Friday, June 21, 2019

dog days + bronto nights

Things have been nicely quiet around here the last few days. Charlie's foot soreness cropped up at basically the worst possible time in his shoeing cycle. We already know from experience that he does extremely well in leather pads during the summer months. But.... We just gotta wait for enough growth to justify a reset with pads. You know how it goes.

Meanwhile, everything sort of ground to a halt. We had planned to school xc with Sally again Tuesday a week ago. This time at Plantation, for their once-a-year schooling day that was marked on the calendar for months haha (#redemption!!!). It rained buckets the night before tho, and they pushed it back a day, which didn't work for either Sally or me.

Which honestly, was probably for the best. I had still planned to go despite the foot soreness, but wasn't committed to jumping anything. Mostly I had wanted to pick Sally's brain about all the various dos and don'ts of maintaining the Size Large event horse.

A barn mate loosely quoted Sally as saying that once you get to a certain level, the balance of focus shifts away from training and toward maintenance. Let's say, 75% maintenance and 25% training. Which makes sense to me, and I wanted to talk more to Sally about that idea.

driving into the barn i fully expected this incoming storm to drop the temps by ~10*. alas, the damn thing missed us completely and conditions remained oppressively hot humid and sticky :(
When the schooling date got moved tho, honestly I wasn't too sorry. There will be some other time to go show Plantation who's really boss haha. Plus, we were entered for the event at Seneca last weekend, so I had hoped to sorta baby Charlie through the week anyway.

Alas tho, despite having a relatively careful week, our last ride before Seneca showed Charlie to not be satisfactorily happy on those tootsies. Bleh. Drats. More entry dollars down the drain. C'est la vie, tho!

After that, I figured now might be a good time to actually make those dollars work for me. Instead of continuing to shovel out entry after entry despite my horse's knack for timing his moments of fragility, maybe it was time to bring out a pro and set new baselines.

So then it was basically a waiting game, taking things pretty easy until that eventual appointment. Which worked out nicely for me, bc a double dose of devastating personal tragedy in my other life meant that I just focused on my most fundamental needs with Charlie: breathing him in, finding solace in his quiet, peaceful company.

actual photographic representation of what we've been up to. it's maple, if you're curious
Finally, tho, our day came. I brought a vet out for a thorough evaluation of Charlie. Prepared to follow the rabbit hole as deep as she saw fit to go. Not necessarily chasing a lameness, per se, but more along the lines of looking for that low hanging fruit.

My ultimate question was, "What could we do to make Charlie more sound? To improve his margins of soundness so that we don't always feel like we're teetering on the edge -- one small ding away from forfeited entries?"

To this end, the vet started with an overall evaluation of Charlie's condition and some discussion about his complete backstory and history of injuries and/or lamenesses. She felt his general condition is quite good - the horse does in fact look great. But.... she also agreed with my "dad bod" joke haha. In other words, he's fine now, but don't let him get any heavier. And actually, for my purposes, we probably want better fitness on him.

His feet are fine, all the angles look good, the heels are good. But the feet are sliiiiiightly too small for Charlie's #SizeLarge body. The last missed shoeing appointment definitely fucked us. If you recall, I had the horse on the list to get done exactly at the 5wk mark, and the farrier bumped him another week without checking in.

I understand the farrier's perspective -- waiting longer could mean more wall growth between the compromising nail holes. Plus I'm sure many of his clients prefer to try to save a buck here or there by waiting a little bit longer.... But, honestly, Charlie just needs done. And we're paying for that extra week last cycle by probably needing to go two weeks early this cycle. Again, c'est la vie, I'll be more clear with the farrier moving forward.

charlie appreciates the ringside wildlife
The vet did find some signs of effusion in the coffin joints up front, but felt like it made the most sense to just get the horse in pads and reassess that point later only if needed.

After testing his hooves and palpating his legs, she had me jog him back and forth a couple times. To answer the million dollar question: Does Charlie present as sound??

Short answer? Yes.

Long answer? Also Yesss.

Fuck yea haha. But again, that wasn't really the point of the day tho, right? Like, the horse is generally sound. I firmly believe he is more sound today than he was when I bought him. But again, I want better margins. I want him to be moar sound, less vulnerable to disruption.

So from there we moved on to flexions. So many flexions tho. I should note - it was fucking hot and humid out. The kind of oppressive stickiness that only comes before a giant storm, except the storm front misses you so you just wilt into a puddle of denim-clad swamp ass with no relief in sight. Ahem. Cough Cough. Anyway tho.

i <3 bunnies tho
Anyway, we flexed the ever loving fuck out of Charlie haha. At least 12 individual flexions (3 per leg, I think?), each of which required me to sprint drag my lazy brontosaurus down a roughly 20m line. Back and forth, back and forth. In the sunshine on our dark dressage court footing. And then I lunged him both directions. Honestly I thought I might puke or pass out. Holy shit. Barf.

That's definitely hella more flexions than what I did in Charlie's PPE. Tho you might remember (or not, actually maybe I never told you?) that Charlie was very hoof sore plus due for his hocks when I bought him. So we kinda just rolled with it haha. In other words, yes I totally bought a lame horse. And yes, nearly three years later, I'm still working on his soundness. To be honest, tho? #noregrets #ymmv #itsnotforeveryone #charlieisthebesthorseintheworldthochangemymind #sanesound&talentedpick2 #worthit

Ahem. Anyway. The flexions. Everything up front was clean and clear. Behind was a bit more muddled, as expected. Obvi today's question is those sore front feet, but the question of tomorrow and next month and next year and of Charlie's overall future and longevity as my event horse sits squarely on his hind end.

And honestly? The vet didn't see a whole lot to worry her. Obvi it's impossible to fully isolate and flex a specific joint -- they are all so interconnected you're always stressing multiple elements of the entire apparatus. But generally, Charlie was mild on hocks but closer to moderate on stifles.

staring expansively at the distant camp kiddos and those darling ponies he's so jealous of. #ropehalter for #vetmanners lol. also, that droopy lip kills me haha
We did the hocks this past spring and did not see the results I'd hoped for. I know Charlie had his stifles done on the track, but I've never done anything for them besides general fitness work (hills, poles, etc -- building the muscle that supports the joint). So on this day, the stifles looked to be the best bang for my buck. So that's what we did.

I appreciated that after all the flexions, the vet was basically able to give me a "Top 3" list (#2 being possibly front coffins, and a distant #3 being SI) with relative weightings on when/why to pursue further options. Realistically, tho, the vet felt that Charlie was generally in good shape and nothing really stood out to her.

Likewise, she showed no signs of hesitation or concern when I told her my first foremost and forever objective was Charlie's longevity -- that I need this horse to last me, preferably forever.

And actually, she corrected me on some errors of logic that I've made when it comes to Charlie's condition. I've been extremely preoccupied with "saving" him, not "using him up," if that makes sense. So I told her all about how he seems to hold all his training fantastically despite time off, or gaps in practice. Thus I had begun to feel pretty good about only ever really jumping intermittently.

The vet was surprisingly quick to suggest this was actually not the greatest tactic. That part of conditioning means conditioning his body to impact. That if I want the horse to not be sore after an epic jump school, he needs to be jumping more often. Not necessarily max height / max impact / max speed every time. But often enough and with enough purpose to condition his joints, sinews, muscles, etc to the exertion and impact.

charlie is many things. pretty is one of them <3
Really, overall, she seemed to believe more correct conditioning would be the biggest difference maker for Charlie. And not just cardio conditioning. Not just walking and trotting hills with the occasional sprint. But the full package: asking routinely of his body the full amount of exertion I need from him, so that the bigger outings don't pack such a punch.

Writing this out almost makes me feel a little silly for not thinking it through in the same fashion of logic. But as L Williams reminded me a little while ago, this is also part of what it means for me to learn how to move a horse up. Not just accomplishing a certain size jump or certain speed, but learning how to maintain and sustain the horse throughout.

For now, I'm very heartened at this vet's relaxed casual reaction to my litany of what all I want Charlie to do for me. She thinks it's all completely reasonable -- she likes his build, likes his condition, and obvi LOVES his temperament lol (but who wouldn't?). It's just up to me to do my job to help Charlie be his physical best, including greasing the rails as needed.

Here's hoping he feels like a full one million dollars when he comes slowly back into work sometime next week. And until that point, all plans currently on hold. But after this past couple weeks of downtime, I'm allowing myself to start getting a little excited again ;)


29 comments:

  1. First of all I’m very sorry for whatever happened in your non-horse life.
    Second, I think having the vet out for Charlie is brilliant. She sounds great. And sensible. I like that idea of hers about conditioning the horse for the work. It makes sense.

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    1. thank you <3 and agreed, i found all her feedback and insight extremely useful and easily actionable -- my favorite!

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  2. Very sorry to hear things have been rough on the personal side. Life is not easy on us...I hope you have support to work through things.

    Your vet sounds pretty amazing. I think it was a good move to have her out and do a full assessment on Charlie (hunk). Conditioning a performance horse takes work and planning and it sounds like you have a lot more information to do what will work best for Sir Charles. He is very lucky to have you as his partner! <3

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    1. Oh - to add more 'cause I'm at work early and it's quiet... I see soooo many people not put that maintenance and planning into their horses and still expect them to perform at a certain level.

      I actually know people who didn't ride their western show horses all year, except at shows. What the what? They felt that because the horses were broke, they didn't want to ride them and "mess them up". Not surprisingly, they did poorly at every show because the horses were so out of shape they couldn't hold the crazy collection needed from western pleasure horses. As the day wore on, the horses would either revolt and misbehave, or just get trashier in their movement. Kinda sad really. Anyhoo...glad you are on top of Charlie's needs. :-)

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    2. oh man, that's crazy to me. i can't imagine not wanting to ride between shows. like, honestly i understand that different people enjoy horses in different ways, and that there is an entire segment that really is only in it for the show ring action, but not much else. and that's fine, but man it's definitely *not* my style haha! and no wonder the horses don't go well - you'd think they'd at least get some trainer rides in between shows haha

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  3. Glad your vet was so positive! I have my vet come out at least once a year to do flexions/assess where we are at. May is... not built for this sport, so maintenance is 100% expected.

    Also - my fav thing about my vet? She's a track vet, so she brings an assistant with her. The assistant does all the jogging, so that we can discuss May's soundness while we both watch.

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    1. Agreed - I like watching the jogging too so I can know what 'normal' looks like. Sometimes I make my poor, long suffering SO do it.

      Also I hate making my lazy ass horses run.

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    2. lol for real, if some mysterious tech materialized from the gauzy humid atmosphere at that exact moment, i would have handed that horse over post haste, zero questions asked. my swampy jeans and heavy muck boots (we thought it would pour!) agreed wholeheartedly!

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    3. Granted... I have managed to schedule my annual vet tech on days when it snows hahahaha, so jogging might actually be preferable on those days. Win some and lose some.

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  4. It sucks that his feet are too small for his body :P But I think it's smart to get the pads sorted out and then try and push on him a bit more to get him up to a better fitness level. I totally agree with the vet - coddling him only goes so far, whereas if his normal day to day is more difficult maybe competing will look like the easy day hehe.

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    1. lol basically everything is "too small" when compared to charlie's body. his feet are fine tho. there's legit no urgency to anything other than putting him in pads, which i should have done last cycle.

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  5. So sorry things are rough right now :( Having the vet out was genius and it sounds like you got a ton of great information.

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    1. thank you <3 and i really do feel very good about how this appointment went, and what we learned about where charlie is today compared to how he was when i bought him, and with what i want from his future in mind.

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  6. Hope everything improves for you soon!

    As for feet, too small feet are really suck. Hopefully Charlie is as comfortable as possible and that the farrier stays on schedule from here on out too. And that pads help him like in the past.

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    1. thank you - his feet are fine, they just need pads and a 5wk schedule.

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    2. Batt's feet are a little too small for his body too. Lol. Of course, Batt also has a hind hoof full of scar tissue too that likes to crack on a regular basis...

      And yeah, I realize he's fine, and will be even more fine with pads and his farrier sticking with the schedule. I think I was trying to be overly sympathetic with Charlie and failed to write the last part of my post which is why is came off more a poor charlie, he's suffering from poor feet vs what I actually intended to write (darn multi-tasking!), Poor Charlie, small feet, late farrier appointment (so, waiting on pads), and now the vet doesn't like his dad bod and he's going to be like the rest of us, watching his weight. Life sucks, doesn't it? I mean, if you cut back he treat ration even just a TINY BIT? I can imagine he'll have something to say about it...

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    3. thanks for sure! we've got a good plan for the feet that we know from past experience works well for charlie. i think the bigger outcome from this vet visit and the piece we focused on the most was the flexions and resulting stifle injections. that's a bit more in line with my longer term plans for charlie, separate from the cyclical nature of hooves.

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  7. Sounds like you got the plan in place. And yes the schedule is key for the feet. I understand people do like to save money but the schedule is set up for a reason for feet :) HA! I love the photo of the bunny btw! :) Glad you enlarged it!

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    1. i tried to get a shot of charlie gazing intently at the bunny but was too slow!

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  8. Sounds like a good plan to move with! I agree with the vet, you have to do the thing to be fit for the thing, right? But I also totally get your wanting to save him. My trainer, who shows in the grand prix jumpers, says she rarely jumps that high at home, but they still jump probably twice a week when not showing. Her opinion is that they can get the same fitness jumping 3'6" as 5'. I woulnd't really know. If I ever jump 3'6" again it will be a miracle! But I like the concept, and agree that part of building fitness has to include jumping if that's what you're planning to do in the show ring (or out in the field... whatever your discipline requires).

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  9. It's always good to get a baseline, stifles are such a fucking huge joint so I always remind people not to get their hopes up when they get injected, it's just a giant shitty joint and ymmv.

    Sorry about things in the non-horse world, I hope you have a good support network and lean on them when you need it. Also I loff bunnehs too!

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  10. Hugs for thugs in your life. I hope it gets better. Your vet sounds very realistic and down to earth. Having her out to look at Charlie overall was a great idea. That’s sorta what I envisioned when I had the vet out for Eeyore except I wasn’t expecting her to find something. Oops. HA!!

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  11. Your vet sounds awesome. One thing I leaned a long time ago is "specificity" in training. Sounds like you have a great plan to go forward on :)

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  12. It sounds like a very useful vet visit. I think it is so helpful and important to get a snapshot and a really good idea about how a horse is feeling in order to get a plan to keep them feeling as best as they can! I did the same thing with Coolie last year and it was so reassuring for me too.

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  13. It should be a relief to hear that everything is basically good to go. Just make sure he stays away from pointy things!

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  14. Glad you were able to get some peace of mind! You guys will be back to kicking ass in no time

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  15. I like your veterinarians perspective. I'll admit I haven't thought of it that way before, but it makes total sense. Charlie is lucky to have such a dedicated and loving hooman

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  16. What a lucky fella to have you looking out for him. I have started to think about more maintenance for my 3 as they all age, but this post has made me ponder it in a whole new light!

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  17. I think I also needed to hear this. I'm always trying to keep Jack in one piece as well (those big guys are just so darn fragile it seems!) and Charlie sounds the same way. How often would you say you jump? For me, it's once a week, maybe twice. I'm thinking about Jack's conditioning in this light and curious as to what that might look like.

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