Friday, February 25, 2011

Cosequin ASU - The 90-Day Trial, Update 2

A recent visitor requested news of how Saxony is responding to the Cosequin ASU. I intended to post an update after Saxony had her wolf teeth removed, since that is the next time my vet will see her and make an objective assessment, but I can offer a subjective view for now.

In an ideal world, we'd have control over variables, especially when conducting experiments, so no factors pertain but the one we are testing. I didn't get that lucky. Shortly after Saxony started on the daily Cosequin ASU SmartPaks - which my vet recommended we try for findings of mild arthritis in the right rear hock - X-rays revealed crookedness in Saxony's front pasterns and I began my quest to find a farrier who could offer an alternative to shoeing.

Actually, maybe that made it a sort of ideal world, in an odd sense. Saxony's feet grew longer and longer as my search for a farrier dragged on. I'm sure her long toes and generally uneven hooves placed stresses on her pasterns that weren't helpful. Coupling her sorry feet with turnout terrain that has vacillated between snow, ice and mud of late, I think I had good reason to worry about her being sore.

That same terrain has made it impossible for me to move her out. There is no indoor arena, and the riding ring long ago vanished under a layered winter lava comprised of ice and snow. My opportunities to watch her move have come when she's in turnout. She's smart and knows how to move on slippery footing, so I've watched lots of walking. No limping, no lameness, just a deliberate, careful walk.

One week ago, Saxony's feet were trimmed. She walked out of the barn, back into turnout, entirely differently than she had walked into the barn. That's how much the trim transformed her. It didn't change her step, it altered the extent to which she toes out in front. That toe-out is really reduced, I mean really reduced.

On Wednesday I wrote about the funny little pony who was tearing around his paddock, wanting to play with everybody. It was during his crazy antics that I saw Saxony buck, crow hop, squeal and break into a canter, snaking her neck from side to side as she ran along the fence line separating her from the pony. She whinnied like a little filly, not a nine-year old mare.

I watched as she stepped down into a floating extended trot and circled through a figure eight, tail high. I remember thinking, Oh, I can't wait to ride that trot. And I can't. She feels much, much better. I see it in her overall lightness and playfulness. I'm sure that, when the footing is decent, she will offer an explosion of pent-up energy. On Monday upcoming, it will be eight weeks that she's been on Cosequin ASU. Factored in has to be the one-week-old trim that she's wearing so well, but I believe the Cosequin has helped and is helping her.

Because Saxony spends a lot of time turned out, unblanketed, only overnighting in the barn at temperatures of 20 degrees or lower (excepting blizzards, etc.), I felt the winter was exactly the right time to try this experiment, thinking if  Cosequin would be helpful at all, why not try it during a time when she might really need it. When my vet comes, the first question I will ask her is whether she thinks Saxony should remain on Cosequin permanently.

Right now, what I see is one sweet, happy mare, which means I have to file Cosequin ASU under so far, so good.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

And Then There Was Us

After yesterday's delightful pony madness had subsided and the horses settled down, it was time for the unique routine of Saxony and me. It seems silly to say, but we look at each other. We make eye contact and stand gazing at one another for several long, quiet moments. Every time, I am moved by her, drawn in. I feel my deeper self respond to the openness of her expression, her seeming recognition of me. Every time, she touches my emotions.

I have experienced the scrutiny of a horse, the glancing awareness of a horse, their peripheral watching, but I haven't known this particular thing before, the way we just stand still and look at each other. Every time, it feels like we are coming back together after a separation, as if she's waiting for me on the other side of the security barrier at the airport and I have just broken through the crowd to finally see her. Every time, I feel reunited. I like to believe she does, too.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Gentleman Guest

On my way out to Scout's barn to do PM chores, I stopped first at Saxony's barn to see how she is wearing her new trim. Saxony was preoccupied. Something was going on. Something in blue.

An elderly gentleman guest arrived at the barn several weeks ago for a 30-day stay. He is three feet tall and quite partial to his blanket.

The gentleman guest can bank a fast curve with real finesse.

He was feeling remarkably youthful today, able-bodied and agile despite the wintry footing. His desire was that everybody join him.

Some consented, after a fashion, to the gentleman guest's special edict: Must play.

The gentleman guest displayed uncommon skill in managing the terrain, braking and accelerating according to the path of his trajectory. Others prudently made way for him.

He startled all curious onlookers.

Running around like a madman in his tiny blue blanket, the gentleman guest was full of joy, he was full of self.

And who could blame him? Not me. I wanted to kidnap him, him and his teeny-tiny feet.

Friday, February 18, 2011

And... Exhale

Saxony's feet were done today. I'd been looking for a farrier since mid-January, fretting this way and that over all the conflicting information: shoes/no shoes, barefoot/natural hoof care, ad nauseum. For everyone that came recommended, there was an opposing negative opinion. I can get so overwhelmed sifting through all the commentary that it becomes intimidating in an odd sort of way. But one thing remained imprinted in my mind through all of it, that the joint crookedness in Saxony's front pasterns not be exacerbated by poor trimming and therefore cause her pain and lameness.

Front Feet Before
June, over at Chloe, The Pony Who Wouldn't, sent me links to lists of barefoot specialists, and that's where I found the one who worked on Saxony's feet today. I like what she did.

Front Feet After
I asked many questions while I watched her trimming. She did the hooves in pairs, first the front, then the rear, first roughing them in and then refining their shape. Saxony was easy and patient.

Hind Feet Before
I don't know whether it's an optical illusion caused by the color difference, but it seemed to me that Saxony's hooves had grown longer on the left side than on the right since her last trim. 

Right Rear After
I became so caught up in listening to the farrier that I'd forget to take pictures. I just grabbed these hind-hoof shots one at a time. This is a lovely, clean trim, I think.

Left Rear After

I've been given some coaching on what to watch for over the next few weeks and a recommendation to have her trimmed again in six weeks, sooner if I see changes that need some attention.

Really, I just became too worried about Saxony's feet, letting it spiral into something it's not. She simply has some mild unevenness in her pastern joints, not navicular disease, not laminitis. Almost lost in my relief at having her trimmed today was remembering to take the time to appreciate the sweetness that is so abundant in my kindhearted mare. She was only patient and friendly, even though she might have greatly preferred to be right where her friend DC was:

Oh, horses. Can human beings ever get so comfortable?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Crazy Pinto Filly Wrecks, Part II

The saga of the crazy pinto filly began here.

File Part II under Anatomy. Mine, that is.

By the time I was 14, I'd done countless miles on the crazy pinto filly. After the ridiculous reach-for-the-sky calamity during the previous summer, I'd become familiar with her wild ways through spill after spill, wreck after wreck. It was always something, me coming off of her, but I was used to it and still just a rubber-bandy kid made invincible by my love for her and my certainty of her love for me. It was all hearts and flowers, always summertime - she could never really hurt me.

Or so I thought. I didn't realize that we humans have a role to play there.

Since the crazy pinto filly was all about flight for me, escape and freedom, I had a routine designed to speed me through grooming and up onto her back. The kid I was back then wanted to ride; I had no inkling that decades later, grooming would become so central and valuable a part of my exchange with horses.

I'd get to the farm where she lived, lead her out of the dusty lot and tie her to a hitching post beside the barn. (I don't know why they had one; she was the only horse there.) A quick skidding of the body brush over her back and flanks, a little comb-out of her mane and tail, and I was done. It rarely occurred to me to pick out her feet. Impatient though I might be, I could get crabby if her white parts were dirty. Groomer or not, I had to get them clean. Resentfully, I would rag-rub away grass stains and dirt, all the while chafing to get underway.

Looking back, of course, I see that grooming could have been a way to reach the filly and maybe help with some of the discontent she manifested by jigging, bolting, rearing, etc., but at the time, through my needy eyes, she could do no wrong, had never done wrong.

There I was one weekday afternoon, a perfect, dry summer day, working at a stubborn grass stain on the filly's left foreleg. As I rubbed at the stain, I planned our ride. We would follow a creek that flowed behind my parents' house, well behind it, and dawdle along the treeline until sunset.

The stain persisted. In a fit of pique, I dragged my rag through the water trough and dropped to my knees in front of the filly. She stepped forward. I felt an impact, knee to face, but what got my attention was the water flowing from my eyes. I couldn't see for the water. A few minutes passed as I waited for my eyes to clear. I remember touching my face here and there.

We didn't end up riding the treeline. I cut the ride short because I felt oddly tired. The walk home from the barn seemed long, and I was drowsy with sun when I walked in the door. My mother sat clicking away at her typewriter, composing her dog newsletter, but she glanced up when she heard the screen door snap shut.

"What have you done to your face?" she barked. "What the bloody hell have you done!" I had no clue. Not until I looked in the bathroom mirror and saw that my nose was canted to the left, laying just flat against my cheek.

That was one rare instance where ignorance was not bliss for me. You should never kneel in front of a horse's leg, rather always keep to the side. Oh, but I learned it that night, learned it forever. I will never forget the sound and the sensation when the E.R. doctor leveraged my nose somewhat back in place with a shiny metal rod that he pulled (rowing-like) with both hands. I will never forget the grinding crunch of his best effort, the one that brought my nose back to the neighborhood, if not back home. That sound outlived my raccoon eyes deep into the summer, and I can loop it over and over, even now.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

No Rushing

Fail. I am backblogged and missing writing, but demands of the last few days have left me cramped for time. That's one thing, but then today, to top it off, I found myself rushing. Rushing.

Later I stood at the edge of the barn, watching the horses settle into their candy mounds of hay for the night, sighing and snorting into the mist, pleased to be outdoors in the unexpected warmth. High above, the moon beamed in white robes and there came the whistle of the train, my train, the summer train, all of it conspiring to make me feel winter has gone.  

This moment stopped me, but it was compressed into an essence that left me, like perfume, as soon as I moved, for the rushing.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Crazy Pinto Filly Wrecks, Part I

I wrote here, last October, about an utterly mental pinto filly who was instrumental in saving my sanity when I was a child, and I've been thinking about her ever since. She was the horse of my fearlessness, the horse I rode in that bliss of ignorance that I mention in my header. Because she's lost to childhood memories and treasure boxes long since discarded, I have no pictures. This one will have to do. Never mind the lack of reins. They rarely helped.

I cannot believe I don't remember her name. That's part of the reason I've been thinking about her, hoping that reliving some of our rides will help me recover her name from the depths. The other part of thinking about her is recalling the wrecks we survived, the amazing, helmetless, catastrophic, terrifying, scream-worthy, funny wrecks. And when I say funny, I'm thinking of the gargling-with-shaved-glass kind of funny.

One of the more spectacular wrecks happened in front of my mother. She had readily offloaded 13-year-old me to the filly with few questions other than whether I had permission to ride her. A part-time basement dog groomer, my mother  offered me a rare moment of warmth the day she buzzed the pinto filly's whiskers away with an old set of Oster clippers. I clung to hopes of us bonding through the filly.

Until one high-summer afternoon. That hot, dry Saturday, I walked a mile to the farm where the crazy pinto filly lived, bridled her and clambered aboard her jigging back. There was an abandoned quarry on the other side of a woods nearby where I sometimes took her swimming. I'd ride her right into the water. Often I had no choice because she'd be bolting. This day, I thought I'd stop by our house on the way to the quarry. I was proud of myself when I was riding the filly and wanted my mother to be proud of me too.

The filly jigged alongside the country road. I remember the cicadas sawing through the dusty silence. I'd have to cross the blacktop to enter our driveway, just coming visible over a rise in the road. I heard a car approaching, but it meant nothing to me. This was in the 70s, a mythic time when drivers slowed to a crawl or even stopped to let riders pass.

I was crossing to the house, in front of a patiently waiting station wagon, when the crazy pinto filly lost her senses. That swimming horse spotted a puddle in the middle of the road, some oil or antifreeze glinting in a divot. She reared high. I slipped forward onto her neck, glued lizard-like in place, aware of the occupants of the station wagon watching rapt as the filly came back down to earth. I urged her forward, and up she went again. At the periphery of my vision, a heavy shadow lumbered toward us. The crazy pinto filly stretched high toward the sun, too high, like that moment at the top of the swing when the chains go loose. I felt air between me and her, but I stuck there. We teetered in the vertical and then, in an instant, fell backwards.

I remember the long arc down and I remember my mother heaving across the lawn, tailed by several yapping Cocker Spaniels. I remember the chrome bumper of the station wagon as I fell past it to the blacktop. I came to rest there in the road pinched under the withers of the crazy pinto filly. She balanced unevenly atop my sternum for a second or two, long enough for my mother to bellow, "You get out from under that horse right now!"

Like it was a choice I made. The thing is, that was hysterically funny to me, but I couldn't actually laugh while pinned under an 800-pound horse. I discovered that your head kind of explodes when you have to eat a deep laugh. It wasn't until the crazy pinto filly had scrambled to her feet that I was able to let it out, pulling myself up alongside her in the summer heat; then laugh, I did, standing in the shadow of my mother who had decided just then that horses and me were all wrong together.

Those poor people in the station wagon. And then we went swimming, the crazy pinto filly and me. 

This really happened, so I don't have to imagine it, but even so, I can't imagine that I was once that unafraid.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Number A Millionth-Something Fan

I'm thinking 50" Flat Screen and a bag of German Muffins. You?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

If Wishes Were Horses . . .

. . . then this book really would not have been written. Seriously.

Cave-painting Style Horse Key Chain Included!
I'm sorry, William Morrow (imprint of HarperCollins Publishers), but you asked. 

They did. A few weeks ago an HC rep wrote me through the blog, asking if I might like to read and review this new novel, alleging breathlessly, among other things, that it was, best of all, about horses. I love horses + I love to read = why not. Throw wintertime in there, too.

I wrote a book many years ago, so, despite the fact that I put it away forever in a file cabinet drawer, I'm fully aware of how much work it can be. It is hard work. And that comment consists of the entirety of my praise for If Wishes Were Horses.

This novel has about as much to do with horses as I do with world peace. "World peace" is a concept I am familiar with, but other than being kind where I can and sensitive when I'm able, my involvement with world peace is just that, conceptual.

Apparently the author of this book has a conceptual involvement with horses. There are not many horses populating the maudlin swill that is the story line, but I feel terrible for all of them. How else to feel about poor Sadie, a pregnant Quarter horse mare who stands around in the foaling stall wearing a "bridle" all day? She is the one horse who has a line or two; the others have small walk-on parts that offer one thing in common. All of the horses are "spurred," regardless of who is riding them, i.e., Wyatt threw himself up into the saddle again then wheeled the mare around. After leaving the barn [Editor: !], he steered the horse toward a dirt road heading northwest, and he spurred her into a light canter. One horse has to be shot after a ludicrous jumping accident related to impending Alzheimer's (not kidding) but all the others pretty much go through their days on a multi-million-dollar JR Ewing-type spread outside Boca Raton, Florida, getting spurred.

And women. They are the beneficiaries of the author's conceptual understanding as well. First, a caveat. I think of myself as human first, animal-lover second, interested world citizen third, but female, woman, whatever, that's somewhere way down the list. That particular identity just doesn't matter to me. Still, even I couldn't help but notice all the unfortunate women strangling in dick-mitten stereotypes around the story. How could I not? Nearly all of them benefit from the same misogynistic clause: At thirty-five she remained a very attractive woman. Remained? At forty-five, Celia remained an attractive woman. Poor Celia, that 10-years'  difference cost her a "very." Ouch.

Key Chain Includes Awful  Novel, Too!
This is a book that was written with casting in mind, which is really too bad, because it probably will get made into a movie. I'm not including the author photo, but it's easy to believe he imagines himself to be just like Robert Redford in The Horse Whisperer. The Hollywood pitch will go kind of like this: Reeling from the death of his wife and young son at the hands of a drunk driver, wealthy but hurt Wyatt's world is turned upside down when he falls in love with remaining attractive Gabby, widow of the very same drunk who shattered his world! And she has a tortured teenaged son, too! It's time for "Equestrian Therapy," which inevitably culminates in Ride me, baby! This mawkish, predictable and wearily formulaic novel "spurred" me more than once to throw it aside for something better, like the side of a Corn Pops box, but I clawed my way to the end because I just had to know . . . that I knew exactly how it would end. Poor, poor Sadie.

But it is beyond me to understand the key chain that came with the book. Quarter horse? I don't think so. Cave painting.