Monday, 31 October 2011

Plodding along

Smack in the middle of the 504kg band when I weighed him this evening, so the weight has restabilised.

Ross Barker ( came out to have a look at his feet on Sunday morning.  His verdict was that Merlin is about 75% of the way to having perfect barefoot hooves - his soles are thick, his hoof wall is thick and there are no rings in his feet, indicating his digestive system is pretty good as well.  What we need to work on are his frogs and his digital cushions and that will come with regular work on harder surfaces, though in an older horse like Merlin the digital cushion can be very slow to build up.  Ross also suggested getting some hibiscrub to disinfect the central sulcus every week or so because they can be prone to infection in the wetter half of the year. 

The weather stymied us for getting out for our plods last week and next week we may get the snowstorm currently bothering north America, so I'd better get him out and about a bit this week if I can.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

New diet

I've decided to try taking sugar and cereals out of his diet, since the skin lumps came back and he got very grouchy immediately after being fed (or possibly skin sensitive - didn't like being touched after he'd eaten, fine the rest of the time).  So with some help from the barefoot community, the Feet First book and the very helpful advisors at Simple System, we've moved over to a non-molassed beet (currently Speedibeet, though I'll be trying to get Purabeet when I can, it's cheaper), Greengold (a non-molassed lucerne) and a supplement called Total Eclipse (linseed, magnesium oxide, brewers' yeast and seaweed). 

We're still in the process of switching, he has a trickle of Leisure Mix still which is being reduced daily and he'll be off it completely by about Wednesday.  A bit too early to report on results, but he does seem less grumpy and he's licking his skip clean every meal which is a relief - a lot of horses refuse to touch non-sugared stuff if they've been used to the sweetness.  I think once the TE has run out I'll buy the ingredients and mix my own - I suspect that with being coastal the iodine content of the grazing will be pretty high and I shouldn't need to supplement seaweed.  Going to get a forage analysis done in the spring.

His weight touched the 510kg band 10 days ago, but he was back in the 504kg band this morning.  With the way the weather's going I suspect he'll start to lose it again now, if it gets too quick then I'll up the quantities of beet and lucerne and possibly add in something like Blue Bag grass nuts, though he's always got hay available.

As far as the exercise plan goes we did really well the first week, but this week has been horrible weather-wise - lots of rain and some strong winds and there's just no point in trying to walk him in hand in that, he spins round to turn his bum to the weather and refuses to move.  I was going to take him out this afternoon, but fell asleep on the sofa - I seem to be constantly knackered at the moment :o( 

There's a  UKNHCP-qualified trimmer coming next Sunday to do his feet instead of the normal farrier.  It'll be interesting to hear what he has to say.  I suspect it'll be toes too long and heels slightly under-run and more roadwork required. 

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Scan day

I played it safe this morning and shut Merlin in his stable while he was eating breakfast.  Not because I thought I wouldn't catch him, but because it was very showery and I didn't want to present the vets with a wet horse that was 90% mud and sheep shit. So despite fresh shavings and a big haynet, he wasn't in the best of moods when I went down to fetch him.

He took one look at the trailer and decided that he didn't want anything to do with it, thank you very much.  He wasn't scared, he didn't back off or seem nervous of it, he just stood on the drive and told us if we thought he was stepping forwards we had another think coming.  Carrots didn't change his mind, Leisure Mix didn't change his mind, but the moment I picked up a lunge whip and pointed it at his hindquarters he was straight up the ramp and in.

He'd sweated up by the time we got into Thurso.  I walked him around the car park to cool him down while the vets set the scanner up and he disrupted a small animal consultation by pulling faces through the window and tried to eat their sycamore tree.  He was very look-y, which was only to be expected - the car park is next to a builders' merchant and the station, so there's quite a lot of noise and bustle - but when the big corrugated iron doors to the large animal treatment area clanged back, he walked inside very calmly.

A friend had told me that her horses were fine with cordless clippers but not with mains powered ones.  This time Hamish had brought cordless ones and was able to do most of the back of his right leg from the knee downwards with no need of sedation, though there was a little bit of tap dancing when he felt the blades.  Bridget twitched him to sedate him and it worked like a dream, he stood like an absolute rock as the needle went in and then snoozed off with his head in my arms while they finished shaving his leg and put the gel on.

After 10 minutes of running the scanner up and down the area in question, all three vets agreed that there was nothing wrong with his tendons, not even any sign of old damage, and said there was no point in scanning the other one for comparison or doing the x-rays since he was sound and charging about his field quite happily.  They've said he can start light work - only walk, only straight lines and only firm surfaces, ideally tarmac, so my walking plan will be absolutely perfect. 

Bridget woke him up by pulling a section of his mane for me and flicking his nose while Mick backed the trailer up and put the ramp down.  Apparently it's the first time they've ever seen a horse brace himself against the doorway trying to stay AT the vet!  But with five of us he was in pretty quickly and he travelled much, much better on the way home, no sweat at all. 

So all's well that ends well and now I have to figure out how to teach him to hack out alone.  Time to find someone to teach me how to long-rein I think...

Saturday, 8 October 2011

I've got a theory...

Anyone else now singing 'that it's a demon, a dancing demon - no, something isn't right there' gets bonus points :o)

It's vet day on Tuesday, which I'm getting increasingly apprehensive about, so I've been reading, reading and reading some more and have come up with the following hypothesis:

- as the ground started to dry up and he moved into the top fields (away from the rocky track down to the bottom field and the gravel around the field shelter) his frogs started to contract.  They are slightly but noticeably narrower than they were in March.  This made it less comfortable for him to walk on them and he started to land more toe-first.  Landing toe first puts more stress on the ligaments and this was exacerbated by starting to bring him back into work.  Voila, one lame horse.

If it was a really serious tendon issue, I don't think he would have come sound from hopping lame in 3 days.  Currently his right fore is very, very slightly swollen at the fetlock, but you have to really look hard to see the difference - it's maybe 3 or 4mm. 

Anyway, if I'm right, and the scans and x-rays show nothing major, then I'm going to start walking him out in hand on the road on a schedule something like this (5 days out of 7 each week):
Week 1 - to the road fork and back (0.25 miles)
Week 2 - to the Pouloriscaig track and back (0.45 miles)
Week 3 - to the salmon station and back (0.7 miles)
Week 4 - to the medical centre and back (1 mile)
Week 5 - down to the medical centre, back past the house to the road fork and home (1.25 miles)
Week 6 - down to the medical centre, back past the house to the Pouloriscaig track, up to the gate (on stony track rather than tarmac) and home (1.5 miles)
Week 7 - as week 6, but extended to the salmon station (1.75 miles)
Week 8 - as week 7, but add in the loop down past John Angy's house (2 miles)
Week 9 - tack up, walk week 8 backwards, get on at medical centre and ride half mile home.  Increase over the week to riding the whole route.  If that goes OK (previous attempts at hacking have not been spectacularly successful...) then work out some hacking routes which go over lots of different surfaces (the farm tracks and route up to Pouloriscaig spring to mind, as does the beach).

Of course, I've picked possibly the worst time of year to start this - we're losing 5 minutes of daylight every day and retail is about to hit silly season, but if I can get the work in at this time of year then it'll be a doddle to do in the lighter half :o)

No breakfast-induced bouncing this morning, so I hope his system has adjusted, but I probably need to look at the amount of sugar in his diet.  Going to try double-rinsing his beet to get as much of the molasses out as possible.

Friday, 7 October 2011


He's been gradually weaned back on to two meals a day since Monday - I had about 2 scoops of Leisure Mix left in the bin, so it got trickled on in slightly larger amounts each day and he's now on half a scoop morning and night, together with two handfuls of soaked beet pellets.

It's like feeding a 3-y-o on blue Smarties.  About 10 minutes after he's eaten he takes off around the field in a total IT'S GOOD TO BE ALIVE!!!!! trot-canter-buck-gallop circuit before snorting his way back over to me to see if I've magically refilled his feed skip.  No swelling on the dodgy leg as a result.

He should settle down in another week, he did something similar when he re-started on feed last year, but if he doesn't I'm going to email D&H and ask if they've changed the mix!

Still unrugged - going to start keeping a record of this as well.  He's using his shelter at night and going through about a third of a haynet while he's in, but he's warm at the base of his ears and between his front legs every morning and evening and his skin is much, much better this year through his coat change.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Winter feeding

The weight tape this morning was just touching the top of the 498kg band, so it's time to start feeding him again as he drops weight extremely rapidly once it gets cold and I don't want to be back where we were last year when he got very skinny in January.  So although his perfect weight is about 480kg I'm going to start him on 2 handfuls of sugar beet pellets, soaked, morning and night from tomorrow and I'll pick up some D&H Leisure Mix when I'm in town on Thursday, he can have half a scoop of that on top.

I took him out of the top field this morning because the wind picked up overnight and we're due some rain as well, so he's back in the bottom two where he can use the field shelter if he wants.  I tied him up, groomed him and picked his feet out before I let him go - FIVE minutes later I hear hoof beats and there's a very muddy horse standing behind me, beaming from ear to ear, going 'Look what I did!!!'  He then did his best Tigger impression all over the bottom fields (about 2 acres), cantering up from the bottom one and showing off with his lovely floating trot while I watched through my fingers, dreading seeing him pull up lame.  But he was completely sound and when I checked him again half an hour later his fetlock looked completely normal.  Promising :o)