Colic

In my last post about Ruby's injury I mentioned the vet had given me a couple of brochures on different illnesses and cares. I decided to write about one of them. The first one I picked was Colic.

Colic is a pain a horse has in his/her abdomen (belly). Colic is the number one killer of horses, although most cases are mild and can be treated medically simple. 

I was most interested in recognizing when a horse has Colic. There's a long list of different behaviors but I'll just write a few instead of all of them. 

  • Pawing
  • Kicking or biting at the belly
  • Turning towards the flank
  • Leaving food or being completely disinterested in food
  • Repeatedly rolling with grunting sounds
  • Rapid breathing and/or flared nostrils

These are just a few from the list, there are actually a lot of behaviors a horse can go though to show his/her discomfort. 

There are a few easy ways to check on the horse as well. In my last post about Ruby, I talked about checking the gum in the horse's mouth. By pressing a finger down on the gum (releasing) and then seeing how long until it turns back to it's normal color again (normal: 1-2 seconds). Another thing to check is if the gum is moist, tacky, or dry. And just checking the color of the gum (white, pale pink, dark pink, red, or bluish-purple).

Check the respiratory rate (breaths per minute), measured by watching the rise and fall of the flank with each breath. Checking the pulse and heart rate (beats per minute), measured over the heart (just behind or above the left elbow) or over an artery (at the sides of the fetlock or on the underside of the lower jaw). 




Ruby's Injury

Yesterday Sugar and Ruby had a disagreement and it ended up with Ruby seeing the vet. Since Mrs. Davis couldn't make it to the paddock to meet the vet, I went down. 

Here's how the fight started: Sugar was in the little shelter where both horses were eating from. Ruby was half in just eating along with Sugar until Sugar wanted to get out. Ruby was blocking her so she tried getting Ruby to move out of her way. Ruby didn't want to move because she still wanted to eat so she stayed. Sugar then took it a step further and got upset, felt trapped and started kicking. She smashed holes in the wall, turned and kicked Ruby several times around her left abdomen and flank. 

Ruby didn't have a lot of open wounds but she was a bit sore and she limped too. The vet showed me one way to tell how bad Ruby's injury was is by walking her around and then trotting her. If she didn't limp and show sign of soreness when she walked it wasn't too bad of an injury. They had her trot and I could see she was sore and uncomfortable. She didn't show much soreness walking as she did when trotting. If it was really bad when she walked, then it would be much worse than if she trotted. 

He also checked her teeth as well. He pressed down on her gum with his finger, turning it white, and then he let go and counted in seconds until it turned pink again (blood flow). I think it was about two seconds until it turned it's normal pink color again. If Ruby had lost a lot of blood or hadn't had water then it would take longer until it turned pink again.

He looked for sore spots by pressing down at different parts of her body to see how she reacted. Then he checked her heart beat. He shaved away hair around two spots where she had open wounds and cleaned them. Then he put some creamy stuff which I don't remember the name of. He injected in two places (don't remember the name of the stuff sadly), one in a vein on her neck and another in a muscle on the rump. He showed me the first shot he did on her neck. He showed me the blood that he sucked a bit of in the tube to make sure he got the vein. The second shot he wanted to make sure he didn't get any blood because he wanted to get in the muscle and not a vein. He showed me that he was standing on one side of Ruby and injected the needle on the other side so if Ruby kicked out she would kick out at the needle on that side and not hit him. She was calm and good and didn't move when he did it. Some horses would though it it was better to be on the safe side (literally). 

After that he showed me some medication to leave for Mrs. Davis to give Ruby. He also gave me brochures of different anatomy, medical and care of horses so I have that to read now! 

Took this picture of Ruby a day before:

Unusual Sugar

This evening I went down to clean up the horses' paddock. After I finished, I decided to work with Sugar on C pattern back and forth along the fence. I noticed a few things that seemed unusual for her. First when I went out to catch her she ran away. Ruby is the one who runs away and it's rare for Sugar to even care when I walk up to her. I even went up to Ruby who did her usual start to run away but changes her mind and stands still to let me put her halter on. I didn't put the halter on but just wanted to know if she would change things up. She seemed normal to me but Sugar started acting up. When I walked to her she ran off and started bucking. I ended up standing still next to her hay and after awhile she walked to me. I reached out my hand to pat her and she was a little unsure at first. She did let me rub her all over which I did for a few minutes while she ate. She calmed down and seemed to be back to normal. When I put the halter on she started out with her usual ignore but at least she didn't argue. She really only ignores me if she's eating but only for a second or as long as she can sneak in before I make her listen. That's her lazy side. 

I only had a short while before the sun went down and I had to walk home so I led her to the fence to do a short session of the sending lesson (C pattern). She did alright as leading goes but heard her breathing was a little husky and her nose a little runny. I thought she was starting with little cold. She does the exercise much better than Ruby does (surprisingly) and did it fine until she tripped her hind legs a little while turning to yield her hind quarters. Usually something little like this doesn't bother her very much and we get back on track in a second. This time she overreacted and reared up. I had to calm her down again and could hear her breathing in a husky tone but louder. I only sent her about 5 times back and forth. 

I sent her again and this time she started taking over my personal space so I had to correct her and after 3 times we got going fine. I didn't want to worry her so I ended the lesson soon after. I didn't work with her on anything else or Ruby for that matter. Ruby was acting wonderfully and let me come up to her even when I had a halter in my hand. I was planning on jumping on her bareback for fun and to desensitize her but the sun was going down so I spent a little longer with both of the horses just on loving all over them. 

Follow The Fence

In my last post I mentioned I did a exercise called 'Follow the Fence'. I'm teaching the horse to literally follow along the fence in a straight line at any gait. The first time I really experienced this was when I was getting riding lessons years ago on a horse named Trigger, a palomino who used to be a cattle horse. That was to help me ride more than it helped the horse. Trigger did it fine enough, it was me who was practicing riding the horse at a walk and trot. My teacher was getting me used to going from a walk to trot and back down again. I was learning how to post. 

I had tried following the fence with Raleigh and he did okay. He was an older horse and a bossy boy but not enough to get wild and actually hurt me. He was more on the lazy side so everything was more slow with him unless it involved standing around or eating.

Last Saturday I did Follow the Fence for the first time with Ruby. 

In the DVD, Clinton was showing how to teach the horse to stay along the fence line and not sway off. It was my first time teaching it to Ruby and at the end of the lesson (which wasn't very long) she did so well! I didn't do it at a walk but trotted her around the arena along the fence. She of course started turning her own way away from the fence. 

Clinton said to imagine or even draw a line in the sand about 15 feet away from the fence for starters. Than start at a trot (It could be done at a walk but it's not really necessary) and trot along the fence. Every time the horse starts to go away from the fence let him until he crosses the line of 15 feet. As soon as he does steer him right back to the fence and don't let go until he's along the fence again. The more this is practiced you can make the line closer and closer to the fence. Start farther away at the beginning, like 15 feet, 10 feet, 5 feet until you don't have to anymore because the horse no longer strays off. 

Here is something I drew to show you:

I did this with Ruby and at first she did stray a lot and wanted to follow Sugar as well. But soon I got her to stay along the fence and rarely did she want to go off again. This doesn't have to be done at a trot, it could be done at any other gait as well. Trotting is the best for me since walking is too slow and cantering I'm still getting used to, but I bet the next time I ride I can do cantering as well. Sadly it started raining again and there goes the problem of only outdoor arenas. 


What Happens in the Arena

Last Saturday I rode with Ruby and Sugar's owner, Mrs. Davis. I rode Ruby and she rode Sugar. We first groomed them in the paddock, I braided Ruby's tail, then we walked them to the big arena. They both have sticky feet when we walk them alone to the arenas but since she walked both of them at the same time they didn't stop once. 

Surprisingly, Sugar was the more energetic one but then, I've been working with Ruby much more. Before saddling up we let them run around in the arena first while we got the tack out. They ran pretty well and were starting to sweat. They rolled in the sand, but Sugar chose a spot to roll right next to the fence. When she rolled over toward the fence her leg got caught between the rails. It wasn't really caught badly at all but every time she tried rolling the way she would put her legs out between the fence so she couldn't roll over. She only tried once or twice and than laid there and didn't move. Mrs. Davis and I waited to see if she could figure out how to get out herself but she's didn't budge. In fact she looked so relaxed she looked like she was going to sleep. We waited a little while longer and then Mrs. Davis went around the outside to her to encourage her to get up. Ruby didn't help very much by galloping around but it didn't get Sugar excited at all, nor did she seem to notice. So since nothing happened I walked to her from the inside. She moved her head a little to see me approaching toward her head. Mrs. Davis couldn't reach Sugar very well to do much but we moved her legs out and I was able to push her over onto her other side. After that she got up fine and started racing Ruby around again, so she wasn't hurt. Mrs. Davis was very worried about her but was relieved to see Sugar was fine. 

I've had the same problem with Ruby in the round pen. The first time it happened I was alone so I was worried. It was actually easier to get her to roll over the right way but I felt like panicking especially since she wasn't my horse and  I started thinking of everything bad that could be happening. What was amazing about it was they just lay very calmly (too calmly) and waited for someone to help them instead of panicking and kicking which would have ended up in a disaster! 

Sugar looked completely fine so we saddled both of them and got on. We thought about doing some ground work first but we did a little in the paddock before bringing them up and since I usually work so much on the ground work before riding, we thought it was better just to get on straight away. We did do some desensitizing and I trotted Ruby around before mounting. When we were both on, we worked on flexing and a bunch of other exercises we've been learning from the Clinton Anderson Method. For the first part we walked them around  and practiced flexing, stopping and backing up. We did a little cruising and they wanted to follow each other. We worked together on the different exercises, one of us would do a lesson while the other would correct them if they saw anything out of place. Then we kind of did our own thing and I noticed Ruby and Sugar weren't so crazy about being together anymore. 

I worked on what's called 'Follow the Fence'. I've been watching the DVDs on that and this was my first time working Ruby on it. I did this after I did cruising with Ruby at a trot. Follow the fence is where I was teaching Ruby to go at a walk, trot or canter along the fence to keep a straight line unless we were turning in the corners. At first she kept going off the fence but soon I got her to stay along the fence very fast. We were doing it at a trot and once in a while changing directions. That worked out SO well and Ruby understood very quickly. 

I practiced my cantering as well since I had a fear of doing it with not so good balance. My fear was that I wouldn't have any control over her. So I started overcoming my fear by cantering her in a circle so I could stop her with a one rein stop. Another problem was she also needed to get better with her cantering. When riding, she always goes at a fast canter which gets me a little scared. I had to practice her cantering so she would conserve her energy and go at a nice canter. It was hard for me as a beginner with a horse that would go too fast when I wasn't very ready yet. When I had riding lesson years ago, I was only taught how to ride at a walk and a little bit at a trot. I learned posting which was really hard at first but now it's simple. I never got to ride cantering even though my teacher said I should practice it whenever I go riding for awhile. I did canter Raleigh but had no control at all since it was more of a run than a canter and I did it at one end of the arena and let me run to the other with always a little fear in me but it was so much fun for some reason so I did it more. I wasn't too scared since I knew Raleigh was going to the gate...every time. And he was an old boy so I didn't think he was ever going to buck me off. He seem to have joy in rubbing my leg against and a few other terrible tricks that I didn't know how to get rid of at the time. 

Anyway, by going in a circle, I was able to control Ruby better and it was helping with my balance the more I did it. She also didn't start out so fast as much. I got her to canter in a circle and then I would stop her and let her rest before trying it again. I worked her a lot, more than I thought because Mrs. Davis could see how drenched in sweat she was so we stopped and went to unsaddle them. I wasn't paying too much attention to what Sugar and Mrs. Davis were doing when I was cantering Ruby but she didn't looked as worked out as Ruby did. We took both of the horses to graze for awhile and then back to the paddock for the night. I helped put the tack back and fed a couple of other horses I was caring for at the moment. 

Dad's Birthday!

As a gift for my dad I drew him this picture:

I got it printed and framed for him:

Here is the photo my dad took awhile back of our house across a hill. The little girl is my little sister:

Learning Mistakes

Yesterday I watched more of the Fundamental DVDs on ground work. I needed to watch the one of the C pattern because I have had trouble with Ruby on that. The problem was, she kept trying to walk into me instead of what I wanted her to do, which is walk or trot in front of me to one side and yield her hindquarters. 

I watched the videos and found where one of my problems was answered. I'm supposed to tap her shoulder and keep added pressure until she does what I want her to do. I did do that only I quit way too soon. Every time she walk towards me I would quit the tapping and try to lead her back to where she was supposed to be. That was not at all what I was supposed to do! This time when she came to me I added the pressure to whacking and that made her move away from me. She started backing up and I remembered in the DVD Clinton said to follow when the horse does this and not take the pressure away until she goes forward. I only had to follow her a little way and kept my hand up to ask her and my stick whacking her until she went forward and dropped my pressure. Then I yield her hind quarters and asked her to go again. I'm still very clumsy with the stick and rope but I'm getting used to it. 

Today I did the same exercise with about the same results but maybe a little better but for one thing: she wasn't yielding her hind quarters well enough. So I'll go back and watch the DVD again. 

Yesterday and today I did the same exercise work. I started with desensitizing and that was very short because we had no problem there, she almost fell asleep. I then worked with some neck flexing which also gave me no issues. I did backing up, that she always does too slowly. She really doesn't like backing up but I still make her do it and will hurry her if she starts stopping. Then I worked with the C pattern and after that I did yielding the hind quarters. Something else I did was trying to get on her back bareback. Since she's so tall I use a mounting block or anything else to get on her. Of course with the saddle on it's very easy for me to use the stirrups and swing on but bareback is a different matter. I don't like using mounting blocks because I feel so little doing it even though people older than me always do. I practiced jumping on her and I'm able to get on her now. I might miss the first jump or two but I'm able to at least. I loved how she just stood there and dozed while I looked like a idiot trying to get on her back. 

At the end before mucking the paddock I took her out and let her graze. Then I put her back, mucked the paddock and jumped on her again without the halter or any tack. I just sat on her back while she grazed and walked around. 

I took this picture while I sat on her back:

Halter Means Work

Yesterday I went down to see Ruby and Sugar. It was mostly to catch up on cleaning, but also to work a little with Ruby as well. The cleaning was a lot but I got that all over with and then I got the halter out. I've noticed something that I never really thought of even though I've been told it. Some horses, Ruby especially, will run away from you when you have the halter out because they know what that means. I learned from Clinton that I need to change it up all the time so they don't think it's work for them as soon as they see the halter. Also another thing In learned is that I want the horse to wish he was with me instead of not with me. What I mean by that is I made it uncomfortable for Ruby to be away from me and made it relaxing to be with me. 

I had the handy stick (stick and string/whip) with me and as soon as Ruby saw me with the halter she started turning away. She does this all the time but recently I found a solution! Before I tell you what answer is I'll tell you what I've tried coming up with previously. 

A few times in the past, I used a treat to make her follow me to the halter so I could put it on. That, I can see now, was a very stupid idea but very common. This doesn't work as I found out very quickly. For one it takes forever to get her to follow me like that. It's nothing like getting a dog following you, they'll do it ten times faster and they don't seem to mind getting caught very much in the end. Ruby takes her time and sometimes doesn't follow me at all. Or I'll give her a treat and she'll just eat it and decide she might follow me for a few steps for another one. Anyway, some horses might follow all the way and others like Ruby won't bother, but they always end up knowing exactly what they're getting into and will outsmart us. 

The first time it might work, the second and third might too but it doesn't take long before they get that we're tricking them. And of course I've read from one of Clinton's magazine and videos saying that horses quickly recognize our habit. This is another reason I didn't work Ruby this time. I'm learning that I have to keep changing it up so the horse doesn't know what we're going to be doing when I take the halter out. And another thing is that it's not good to keep doing the same exact lesson over and over again. If they've already learned it, you don't need to keep doing it over and over every day because they'll get bored of it and might start fighting back. It's important to keep it up, but also start something new to learn as well.  Don't work so much on what they've already completed, or they're not going anywhere but backwards. It's important as well not to work them on too many different exercises at once; they will get confused and frustrated. 

Back to the dumb tricks I tried using with Ruby to let me put her halter on. The biggest problem I had was that I was basically begging her to let me put her halter on. A recent trick I did was that I used her fly mask and would put that on her and lead her to the halter. That worked better but that wasn't the answer to the problem. In the end she outsmarted me again. She would let me put the fly mask on thankfully, but she wouldn't literally budge after that.

The real answer was much better. I made it difficult for her when she chose not to come to me. When she came to me I released the pressure and rubbed her. I had the handy stick, halter and lunge line. When she saw me she started turning away. I didn't beg her to stay but told her "fine, if you want to run away from me then I'll help you with that". So I pointed in the hair as if I was going to lunge her and if she didn't move to a trot I whipped the ground with the handy stick. I have been doing this for awhile so now every time I come out it takes her less time to come to me. When I put pressure on her she starts off in the paddock and then finds she doesn't like working and turns and walks to me. Sometimes she turns and comes to me too fast, and a little threateningly, so I make her back up with increasing pressure and then drop it as soon as she obeys. I like it better when she walks with licking lips and head low to me. For the rest of the time I did desensitizing with the handy stick and lunge line, then we just both relaxed and I hugged/rubbed all over her. She was peaceful and dozing while I just loved on her. At the end I wanted her not to run off as soon as I took the halter off. I didn't think she would this time but I took the halter off and held her around her neck. Then I led her around the paddock for awhile, stood still and let her loose with Sugar. She did walk away but only for a few steps so it looks like she's improving. 

I lay down next to her and under her as well. This picture I took of her I went a little in front of her and lay partly down for the picture: