"And, when you want something, the entire Universe conspires in helping you to achieve it." -The Alchemist, by Paulo Coehlo



Thursday, February 7, 2013

Lame

On Wednesday, I decided to take Lily out on the trails again. Why again? Because she had just been out the day before with Houdan, and I figured she would associate the solo outing with the positive experience from the day before. Plus, I do get bored with arena work even if she doesn't. I wanted to do a shorter loop of the same trail from the day before-maybe just go up to the "track" portion, then turn around and come back. Nothing strenuous. This trail has some inclines, but not what I would consider hills, and the footing had been decent all the way through. A little bit squishy in some parts, but the horses had no problems with slipping.

When I went to get Lily in the field, all of the horses came tearing down through the chute from the upper field at a mad gallop. I don't know how they run like that through that awful footing. It's funny because this is what they do when someone wants to drink water-they stampede to the water trough in the bottom field.


Lily flew by in her now-muddy sheet, part of the middle group of horses. She came to a stop with the group that veered towards the gate, while a smaller group of horses trotted off towards the trough. I saw Lily move around in the herd, trying to find a spot with the other mid-level horses-she trotted through the crowd, and I thought I saw a slight head bob. BQ was on the other side of the fence, and had also been watching Lily, but she didn't mention anything about the slight head bob (this is the kind of thing she'd notice and point out for sure), and I thought maybe I'd imagined it. It's totally possible she was a little ouchy in that area, as it has been getting muddier with each passing day as the snow and ice have melted, and there is gravel by the gate. Lily came to me, and I took her into the barn. She walked fine behind me.

I tacked her up, noticing that she was extra-extra quiet in the cross ties, and I thought this was the ideal mindset to attempt a solo trail ride.

We headed out, and Lily automatically veered to the right at the fork in the trail (yay! She likes this trail!) and she crossed the road all by herself, too. Once we were past the brush, however, she became very, very insecure. The little bit of frost that had been on the trail the day before had melted, so the path was slimy. Lily would literally take 3 steps forward, then a hoof would slide. Nothing bad, but I could feel her frustration. She tried to turn around several times, but I brought her back to face forward. I allowed her to stand, stroking her neck and talking to her, but the only direction she was allowed to go was forward. After about 5 minutes, we surpassed this episode, and we continued on. The footing was much better once we were among the trees.

Like the day before, I got off to lead her over the rail-less crooked bridge, then got back on on the other side. Lily offered a trot here, and I let her. She felt sound. We trotted through the woods, following the path as it brought us right next to Rock Creek (again she gave it the one-ear-one-eye look), and there was some hesitation as we arrived at a spot where there were a bunch of fallen trees that had been cut to allow passage. We walked through this area, then we arrived at the first creek crossing.

This was a 15 minute ordeal as I slowly worked our way closer and closer to the water. Lily kept trying to turn around, but I kept bringing her back to face the creek. It was a little muddier than the day before, but not slick, and the mud was not deep at all. I felt confident in our ability to cross it without me having to get off, and knew Lily was just being stubborn. She would stop and stare at the water, then try to turn a couple of times, then she would walk forward, stop, and try to turn again. She wasn't freaking out, and she wasn't trembling. Every time she walked in the direction of the water, I gave her slack in the reins and tons of praise. Eventually, she did it-she crossed the creek all by herself without me having to get off to lead her.

We made our way to the track. There is a bridge by the beginning of the track that has been closed off with orange safety fencing. Tina had mentioned that that fencing had been there for a long time, but the bridge had been passable. Normally, this is where you would loop back to return in the direction of the barn. I studied it as we walked past it, as I thought I saw some gaps in the fencing through which we might be able to get through. Lily offered to trot once were on the track, so I let her.

As we came onto the part of the track that goes past a bunch of houses, Lily started to get more and more tense. She gave a HUGE startle at a deer that took off through the brush to our left-my heart was in my throat with that one. There was some whirring machinery in one of the houses over on the other side, and we heard some animal scream a couple of times-it sounded like a horse, maybe a flirting mare in heat, or a very high-pitched "I'm hungry" whinny...It didn't help that the wind had picked up and was blowing in our faces in this open area, so sounds were altered. I'm sure all of this contributed to Lily's nerves. I thought it interesting, however, that she obviously feels safer in the woods than out in the open.

It was a mission getting through here, however: 3 steps forward, spin, stop. 2 steps forward, spin, stop. She was getting more and more worked up, so my goal became to take 5 steps forward, and I would ask her to turn towards home. It seemed like the minute I mentally phrased this thought, she heard, because she allowed me to do exactly that, without attempting to turn around. She wanted to trot back once we were facing home (I could feel her relief!), but I made her walk.

As we arrived at the tree line, I looked over at the bridge with the safety fencing, and saw that there were, indeed, 2 gaps in the fence where we could cut through. I had Lily turn around (this did not make her happy), had her walk 3 steps, then dismounted and led her over to the first gap. I could see that others had taken this route before us, so I led Lily through, then I walked ahead over the bridge, stomping my feet-it was solid, and Lily followed without hesitation. We survived the bridge (it was only a foot above the creek), making it safely to the other side. So why was there safety fencing on this bridge? I have a feeling the banks had been partially eroded with the flooding from the rains-there was tons of fresh gravel piled up around each bank, edging the ends of the bridge. It looked like the graveling job had not been finished. The bridge itself looked much more solid than the first one at the beginning of the trail, otherwise I would've never taken this risk. Once on the other side, I mounted up, and we followed the path along the meadow and into the woods.

She offered to trot most of the way through here, and I let her. We eventually came up to the second creek crossing. Lily made a little bit of a fuss here, but she was much, much better than at the first crossing-it only took about 5 minutes to convince her to go across. More trotting, and soon we were back at the road, crossing the big bridge (all by herself! What a good girl!) Lily wanted to trot going up the slope, and I let her, but as we were coming even with the entrance to the trail, I felt her head-bobbing. Uh-oh. I brought her to a walk, and we made our way back to the barn. She was sound at the walk.

Back at the barn, I trotted her a bit in the arena. Sound in both directons. Cantered to the left. Sound. Cantered to the right. Major head bob. I got off, took her into the barn, untacked her, threw her cooler on. I  picked up each leg, cleaned out her feet looking for any rock or splinter stuck anywhere in her feet, or any holes or bruising. Nothing. Palpated all of her tendons hard-nothing. I walked her on the pavement, made her do tight little circles pivoting on her hind legs. To the right she was fine, but to the left I could definitely see some major ouchiness in...either one or both hind legs and/or one front leg. I palpated her entire back and hind quarters, pressing hard. No flinching. I took her into the indoor with the lunge line. I had her walk in both directions. Fine. Trot to the left. Ever so slight head bob. Trot to the right. Major head bob. She was bobbing every time her left hind touched the ground...or every time her right front touched the ground? I thought it seemed to be her hind end, but for some reason looking at her, I felt like this might be more than one leg. In desperation, I took out the Simple Boots, put them on her front feet (she is newly barefoot, after all) and had her trot in both directions again. Nope, still lame.

I texted BQ-she had just left the barn, but she turned around to come look at Lily (again, what barn manager does this???) I had Lily go through the motions again. BQ admits that she has a hard time seeing hind limb lameness. She thought maybe the left front. Aarrrgh! Which leg??? BQ also palpated her back, but Lily still didn't react. I walked her outside on the pavement again, and this time she seemed slightly off at the walk too. When doing turns with her again, her right front seemed to be bothering her. Now that is the leg that slipped on the trail at the start of our ride. I palpated everything again, including shoulders and neck, and still nothing. I'm stumped. Whatever it is, it was getting worse, but I couldn't locate where exactly the pain was coming from.

We decided to put her on stall rest and give her bute twice daily for the next 3 days to see if she improves. The vet will be out Wednesday for another horse and we can have him squeeze her in if necessary. Hopefully she's better before then.

So how did she do this to herself? Everyone said Lily had been tearing around the muddy field like a mad woman the last couple of days, but especially the day before. She had been 100% fine on the trail ride with Tina the previous day. Or maybe it's still a result of her being newly barefoot in the front-maybe it's an abscess?

Please say a little prayer for her.

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