Tuesday, December 27, 2016

confo + health update

I used to take regular conformation shots of Isabel for a few reasons. While it was often difficult to see changes from one month to the next, the monthly photos definitely told a story over time. It was also useful to have that photographic record in case something cropped up regarding Isabel's physical health - I could always look back to the pictures for clues.

So I'm going to try to snag at least semi-regular shots of Charlie. Especially since this guy is definitely going through some transformations. He's a little tricky to stand up by myself (unless I happen to catch him at exactly that right moment of regal pose lol) so this pic is less than desirable in lighting and pose qualities... but whatever. It's good 'nuff.

december 26, 2016
I've had Charlie for just over three months now, and it's been about four and a half since his last race (Aug 9). He's.... uh.... undergone some changes during this time lol. Some of them kinda ugly lol.

To my (somewhat uneducated) eye, I see two main changes in Charlie's physical condition: 1 - He's filled out a bit in his belly region, looking less tucked up and trim; and 2 - He's lost some muscling, especially through his hind end. He also looks a touch ribby in that photo... but honestly that's basically a week-to-week thing with him at present.

september 9, 2016
So it's going about as I expected. Charlie never truly "crashed" after transitioning off the high-volume, high-octane feed of the track, tho he's definitely had skinny TB moments. Mostly tho, he hasn't been hard to put weight on, it just seems like how ribby/filled out he looks depends on whether he's in a muscle growth phase.

He gets soaked alfalfa pellets with every grain meal, plus his regular hay intake. So far I'm pretty pleased with how he's holding his condition on this, tho I anticipate adjusting as needed.

homeboy looks great in tack tho!
I've continued to make small changes to his holistic lifestyle and maintenance since he came home, tho we try to just make one change at a time and introduce things slowly. The last thing I want is to put him on some insanely expensive supplement, see him improve, and credit the supplement for making the difference - when maybe Charlie would have made that improvement all on his own in time.

Some exceptions to this approach tho include his hoof care plan. That's something I want to stay in front of, as Charlie will become foot sore and lame if his feetsies get too long. Esp one hoof likes to grow out instead of down. We're aiming to keep him on a fairly tight 4 week cycle, and I treat regularly with Keratex.

switched out to our 'healing crystals' browband to match the new saddle pad from Stephanie! 
I'm also staying proactive regarding Charlie's gastric health. As a very recently retired race horse, he is probably accustomed to a fairly high degree of gastric maintenance. And since his new lifestyle with me involves frequent trailer travel.... It's just to be expected that he'll need support.

Isabel typically got a course of Ulcergard or some generic version thereof once or twice a year, as par for the course, and Charlie will likely get the same (unless there's any indication he needs more help). Once he finishes up his current course, he'll get a daily supplement. I'm trying a new one at the recommendation of dressage trainer C: Jeremiah's Ulcer Repulser. Terrible name but she swears by it, so we'll give it a whirl!

So ya know. Charlie seems to be doing well. He's actually doing better in some dimensions than you might expect with a horse so fresh off the track. And I have to constantly remind myself that it's only been three months. He's settled in so well, and taken so well to the work and lessons and rhythms of our training routine that it's easy to forget just how new it all really is.

It's an interesting process tho haha. I've worked with a couple horses nearly as green as Charlie, but this is the first time that I'm totally responsible, the primary decision maker. Kinda daunting!! Have you had to transition a horse into an entirely new lifestyle? Like a horse off the track, or maybe a young horse moving into training for the first time? How have you managed these transitions? What do you typically look out for? And how do you decide if a nutrition/maintenance plan is or is not working for the horse?

25 comments:

  1. I work by guess and by golly. Regular progress pictures help. Daily assessment of horse (during grooming) helps. For a growing youngster, answering questions like "Is he butt-high again?" or "Is he getting skinny again?" are hugely helpful -- both are signs of incipient growth, loss of balance, generalized young-feller shenanigans. Bird kept losing The Right Lead (Dun-dun-duuuun!) all last summer which was irritating until I figured out that every time he would shoot up, he became unbalanced and didn't want to take the right lead. Give him a couple of weeks at the new size and the right lead showed back up. And we were good for a while until he all of a sudden got skinnier and butt-high again (Growing, dumb owner) whereupon the right lead would disappear for a while. You can see how this might be confusing and frustrating for the person... "But you just did this exercise like perfectly last week! What the hell?!"

    Otherwise, it's just making sure horse is of good weight, happy, normal poops, not abandoning food, eating and chewing well (Hallo, horse dentist guy!), got a deworming program going on, seems reasonably happy in work, not sore in weird places, all the usual stuff. I'm fitting Bird up for a 30-miler this spring, so will be paying even more attention to weight and fitness than usual. (Moar fitness means I have to pay moar attention and be moar vigilent.)

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    1. ha, 'guess and golly' - i like that. and you already know i'm a big fan of using grooming as a way to evaluate how the horse is doing, tho it's easy to miss small changes during the day in, day out interactions (at least for me).

      also that's super exciting about the 30miler! good luck with all the prep - hope it goes well!

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  2. When I brought Irish home I was able to completely revamp his feeding program. I did it bit by bit and monitored how he reacted. I believe that I finally have him on the right program and he seems to be happy and healthy. He will always be on the thin side of healthy and since he's 16 I'm pretty sure that is his metabolism.

    Carmen came pretty thin and fussy in her eating. I am now happy with her weight but she's on the 'fat' side of normal. Which makes it tricky with them both being turned out together.

    My hope for over the winter is keep Carmen from getting too fat and Irish from getting too thin. sigh.

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    1. ha of course the two horses would be just ever so slightly on opposite sides of the spectrum.... they just want to keep you on your toes bc god forbid anything is ever too easy! ;)

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  3. He's still new to you and you to him so it'll be a while before you figure just what he needs to make him flourish. Given how attentive you are to the little details though, I'm sure it'll happen sooner rather than later (: Charlie is one lucky boy

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    1. frankly i'm quite pleased with his condition at present. it seems to be fairly conventional wisdom that newly retired racehorses go through a 'crash' period as their body adjusts to coming off the intense training and equally intense diet that accompanies it. the fact that charlie has mostly been quite stable and has settled in so well to his new lifestyle makes me really happy!

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  4. Haha yeah when I first got Courage, the responsibility was crushing, even with knowledgeable people standing by to help out. You're doing an awesome job and Charlie sounds amazing, :-)

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    1. ha thanks. mostly i just feel a little guilty bc one of the biggest adjustments charlie has to make is getting used to an owner with a MUCH smaller pocketbook haha.

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  5. It's been so exciting to watch him start to develop under your care! I can't wait to see his new sporthorse body start to emerge :)

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    1. i'm excited too!! there are definitely changes in his musculature that i'll be happy to see!!

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  6. You've done so much with him in such a short time! I'm glad he's adjusting well.

    I'm lucky that Kachina is a pretty simple keeper and her diet has always been centred around hay or grass. However, her life did make a major transition work-wise when I got her and she went from being a pasture pet/occasional trail horse into being a dressage horse in training. Kachina finds change stressful and it took quite a while for her to become comfortable in her new role. I didn't realize it at first, but I've learned along the way that being really really consistent and giving Kachina easy ways to find the right answer have been key to giving her confidence. Charlie sounds pretty chill about his new job though!

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    1. i agree that your philosophy of being super consistent and 'giving easy ways to find the right answer' is really a great approach for most horses, even chill dudes like charlie haha!!

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  7. I think he looks great! And his brain surpasses perfection. What a good boy! The only transitioning I have had to do was with Georgie and her cribbing. Mare would gas colic once a month. So, I put a cribbing collar on her and started her on Smartpak supplements. 3 years later she still wears the collar, but we ditched the supplements and she hasn't had one bout of colic. Yay!

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    1. oh man that's awesome (and kinda incredible) that you made such a dent in Georgie's cribbing habit!! we have a horse at charlie's barn who is only in his mid teens but only has nubs for teeth. it's terrible....

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  8. The ulcer repulser sounds amazing!! It seems to follow along with the research I've done and with the vets that I've worked with. Way cool!!!

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    1. I'll let you know what I think! Tho Charlie isn't super symptomy or anything so I probably won't be able to speak to that

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  9. I'll be interested to see what you think of the ulcer repulser. Mr. picky pants is objecting to his current supplement and I'm on the hunt for something new.

    I love keeping track of the conformation pictures and the changes. Charlie is transitioning really well!

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    1. Charlie isn't super picky but I'll let you know! And yea I'm relieved about how he is holding condition

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  10. Charlie is a very lucky guy to end up with you! If everyone took care of horses that have come straight off of the track as well as you, there would be a lot more OTTB success stories. I'd pay for our horses to go to an owner like you:

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    1. Aw thanks Jodi - that means a lot. I'm not always sure I'm doing everything right or doing the best job or whatever, but I'm certainly trying!!! Charlie has been so easy tho, thank goodness!

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  11. I just cross my fingers and hope they don't die. Ha.

    Actually at first I keep them on whatever the previous place had them on for a while so it's not such a huge shock to their system when I transition them on to my regiment. I always put them on probiotics and electrolytes right away but otherwise it's kind of a trial situation. I do soak everything as well to prevent any colic or dehydration.

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  12. Man is the process daunting. Pretty much all we deal with are OTTBs, but they are such a constant reminder that one size does NOT fit all. Just when you think you've got a formula figured out, bam! They flip the script!

    Nolan is my second personal OTTB and he and Riley could not be more different!!! Nolan came off the track super hot, noted as a "hard keeper" eating 16 quarts of grain a day and apparently aversive to hay. Well, a lot has changed regarding that, but I'm a big believer in your program, as in keeping it simplified and waiting and watching before adding in lots of outside supplements etc. ps. You reminded me that I need to take updated conformation shots!

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  13. His neck has undergone a transformation as well!

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  14. We've put Maeby on Farrier's Formula for now and the SmartPak joint supplement but that's it. She's starting to get grain and we'll see how she continues with her food in Texas

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  15. Definitely I think the biggest transformation in horses happen between months 1-3. After that things kind of plateau for a bit and then start moving around more and more as they build strength. I mean you know i'm a fan.

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