Monday, August 6, 2012

Still Lame, and Mr. Red Tests the Boundaries

I lunged Red yesterday, briefly, and was disappointed to find that he was still lame at the trot - very little improvement in the past 10 days.  He's still walking sound, and there's no swelling anywhere.  It's been 6 weeks since his almost fall with me at the canter but managed to catch himself and was lame afterwards, and 5 1/2 weeks since his getting kicked in the same hock.  There's no swelling, or heat, or sensitivity to touch, he walks sound and looks good moving at trot and canter in the pasture - although he's not pushing hard with the left hind - and he uses both legs and rests them equally.  It's probably time to take him to a vet clinic and have him carefully evaluated - with nerve blocks to isolate the problem area, and then x-rays or ultrasounds to identify the problem.  It may be that he has a soft tissue injury - ligament or tendon - but the lack of swelling makes me think that that's not it.  Could be a slowly healing muscle pull, could be hock arthritis in the lower hock joints, could even be something like a bone chip (but he doesn't seem lame enough for that).  It would be good to know what we're actually dealing with.  There were hints before that this leg had its issues - the vet check over a year ago noticed that he tended to place the left hind to the center more than the right hind, and occasionally over the past 6 months when I was riding or working on the lunge he would short stride for a few minutes on the left hind and then work right out of it and be completely sound.

Red's depo provera shot is clearly wearing off.  He's more interested in mares than he was, and he also calls more for Pie when Pie is out of sight.  Some horses, you teach them a certain thing or where a certain boundary is, and that's it, forever. Red is a horse who will always, forever, be testing the limits - he's very, very smart and also has a dominant personality.  I've been picking up some boundary testing lately - a nudge with the nose, a nip at the lead rope, a tendency to want to anticipate and move ahead.  Today we had a very good groundwork session - only working on leading, as lungeing without being able to trot and canter is less useful.  We worked on him maintaining a proper distance, not only when leading straight ahead, but also when turning - this is one reason I lead my horses with an arm's length behind me - I wanted him to wait for my ask on the turn and then follow me.  Turns to the left were easier for him than turns to the right - he was more likely to start to turn into my space to the right.  And we worked on backing out of my space off of my body language.  And then we did some backing in hand - he's never been a big fan of this - the closer you get to him when you're working, the more stressful it is for him.  When I'm standing to his left, backing in hand isn't too hard.  But, interestingly enough, if I'm standing to his right and then ask him to back in hand, sometimes he braces, sometimes he wiggles his body, and sometimes he even protests - today I got one half-hearted strike with a front leg to which I immediately responded in no uncertain terms that that was never, ever OK.  We ended up with some pretty nice backing as well as some very good leading work with no anticipation.  But with Red, I have to always be on my toes and keep an eye on where he might be testing boundaries so I'm never inconsistent with what I require of him - inconsistency makes him nervous and worried, which leads to other not so good things.  Consistency for him is security.  Not an easy horse, but a very good Red horse if properly handled.

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