Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Winter weather, a swollen hock and a loose shoe

Life with horses.  Some days you just can't win!  I write this while facing my beautiful Christmas tree, lights twinkling, cozy and warm by the fire as the cold rain pours outside.  We had been without internet service since Christmas, restored finally last night after a very vague "widespread outage".  Well, at least it was restored before the original target date of December 31!  I don't like to blog or really do much on Facebook from my phone, and life's obligations kept me from hitting an internet cafe.  Unfortunately that restoration was short lived, but today, Jan1, 2014 we appear to be back in business!  (Fingers crossed that it lasts this time)So today I reflect on the past two weeks....

December 19 showed some riding potential in the days to come.  Nikki had not been ridden in nearly a week so I was anxious to get back to work.  The arena was still not quite ready for anything more than walking, but the path from barn to arena remained a bit treacherous.  There's always tomorrow, I thought.  Temperatures were expected to be ridiculously high in the coming days so the ice was sure to give way to improved footing!  The girls came galloping down the paddock today, nearly giving me a heart attack as I pleaded with them to be careful.  The bad weather hindered my efforts with maintaining Suki's skin, although covered by a blanket it does fare better than one would expect.  The girls were in a happy mood having spent most of the day in the sunshine out in their field.

December 20, 2013
The footing in the arena was definitely suitable for at least some work, but I questioned the safety of the driveway between barn and ring.  Walking back and forth a few times I tried t determine my course of action.  I know that it seems like a lot of indecision but appropriate footing conditions is something that has been hammered into my brain since the start of my riding career.  Having witnessed a variety of unnecessary injuries to other people's horses from riding on hard, dry footing, frozen footing, super deep footing, etc I tend to weigh the consequences obsessively.  After a week of no riding and no show, clinic etc looming, why risk it?  Still pondering this with my desire to ride I walked through the barn to collect the girls.  They were in the paddock behind the barn so I grabbed Banker first, followed by Suki and Nikki.  Giving Suki a proper grooming and moisturizing, she once again allowed me to massage her face with the towel.  The long scrape on her right hind white sock is finally filling in with hair.  It is a very superficial scrape, but that hair is taking its time growing back!
Moving on to groom Nikki I began with her face.  As I moved hands and brush over the legs that I know so well I came to her Left hock.  "Whoa", I thought.  That is not normal.  I knotted her tail and looked at her from behind.  Left hock definitely larger than the right.  Uggh.  A little warm, but not hot.  I looked around for a wound and found a small cut.  Nothing major, and appearing superficial.  Temperature, appetite, behavior all normal.  I couldn't really jog her due to the icy conditions, either.  What happened?  A kick?  I called the vet and set up an appointment for the morning.  I quietly, in my mind hoped that in the morning I would find a normal-looking leg.

December 21, 2013
Down the driveway to the barn at 7:30 AM.  The arena was still partially snow covered, but definitely looking better.  I hoped that I would see improvement in Nikki's hock.  Jiggling the frozen door of the barn I could hear the horse inside talking to me, clearly hoping that it was John or Rob to feed.  The lights take a bit of time to warm up and come to full strength in the cold and dampness so after a quick hello t and treat for Suki I pulled Nikki out of her stall.  She snatched her first carrot out of my pocket as I slipped on her halter!  All signs in her stall exhibited normal behavior over night.  Hay and grain eaten, normal amount of manure and two nearly empty water buckets.  Nikki walked out of her stall without any evidence of discomfort, but as I turned her to attach the cross ties it was obvious that the left hock was indeed still enlarged.

The vet arrived around 8:30 as expected.  Initial exam did not show anything.  Dr X clipped the entire fetlock looking for the little cut that I had seen the night before or any other sign of a puncture wound.  Nothing.  Not even the little thing that I had seen the night before.  Body temp normal still.  Dr X really needed to see her jog so tentatively we made our way out to the arena.  The arena itself was not SO bad but the walk from the barn was a bit scary, although better than the day before.  Nikki carefully walked beside me.  I put her out on the lunge and she trotted well.  Not too forward...she was definitely being careful with the footing.  In both directions she was only very slightly off and i believe it was primarily to the swelling hindering full movement and not actual discomfort.  Back in the barn the vet looked over every inch of the are and behind, still not finding any type of wound.  She scrubbed it just in case and put Nikki on two types of antibiotics.  SMZ's for 14 days, and injectable gentocin for 3 days.  Then she applied a sweat and a wrap followed by standing wraps.  It would be my responsibility to change the sweat each day and re-wrap both hind legs with standing wraps.  Miss Nicolette does not have a good history with wearing bandages.....she tries to remove them immediately upon release into her stall.  This of course, had me a bit uneasy.  I was comforted by the fact that when we put her in her stall she did not make any attempt to chew on them!  I would be back later in the day to check her.  Off to the tack store I went to pick up additional wrapping supplies.
Suki was probably relieved that she was not the one requiring veterinary attention!  I made sure to give her a thorough spa treatment and plenty of treats.  She was only going to be out in the paddock because of the footing conditions.

I called the insurance company to report the injury.  All bases covered.

Returning to the barn at 4 PM with treats and bandage supplies I was pleasantly surprised to see that Nikki had not touched her wraps or hock bandage and was happily munching hay!

Sunday, December 22, 2013
All was well upon my arrival, much to my relief.  Nikki had kept all of wraps intact.  Perhaps the baby girl is growing up!  As per Dr. X's instructions I removed the hock bandage.  Although still enlarged, it was definitely smaller than it had been the day before.  After hand walking and cold hosing I wrapped it again...
Nikki, who is usually quite good about eating oral meds would not eat the SMZ's no matter what we did to it.  Apple sauce, molasses, sweet feed..... no go.  So now it would be oral gavage twice a day.  Delightful!

Suki, no doubt was feeling a bit out of sorts so I did a little in hand work with her.  She would likely be a bit wiggy if I walked her out to the arena to lunge (Because of course now it was all fine for footing!) given the short periods of paddock turnout only!

Monday brought still further improvement to Nikki's hock, but again not quite normal.  The routine continued.  By mid week I was no longer wrapping the hock, and Nikki was allowed in the paddock for an hour at a time.  Saturday we were ready to start back to light work so I put her on the lunge to walk and for a light jog.  BIG circles and straight lines, so I was doing a lot of walking to give her more straight than curves.  She seemed sound and happy.  I planned to ride on Sunday.

Sunday, December 29, 2013
The best laid plans....
Reasonable temperatures and good footing.  I was looking forward to getting on Nikki again.  After passing out carrots to all of the horses I gathered my equipment.  Grooming Nikki's shiny bay coat, I went on to pick her feet.  THEN I got to the right front foot.....A SPRUNG SHOE!!!! AAAAHHHH!!!  Head hanging I put the equipment away, groomed and moisturized Suki, then did a bit of in hand work.  She was very responsive and sensitive, offering a few steps of piaffe as I thought about asking her for it.  (Hmmm....obviously I am doing something with my body indicating that I will be asking for it!)

New shoes on December 30 for Nikki.  I am usually not at the barn for this.  Nikki used to be somewhat difficult, but now dozes while her feet are being done, the cross ties clearly holding up her head.  I took a photo, but for some reason it was all dark when I went to transfer it?   Suki also bad after a terrible farrier beat on her now stands quietly to have her feet done.  Okay, she tries to nibble on the farrier's but sometimes, but is no longer panicked!
Patience and kindness go a long way!  She is not even nervous when brought out of her stall for him.  In the second photo I have just reprimanded her for grabbing his shirt!

So now today, January 1, 2014.  The girls were happy to finally get back out in their pasture.  This will be short lived.  Tomorrow evening is expected to bring heavy snow again.  But both girls worked today.  Nikki was a little wild yesterday for Louise, but was declared sound by the vet.  This is good news.  I am hopeful about riding tomorrow before the snow comes.....


  1. Happy New Year to Suki and her sweet family.

    1. Thank you Christina! Same to you and your family.

  2. Love Suki's 'what!?' expression in the last photo :)

    1. Suki had just reached down to nibble on Josh's shirt, and I reprimanded her....the photo is just after that moment! So you are right on about her expression!