Tuesday, May 14, 2013

In Heat, Chiropractor and Borrowed Herd Order

Dawn's been in heat for the past two days - not just a regular heat but a full, raging, spring heat.  She used to be difficult to handle when in heat but since she's been on raspberry leaves (I use MareBerry and Mare Magic is another brand) she's been much better.  But the first real spring heat is a whopper.  I knew things weren't promising when she was peeing in the barn aisle when there wasn't even another horse around.  She's also particularly taken with the big gelding who's in a pen next to the mare's pasture, but he seems confused by the whole thing and doesn't seem to have a clue what she wants - I expect Red's reaction would be quite different.  Anyhow, I haven't been riding her - she can be very distractable and also very touchy when she's in heat like this, so discretion is the better part of valor, at least this time.  She's just been coming in at my usual early morning riding time for a nice grooming, then I turn her back out.

Pie had a visit from the vet/chiropractor yesterday.  I'd been noticing that his back seemed a bit tight when I was grooming - he wasn't ouchy and hasn't been doing anything noticeably different under saddle - in fact he's been moving exceptionally well.  I was concerned about saddle fit since he's grown so much and really has filled out and muscled up recently.  But fortunately for my pocketbook, when the chiropractor looked at it, my About the Horse saddle still fits him well - we did it both with and without the pad.  Since he'd had a little neurological flare up a while ago from his vaccination for eastern and western encephalitis plus tetanus, she did neuro tests on him and the right hind was just very slightly different.  We drew blood to recheck his EPM titers, and will also run a C reactive protein test.

When she did the chiro work, he told her that the inside of this right thigh was crampy - probably due to the earlier issue with the right hind - and that this had caused a corresponding tightness in his sacral area - this was the tightness I'd been feeling.  The way he "tells" her what needs most attention is by offering her those areas of his body to work on - he's got it figured out and knows she can help him out. His neck had a few crampy areas - this is pretty common for him. He also had very slight digital pulses in his front feet, although he's moving well on hard surfaces and even the rocky parking lot. The only time he's had any foot issues was two years ago when we think he had active Lyme disease.  We can't test him yet for that, since he isn't yet 6 months out from completing his treatment for Lyme.  There are a lot of ticks around right now, although I haven't found one yet on my horses, so we will be rechecking everyone for Lyme in July when Pie is due to be checked.  The slight back tightness may also be due to the harder work he's been doing in canter lately and also the slight changes in my position I've made recently.  The gelding pasture does have some grass sprouting, but not a whole lot - the big pastures with more grass are still closed off.  I'll be slowly introducing Pie to some grazing and keeping a very close eye (and hand) on his feet.  We're also upping his chromium/magnesium/selenium/vitamin E supplement to see if that makes a difference.

Pie very much enjoyed his chiro - there were many yawns and much stretching and chewing - I was too busy to get any pictures.

As usual, when I went to get Pie out of the pasture for his appointment, Red came trotting and cantering along to catch up with us - he always comes in when I get Pie.  I left Red behind in the pasture, and there was a lot of calling and pawing on his part for a while.  Finally Red wandered back out to the pasture.  A little while later, I was out in front of the barn waiting for the chiropractor when I saw a red streak galloping up from the far back of the pasture, screaming at the top of his lungs - it was Red, apparently responding to a call from Pie, who was out of sight in his stall.  Red was clearly on a mission to save him.  During the whole chiropractic appointment - we were in the front parking lot in view of the geldings' pasture - Red either was at the gate or just a bit up the hill, keeping an eye on us and calling to Pie from time to time.

Today when I walked out to the pasture to greet the boys (and several other horses who insisted on greeting me), I got to observe some herd dynamics relating to Pie and Red.  Red is very high in the herd order - I don't know if he's the alpha, but he's very high-ranking, despite his relatively small size.  Pie is more mid-pack, but he sometimes gets to "borrow" Red's status.  Pie and Red were at the bale, and Red wandered off a ways to nibble some grass.  A feisty little gelding came up to the bale, pinned his ears at Pie and Pie moved around to the other side.  Red came over, herded the little gelding away, nipping him on the butt to keep him moving.  I've often seen Red do this - he will either herd other geldings away from Pie or interpose his body between the other horse and Pie - I've even seen Red squeeze himself right up between Pie and another horse.  Red's clearly protecting/guarding Pie, and Pie benefits from his "borrowed" status in terms of access to things like hay and water troughs.  I expect Pie appreciates having a loyal friend like Red!

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