Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Brain returned, body sound!

Today we hauled off to the vet. I'd been planning on having them come out on Saturday to do spring shots, but then my friend R invited me to ride on Sunday, and I dunno about you but I feel like crap the day after a shot. And, as R pointed out, if I hauled her in, I could get a basic lameness exam and hopefully feel better about getting back into ~real 50 mile endurance~.

(Those are "sarcasm quotes" - I'm pretty agnostic about the Great 50-Mile Debate. Periodically a huge flame war will erupt on Ridecamp, the endurance listserve, about whether LDs are real endurance rides, worthy of prizes and year-end awards and general recognition, or if they're just the home of green horses and old horses and timid riders. I think 50s are more special, I think they require a lot more management for the metabolic stress, and I also think "just" riding 25-30 miles is a hell of an accomplishment that should be rewarded.)

So yesterday I called and cancelled Saturday's visit and got an appointment for today. It was at 2 pm, but without really thinking it through I hooked up the trailer at noon. Then I groomed Dixie for a while, but I'd left my phone in the truck, so when I got bored scraping white hair off of her I loaded her and we pulled out. At 12:20. Argh, I was going to be so early, and you know what that means - if you're early, the vet's late. I stopped at a Starbucks in the mall parking lot and even got into a conversation with a random dude who had admired my pretty mare, but I still got to the vet clinic at 1:20.

The only problem with Comstock Equine is that it's right on a busy highway. Like, a four-foot chain link fence and 8' of grass is all that separates the trailer parking from the four-lane highway. Oh well, Dixie's a pretty good endurance horse, she'll cope. I tied her on the side away from the highway and hung a bag of hay and hopped up on the fender. She paced around nervously for five minutes, then chilled out and ate hay and dozed off... for the next hour+. Yep, the vet was late.

But I had my iPhone so all was well. Here's my secret go-to for alleviating boredom: givemesomethingtoread.com and longform.org. Both of those sites offer up medium to long articles, drawn from current events and from classics. I read quite a few articles - the most interesting were The God of Gamblers and Paintballing with Hezbollah.

But anyway, her brain has returned! YAY FOR SNOOZING BESIDE A HIGHWAY! And the vet finally showed up (she had some tooth and hoof emergencies that threw her whole day off) and she totally remembered us. I mean, the girl with the spiky hair and the enormous paint TWH are hard to forget, but you never know.

Wellness exam: heart and gut sounds good, no sand in the guts. Teeth have hooks. (FINALLY. I get them checked every year, but - I feel like a bad horse owner admitting this - in the five years I've owned her, I've never had her teeth floated.) Good weight, blah blah. Got the four-way (Eastern and Western encephalitis, tetanus, West Nile IIRC), Rhino/flu, and strangles today. We agreed that I'll come back in May for her teeth, Coggins, health cert, and rabies. And I think one more that I'm forgetting. The vet is very conservative on floats, so I feel ok letting her do this - I don't think she's going to go crazy and flatten all of Dixie's grinding surfaces.

I don't usually vaccinate strangles, but every barn I talked to wanted it done, so we did it. I knew it was intranasal, but I was thinking more like when I get Cersei vaccinated for kennel cough and they squirt a puff of something up her dainty doggy nose. Nope, strangles IS intranasal, but it gets squirted WAY up in there. Dixie flipped her head straight up and waggled her nose around like she was a pissed off camel getting ready to spit, and we all got well out of her sneeze range and laughed at her. I still don't think it's a very effective or worthwhile vaccine, but I highly recommend it for the laugh factor alone.

Eventually, she decided not to sneeze killed virus all over us, and we did the lameness exam. Her front legs feel perfectly normal, and she moves... weird but sound. Both the vet and I watched her for a quite a while. Straight lines on hard ground, circles on hard ground, and circles on soft ground. She did a running walk and a pace on a straight line, and some weird stuff in circles.

Let me back up. I know this is the world's longest blog post about the world's least eventful vet visit, but bear with me if you're at all interested in gaited horse gaits.

Dixie does this smooth trot thing. She's done it for two years now - sometimes it's a perfectly sittable trot, and sometimes it's a sproingy you-better-post-that trot. They sound almost identical, and they both have the same diagonal throw-you-forward trot feel, but one of them is definitely an easy gait and one is a dressagey trot. I decided the nice one was probably a foxtrot. In most of her recent ride pics, it's a foxtrot.

But lately she's started doing something even weirder - instead of having the diagonals lift off together and come down rears-first, she trots on one lead and foxtrots on the other. So it's RF and LH up together, LH then RF down; LF and RH up together, LF and RH down together. It feels almost like a canter. It is, in fact, the lazy half-ass canter I've mentioned before in our hill work. I think it's not desirable because (a) it's not four-bear or two-beat and (b) I have never heard of such, so I don't let her do it under saddle for more than a few strides. She'll move up to a canter or a rack, or down to a foxtrot, when I ask. But without a stupid human up there jigging the reins, she did the Weird Thing A LOT on the longe on a circle.

The vet and I watched her for a long time. She switches "diagonals" according to what direction she's going - I think we both thought she was lame the first time she did a circle at the Weird Thing, but then she swapped "leads" when the tech sent her out in the other direction. And I told the vet that yes, it's something she offers under saddle. We pronounced her sound. It looks weird, but it's totally consistent, it's not a weird flinch, and she swaps "leads" so it's not some muscle problem higher up.

So I came home, thrilled at how GOOD she looks. I mean, she feels good under saddle, her attitude is good, she looks good on the longe when I'm holding the lead, but it's not the same when you're standing inside the circle directing the show. And I thought "I wonder if that Weird Thing is a real gait? I should check!" And you know what I found out?

Not only is the Weird Thing not a real gait, she wasn't foxtrotting. A foxtrot lifts the diagonals together, but the front hits first. Most of her ride photos are either step-pacing or real foxtrotting. There's no such thing as an official gait where the diagonals lift off together, and the rears hit first. And since that doesn't even exist, of course the Weird Thing doesn't exist.

Oh well. She looked really good, really efficient daisy-clipper movement, not stiff or hesitant. I'm going for it. Put my entry for High Desert 50 (link to .pdf) in the mail today. Gonna give Dixie a few days off for the shots, then do a long ride (hopefully with R!) this weekend and maybe another hill set on Tuesday of next week.

I think I've put a heart rate monitor on the I'd-Like-To-Buy list, too. I am really getting interested in finding out what her most efficient gaits are on various types of terrain. Off to breathe into a paper bag re: High Desert...

16 comments:

  1. Hooray for brains!
    and HOORAY for 50's!

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  2. Awesome! So glad everything checked out, but damn, gaited horses are complicated! But of course Dixie does something special... she's Dixie. A heartrate monitor would be very interesting, especially if you could sync it up with your GPS track, and see elevation, speed, heartrate all at once. Now breathe....

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    1. Ya, I think when I get one I'll upgrade my GPS and get it unified. HR on hills is something I really want to track!

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  3. So, in a really big trot both my horses land with hinds first. It's probably not as pronounced as you are seeing with Dixie though, and that's why it feels different. I know undersaddle it feels like I'm posting sideways instead of back to front, and I get it in my ride pics a lot because they are taken at the beginning of the ride when they are VERY forward and because I keep half halting them, VERY on their hind quarters. Maybe she's just doing a more exacteraged version of this. I dunno. TWH are weird. As are spikey haired-persons. Just kidding :) Kinda.... :)

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    1. Interesting! I read something long ago - I want to say it was by one of the Easycare dudes - about how an efficient trot often hits rear-first. Of course I can't dig it up again to save my life!

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  4. Not a boring post at all...
    I wouldn't worry about Weird Thing, we had a great jumping pony that used to Tranter (which also doesn't exist) about half of each course, but still jumped clear, pinging over 4ft fences (she was 13.2)
    If you think about it, with four legs they've a lot of different permutations and combinations of how to use them. I could have told you have many 30 years ago but my maths skills have disappeared. It's not like you're doing dressage and looking for "purity of paces"!!
    50M thingy sounds brill, best of luck!

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    1. Oh that's excellent. Love to hear about off-gaits that REALLY WORK for the horse in question. If she could tranter around a jump course it wasn't doing her any harm!

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  5. The Arab stallion I rode with at Cuyama totally foxtrotted! When he was collected and was in the "obeying mom" frame, he was totally 100% foxtrotting, it was toooo funny. I owned a Foxtrotter briefly and educated myself well enough on the gaits to recognize it, but clueless on what Dixie is doing. But hey if she is doing it sound and in style, who cares!

    Woohoooo it's time for a 50 again! You guys will be fine, I have total faith.

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    1. She should really market him that way! Lots of people want to cross a sensible steady gaited horse with an excellent-recoveries Arab. If the Arab's got a bit of gait you're more likely to get some gait in the cross. I don't think I'll ever breed Dixie, but if I did that's what I'd look for.

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  6. Not knowing a thing about gaited breeds & their different gaits... I do know that for endurance - it's all about "efficiency"! Whatever her most efficient gait is - is the one that will take you through the long miles.

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  7. Patent that gait and call it the Dixie? ;)

    I can be a bit of a hypochondriac for my horse so getting a big thumbs up at the vets is never boring!

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  8. I found all the gait stuff absolutely fascinating--since I've never dealt with anything gaited. My QHs are quite obviously lame or sound--easy to tell. And right now they're all sound...knock on wood.

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  9. Can you video Weird Thing? I'd love to see it, and I'm sure lots of others would too.

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    1. You know, if I see somebody I know at High Desert who's got the time, I'll ask them to video her while I lunge her or vice versa. Good idea.

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  10. Yeah for finding brains and good vet visits! Nothing EVER boring about that. I would like to see video of the Weird Thing too.

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  11. Okay, this non-horse person got as far as the 'floating teeth' and had a vision of Dixie's dentures in a glass on the bathroom counter.
    And I'll foxtrot with Dixie any time, as long as she'll let me lead. :)

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