closed the slant load dividers and shut the back door, giggling a little at the sheer thrill of being maybe a little bad.

We got him home and offloaded him (ho hum) and let him loose in the indoor just for fun.  The wind was up and the curtains on the arena were snapping occasionally, which was exciting for him, and mirrors are fascinating:

I turned him out in a paddock where he could see the other horses and he was pretty sedate.  Some trotting about, but not craziness, and he likes our hay.  He’s in good weight.  I brought him in and put him in the cross ties to look at his eye, which is a little cloudy on the bottom side, which is worrying to be sure.   It was fine when I saw him in September, but I noticed that he was holding it a little funny in December, and now we seem to have an infection.  Of course he is going to ISU tomorrow, so I am hopeful that they can help us get him back on track.

I will try not to worry about that tonight because worry is an abuse of God’s gift of imagination.  He settled in to his stall, and in keeping with the giraffe theme, he ate the hay out of the TOP of the feeder rather than pulling it out the sides.

Tomorrow’s the pre-purchase exam.  Wish us luck!

The Retired Racehorse Project

I’d heard about the Retired Racehorse Project Thoroughbred Makeover (RRPTM) a few times.  I had a vague notion about some event that happens in fall at the Kentucky Horse Park where people competed with their off track thoroughbreds.  I found myself thinking that was very cool.  And I heard an unmistakable distant beckoning.

Then my friend was telling me about it and how much fun it is and how many people she met when she competed there last year and did very well in the field hunter division.  I thought that was really cool too, and the beckoning grew a bit louder and significantly closer.

Well, then I got a new farrier in the barn.  Don’t get me wrong, my usual farrier is great and I still use him, but a new client insisted on having this new farrier do her horse while he was in training with me.  Not a big deal to me, so I get the new guy in, and have a cup of tea and chat with him as he works.

After the pleasantries of where do you live, how long have you been doing this and oh, I bet you know so and so, he comments on the barn’s pictures of leggy horses jumping fences and he says, “You like thoroughbreds and you jump.  I know a horse you should go see.  He’s about 17 hands, 5 years old, sound and still at Prairie Meadows in Altoona. Here’s the guy’s number.”

And the beckoning was in the room and the approximate size of an elephant.

So I called the guy and went down to the track to look at the horse.  I get past the guard shack and find the right barn, and stall, and the trainer, and owner and the horse.  At this point, I’m feeling accomplished just having done that.  They show me the horse, “Howdy” and he is indeed about 17h.  He’s also a ridiculous pocket pony, and the owner comments that the exercise riders said that they should have been paying him to ride Howdy because he was so easy to ride.  I thought that might have been laying it on a little thick, but I went with it.  I happened to be in breeches so they assumed I was going to ride him – at the track, down the shed row and in the warm up area on the way to the track.  I’m pretty sure this is against track regulations, but I play mum because, well, I’d like to ride the horse.

So, they put on the mere suggestion of a saddle that is an exercise saddle, lengthen the stirrups as long as they go, and I hop in the tack.  It was ridiculous fun.  I had a grin plastered on my face the whole time.  He walked flat-footed around the shed row, past dogs and radios blaring.  Wow.  Then we went out in the warm up area, which is on the way to the track.  I did some trotting here, and he was tight in his back and high-headed, and relatively short-strided for what you would have thought from his conformation.  I chalked most of that up to general tension.  Then we cantered, and whaddya know, he had an easy two leads.  I know a lot of horses, track or not, who strongly prefer one lead over the other.  I trotted a little more, then headed in.  He jigged his silly self back to the shed row, which was frankly, at times, not fun, but not terrifying either.  I just happen to really object to jigging because it develops all the wrong muscles.  However, Howdy and I had no mutual tools to communicate with so I grinned and sat there like an idiot.

So I got back to the barn and rode him in to his stall (they told me to!  It freaked me out, but apparently it is common practice) got off and offered that he’s a nice horse, and thanked them for meeting with me and showing him to me.  They let slip that he hasn’t been out of his stall in 5 days due to track conditions.  I was glad they did not tell me that before I got on because I would have been all “I’ll come back another day” or “Can I lunge him somewhere?”  Ignorance is bliss.

They told me that his barn name is Howdy because his sire was owned by Toby Keith and they were going to register him as Howdoyalikemenow”, but someone else got the name first.  So they had to name him something else.  And I do not know what that is at this point.  So awesome of me.  Not really, not really. (Prior link is the origin of my use of the phrase “Not really, not really”.  If you object to profanity, do yourself a favor and pass that link right on by.  If you think a smattering of profanity is merely good use of the entire spectrum of the linguistic spectrum, click on, my friend, and enjoy.)

We chatted while they put him on the hot walker and I snap a few pictures.  The one on the left in particular strikes me, and I know I pretty much need to have this horse in my barn.  Why?  Partially because his mostly calm personality shows through, and partially because he looks like Eddie in the picture.  Eddie (Best Etiquette) is my event horse/fox hunter/good citizen, classic thoroughbred, 18 year old gelding.  I look at Howdy and I see what he can be.  He won’t be Eddie, he’ll be different, I know this, and I see that he can be someone pretty great in his own Howdy way.

So we negotiate a price and we agree that I will pick him up in a few months when I will have room in my barn.

Some weeks later, my husband Jay and I went out to look at him at the farm where he was being let down.  (And ok, part of this was to get husband buy-in).  When we got there, Howdy came right to the gate and gave us this face (below).  That was a good start for husband buy-in.  Smart man, Howdy.

Fast forward to tomorrow and we are at that few months later when I will pick him up.  The day after tomorrow Howdy has an appointment for a pre-purchase exam at ISU.  Whee!

I made these cookies to help him decide to get on our trailer tomorrow afternoon.  I may be a little excited.  Hee hee.  We’ll also have cookies for all the horses when he gets home to Field Day.  Nothing makes a better first impression than showing up with food.  I hope the class likes the new kid.

Back at it

Still a bit nippy out there, but at least sunny and very light winds, making things a little more inviting.  I tacked up and got on, skipping the lunging since he is having a minimum of 16 hours a day turnout.  He was fine from the start and we had a nice walk warm up and then on to trot.  His trot is a little tight, and that is part of the problem for his canter departs.  When we look at the dressage training pyramid, which is a good road map for training, we see that relaxation is one of the fundamentals.

So today I spent a fair amount of time working on him going forward with relaxation in trot, and in bending properly to the right.  I used spiral out on a circle to the right and leg yield to the left as well as simple 20 m circles, sending him forward to a steady but elastic outside rein.  He did very well with this, so that when I got to his canter work, he was successful in getting the right lead pretty consistently.  Odd to think that the canter can be solved in trot work, but the fact of the matter is that his right lead canter is actually quite acceptable.  It is only the transition that is hard for him.  When we help him with his relaxation in trot, he can organize his body more easily for right lead canter depart.

That said, when he is in canter to the right, when he is reminded by his rider, with the use of inside leg and a steady outside rein, to use his inside leg, the canter improves markedly.  Another good day.

Cold

Too cold to ride yesterday and today and probably tomorrow, but know that dear Felix is doing quite well.  He goes out during the day with plenty of hay and shelter from the wind and comes in the barn at night with the other horses.

Rideability

So, we’ve been going at the right lead pretty hard the last few days, so I decided to focus on some other things (that will indirectly help with the right lead).  We worked on balanced walk halts, leg yield, relaxing his ribcage to the left, and just a bit of canter.  It was a very good day and he’s a smart and generous horse.  He stayed in the barn with the other horses last night and will tonight and the next few nights while the wind chills are a factor.

One step back

Well, this usually happens in the process, where you have a horse plateau or even take a step back in what had been accomplished the day before.  On the lunge line, he started out wanting to to take the left lead as usual, but stuck to it a little longer than usual.  With ignoring the left lead responses and praising him and giving him a pet and a rest when he chose the right lead, he came on board pretty quickly.

Then I got in the tack and he did some more nice work as he did yesterday.  At one point he even took the right lead off a straight line and over the 8″ jump.  Relaxation and just allowing him to take the lead is a big factor for him.