Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Equine Osteopathy for The Boys

Earlier this spring I heard very good things, from a couple of unrelated sources, about an equine Osteopath fairly new to our area. Lena and Lisa were both excited about how their horses had responded to this therapy so when I discovered they were talking about the same person, I just had to have Vickie Keam out to work on our horses.

Although this year has been thankfully uneventful with regard to the well being of our horses, I had Vickie check out Gord's horse Magic, who is 21 this year; and Navar, because of the catastrophic hock injury he sustained last year. Sherri's horse Magnum is also a senior and so she had him checked over as well. There were a few things Vickie was able to detect; and it was rewarding to see the horses respond so well to her therapeutic touch. Since none of our horses has any serious issues, we considered this visit to be more of a preventative measure.

Vickie is also a saddle maker who mentored under renowned saddle maker, Andy Knight; as well as a knowledgeable saddle fitter. When I mentioned that Navar had shown some unusual twitchiness under saddle recently, she asked to see my saddle. Admittedly, I was a bit nervous that she would find something glaringly wrong with my beautiful new saddle. Over the years, I have bought and sold so many saddles trying to find a good saddle that would work for me and my horse and certainly didn't want to head down that path again. My fears were unfounded as she reassured me that if she were making a saddle, it would be very similar to the saddle I am using.

Always being one to question tradition when it comes to management, training, or handling of our horses, I was ecstatic to learn something new with regard to cinching a double rigged saddle. We have all been taught to do up our front cinch snugly first; and then our rear cinch so it just touches the horse but is NEVER as tight as the front cinch. In fact, you more often than not, see 6 inches of daylight between the rear cinch and the horse. I was astounded to learn the exact opposite - the rear cinch is done up first, very tightly and the front cinch is snug but not tight, tight, tight. Vickie had me place my hand into the gullet, under the saddle pad while she tightened the front cinch. I could feel my hand being squeezed as she tightened. She then had the horse flex its neck to each side and I could feel a definite pinch. She then loosened the front cinch and tightened the rear cinch - moving the horse around with each hole to ensure the horse was not worried by the new sensation. As she tightened the rear cinch, she had me place my hand in the gullet, under the saddle pad and it was remarkable how roomy the saddle now felt. We then snugged up the front cinch. Vickie proved to me that by setting the saddle in place with a tight rear cinch, it is not necessary to have the front cinch so tight, thereby minimizing any pinching around the scapula.

Navar is all the proof I need - no more twitchiness.

Thank you Vickie for your knowledge and experience!
Tovie, Sherri, Navar, Magic and Magnum

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Divine Intervention for Beauty

Last Saturday I arrived at Lisa & Todd's for our weekly lesson with their horses Beauty and Calista. Experience has shown me that the horses will always show us what we need to work on, so I rarely arrive with a lesson plan. Beauty definitely showed us what we needed to work on because we found her in full colic that morning. Some of the symptoms she presented were sweating over the loin area on her back, panting, frequent flehman which left her mouth dry and tacky, and persistently trying to roll. Her discomfort was also very apparent in her stilted gait at the walk.

Lisa and I have both taken an extensive equine first aid course so she had all the tools we needed to check her vitals, and listen for gut sounds. When no gut sounds were detected Lisa phoned in an emergency call to the vet; only to be told the vet was at least an hour and a half away.

While we waited, I was able to share my knowledge of TTouch with Lisa. Linda Tellington-Jones has developed a series of TTouches that influence and promote healing at a cellular level. The following TTouches are specifically recommended for assisting a colicky horse:

Belly Lifts - using a towel folded to approximately 6"-8", Lisa and I gently performed belly lifts along the entire barrel. Beauty consistently indicated to us she was most happy with one particular area near the flank.

Ear Work - gently taking hold and firmly sliding down the entire length of the ear; paying particular attention to firm TTouch circles on the tips of the ears. There are many acupressure points in the ear that are activated by doing this.

Mouth Work - Beauty's mouth was dry and tacky so I wet my hand in the water trough first and then proceeded to work the gums directly under the upper lip to release endorphins. Once Beauty was certain we weren't up to anything sneaky, she happily accepted the mouth work.

Tail Work - gently working the tail from the base in circles and then using both hands give a gentle pull and push to the tail. Beauty gently rocked back and forth during this process.

Pelvic Rocking - place both fists on either side of the tail and gently press until the horse performs a mini pelvic tilt.

Mane, Forelock and Tail Hair Slides - imagine if you weren't feeling well and someone came along and gently slid their fingers along chunks of your hair. Not sure if it had any benefit, other than feeling wonderful, but Beauty seemed to enjoy it.

I think we were both surprised how quickly Beauty started to relax and become obviously more comfortable. She stopped trying roll, stopped sweating, stopped the flehmen, and started licking and chewing and even relaxed with a cocked hind leg. After an hour or so we started to detect faint gut sounds. Lisa even questioned whether or not to cancel the vet call but aside from a couple small farts, still no glorious poop - which is a sure sign the worst is over.

When the vet arrived, she administered the colic treatment protocol and when she and I left, Beauty was on a wait and see - still waiting for that glorious poop.

Lisa sent me this photo around 5:45 that day titled, "the most beautiful thing in her pasture that day", a glorious poop that actually looked as if it could have been dropped by an elephant. She also attributed my knowledge of TTouch as the reason Beauty survived. I have absolutely no doubt that the vet's treatment protocol was vital to Beauty's full recovery; but I also know that performing TTouch, while waiting for the vet, made a significant contribution to Beauty's comfort and allowed us to feel useful and calm during the long wait. I always say, TTouch may not be a cure all but it absolutely causes no harm.

Colic is the primary cause of death in seemingly healthy horses and depending on the severity, it can be a long and excruciatingly painful end.

Divine Intervention allowed us to be there for Beauty with the knowledge and skills required to ease her discomfort and get her help quickly.

You can visit Linda Tellington-Jones' web-site to learn more about how TTouch can help any person or animal in your life http://www.ttouch.com/aboutLinda.shtml.

Tovie, Lisa and Beauty

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Sir Leopold Found His Perfect Person

A couple of weeks ago I advertised Leopold for lease. Hilary was looking for an uncomplicated horse to practice dressage, go over some small jumps and trail ride. Hilary came by to meet him and he was an absolute gentleman. However, when I explained that Leopold is still considered green, she decided to take him on as a project and had already starting thinking about a training plan for him.

In the meantime, I was taking a break at the office one day and searched "gelding" on Kijiji when I came across an ad for a gal looking for a horse. Her list of criteria fit Leopold perfectly so I sent her a response. After exchanging as much information as possible by email, Joanna decided to come meet Leo to see if he was a horse she would enjoy.

I spent most of this morning trimming him and then with Sherri's help, we groomed him to make sure he looked his very best. He was an absolute gem to work with that morning so I'm not sure why Sherri said, "you watch, he'll be on his worst behavior when Joanna arrives".

Sure enough, Leo who is rarely a problem to catch, decided he didn't want to be caught, and then proceeded to plant his feet when trying to lead him. I took him into the arena to show off some of his ground moves which went very well but then he wouldn't stand still for saddling. When we went back into the arena, he exploded into a bucking fit, the likes of which I haven't seen in the 19 months I've had him. He has tossed in the occasional buck on the lunge line a handful of times since I've had him but never when I'm on him. As often as Sherri is at our place, she had never seen him act out and Uli saw a small episode once. Naturally, I thought that would be the end of Joanna but when she said - that's nothing - I knew she could be his perfect person. After he shook out all his sillies, I mounted up and did a lovely demonstration of his movement under saddle. Next we re-saddled him with Joanna's saddle and once again, he threw another bucking fit. When he stopped, Joanna got on him and had a lovely ride.

I can't help but wonder if Leo picked up on my sadness at the thought of him leaving. Selfishly, leasing seemed the perfect scenario because he could stay with us and still have his perfect person. However, my focus this year is to get Navar going well. Yesterday Navar and I competed at the Wareabouts Cowboy Challenge and I was pleased with our effort, considering I'd only been in the saddle a handful of times since the Challenge last fall. However, it is my goal to be an actual competitor at the September Challenge and I simply can't focus on more than one horse at a time. There are just not enough "horse' hours in a day.

Sherri, Uli and I saying good-bye.

Joanna sent me this photo of him quietly checking out her farm in Twin Butte, calm and content. She said he enjoyed playing with the jolly ball and didn't seem to mind the barn at all.
Joanna plans to ride several times per week and has promised to keep me updated on their progress. It will be exciting to see Leopold progress with consistent handling and training.
Happy Trails to Joanna and the beautiful Sir Leopold!
Tovie, Sherri, Uli, and the "Boys"

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

The Fonz

In the fall of 2014, I had the pleasure of meeting Fonz when his owner, Wendy Ruekema, asked me to come up to Edmonton and help her with him. Even though Wendy had owned Fonz for several years, she had not ridden him for at least 6 years because they simply didn't trust each other.

The following May 2015, Wendy came to the realization that her small window of horse time was better spent with Flash - a horse she was having a ton of fun with. Wendy made the decision to surrender Fonz to my care with the understanding he would only be rehomed to his perfect person.

During that summer with Fonz, I kept having this recurring thought that my dear friend Uli would be the perfect person for Fonz. Uli is kind and gentle and an experienced horse owner and rider. However, Uli already had her horse Hank and she didn't need two horses. At the time Hank had been exhibiting lameness from a stifle issue for several months but Uli was still hopeful she would find a way to resolve Hank's lameness.

That fall I sold Fonz to a young gal who seemed perfect but when it became apparent it wasn't going to work, back he came per my unconditional guarantee. Over the course of that winter, Hank's condition didn't improve and so last spring I invited Uli to come play with Fonz and learn some of the natural horsemanship exercises.

The only time Uli and I could commit to regular lessons was at 6:00 a.m.; when she could stop in for an hour on her way to work. Although Uli has been involved with horses for much of her life; and has had horses in her life she adored - she never anticipated the connection she was able to create using the natural horsemanship philosophy.

In the beginning, Uli would often become beautifully emotional whenever she would "feel" something she had not experienced before. It got to a point that her husband Chris, teasingly asked me to stop sending his wife home in tears - albeit happy tears.

Fonz demands a human he can trust and respect and Uli definitely earned both through her dedication to learning new ways of interacting with horses. There is no question the exercises are hard and we feel clumsy and incompetent during the learning curve but the relationship we establish with our horses makes it all worth while.

Uli continued to come every morning at 6:00 a.m. until we ran out of daylight last fall and Fonz and I were always happy to start our morning with her happy self.

Needless to say, Uli and Fonz fell in love with each other and are now lifelong companions. As for me, I couldn't be happier that Fonz continues to be boarded at our place because he got to stay with the "boys" and I got to keep Uli.

For some reason this post was forgotten in my drafts but better late than never.

Tovie, Uli & Fonz

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Let's Play in 2017

2016 turned out to be one of my worst horse years with the loss of Jack and Dexter, and then Navar's injury. I still mourn the loss of Dexter nearly every day but sweet Navar is fully recovered from his catastrophic injury and doing his best to fill the hole in my heart.

It is important to remember the good with the bad and there was plenty of good. Uli fell in love with Fonz and is having the time of her "horse" life with him. Leopold has been a tremendous source of joy and Navar and I did our first ever Obstacle challenge out at Wareabouts Stables. I had planned to take him up and "send" him over the obstacles but decided to ride him instead. With less than 20 rides under our belts and only the second time for him to wear a bit, I was tremendously proud of him.

Uli, Jaclyn, Lena and I went up to the Horse Conference in Sherwood Park last weekend. As expected, there were some tremendous speakers and for the first time, a liberty demo by Jim Anderson, his wife and 4 of their horses.

I always come away from the conference with better ideas and more inspiration to do better for my horses and this year was no exception. Karen Rohlf has been a huge influence for me over the past year. I don't even recall how I came upon her web-site, Dressage Naturally. I was likely doing some research on behalf of Leopold and how I can help him become a useful dressage partner. Karen is an accomplished dressage trainer, instructor and competitor and she discovered natural horsemanship a few years ago. Her virtual arena and video library are invaluable tools that help marry natural horsemanship with dressage.  Her method and philosophy is exactly the type of influence Leopold and I were looking for and I can't help but think of the saying, "when the student is ready, the teacher will come".

Being a huge fan, I was delighted to meet Karen in person, attend her session, and have her sign my Dressage Naturally book. Her presentation was exceedingly funny, engaging and informative and I couldn't wait to get home and "play" with my horses.

One of my last rides with Navar last fall didn't go well at all. He got absolutely stuck out in a large field and refused to take one step forward. The good news is that he didn't even care that all his buddies rode away. It was nearly an hour of ground work and he would do everything except take one step forward in the direction I wanted to go. When my riding buddies came back, I jumped on and had a lovely ride home. Navar is typically an easy going horse that is a little on the timid side - he had me stumped and I felt an erosion in our relationship after that day.

After listening to Karen's presentation last week there were two takeaways that inspired me. Her story about spending years trying to replace her horse Brave Tom (reminding me not to try and replace Dexter), and a reminder about how important it is to "play" with our horses. Luckily, we came home to a beautiful break in the bitter cold temperatures, so Navar and I started to play and every day I saw him become his wonderful, playful, friendly self again. The transformation in our relationship has lifted my spirits and I can't wait to transfer this new "playful" feeling to the saddle.

Wishing you playful joy with your horses in 2017
Tovie, Navar and Sir Leopold

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Jason McKenzie Custom Made Saddles

On a quick trip to The Mill Store near Okotoks to pick up some de-wormers, I saw a beautiful hand made saddle for sale on consignment. The quality and workmanship were so obvious that I decided to take them up on their 3 day full return trial and give it a try. The minute my butt settled into that saddle, I knew it was a saddle I had to own. The saddle maker stamps were Roy McCaughey and Jason McKenzie. I learned later on, after meeting Jason McKanzie at a trade show in Red Deer, that he apprenticed under Roy McCaughey and that I had one of the saddles they made together.

As much as I loved this saddle, it quickly became obvious that Dexter was less enthused than I due to the longer square skirts. Dexter had a beautiful short, strong back, but it became apparent when asking him to turn, that the skirt was inhibiting his desire to make sharp turns.

When considering a saddle that was right for Dexter, I had a vision of the perfect saddle - an SS Lightweight made by Jason McKenzie. However, at the time it was cost prohibitive so instead, I opted for a saddle made by JD at Eamors in Nanton. JD was terrific to work with and he made a beautiful saddle that fit Dexter and me perfectly. As beautiful as it was; and at a reasonable price, the workmanship, weight and colour, were not exactly what I had envisioned. And so I continued to dream of an SS Lightweight made by Jason McKenzie. After coming into an unexpected financial win fall earlier this year, I decided to go ahead and order a saddle designed and built specifically for my beloved Dexter. Unfortunately, It was only a couple weeks after finalizing the perfect design and sending in the deposit, that Dexter's tragic accident occurred. Dexter's death completely took away my enthusiasm for my new saddle and everything was put on hold.

After spending much needed quality time with Navar, enthusiasm for my new saddle eventually returned with some major changes. To me Dexter was the most beautiful horse on earth but in reality, he was a rather ordinary, solid chestnut. The saddle I envisioned for him was a flashy two tone with brass fittings. However, Navar, being a gorgeous grullo, was the flash; and so I opted for a more subdued design that wouldn't compete with his colour and good looks. Then another tragedy - shortly after making changes to the design, Navar was catastrophically injured on the barb wire fence and we seriously considered euthanizing him. I started to think of this saddle as the kiss of death and once again, completely lost my enthusiasm for it.

Jason however, never lost his enthusiasm and coincidentally shipped my JM McKenzie saddle on my birthday in August. We were both pleasantly surprised by his inexplicable timing.

My new saddle was definitely worth the wait; even though the US dollar exchange was a kick in the butt. Jason's workmanship is unparalleled and the lightweight design is much easier for me. Being a bit of a matching fanatic, I also ordered matching slobber straps, breast collar, headstall and saddle bags and I absolutely love every single piece.

This beautiful saddle was a much needed boost for my spirits this year. By the way Navar is coming along - I would have to say he agrees.

Tovie and Navar

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

It Is A Beautiful Scar

As if losing Jack in January and Dexter in March wasn’t enough tragedy this year, on April 11th I came home to find my beautiful Navar with a catastrophic injury to his right hind leg. From what we could piece together, he likely kicked over the barb wire fence while frolicking with the neighbour’s mare. The second top strand of wire had come down from 20 posts without breaking.

After calling the vet and getting the halter on him, I managed to bring him in from the field. Walking backwards seemed easier for him than walking forward so I was terrified he had suffered severe tendon damage.

April 11th - This first photo shows the injury after the vet had cleaned it up. She determined he had a small puncture in the synovial bursa which she flushed with antibiotics; and a small slice to the tendon sheath but the tendon itself was fine. She advised that if infection settled into either of those areas, his chance for a full recovery would be slim. While there was very little bleeding, the wound was horrific. Taking into consideration the potential months of tending; a more than likely hideous scar and more importantly, impossible to know if he would ever be sound; I seriously considered euthanization. The vet suggested giving him a chance and advised that any infection would likely show up within a couple of weeks. So we went to work…

The vet recommended stall confinement for at least 2 months so we constructed a very small stall within a paddock that had a shelter. We attached a tasty play toy and a salt lick to the wall; filled the shelter area with shavings and put down a thick rubber mat outside the shelter. Gord even hooked up a hose from the automatic waterer so I wouldn’t have to haul water buckets. It was quite a dance in that little stall during cleaning but Navar was very tidy and always pooped neatly in the same spot.
The day after the injury, I googled “catastrophic hock injury” and came across Dr. Jolly DVM at Step Ahead Farm in Arkansas. I wouldn’t recommend going to his web-site unless you have a strong stomach – Navar’s wound looked like a scratch by comparison to the wounds he depicts on his web-site. Dr. Jolly offers the first consultation free so I sent photos, along with the findings from our local vet.
Dr. Jolly has had tremendous success healing horrific injuries using foal placenta. His goal is to help a wound heal so the horse is sound and has the most aesthetically pleasing outcome possible. For $129.00 USD, he sent me a complete package by overnight collect courier of everything I would need to get Navar’s healing well on its way. The package included all the bandaging material and a how-to bandage DVD for the hock; a DVD depicting a case study similar to Navar’s, his recommended wound wash and ointment – yes $129.00 USD. I should also mention that 5 consultations were $35.00 USD – remember the first consult was free.
The cost for two visits from my local vet, along with 5 days of antibiotic, was $1,200.00. The second visit was a recommended follow-up that, in hind sight, wasn’t at all necessary.

May 5th
As the wound changed throughout the healing process, Dr. Jolly reviewed my photos and always took the time to discuss what was going on and encourage me to stay the course. I am sure his support saved me at least 4 additional farm visits – yes $35.00 USD for 5 consultations – I paid for two sets of 5 ($70.00 USD).

There were so many silver linings, in what initially seemed like another tragedy, that I just had to list them:

1.     The fantastic spring weather made it more than pleasant to do the 3 X daily stall cleaning, feeding and daily re-bandaging; and the water wasn’t freezing.
2.     Gord’s ingenuity to whip up a perfect stall, make watering easy, and just being there to think through and help out with whatever came up.
3.     An extremely mild winter meant our hay shed was still full.
4.     Having Leopold locked up to keep Navar company, gave me ample opportunity to fatten him up; and gave his multiple Skeeter bite marks a chance to heal.
5.     Finding Dr. Jolly’s web-site gave me a tremendous education about wound healing.
6.     It was foaling season and a friend who works nearby at a breeding facility provided me with all the fresh placenta I needed – even have extra in the freezer that I hope I never need.
7.     Navar reminded me what a beautiful, sweet, well behaved horse he is; reassuring me there will be more fun to come after Dexter.
8.     The support we received from dear friends allowed me to attend my daughter’s wedding overseas without a second thought:
·       Uli - came early every morning on her way to work to scoop and feed,
·       Lisa - came every day around lunch to scoop and feed,
·       Jane - came later every afternoon to scoop and feed,
·       Lena filled in for the mornings Uli was away,
·       Mark & Sherri who lovingly cared for our dog and came every night to haul poop away, debride (pick scabs) re-bandage, cut lawn, etc., etc., etc. Even staying late to feed so it wouldn’t be too long between the early morning feed.
9.     Clicker training – absolutely made it possible to pick scabs and re-bandage, day after day; without anyone getting kicked or stepped on. It was also instrumental during the twice daily physio that started around 6 weeks in; when we flexed his hind leg to his belly and stretched it out behind him to ensure the wound healed properly – just more clicker tricks in Navar’s mind.
August 21st - While Sherri’s patient, loving attention to Navar’s wound was absolutely vital to the amazing outcome; it wouldn’t have been possible without the help of each person who pitched in throughout the days we were away. There are no words to express the gratitude I feel for their care of Navar. I will definitely look forward to paying their kindness forward whenever the opportunity presents.

I was showing one of my colleagues at the office before and after photos and he made the comment about it being a beautiful scar (hence the name of this blog post). I didn't want to post this blog until it was completely healed but simply couldn't wait to share this. We are shooting for a complete healing by September 11th - 5 months. I have been riding Navar for the past few weeks without a bit of a hitch in his step.
I would never have wished for this injury but it really is turning into a beautiful scar.
Looking forward to many Happy Trails!
Tovie and Navar