Thursday, May 29, 2008

Good horsey! Crushed toe! No hay!

A friend drove up today. I had invited her to meet and ride Lim. I've been down to her place a couple times to ride one of her horses, a spunky 30+ year old Arabian gelding. She had an off-track Thoroughbred at one time so I knew she could handle Limerick, just in case Lim decided to throw a surprise her way!

I would never just let anyone to get on my girl. Compared to her younger years, she is a mellow, pleasant ride these days in the arena. But she is still a Thoroughbred, and still Limerick.

There have been a couple occasions within the past few months where I had to decide that, for the day, Limerick was unsafe to ride. On those occasions, I dismount, take her saddle and bridle off, and turn her loose in the arena.

"Fly, you wild mare!"

And she'll dig into the arena floor and explode forward, sand, mane, and hooves flying.

She was a good girl today, though, as expected. I rode her first to assess her mood for the day--perfect. My friend got on next. I love watching people ride Limerick. Being on her day in and day out, it's nice to stand to the side and get another perspective of her movement.

She is such a cute horse to watch. The whites of her right eye are always visible (the left is a normal, solid brown), and that eye will look forward in concentration, sometimes jumping to objects of interest here and there. Her walk still looks amazing, and at the trot, she lifts her forelegs up and forward in a nice rhythm.

Afterwards, we hand-walked her on the trail. We took her saddle and bridle off and put her halter on. As we left the barn, I wondered if I should have put the stud chain over her nose. Turns out I did need it--but not for reasons I expected.

Apparently it is hard to talk and walk a horse that is adamant on grazing. As I chatted with my friend, I had to try to assess by feel what Limerick was doing. I kept my right elbow out just a tad so Lim wouldn't bump into me and smoosh my feet. Alas, it didn't always work.

I was (and well, still am) wearing Adidas sneakers. At one point, she stepped on the pinkie toe of my right foot. Instantly, I jerked it out from beneath her foot.

Don't do that.

I felt the ligaments of that little toe streeeeeetch and pop. The taste of metallic pain flooded my mouth.

"Ha ha, she stepped on my foot," I said, trying to stay upbeat. My knees grew weak with pain and endorphins. I tried walking. My toe's presence within my sneaker was like a miniature sun, a hot red spot on my anatomy that screamed PAIN HERE! I thought Limerick surely had broken it.

But a few moments later, the pain had died down to a dull, heavy throb so I figured it was just strained a little.

For the rest of the trail walk, however, Lim kept trying to drag me off the path so she could get a mouthful of grass. Every time she did this, my toe howled in pain and I found myself wishing for that stud chain. A stud chain wouldn't have let her drag me around like that!

I found out yesterday that the barn is out of hay. Apparently, the two truckloads of hay delivered a couple weeks ago were moldy. On one hand, I'm very glad the barn didn't try to feed the horses that hay. But on the other what? The next delivery can't be made for another 2-3 weeks because my barn owner's usual guy says he can't cut right now; the hay is too wet. That will just lead to more moldy hay.

In the meantime, the horses are getting hay cubes--little compressed squares of grass hay. As a substitution, it's okay, but the horses really should have something to forage on. Unfortunately, Limerick doesn't like the hay cubes very much.

When I arrived at the barn yesterday morning, I noticed she looked a little leaner. I checked her weight with my weight tape and sure enough, she was down 15-20lbs. That set alarm bells off in my head. Lim is a hard keeper and if she is lame, sore, or ill, she will drop weight in the blink of an eye. She will also drop weight if her feeding routine is disrupted but I had no reason to suspect that at the time. I ran my hands up and down her legs, felt every square inch of her feet, and checked the digital pulse on both front legs.

For the non-horsey folks--the digital pulse runs along the side of the horse's pastern (about 2.5" above the top of the hoof wall). It feels like a malleable pencil. Normally, you wouldn't be able to detect the pulse, or if you do, it will feel weak and slow. A hard, fast digital pulse, especially accompanied by a hot hoof, is a huge red flag for laminitis.


I looked over the rest of her body and paid close attention to her attitude while I did so. I checked the capillary refill time on her gums and pinched the skin on her shoulder to check for dehydration. She was just fine, 100% normal. Hmmm. I decided to ride her anyway and see how she went. Once again, just fine. She even whinnied for her boyfriend a few times, and eyed the open arena door suspiciously.

I considered taking her temperature but decided that I didn't need to; instead, I would just keep a close (or should I say, closer) eye on her.

I went back to the barn later that afternoon to drop off a new bag of beet pulp shreds. I saw a small group of my fellow boarders clustered around a stall.

"What's up?" I asked.

They parted, allowing me to see five or so bales of hay in the stall.

"That's pretty much the last of the hay," one of them said.

"Whaaaaat? What are they getting then?"

"Hay cubes," she shrugged.

Later, it hit me--if Limerick had hay cubes for her breakfast, or even no hay at all (which I suspect is more likely, since I checked her grain bucket like I always do and there was nothing in there), that would explain why she had dropped so much weight in a day. She is finicky like that.

With the helpful folks on Illinois Horse, I've been emailing my barn owner the contact information of various hay suppliers. Hopefully she will be able to have hay delivered very soon. In the meantime, I will buy a few bales from a fellow boarder (her horse is pasture-boarded but she keeps some bales of grass hay handy for her horse trailer). I'll keep a couple bales in my Jetta and keep the rest in my apartment.

I think if Lim gets hay cubes in the morning then 4-5 flakes in the afternoon and eats that throughout the night, she will be ok.

On the plus side, I received my order of rice bran oil today. I'll start with a couple ounces a day and gradually move up to 6-7 ounces for weight gain.

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