The second race on Sunday at Keeneland was won by a barefoot horse. According to the article at the link below it has been discovered that going shoeless helps horses on artificial surfaces. Huge progress for horses!!
Kentucky is in a heat wave. It was over 100 on Thursday, 104 here at the farm yesterday, and already 95 at 11 this morning, on its way to 105.
The man who owns the farm next door – where Lena visited on her first night – stopped by a while ago. In the course of conversation he told me Churchill canceled racing on Thursday due to the heat. I looked online to get details, and learned that they moved Friday and the coming days to night racing. A wise decision, as my horses, standing in the shade doing nothing, with a breeze, were sweating the last two days.
Late yesterday afternoon, I was topping off the trough and Shadow put her face in deeply and started splashing herself to get cool. I sprayed her with the hose. Zola was quick to line up and stood very close to the electric fence to get sprayed. Chance too wanted hosing down. Maura wanted some, but not much, ditto Roxanna. The others were in a hurry to get back in the shade of the barn. I didn’t even consider riding them, and certainly would not have raced them.
Trainers at Churchill were not happy about the races being canceled (it was too late to switch racing to nighttime by the time it was decided it was too hot). I must say it is the first time in 138 years that racing has been canceled due to heat. Steve Asmussen was quoted complaining, and made the comment, “. . . canceling the Thursday is a decision made by people who aren’t feeding racehorses. More importantly, I wonder if any of them were feeding a horse that was in Thursday.”
That makes it pretty clear to me that concern for the horses’ well being is certainly not paramount with Mr. Asmussen.
Chance was going well prior to the heat wave. I rode him on the 25th, trotting 2 laps before galloping 4. I knew I was working on Wednesday, so rode him again on the 26th, just trotting him for a mile and a half. The ground is hard as a rock and I am happy that he appears to have no foot issues. Of course, now he’s off until the temperatures drop to something bearable.
I had trimming students last weekend (the 22nd, 23rd, 24th) and so all the horses got trimmed. Zola was slightly ouchy on her right, so didn’t get ridden early in the week, and of course is off now due to the heat.
Lena was also trimmed. She is such a sweet girl. I haven’t worked with her feet since touching her up on the 10th, but she was an angel, allowing me to trim all 4 feet without problems. She is very affectionate. She loves getting kisses on the face, and will put her face up to receive them. When the horses are turned out free in the morning, Lena stops for some attention on her way out, and is in no rush to give it up and go eat. She likes people and is very trusting and cooperative. When it gets cooler, I plan to start saddling her, in preparation for getting on her this fall.
Below are some photos of her feet. (Click on images to enlarge.)
Friday there was a big improvement in Lena. She trotted in from the field, and she cantered away from the water trough later. Yesterday (Saturday) she seemed even better, and this morning she seems completely normal.
I rode Chance last night. According to the weather, it was still 89 at 7:00, which is when I tacked Chance up. He was dry however, not sweating. I tried the Shur-Win, which didn’t seem to bother him, but it doesn’t do what I wanted, which was to transfer some of the pressure applied to the bit to the nose. Given that it looks like it rubs the side of the mouth, I won’t be using it to gallop, but I might still use it for racing. We’ll see.
We galloped three laps, which is an improvement in my fitness, and also due to not eating for 2 hours before riding. I did some research after I realized that riding 30 minutes or an hour after eating had a negative effect, and it seemed eating earlier might be better. After the ride, I also felt maybe my stirrups were a bit too long, so I have shortened them one hole. Will see how that works the next time I ride Chance.
Chance did sweat slightly on his neck and shoulders, but not much at all. He also had sweat between his ‘cheeks’ and I was happy to see it was clear and not white. White sweat contains the protein latherin. As a horse becomes fit latherin is not released into the sweat. How I wish I was rich! I’d have my own training track (a full mile at least) and a lab. A question occurred to me last night. Who is more fit, someone who walks ten miles a day, including several walks up and down hills, or a person who jogs a mile every day and does nothing else? What is Chance’s level of overall fitness?
After I was done riding, I took Chance’s saddle off right where we were and walked him down the track to cool him off a little more. As we walked back, Chance snorted. I turned to look at him and he looked just like a racehorse! It’s amazing the difference between a relaxed horse and one in a state of excitement. With his head up and all his muscles tense, Chance is quite handsome. Sometimes, looking at the horses, it’s hard to believe any of them were racehorses. They walk around in the horsey equivalent of human slouching, at a snail’s pace, heads hanging like it’s too much work to pick them up. That is the result of their survival instinct to save energy and reduce calorie burning. While I do love seeing them happy, normal, and relaxed, it’s nice to see them wake up occasionally.
I led Chance up to the saddle, and he sniffed it and seemed to relax. I then led him to the trailer, took off the bridle, wiped his sweaty areas with a damp sponge, and gave him his supper. When he was done he walked away to go graze in the field. But the saddle was still lying there, and it had his attention. It was interesting to watch what he did next. He could have easily just avoided the saddle and gone off to graze, but he didn’t. He walked past the saddle, not looking at it – almost like he was pretending to ignore it. Then he walked back and passed it the other way. He repeated that a couple times and finally he approached it directly and checked it out. Then he went off to graze. I was happy to see his curiosity. I know that a couple years ago he would have just avoided the saddle and that would have been the end of it. I feel his curiosity and subsequent actions show a growth in his confidence, and a reemergence of his natural horse nature.
Today is Zola’s turn.
I galloped Chance on the 8th and today (the 11th). On the 8th, we averaged around 14 mph galloping (slow) as I was testing out the detour and the reconfigured clubhouse turn. They seemed to ride well, which is great. I only galloped 2 laps, and that is solely due to my lack of fitness. Today I galloped 2 laps again, but they were faster - around 17 mph – though I was a little cautious as it had rained earlier.
Chance continues to like (or appears to like) the Pee Wee bit, and readily opens his mouth for it. I have ordered a Shur-Win, in the hopes that it will help relieve any pressure on the bars. I’ve never used one, but it’s significantly less expensive than a Kineton noseband, and appears to serve the same purpose. At worst it will be an $11 experiment. At best, he’ll really like it. He also continues to stand still, with his ears up, when I girth him up. I take this as a sign that whatever issue caused him to threaten to bite, in the past, is no longer an issue. Perhaps it’s the addition of a dressage pad under the regular pad. Perhaps it’s something else. Either way, I believe it’s a good sign.
I haven’t done much of anything with Zola. Hopefully I’ll ride her tomorrow.
Lena is lame on her left front, due to the cracks she had when I got her. They have grown out about halfway on that foot, and I think it’s just painful in general, not an abscess or anything serious. She is improving, especially after I trimmed her yesterday (the 10th). I trimmed a hind foot this time. Only one needed trimming, as the other had self-trimmed pretty evenly and short. The cracks on her right front have not grown out as much, and I will try to remember to take photos tomorrow or the next day, depending on the weather.
The other day (Thursday) I went out to get Chance to ride him (no galloping, just some walk and trot to test out the new dirt, the detour, and the reconfigured turn) and all the horses were in the vicinity of the pond. I heard some noise coming from the pond, which turned out to be Zola and Sweet Tea. Both of them were standing in the water, grazing long grasses. Zola was dry other than her legs, but Sweet Tea was completely wet from the tip of her nose to the tip of her tail. There was not a dry spot on her! I’m not sure how deep the pond is, and don’t know whether it’s deep enough for her to have had a swim, or if she just laid down completely on both sides, but clearly she had enjoyed a good cooling off.
Even though she is new to the herd and the farm, Sweet Tea is allowed to go out, loose, with the herd into the big field. She has certainly adapted well, and is losing her ‘not interested’ look. She and Maura seem to have become close friends.
I started Chance, Zola, Beauty, and Bettina on Grand Hoof with MSM hoof supplement in mid-March. I do see changes in their feet, but more than I would expect for only 3 weeks or so.
Thinking back, I wormed the horses on January 15th. I never considered worming – or rather worms? – affecting the hoof, but now I wonder. Could it be a factor? Something to consider. (Note: I did worm my horses regularly in Paris, but the other 5 horses were not wormed.)
Below are photos I took today while the horses were eating. Chance clearly has a distinct line about an inch down from the coronary band – a sign that something significant occurred – as well as an improved angle. So do all the horses, so that rules out the hoof supplement as the cause. Leaving worming as a theory. See photo below.
(Click on images to enlarge)
Below is a photo of Zola’s left hind foot. An abscess clearly exited from the back of the foot, but more dramatic is the significant angle change. Since I am the trimmer and the trim hasn’t changed, something changed. What?
Below is a photo of Zola’s right front showing the exit wounds of two abscesses, as well as the remaining crack from her time in Paris.
The next photos show Zola’s left front in October 2009 – when I first got her, and almost a year later – August 2010 – after living in the blue grass.
I stumbled over this the other day while searching for material for the online trimming course I’m offering.
I quote from the Welfare and Safety of the Racehorse Summit Issue 2 – Sponsored by the Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation:
“Long toes can cause strain on tendons, the suspensory ligament and the sesamoid bones while short toes combined with high heels can cause concussion to the hoof (putting the horse at risk for navicular disease, ringbone, and arthritis). Low toe angles have been reported for horses with musculoskeletal and/or lameness problems.
In one California study, all groups of injured horses had acute toe and heel angles suggesting that decreasing the difference between toe and heel angles should decrease the risk of suspensory apparatus failure for Thoroughbred racehorses and should be considered to help prevent injury.”
Imagine my surprise when I see that this was published in 2007! This is the report that caused toe grabs to be banned, but apparently that was the only thing that racing decided to embrace. Sadly.
For those who want to read the whole report, which is well worth a read, click here.
As planned, I gave Chance the day off yesterday. In the evening I gave him a trim. There was very little to do, I just beveled the toe from 10 to 2. There is still about 1/2 inch remaining of the bad hoof caused by not being on the dry lot early enough, but other than that, his feet look good. The frog is wider and healthy, and the funny curling up at the toe that was there last fall, is gone. The collateral grooves are nice and deep – but not too deep.
After trimming I groomed him – which he doesn’t really love, so it was more brief than I’d planned. He was, of course, a mud pie. He loves to roll in the mud – the wetter and goopier the better – and it had rained. Luckily he had dried. After grooming, I planned to massage him (which he does love) with a nice liniment. And this is where I learned something. I have used the liniment on him before, always AFTER a workout at the training center. This is the first time I ever used it when he hadn’t worked. Chance went immediately from relaxed and calm to wound up and anxious! What that tells me is that prior to a race he was rubbed down with Bigeloil. Once I put that liniment on he was expecting to go race, and not in a good way. He was more relaxed at the actual races last September than he was last night!
Well, that killed the massage, as he was in no mood for it. No point in trying to give a nice massage to a tense horse. Gave him 2 cups of Strategy and then let him go. Now will teach him that liniment can be applied any time – just to make him feel good.
Chance was more off over the last few days, and I believe he has an abscess. He had one on his left front, and now his right. This is not uncommon for a horse who has grown in new feet. As the feet become truly healthy any damaged material that can’t be re-absorbed by the body is expelled via abscess. Since Chance’s feet had really long toes and very little tight connection there was most likely damage to the laminae. Now that the feet are functioning as they should and circulation is normal, “clean up” is most likely going on.
That said, yesterday he was running around as if he’s perfectly fine. In fact I have never seen the horses run around as much in one day as they did yesterday. Not all of them, just Zola, Chance, Fancy (a TB mare), and Star (Fancy’s buddy). They raced around bucking and playing. Chance’s tail was straight up in the air. This continued for quite a while. Then, as it got dark I would occasionally hear them racing by.
It’s raining now – but I will check later to see if Chance is still ouchy – I would guess not based on his behavior yesterday!
I got a notice the other day stating that my order from Dover (the Pee Wee bit) had shipped. A pleasant surprise, as my last 2 orders from them took weeks! Today I checked the tracking online. So far the package has left Massachusetts, arrived in Indiana, left Indiana and shipped to Mississippi, where it arrived safely. One can only wonder where it will go next – as it not scheduled to arrive here in Paris until the 29th! Where is the logic in that??? The mind boggles. Does Fedex really spend the money to ship a package all over the country just to be sure it doesn’t arrive earlier than the customer paid for?
Monday Chance was ouchy again! This is frustrating. We had a heavy rain and I think it softened his soles. I trimmed him again – it’s amazing how much dead sole came off so soon after the last trim. It’s rained a couple more times since then, so am waiting to see.
The rain is a problem. While we don’t get a lot of mud, the ground does get very slippery. Too slippery for galloping. I need to find some alternative.
Wow, I hadn’t realized it’s been almost a month since I last posted!
As of my last post I had sat on Zola once. We had a week of cold, windy weather with sporadic rain after that so I didn’t do anything with either horse until November 2. It was still windy and cold so I just lunged Zola and Chance. I lunged Zola with tack on, and of course, right in the middle of our session it started raining. She wasn’t too happy to find herself trotting and cantering into cold rain, but she did it. When I finished with Zola the sun came out! I lunged Chance, but he finds it stressful – not sure why, am assuming unpleasant previous experience somewhere.
I lunged Zola again and rode Chance. He was fussy with his head, seemed slightly ouchy on his left front, and wanted to GO!!! So we just stayed in the front pasture and did mostly walking with some trotting.
The weather finally got better and on Sunday I rode Chance again. Still fussy about the bit, and more definitely ouchy, but still wanted to GO! Again stayed in the front pasture. I guess I should say that the front pasture is probably close to 10 acres – it’s not like it’s a small confined space. The pasture where I normally gallop him is 50 acres. We stuck with walking and trotting, and at least he seemed more settled, not quite so explosive.
I sat on Zola again. Probably for 10 minutes. She was relaxed and accepting. I tried to encourage her to move into a walk, but she was reluctant. We did do what amounted to a tiny pirouette, but that was it. Still I was very happy that she is not looking to race away in panic. This was only the second time I was on her – and I thought she was doing well.
I decided to trim Chance. I started with his right front. Usually he’s perfectly behaved, but he refused to hold it up for more than a few seconds. When a horse does that it’s often a sign he has some issue in the opposite foot, so I switched to the left front. He had a lot of sole ready to come off, and once again a lumpy bar. Trimmed all the dead sole off and noticed that since he’s lost the very last of his old growth, the wall is much thicker, and he has slightly more concavity. I then went back to the right front and he stood perfectly while I trimmed it. Clearly he has very sensitive feet – the princess and the pea! – as just that excess bar made him very uncomfortable. I imagine he has a bruise underneath as a result. Didn’t ride him, as I figured he would be more ouchy until the sole heals.
I did get on Zola. This time I just mounted (using the mounting block) without any preparatory laying on the saddle or anything. She stood totally still and quiet. After a few minutes I tried to encourage her to move off. After some clucking and a slight tap with the crop – I confess to being cautious after her response to being tapped with the stick at her first lunging session! – she walked two steps. Then she turned and walked about three steps. She was more balanced than the first time she moved – on our first mounting session. But she was still a little concerned. After she offered a couple more steps, I halted her, gave her a cookie, and dismounted.
To me, a good session is a calm session. I don’t like to rush. Before I get on, I like the horse to be unconcerned about the saddle. Before I ask for a lot of movement, I like the horse to be really comfortable with mounting and just standing still. I’ve seen people ask for too much too soon; because the horse is quiet and accepting they move to the next step and then the next, thinking they’re making progress. Then suddenly the horse becomes overwhelmed and explodes into bucking or otherwise has a meltdown. Accepting something and being comfortable with something are two different things. Since I want to avoid any bucking or other panic related behavior, I take my time and make sure the horse is not only accepting but ALSO calm and unworried about what we’ve done so far, before I ask for something more. I always ask for new things at the very end of the session, and then the reward is really appropriate. Horses understand this routine really well. They learn quickly that when something new is asked of them they are nearly done. They just have to try to do it and they will be done with work. In Zola’s case, she is also rewarded with cookies and a little meal. Over time, the cookies will go away, as will the meal.
Rode Zola again. This time she was ready to walk. As soon as I was in the saddle she started to walk away. I stopped her and asked her to stand still, gave her a cookie, and then let her walk away. I didn’t care where she went, I just wanted her to get confident carrying my weight and realize she was okay. We went about half way around the round pen and then I could see her getting a little worried. I asked her to turn and walk into the center, stopped and let her stand for a minute, then got off and rewarded her.
I didn’t ride Chance, as he was still slightly ouchy on that left front.
Rode Chance in the front pasture. He was much more relaxed but still a little ouchy. I’m sure his sole was bruised from that lumpy bar. We stayed in the front pasture and did mostly trotting. He is still fussy with the bit and I have to find something more comfortable for him. He has just the smallest mouth (height not width). There is not room for much in there, his tongue seems to take up the whole space.
Rode Zola again. She is totally unconcerned with saddling, and pretty much there on mounting. She offered to walk off as soon as I got in the saddle (she does wait until my butt is in it), but I stopped her after a step. She should learn to stand still until asked to move off. She was much more confident in herself and we walked around the round pen a few times in each direction. Perhaps I should say wandered around the round pen. I only steer occasionally, mostly I let her walk on her own. We practiced stopping and then walking off.
We did some turns, but mostly I just want her to get comfortable with the whole thing, and become confident in her balance. Zola has yet to wear a bit. She is wearing a bridle with just a jumping hackamore. I just don’t have the heart to make her wear a bit yet. As you can see in the photo, it’s just a stiff, padded leather noseband. The reins attach to the big rings on the side, and the headstall attaches to the smaller rings at the top. I use it on my Paint mare Lucy, who will never be ridden with a bit.
Rode Chance – out in the big pasture. I could tell at the walk that his foot is still bugging him, but it doesn’t affect his urge to go! We walked around our “track”, then we trotted around. I decided to make a couple changes to the layout before we do more than walk or trot. Two of the turns are on downhill slants. It’s always made it slightly scary, as I don’t want to go into them fast. Now that Chance is feeling so good, I’m not sure I’ll have fine speed control. Also, he is still unhappy with the bit. I think I’m going to order the Pee Wee bit and try that. Meanwhile I want to keep him going.
Rode Zola. She’s improving at the walk. Walking more confidently and striding out more. I’ve been tapping her with the crop to get her used to it. She definitely has a mind of her own and though she is the sweetest horse she doesn’t like to be told what to do at times. On the lunge she will occasionally pin her ears and kick (not at me) if pressured when she doesn’t particularly want to be.
I adjusted the turns on the track and feel it will ride much better now. I was going to ride Chance when I was finished, but the whole herd got in an uproar and galloped off. Chance was wild! He bucked, farted, pranced, snorted, and galloped. Decided I would pass on the riding! He got more exercise than I would have given him anyway.
Rode Zola. Nothing much different. We’re just working on consistency and I’m doing a little more steering.
Rode Chance around the new track configuration. It definitely will be better. Chance’s foot appears fine. He walked over the rocky part without the slightest ouchiness. We went around the track twice, once at the walk and once at the trot, but he was really unhappy with the bit. I decided that tomorrow I will ride him with the LG Bridle. Another type of noseband, invented by a woman in Germany, Monika Lehmenkuehler. I’ve attached a photo to the right (not one of my horses). I am using the “shanks” that come with it (see photo below), as Chance has already shown himself hard to steer and slow down in the cross-under bitless bridle. Depending on where you attach either the reins (on the wheel) or the shanks, leverage is applied when you use rein pressure.
When I use this on Huey (paint gelding) I put the reins on the wheel above the curb strap. That way there is virtually no leverage, it’s just like a sidepull. If Chance goes well in it, I may use this on Zola for a while.
For more info on the LG Bridle click here.