Monday, February 28, 2011

Day 51 Stronger

I love being at the barn alone.  And with alone, I mean without other humans :-)  Becky is off on a business trip and as much as I enjoy her company, there is just something special about hanging out with the horses by yourself.  It is a welcome change from all the commercial barns I have been at in the past six years where those moments were non-existent. Today I enjoyed every minute of my solitude and only wished the weather had been better and I could have just laid in the grass in the field and watched the horses graze.  Unfortnately we are having our share of sleet and rain and wind.  No hanging out in the muddy pasture for me - can't wait for spring and summer!

Little Love is in heat again, a sign that things are functioning and she is feeling better in her body.  She is allowing Col to lick her and groom her, something that has been completely off limits for the past four week.  When they came in today from the field, they both put their heads over the center divider between their stalls and just stood there leaning into each others necks and breathing each others scent.  Brought tears to my eyes.  They are truly a couple.

Little Love continues to get stronger.  Today was the third consecutive day that she was walking confidently in the arena with the boots and demonstrated a fairly sound walk even in the parking lot.  To celebrate this milestone, I took her out the gate and down the driveway.  Needless to say she was beyond excited (heck, I was excited!).  She was literally looking at every bird, every blade of grass like she hadn't seen it before.  It has been exactly a month since she has been off the property and you could tell.  We walked down the road (with no problem whatsoever, I think she was high on adrenaline) for about 7 minutes and then turned back and walked up again.  I didn't want to go for too long, in case walking on hard ground for such a "long" time would backfire on us by tomorrow.  We walked in the arena for another 15 minutes until Little Love was up to her eyeballs of walking in circles (she was pinning her ears back to tell me she was done). It will be interesting to see how sore she is tomorrow. 

I inspected her "skin condition" today and discovered that there are very very fine hairs growing back on her face where there is a bald spot.  Also, under her tail between her legs there seems to be a barely noticeable growth of hair.  Armpits are still bare, but seems like this might have been an episode of the patchy shedding.  Interestingly her remaining winter hair is sort of changing color from black to maroonish brown.  Strange.  In general Little Love does not look that great, on top of her wildly shedding odd colored hair she has dropped quite a bit of muscle and has a sort of angluar look instead of a round one.  It's hard for me to accept this as I remember what she looked like before.  My brain tells me it is totally normal, as she hasn't done much moving, but I can't help looking at her and worrying.  I know it's insane, because she'll get the muscle back once we get going again.  I guess my only excuse is that I'm only human and I want my black beauty back - now, rather than later. 

Ps. Becky bailed out of trying the bitless bridle the other day... but we'll get there at some point, I hope.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Day 49

I give up trying to figure out the logic of all this... yesterday Little Love was so sore and walking so slowly that she looked about 25 years old.  Then today she is completely sound and actually offering trot in the arena (I was walking, she was trotting next to me).  How can it be so different from one day to another?  Of course, she did have the boots on for the past 24 hours, but still...  I guess it's sort of like any kind of heeling; you have good days and bad days; it's just amazing how big the difference can be between the two. 
It was amazing to see her so alive today; after walking for 20 minutes, I let her loose in the arena.  When she heard Col coming back up the drive, she whinnied and tossed her head and trotted down the long side and I swear she looked almost sound. 

On a completely different note: I gave Becky a riding lesson today.  I don't teach a lot anymore (maybe because I don't ride much either?), but sometimes there are moments when it works out.  Becky isn't a very experienced rider and she hopes to learn how to jump, so doing some seat lessons with me seems like a good start.  She was very receptive to my style of teaching.  I talked a lot about learning theory and how it applies to training horses (negative reinforcement).  We also went through the basics of the biomechanics of the riders seat and how that would affect the horse (both in good and in bad).  It was a lot of information, so it will be interesting to see how it soaks in.  Col definitely was starting to show a whole different kind of shape.  Tomorrow, if the weather is alright, I'm going to try the bitless bridle on him.  Becky travels a lot and she's asked me to ride him sometimes when she's gone, but I don't feel comfortable riding with the bit so we have agreed to try the bitless.  I think Becky is fairly sceptical about it (i.e. she thinks I'm a bit nuts :-)  We'll see... 

Friday, February 25, 2011

Day 48

The hair problem I mentioned in my previous post is in a stage of stagnation, which I suppose is a good thing.  At least the bald spots on Little Love are not getting bigger nor are there any new ones.  I am hopeful this is just part of her body coping with the stress of the feet instead of some awful (semi-permanent) skin condition.   I did take precaution though and washed her again with the anti-fungal shampoo.

On the feet front things weren't looking too good this afternoon.  Becky had failed to put on Little Love's boots this morning due to the worry she had about the extremely muddy pasture; she was afraid the boots didn't have enough traction, which is perhaps a legitimate concern.  When she doesn't have the boots though, the mud packs to the bottom of Little Love's feet and she gets quite sore. I could immediately see that Lilo was fairly uncomfortable even just standing still.   When we asked the horses to come in, Little Love walked very, very slowly on the hard ground.  Without the boots she is quite crippled.

After soaking I put the boots on and there wasn't much improvement in her condition until we made our way slooooooowly to the indoor arena where the footing is soft.  Little Love had zero motivation to walk and I felt like a slave driver asking her to walk for almost a half an hour.  I tried to explain to her for the umpteenth time that walking really did make the feet better.  And it was true.  After walking even for just five minutes, she wasn't half as "crippled" as she was in the beginning.  I also think she is so bored just walking around and around in the small arena, I certainly am.  It didn't help that Becky and Col took off for a trail ride while we were at this arduous task of spinning in the arena.  I don't know which one of us wanted to join them on the ride more, Little Love or me.  She kept calling after him long after he was gone.  Can't wait for her feet to feel strong enough for us to venture back to the outside (and unfortunately hard concrete) world. 

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Day 46 If it's not one thing...

... it's another.  So, remember how I was talking about the excessive shedding Little Love was doing?  Turns out it is starting to be a bit TOO excessive.  Yesterday I discovered that she seems to have lost hair in small little patches on her back, sort of like she was having a case of rain rot (or ring worm?).  I washed her with an anti-fungal shampoo that I happened to have from last spring, when she started loosing her tail and mane hair, out of the blue (it worked then).  I decided to blanket her for the day, because it seemed like the hair loss problem was worse on the right side of the body, on which she rolls religiously every single day.  She literally grinds herself into the ground.  All the sand and dirt up her skin is not helping me keep an eye on this hair loss thing.  So sorry, Little Love, you have to endure the blanket until I get a hold of this thing!

When I got to the barn today, I decided to really inspect her all over in the sun, to grasp the enormity of the hair loss problem.  Turns out she has also lost ALL her hair in her armpits and in the crack between her back legs and some under the belly close to her teets.  Not good.  The skin is literally hairless, but very smooth, like a baby's bottom.  So there is no scabbing or leasons or even dandruff.  Strange.  I also noticed that she was sort of "patchy" on her face, if I really looked at her in a certain light, but I could sort of see some growth pushing in as well (or was that just wishful thinking?)  There is also a circle (an inch in diameter) on her bottom on the left side of her tail that has no hair.  Weird.

Now the question is:  is this some kind of a reaction to her immune system being sort of jeopardized during this hoof episode (and all her energy going into growing hooves instead of hair) or are we having a full blown fungal problem completely unrelated to the hooves.  Or both.  I'm definitely washing her again with the anti-fungal stuff on Friday (it's supposed to be done every three days).  I already soaked her brushes in bleach and washed her blanket and halter...  I also called the vet and left a message, sort of wanted to talk to her and pick her brain.  Perhaps she has a theory on what is going on.  And if Little Love loses any more hair, the vet surely needs to come and check her out.  I really don't want my horse to go completely hairless.  Yikes! 

In terms of her feet, I decided to take the boots off for the night yesterday, because all the moisture getting trapped in there seemed to irritate her at the hairline in the back (it was raw).  Becky was kind enough to put them back on this morning.  Little Love did well overnight without them apparently and she seemed to actually walk better today when I got there in the afternoon.  We walked for 25 minutes and she was moving relatively normally, apart from the fact that she seemed really tired.  But is that because of the hooves or because of the hairloss?  Wish I knew.  I think I need to spend some quality time on the internet researching skin conditions in horses...

PS. The scary thing is that apparently several years ago Little Love had an episode of hairloss where she lost hair in small (very, very small) little circles on top of her back.  It never grew back.  You can't see it with the winter coat and even in the summer it's only obvious when you sit on top of her and look back.  I don't exactly know what it was.  Her old owner talked about some bacterial thing?  Ring worm? But I thought hair grew back after ringworm... We had a language barrier there, since English is not her native tongue and my French is limited.  Anyways, that's why I'm keen to talk to the vet.  Hairloss is another thing, but when the hair doesn't grow back... well, that's a whole other ball game as you can imagine... don't even want to think what that would be like.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Day 44 Crumbling sole

Today, when I took Little Love's boots off, I noticed that the sole of her front feet is crumbling off at the tip of her hoof (in front of the frog).  I scratched it with the hoof pick and it literally just came off in flakes. I suppose this is old and dead sole that is exfoliating and I shouldn't be worried.  I'm wondering if the boots are sort of aiding this process, as the feet "brew" in the boots now that the ground is soggy.  The smell was definitely interesting, my dog loved it...  which says a lot.  Yuk.  Maybe I should give Little Love a "night off" from the boots to let her hooves dry.  Or should I? She is definitely more comfortable with the boots on.  and isn't moisture good?  Can there be too much moisture? I still soaked the 20 minutes today, regardless.

Little Love was again a bit slower this afternoon, perhaps because of the short canter she did yesterday in the pasture.  She has been quite energetic in the past few days, but I'm starting to get used to the "down" days that follow the "up" ones.  Today was definitely one of those days and we ended up not walking for very long at all.  I have also noticed she hasn't laid down for a few nights now.  Another sign that all is not well, I suppose. 

She is certainly spending a lot of time on the ground rolling when she is outside; she was so caked in mud today that I couldn't get all of it off, no matter how hard I worked.  Little Love actually let me scrub fairly hard, something she usually doesn't enjoy, but now that her hair is coming off she seems to welcome some brushing.  She even let me do it while she was standing in the buckets!  I don't know why she dislikes brushing so much, perhaps it is too evasive to her sensitive nature, so I do it as little as possible.  But on days like today when she feels comfortable with it, I try to take advantage :-)

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Day 43

This morning, when it was pouring rain, I went for a run with my dogs and we passed Little Love's old barn.  Because of the weather, all the horses were inside in their stalls, just like she was less than two months ago.  I felt for the horses inside the barn, but at the same time could not stop thinking about Little Love who I knew was outside with Col at that very moment, in the rain.  Many things have changed in the life of my sweet black mare, but this opportunity to be outside - rain or shine - is a profound change with longlasting effects.  Each horse handles a stall bound life differerently, but Little Love didn't handle it at all after the third day; she always had cabin fever like you hadn't seen it before.  After about a week it was so bad that going on a trail ride was nearly impossible, as her senses were so flooded that she would break into a sweat just from the sight of a bird flying by and a dog running down the field a hundred yards away would make her rear, bolt and run back home towing her rider with her.  And riding in the arena was not much better, her ex-owner would resort to longing her for days, deeming her unsafe to ride - a fairly accurate evaluation of the situation.

How different life is now, when she can be outside every day!  Becky has a family of four visiting from England and the family's teenage girl is very much into horses.  Today, while we were soaking the hooves, she kept me company, telling me about the pony she was leasing and asking me all sorts of questions about the hooves.  At one point she just looked at Little Love and said:

"She is such a calm horse."  I almost laughed out loud.  I don't think anybody has ever called Little Love calm.  Crazy, hyper, uncontrollable, tense, nervous and fearful yes, but calm - never.  I looked at my horse standing loose with her feet in two buckets eating hay and I thought: yep, she is calm.      

Little Love's walking continues to be better and Becky reported seeing her CANTERING in the pasture with Col.  Wow.  She hasn't cantered for weeks, that must have felt good.  The boots are definitely staying on until further notice.  They look absolutely awful because of the mud and rain, but what the heck: they are helping her move.  The worst part is still the hard ground where she takes careful and slow steps, but that is to be expected. 

She is also shedding her winter coat like you wouldn't believe it and seems to be quite itchy.  The whole time I was walking her, she attempted to go down for a roll, so after about ten minutes I just took the halter off and let her go at it; she rolled four times, twice on both sides.  Then she walked a bit more on her own, sniffing the ground and listening to the neighbor's parrots shreeking in the distance and not spooking at my dog who kept jumping out of the bushes every time she turned around.  My calm horse.   :-)

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Day 42 Progress!

Little Love wore the boots and the wraps through the night and in the morning Becky reported via text message that she left them on for pasture as well, since Little Love was walking much better with the boots on even in the pasture.  By the time I got there, she had had them on for about 22 hours straight and was going strong.  I was happy to see that the pastern wraps had done their job and a) the boots were still on the way they were supposed to be on and b) no rubbing. 

After soaking (which also went much better than yesterday, Little Love didn't move at all and she was loose, so she can always choose to leave) we walked to the arena and continued walking for over twenty minutes.  What yesterday had been slow and painful seemed to be a breeze today, no problem.  Instead of dragging her feet and slowly crawling around the arena, Little Love was her alert and (almost) energetic self.  She also stopped only three times to ask if we were done yet!  Oh how good it felt to have her back again, looking at every bird that flew by, listening to the sounds coming from behind the bushes, even spooking at a car that drove by pulling an empty trailer that rattled as it hit the potholes in the road.  Yes, this is the horse I know! 

When she walked next to me, she kept touching my arm with her nose every so often, like she used to do before she was mine and we would walk on the trails.  She has such a gentle way of being with people, if you give her the space she needs.  This touch in particular is an interesting gesture.  It is almost as if she is checking that I am still there, with her. 

Yes Little Love, I'm still here and I wouldn't dream of going anywhere without you. 

Friday, February 18, 2011

Day 41

The pastern guards arrived today in the mail!  They are Boa brand and have a funny little hoof shaped "lip" that goes under the hoof when the horse wears them.  This helps them stay in place so much better than the flimsy Cavallo wraps that came with the boots.  Of course, those were about three sizes too small anyways, Little Love has pretty thick bones (the Boa wraps are size XL :-)  Thank you Kristiina in Finland!

It was bit tricky to get the boots on and keep the pastern wraps straight, but I figured it out.  The wraps definitely helped the left boot sit on the foot better, it's a much snugger fit now.  After soaking for exactly 17 minutes (after which Little Love was DONE) we put the boots (and wraps) on and went into the arena for a 20 minute walk.  Little Love was not highly motivated, but I kept persisting, nevertheless.  She needs to move.  To make her point clear, she stopped every single time we passed the entrance to the arena.  I'm not kidding.  Every time - without fail.  And each time she had this look on her face that said: "Are we done yet?"  Reminded me of my son on our car trip across Europe last summer asking the million dollar question about 50 times: "Are we there yet?" 

Luckily Little Love would continue moving without me even putting any pressure on the line, I just had to ask politely.  She knows why we are doing this and is trying.  So we walked slowly, but we walked.  I think we are both dreaming about going for a walk on the trails, but I'm hesitant to even try since it would involve walking down the long, cement driveway that has a fairly steep downhill slope.  Not the ideal place to go with a horse with sore feet, even if she has boots...  But we'll get there, some day. 

I decided to leave the boots on for now, since it looks like with the wraps they won't rub or spin on her feet.  Becky said she would check tomorrow morning to see if they were intact.  She will also see how Little Love is walking in the pasture with boots and make the decision to either leave them on or take them off.  It could be that she doesn't really need them in the pasture, although the ground sort of dried up again and is fairly hard in places.  It's supposed to pour on Sunday, which will solve that problem.  I'll be up there tomorrow afternoon again to check on the situation and soak and walk. 

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Day 40 It's a rollercoaster ride

It seems like this process of heeling Little Love's feet has it's ups and downs.  One day I look at her and can't believe how much progress she has made in terms of being able to move more and then the next day it looks like she has taken at least three steps back.  This process is definitely not for the impatient. 

Tuesday we had rain, which made the pasture much more bearable for Little Love's feet.  I went to the barn in the morning (usually I go in the afternoon/evening) and perhaps that is what made the difference, but she walked with me in the arena with a lot of energy.  Little Love was actually so animated that I naturally felt hopeful, making plans of progressively increasing the hand walking time each day.  Or not.  Wednesday, after being in the pasture for six hours, she was tired and sore.   Walking was a struggle even with the boots on.  Her front legs had also swelled up again on the inside, especially the left, which now seems to be obviously caused by the bad alignment of her hooves and joints.  She had this same alignment when she had shoes, but taking the shoes off seems to have made the strain even greater.  Unfortunately I'll have to wait until she grows back some hoof before these angles can be even remotely fixed (which will take time).  I'm learning patience, slowly. 

Today Little Love was really tired and really sore (but swelling on legs was gone, hhmmm), so I decided to skip the walking altogether and instead focus on soaking her feet (which I do every day before I walk).  She didn't want to stay in the buckets, so it was a bit of struggle, but we managed to do a little over 20 minutes with the fronts.  I felt pretty disheartened by her state, it almost seems like we are back to the pain she was in last week.  What the heck?  I'm hoping to get those pastern guards in the mail tomorrow so I can keep the boots on her 24/7.  Even if I don't get the wraps, I might just leave the boots on and see what happens.  Becky is coming back from her trip tonight, which will help as she can keep an eye any sores Little Love is developing and pull the boots off when needed, if I'm not there.   When she's gone her non-horse-savvy husband does the evening chores, and asking him to deal with hoof boots might a bit too much, I think he has enough to do with changing Col's blankets LOL.

I'm hoping we have just hit the downward slope on this rollercoaster ride called "going barefoot".  Maybe it will be all uphill from here?  Trying to stay positive and hopeful. 

Monday, February 14, 2011

Day 37

Yesterday and today, with the help of the carpets, I was able to walk Little Love out to the front of the barn to soak her hooves.  Getting her to step out of her stall still takes some work, but she definitely is working on coming out in a different manner than before.  She WANTS to come out, but she just needs some time to think and to maneuver her feet around. 

A month ago I could never ever have imagined putting Little Love's foot in a bucket and expected her to stand there for several minutes and now she can do that with both her fronts at the same time - no problem.  She stands like a statue for exactly 20 minutes, after which she is done (seriously, you would think she is the one with the watch!).  She seems to know that soaking is good for her and welcomes it as part of her daily routine now.  I sit next to her on the ground and keep her company, while she eats hay.  Periodically she will lift her head and breathe into my hair or face.  Those moments I have a strong sense that she understands I'm trying to help her.  
I would like to soak the back feet as well, but they are still a bit of an issue.  I had a go at soaking one of the back hooves yesterday.  Little Love expressed her opinion about that pretty clearly and managed to crack the bottom off the little silver tub within 30 seconds.  I tried a bigger bucket a few days ago, but she sent that flying in her stall.  Maybe we'll just wait for the rains to make the pasture wet...

Here's a picture of her feet in the little tubs.

Hand walking Little Love in the arena yesterday was a tad challenging because Becky had washed Col and was walking him back and forth in the parking lot in the sun.  As long as he was out of sight, Little Love managed to focus on the walking, but as soon as Col showed up from behind the corner, she became stressed out and started calling out to him (he, on the other hand, couldn't have cared less, which made Little Love more frantic).  She also seemed to forget that she had sore feet and jogged next to me a few times.  We only walked 15 minutes, but she actually broke into a bit of a sweat; more from stress than the work - no doubt.

All this excitement had backfired on her by today, she was quite slow coming in from the pasture.  I soaked her hooves and handwalked her, nevertheless, but she was definitely feeling her feet more than before, even in the boots.  After ten minutes of walking I let her loose in the arena so she could roll and decide for herself how much she wanted to move.  My husband John (who has been quite understanding of my need to own a certain black horse and spend lots of my free time with the said horse) came out to the barn yesterday to rig up some posts and a makeshift fence that I can set up when I want to spend time with Little Love in the arena in "liberty".  The arena doesn't have a fence around it, but conventiently is surrounded by a dense bush on three sides leaving only the one short side open (with a low "dressage fence").  Becky doesn't want anything permanent there, but we agreed on two posts on the corners.  I have a good 20 yards/meters of white tape (used for electric fencing) that I roll out and attach to the said posts, creating a temporary enclosure.  This works great (thank you John :-)! 

Letting Lilo loose in the arena made me think of the "old times" when we spent hours in the indoor arena just hanging out and getting to know each other.  Those times were not so long ago, but they seem to have taken place in another lifetime.  I think Little Love thought of that, too, as she got really excited when I took her halter off like she used to do before.  She sort of leapt into the air and as she was performing something that was meant to be a buck, she remembered her feet and landed back on the ground with this look on her face that said: "Ouch, that hurt".  Poor girl, she really wanted to kick those heels up, but just could not.  But, hopefully soon she will be able to do that again! 

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Day 35

All I can say is thank goodness for the boots!  It is still so painful for Little Love to walk on hard ground that it took me ten minutes to get her out of her stall today despite the mats I had laid on the floor.  She just did not want to come out.  I think I need to figure out a way to put the boots on in the stall without getting tons of shavings in there as well.  Because once she has the boots on she is like a different horse.  Today I barely got the second one strapped on when she was already moving.  She seems so motivated to walk, I'm thinking she has really missed being out and about. 

I walked with her in the arena for about ten minutes.  She was really energetic and alert at first, but soon became visibly tired.  I really think this whole ordeal has taken lots of her energy and she will take some time to recover, not only physically but mentally as well.  After ten minutes I could also tell that she was starting to feel her feet.  So we walked another two minutes and then headed back to the barn.  I'm afraid the boots could start rubbing her around the pastern (I could already see where...) if I had them on for a long time, so we definitely need those pastern wraps asap.  It would be great if she could wear the boots for extended periods of time in the pasture, too, since it's so dry now that the ground is fairly hard.  The forecast, however, is promising some rain/sleet/snow for next week so that will change everything again.

Here's a pic of Little Love and Col out in the sun yesterday afternoon.  It was exceptionally warm and Col got to be without his blanket for a few hours! 

Friday, February 11, 2011

Day 34 From worse to better :-)

Winston Churchill said "If you are going through hell... keep going."  Great advice, as you don't want to stop in the middle of hell.  So move we have, slowly.  And now finally hope is restored.  There is light at the end of the tunnel and this time it is possibly not a train coming at me (and Little Love) .

The boots with gel pads arrived with Becky this afternoon from England (after a bit of drama; she called me last night telling me the mail didn't bring them, but eventually they were found at the doorman's residence - the address was partly wrong, how they found their way to the right place is still a mystery - or a miracle).  I can't tell you how hopeful I felt when I looked at them.  Would this work?

Getting Little Love to come out of her stall to the concrete was slow, but the banana worked again.  Once she was on flat and solid ground, it was easier to fit the boots on. The right one fits perfectly.  The left foot has really been giving her grief and is sort of an odd shape, so I wasn't surprised to see that the boot sat on it a bit crooked.  It also seems like the boot is a bit big for her on that foot. But, luckily I was able to secure it, nevertheless. Tomorrow we'll work on fitting it better.
Little Love sniffed the boots thoroughly when I was adjusting them to her feet.  I told her the boots were a little strange, but that they would help her.  Once she had them on, she stood still like a statue, afraid to even blink.  I had the halter on her and tried to coax her to move, but she had literally grown roots.  She gave me this look that seemed to say "you seriously think I can walk with these things on?"  I ran to get a second banana :-)

The first step was very short and very tentative.  The second one was hesitant, but by the third one, Little Love became more confident.  And low and behold, after about five steps, she was actually walking.  She was WALKING!!  Not hobbling or gimping or falling over, but walking.  I opened the gate towards the parking lot and she needed no more encouragement; she marched towards the arena and away from the barn like she had been waiting to do that for the past two week.

"Oh my god Becky, you have to see this!"  I hollered at Becky who was inside the barn.  She came running out to see me laughing and crying as my horse walked WALKED WALKED around the cement parking lot.  Little Love started neighing and whinnying, she was so loud, it was like she was singing her joy out to Col who responded from the barn.  We made a few laps around the parking lot and down to the arena, and it was literally like a switch inside Little Love had gone off; she was her alert and hyper self!  Wish I had the whole ordeal on video, it was amazing.  I could not stop smiling, this was like Christmas ten times over, just to see her so ALIVE.  Wow.  I have my horse back.

So yes, the boots work.  Unfortunately the neoprene guards that came with them are way too small, but I talked to my friend Kristiina in Finland and she has an extra pair that fits her horse (who also has thick bones like Little Love); she is sending them over first thing on Monday.  Until then we'll just have to make do without and hope the boots don't rub too bad.  I plan to start handwalking tomorrow, but with short walks so Lilo doesn't get rubs from the boots.  Also, knowing what she has gone through, I don't want to rock the very, very sensitive hoof balance/pain management scenario any more than I have to. 

Here is a picture of us in the parking lot, I think we both look positively relieved.  Little Love couldn't stop looking at the horizon, as if she was just dreaming about going out for walks over the fields and forests.  No kidding.  It was starting to get a little old hanging out in the pasture and in the barn! 
Ps. Also the swelling on her left front had gone down last night, so another piece of good news!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Day 33 From better to worse

Two steps forward, one step back... Little Love seemed to be worse again yesterday and today.  I still had her on a low level of pain med at night until Tuesday, but then stopped giving the meds to her, just to see what the situation was.  I was quite hopeful, as I felt there had been a lot of improvement in her feet and how she walked on the soft ground. 

The next morning she didn't want to come out of her stall and once she did, it was slow and painful.  Especially on the hard ground she would sort of stretch herself out really far on her fronts, before moving her back feet.  Something she didn't do before.  I didn't really know what to think about that.  Also, the left front that was swollen over a week ago, flared up again.  It's not as big as it was the first time, just a bit thick under the fetlock join on the inside, but, it's obviously sore, as she doesn't want to put a lot of weight on the foot. It's of course hard to be sure the soreness is only because of the swollen leg, since her hooves are not exactly in pristine condition yet...  but I do suspect that it has a lot to do with it.  It is pretty obvious in the pasture, since that's where it's soft.  She is definitely lame on the left front.  In any case, there isn't much I can do for that leg at the moment, except apply some cold water, rub it with arnica and/or clay and wrap it up.  Sigh.  At least she is eating and drinking, but she did seem really, really tired today. 

Becky is coming back tomorrow and hopefully she has Little Love's new boots.  I can't wait! If all goes well with the boots (and it better, I need to have something positive happen for a change), we could walk to the arena and back.  Maybe with the boots her feet won't hurt so much and I can also see how big of a problem the swollen left front really is. 

The good news is that the weather continues to be absolutely fantastic.  So, at least the ground is nowhere near to being frozen, although at some point it would be nice to get some rain, it's getting pretty dry out there (and then I wouldn't have to soak...).  But hey, won't complain about the sunshine!  

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Day 31

Little Love has lost weight.  I guess this is no surprise, knowing what she has gone through in the past week.  It's not only bodyfat that has had to go, she has also visibly lost muscle mass.  Not a great development, but sort of expected.  There is nothing I can do about that fact, as at the moment she only moves as much as she wants to move.  I am so hoping the boots will make a difference and we'll be able to walk more, I can't wait to get them!  Of course, there are still some hurdles to cross before we will actually be walking around, mainly a) will the boots fit  b) will they help.  But, I'm hopeful.

Today when Becky and Col were off on a trail ride, I soaked Little Love's feet and mucked the stall (simultanously, we are getting good at this soaking thing!).  Afterwards I set up the rugs in the aisle, to give her the option of going outside.  At first she didn't want to move, but I motivated the first couple of steps with a banana.  Once she was on the carpet, her curiousity got the best of her (she heard me getting more shavings from the garage and had to come and check that out).  After a few minutes she was outside on the concrete.  She crept around gingerly, but didn't enter the pasture where it would have been softer.  I let her make the call today, I know I've been quite the slave driver lately, trying to get her to walk as much as possible. 

After a five minute outing, she crept (I can't call it walking, it's more like creeping) back to her stall.  I left the door open and the rope undone, in case she wanted to come out again.  While I was prepping the evening feed and doing other chores, Little Love explored the concept of an open stall door by stepping onto the rug with her front feet and then backing up into the stall to think about this unexpected freedom.  She had an interesting look on her face when she did this, as if she wasn't quite sure what to think about the choice presented to her in the form of an open door. In the past, when I left her stall door open (at the other barn), she would NEVER have even thought of walking out on her own, she always stayed in her stall like a good horse citizen.  I'm looking forward to watching her explore the "open stall door" concept further, once her feet feel better!  

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Day 29

When Becky went for a trail ride this afternoon/evening, I made an attempt to hand walk Little Love for the first time after her feet were trimmed a week ago.  She was definitely a little more sore today, not being on the pain meds anymore, but nothing like she was in the beginning of the week.  With the help of a banana (her favorite treat) she came out of the stall onto the carpets (this is the first time she came out without Col's "help").  Once she was at the door, she had to think for a very long time if it was worth making the short treck to the pasture.  This is the hard concrete bit, but not only that, it's slightly downhill which I think is the worst part.  I told her it was very important to get some movement, so she put in a massive effort and after about 10 minutes, we were in the pasture.

She was sort of freaked out about being there without Col, but she followed me around anyways (but highly alert at times).  I wanted to take her around the corner, where the ground is flater, but she didn't want to hear any of that.  After some negotiations, she eventually followed me down there (this took lots of thinking and listening to see if Col was back). 

I don't put physical pressure on her when I ask, as this just results in her getting really defensive.  And in general, I don't believe in using pressure and am trying to learn how to not use any (I am a work in progress...).  So sometimes things take a long time.  I used to think I was a very impatient person, but Little Love has showed me (in the course of the past four to five years) that I was wrong about that particular attribute. 

After sort of walking around for 15 minutes, I decided to give up trying to get her to move more and took her halter off.  Which I obviously should have done in the first place because once the halter was off, Little Love followed me around much better.  Go figure.  I guess that was another lesson I had to learn - yet again.  She must think I'm a little dense ("that Katariina is an ok owner, but it really takes her forever to get some things...")  Duh!  So, we walked for another while after I had the brain to take off the damn halter. 

When we went back to the barn, she walked over the concrete much better as it is uphill.  I'm hoping the boots will help with the concrete parts, then we could also try to walk to the arena (lots of concrete on the way, but flat).  Tomorrow when the barn worker is there to help, we can try to move the carpets to the concrete as Little Love walks over them, maybe that will help a little bit. 

I soaked her left front for 20 minutes in her stall, she did so well with that again.  I keep telling her it's important we do it and she seems to understand this.  I sat in the shavings next to her leg and just like yesterday when she wanted me to move the bucket, she would wait for me to grab it, before she lifted her leg.

And then, to some other news... remember how I told you the barn was heated and that Col had a thick blanket on despite it being warmer in the barn at night that in my own bedroom? Well, luck has it that Becky and her husband ran out of the heating oil last night and low and behold, none of the heaters work in the barn (or in their house!) at the moment.  Isn't it funny how things work out sometimes? LOL. So, I guess we are having some lower temperatures in the barn tonight :-) Hopefully it works so well that we don't have to ever turn that heat back on!

Day 28 Misplacing my mistakes

One of my favorite singers, Will Young, sings

And some days you just have
To misplace all your mistakes
Somewhere that you won’t miss them

So that is exactly what I'm trying to do, not to think how we got into this mess and focus on how to get out of it.  I know that soaking Little Love's feet is important and I have rigged up something where I could soak both her fronts at the same time, but it would involve her standing on hard ground while we do it.  So, for the moment I soak one foot at a time in her stall.  She is extremely patient about it, something I didn't expect her to be, as she dislikes water.  But she seems to welcome the soaking bucket.  This morning she stood with her right foot in it while I was mucking the stall, and would signal to me when she had to adjust her position (and I had to adjust the bucket).  With this seamless team work we managed to soak the foot for 20 minutes.
After the right foot I moved to the left one, but at the point Little Love had just about had it with standing with one foot in a bucket, so we stopped after 5 minutes.  Tomorrow is a new day and we'll soak again.

Despite still being on the pain meds, Lilo came out of the stall pretty gimpy, but she did come out again eventually.  The weather is absolutely brilliant, so the ground is no longer hard in the pasture.  Little Love can walk visibly better once she gets on the soft ground; she even took a few (hesitant) running steps to keep up with Col.  She is also starting to boss him around, which means she is slowly recovering back to her old self.  I'm planning to stop her pain meds after today, so I guess tomorrow will reveal the reality of her heeling. 

After I finished with the barn chores, I took my little "artists stool" and my sketch pad and sat in the pasture with Lilo and Col for 30 minutes.  Sitting in the sun and observing the horses while attempting a few clumsy sketches felt good, it left me grounded and more at peace.  At one point Little Love walked (yes, she is moving on her own!) over to me and touched my sketch pad with her nose, then turned slowly and walked off to follow Col down the hill.  It reminded me of the several times I used to hang out in her pasture at the old barn, where she had no horse friends to talk about.  She definitely gave me more attention then than she does now.  But when I see her and Col nuzzling for blades of grass side by side and then every now and then lifting their heads to touch noses, I am filled with such strong certainty that this is how it is supposed to be; she needs to be with her kind.

When I came back to check on her in the evening, Little Love was caked in mud on both sides.  Becky said that when she had gone into the pasture the get them in, the horses had come up to the barn ahead of her.  By the time she made it back to the barn they were both in Little Love's stall - together.  That is a pretty tight fit.  I think they are trying to tell us they would really like to live together permanently, 24/7.  I have nothing against the idea, as I would love for them to be able to come back and forth freely between the barn and the pasture.  I'll have to keep working on Becky, to get her on board with that idea. 

Tomorrow we'll see how Little Love is doing without the pain meds.  I hope all this movement has made a difference.  I know the right front is still very, very sore, there is no miracle to help that foot heal in a few days, but I do hope there is an overall improvement in her condition so that she could continue healing without the meds. 

I don’t believe that it’s a failure
I don’t believe that it’s a fault
Cause if everything were plain sailing
Oh tell me – what would there be left to exalt

(Will Young: All Time Love)

Friday, February 4, 2011

Day 27

I believe I made the right choice by giving Little Love pain medication yesterday.  When I saw her in the morning, I could tell right away that the night had not been as bad as the previous nights.  She had been drinking lots of water, she had been eating and most of all, she had been moving in her stall instead of standing in one spot.

I was able to pick up her feet and look at them more closely, as now she was capable of standing on three feet without collapsing.  The worst one, in my opinion, is the right front, which is also looking a bit swollen up the leg.  I remember that on Monday, when I looked at her feet closely after the trimmer was gone, I saw small pearls of blood seeping through the bottom of the lateral side of her sole where the sole is contracted and sort of "bulding out".  This part is still very, very thin on that foot.  In fact, it is so thin and soft that it gives visibly if you push on it with your finger.  You can also see some bruising under the sole.  Not good.

Little Love was very motivated to go outside today, which is the other benefit of being on the meds, as I can see that movement helps her a lot.  She didn't, however, want to come out of her stall again at first, as she remembered how painful walking on that floor was.  But this time I had found some old rugs from our house and brought them with me to set on the floor of the barn.  Little Love and Col both snorted several times while I rolled out the two carpets.  Once Col was over the carpets and went out, Lilo became a little flustered and panicky.  She obviously wanted to go after him, but wasn't sure she wanted to walk out on a red carpet, no less.  I went in her stall and stepped out on the first rug, showing her it was alright.  She sighed and put her foot on it tentatively.  It must have felt a heck of a lot better than the barn floor, since she suddenly just walked out of her stall into the aisle.  She was really limping that right front.  Well, it wasn't like she was sound on any of her feet, but you know, the right front was the worst.

I talked with Becky again about letting the horses stay out for the night, but she was completely against it.  Unfortunately, I know that Little Love will not stay on her own without getting really stressed out.  We can't even keep the barn door open, as Becky wants Col "tucked in" for the night in his warm and cozy stall with his blanket on and the heat on high.  I know, she doesn't maybe quite understand that he is a horse (and needs the opposite), but since I am at her barn, she calls certain shots for now.  I'm still working on getting her to stop heating the already warm barn...

The good news is that the weather has changed and it was extremely warm today.  This also means that the ground started defrosting slowly, but surely.  Halleluyah.  I gave Lilo some more pain meds today and am planning to continue one more day.  Then, I will stop and see what happens.  I realize she will still be sore, but if the pain is manageable, I would like to stop the meds, as it's never good to give your horse that stuff.  But, it has gotten us through some rough spots.  Without the meds, she wouldn't moved at all and movement is so crucial for this healing process.  When I called Becky this afternoon, she said the horses had been going back and forth on the field, which is great news.  Little Love had also rolled in mud, another good sign!

Also, I got an email back from the place where I ordered the boots and they said TWO WEEKS before they had any in that size.  What??? I don't HAVE two weeks.  Luckily, and after spending some quality time on the internet, I found a company in England that sells those same ones and even would give me the gel pads to go with them for free.  But they only ship to the UK.  Luckily Becky is going to London (where she has an appartment) next week so I was able to get them shipped there.  BEcky will pick them up on Wednesday and bring them to me Thursday.  I can't wait for that to happen.  This is the fastest way I can get the boots as there is no tack shop in this area that sells them; they have to be ordered on the internet.

Phew.  I am exhausted and am hoping for a good sleep tonight.  I might have gotten some gray hairs over this ordeal (as has Little Love, too, no doubt) but we are slowly making it through to the next week.  I know we aren't out of the woods yet, but at least I can see some light shimmering through the trees. 

Thank you all for your support and a special thank you to Shelby in California for working her (distant) healing magic with Lilo, every little bit helps! 

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Day 26

This morning there were not many changes to the situation from yesterday, apart from the fact that Little Love is really showing the pain and fatigue in her face.  It's hard to explain, but she is sort of sneering at all times, but her eyes are hanging down, droopy. She also had not consumed much water or hay since the night before.  But maybe, with some stretch of imagination, she was also a little better (or it's me trying to be hopeful?).  This means she didn't almost fall over when she tried to move.  Yesterday morning at one point she went down to her knees and I thought she wasn't getting up anymore, but somehow she managed to heave herself back to standing.   This is something I hope I never have to witness again - ever.  Just about broke my heart (like all this other stuff already hadn't...)

Like I said earlier, I am not big on artificial pain killers, but everyone has their breaking point.  After trying to relieve Little Love's pain for three days with natural remedies (which didn't help, or perhaps they did and it would have been even worse without?  Is that even possible?) I got the vet out to give her a shot of the Swiss equivalent to bute.   Maybe it took the edge off, I don't know, but she did start eating her hay after a while.  She still didn't want to come out of that stall, however, even when Col went down the field out of site.  I walked out, too and it made her very worried.  She doesn't like to be left alone.  Finally, after thinking about it long and hard, she hovered out.  The weather is now colder, so the ground is completely frozen and rock hard.  Not exactly helpful.  But there was hope that the pain killers would help her enough that she would move more than she did yesterday as apparently she stood mostly still in the softest part of the field with Col hovering faithfylly by her side. 

The weather is supposed to get warmer for the weekend and temperatures will rise well above freezing.  This is brilliant, as the frozen ground is about the worst thing for Lilo's feet at the moment.  The vet, of course, told me to leave her in the stall and I just nodded.  Keeping lame horses stall bound seems to be a universal thing for vets.  Anyways, didn't listen to that advice.  There was also some other stuff the vet said that pretty much went in one ear and out the other.  I like this woman though, she is the only vet in this area with half a brain.  She is also the only woman vet within hundreds and hundreds of miles.  This is macho vet country... 

I'm hoping for the boots to show up soon and actually fit her.  Her foot is so small now though, that I think I will have to get a new pair once she grows back to her normal size.  Although, the way she walks on rubber makes me think that the boots are not going to help a ton in the beginning, she is just too sore to walk on anything.  But perhaps by the time the boots get here, she will be able to walk?  I certainly have not been able to lead her anywhere, she will only move if she is self-motivated.  Putting a halter on her results in her almost falling over backwards, she panics completely from even the idea of being lead. So, we don't go there. 

She did hold her foot up today long enough for me to put it in a bucket and I was able to soak both her fronts for almost 10 minutes each.  It is still not enough, but a start.  She knows I am trying to help, as she would stand with her foot in the bucket, but then, when she had to shift her weight again, she would touch me with her nose (I was squating on the ground next to the bucket) to tell me to hold the bucket while she made "adjustments" to her leg position.  Only once did the water go flying around the stall, and that was my fault.  

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Day 25 Part 2

Little Love was better this evening.  She actually sort of walked up to the barn, instead of hobbling and stopping and swaying back and forth.  The movement definitely helps her and I wish I could keep her outside in the pasture all night, but unfortunately Becky is gone and I can't ask her if that would be alright with her.  I'm sort of thinking it might not be, as she seems to be very careful about how long Col stays outside in the first place (he has been outside TONS now that Lilo has painful feet...) 

Once Little Love got to the barn door, she hovered there for a good ten minutes while I did some feeding etc.  She really doesn't like to walk on the barn floor, but she was motivated to get into her stall, as the shavings are soft.  Col was very supportive, going over to her and giving her licks and breathing over her face, but then backing up as if to say: "Come on, you can do it."  Here is a picture I took with my phone of the two of them. 

Once she got into her stall, Little Love started eating hay immediately.  A good sign, as last night she didn't exactly go at her food very eagerly.  All in all, I think she was better than last night or maybe I'm just hoping, the difference is not significant in any case.  Time just seems to be creeping forward as I know time will heel all this.  Yesterday was about a century long and today wasn't much shorter.  I'm sure Little Love feels the same.  But I just have to believe that this will end soon enough and she will be back to walking normally, without pain. 

I can't even imagine what this process would have been like, had I been at my old barn.  I would have had people yelling at me and accusing me of animal abuse and what not.  Luckily, even though there have been lots of questions by Becky's husband and the barn worker, neither one of them has told me that I'm insane and should not own any animals.  Which is helpful, as I already feel like shit on my own :-)  So, that's the bright side of things. 
Tomorrow is another new day.

Day 25 Hell

Winston Churchill once said that "If you're going through hell, keep going".  I'm trying to keep that in mind and I wish I could somehow share that knowledge with Little Love.  Not that it would help her in her current hell.  She is beyond sore.  I don't have words to describe this, as I have never seen anything like it in my life.  I took pictures of her trimmed hooves, or what's left of them and sent them to my friend and specialist Claudia Garner in South Carolina.  Claudia studied with Strasser ten years ago, but has since expanded her knowledge.  She continues to educate herself as she runs a hoof school and educates others.  When she saw the pictures she said "OH MY GOD!!!! No wonder the poor thing is sore. What an absolutely disgusting trim. Do not let this guy touch this horse again."  

Yes, it is a Strasser trim, but not exactly the "field trim" voiceofthehorses mentioned ealier... according to Claudia this is the clinic one, but... we aren't at a clinic.  It will take about 4 weeks for her to grow back to anything that can be considered "normal".

Anyways.  Little Love was really sore yesterday morning and we could barely get her to come out of her stall, but once Col went out, she followed slowly.  Luck has it, the ground was frozen, but when she got to the grass part, it got a little easier to move.  In the evening getting her in was hard, as she didn't want to walk on the cement, but after about 15 minutes of coaxing, she came in.  She was sore, but it was still within the realm of "normal" soreness after a trim. 

And I was hoping yesterday was the worst of it.  But no.  This morning I went to the barn and Little Love was hurting, swaying back and forth on her feet, trying to releave pressure. Her muscles all over her body were cramping from sheer fatigue and there were moments when it looked like she would actually fall over.  Trying to pick up her front feet was nearly impossible and she could only hold a foot up for a few seconds until her other front knee started buckling from underneath her. 

She didn't want to go into the field at all, but since I know movement will help her, we decided to do what we can to help her get there.  My husband and I took some squishy foam and taped it to her fronts with duct tape so she could walk on the cement without collapsing.  This worked and we managed to get her to the pasture.  It took her 20 minutes to walk the 40 feet it takes to get to the gate.  Of course, the beginning of the field was still frozen so getting to the grass part was agony, but she made it and it was a little better (although still extremely slow going) walking on the grass.  The sun is out now, so I hope it melts the hard ground a bit, and she will have some relief. 

I ended up calling the vet, as this is just not alright anymore.  I have seen sore horses after trims, but this is beyond sore.  She needs some kind of relief, as her muscles are starting to spasm from being so tense.  And this in itself will bring on another set of problems.  I'm not a big advocate of painkillers for horses, but at the moment I think we need to give her a few days of relief. 

And how am I doing in all this?  I am sick to my stomach and can't sleep knowing I caused this to my horse by making one of the worst decisions of my life by calling this trimmer.  Live and learn, but unfortunately it is Little Love who has to suffer the most for my mistake.  It will be hard to forgive myself for this one.