A Matt Update

Matt has had an exciting week, so I thought I’d update you all.

Last time I told you about him he had progressed to walking 30-60 steps a day in hand. Which was all very exciting!

He’s done six weeks of this walking, some days doing it twice and lately I think the walls had gotten longer. So Mum had the vet out again to assess him.

Mum walked him along the yard for the vet to see, then when she went to turn him around Matt did his “stop, stare, ignore everyone” pose so Mum performed the heinous crime of turning him towards her. Which is incidentally so that his injured hind was on the inside of the circle.

Anyway, the vet was really pleased that there was no swelling in the stifle, and the stride was smooth and fluid, suggesting the bones were gliding over each other easily.

She announced with some trepidation that it was time to introduce some turn out – how exciting! After all, Matt’s been on box rest for eighteen weeks. The following morning, fairly early, Mum gave Matt a little bit of Sedalin to take the edge off him. He hadn’t had breakfast in the hope that being a bit hungry would encourage him to eat.

Her yard owner led Matt to the outdoor arena – the smallest area to turn out (remember, this is a traditional yard with huge fields up the side of the mountain and most of the horses run together). Matt did start to get excited when he got past the 60 step mark, but when they released him he just stood there.

After a few minutes of Matt wandering round, having a sniff of droppings and nibble of tufts of grass, two of his friends came down the field to see him. And then he was off!

Several minutes of some beautiful, sound as a pound, trot and canter, a good roll on both sides, Matt settled and did some more wandering round and grazing for half an hour before returning to his stable.

The next day Matt couldn’t go out because there were lessons in the arena all day, but he looked a bit stiff when he was walked out so perhaps that was a good thing.

He went out again Monday morning without sedation, and had a shorter cavort around. Incidentally, Monday was our one year anniversary since we qualified for the riding club championships with 78%. How much has changed in twelve months!

A Matt Update

I thought you were well overdue a Matt update. Particularly as I went to see him a fortnight ago. Don’t worry, Otis fans, there will be an update on him at the weekend.

Last time I updated you, in August, he had just had his second x-ray. The X-ray showed that his stifle was healing well, but the fracture was worse than initially thought so poor Matt’s box rest was extended by four weeks.

After a total of twelve weeks box rest, at the beginning of September, he had a third X-ray, which thankfully showed that the fracture has healed. Which means it’s onto phase two.

The X-ray showed that the bones were smooth, with no callouses from the healing process, but because the stifle is a very complicated joint, where numerous bones need to glide over each other, plus the fact that the new bone on the fracture site is less dense and strong than the rest of his skeleton, means that exercise needs to be introduced very slowly.

The vet instructed that Matt needs to be led out for 30-60 strides every day. He can be grazed in hand, and can be walked out twice a day so long as he remains sound.

Now there are two problems here. One, how far is 60 strides? The answer is not very far! It’s the distance from Matt’s stable to the yard gate and back again. Which means that there is very little grass for him to nibble at en route.

Secondly, leading Matt out is like leading a ticking bomb. I don’t know how suicide bombers stand the suspense. He walks quietly enough, but then jumps a mile at absolutely nothing. Or suddenly stands bolt upright. Or bucks. Which means that his walks need to be done when the yard is quiet.

Armed with his lunging bridle and stallion chain, Mum’s yard owner led him out the first time. Predictably, he wasn’t interested in grazing the meagre grass by the fence, and was more interested in the horses up the field. He did a bit of jumping around in anticipation, but the walk was over and done without a hitch.

The next day, Matt seemed a bit sore and stiff when he walked out. But whether that’s to do with the exercise and his body not being used to it, or the cavorting around, he was definitely a bit subdued.

When I was visiting Matt I was given the responsibility of walking him out, but he still didn’t seem very interested in grazing, so it was a short reprieve from his box rest. I did suggest to Mum, that to help break up his routine that she placed a bucket of dried grass (which he loves) or a lickit at the end of his walk so that he is more inclined to relax outside of his stable, and hopefully he’ll get used to the idea of spending time grazing. Then when the distance of his walk increases he’ll be quicker to settle to graze on the nicer grass.

Matt’s walks will get longer over the next couple of months, and then I guess it will be time to introduce limited turn out, once the stifle joint is functioning efficiently and the bone has matured.

In the meantime, it’s back to the stable, with his variety of treat balls, willow branches, jolly ball, and stretches using clicker training.

Boxing Day Hunt

When it`s Christmas all routine goes out the window doesn`t it? The horses have to put up with coming in a bit earlier, going out later, no riding (not that they will complain about that!) and we don`t know if we`re coming or going.
I was lucky enough to have Christmas Day and Boxing Day off this year, so trying to work out family commitments, Christmas dinner time, the ins and outs of drinking and not driving, I came to the conclusion that the easiest thing would be, given that the weather, after Monday`s monsoon, was fine and warm, I decided that I would rug up my horse and he could stay out. I`m lucky in the fact that he enjoys living out and doesn`t stand by the gate. Also his field is well sheltered with woods on two sides. We also decided that with the logistics of having to go to family for a 3pm dinner time he would be better having a slightly bigger feed instead of having two (not massive, as we want to avoid colic. I think I gave him 2/3rds of a scoop of Alfa instead of 1/2 scoop). This would probably be the same on Boxing Day.

O usually lives in his field with two veterans, G and T, both of whom live out all year round and are semi-retired. G had 18 months of suspensory problems and is now sound enough to do gentle hacking. G`s owner tends to feed both G and T together as T`s owner works shifts.

Now on Christmas Eve I turned O out and then he had his hard feed dinner at lunch time, and we checked they had enough hay (a slice of hay in each builder`s bag lasts about three days at the moment!) It was then that G`s owners asked if I was around on Boxing Day and if I could help them out and feed G and T. I agreed instantly, it would make it easier to feed O. At the same time G`s owners offered to feed O on Christmas Day morning, as we would be most likely there at the same time. O is top dog in the field, T is next, and poor G is at the bottom.

So there I am Boxing Day morning, with a slightly sore head and a still full tummy, walking down to the field well laden with three buckets. I spot O and call him; he marches determinedly, closely followed by G.

“Oh.” I think “Where`s T?” I scan the field but I can`t see any sign of the dark bay. I feed the other two and they munch away companionably, not even looking at each other`s dinner. They`re quite well trained that a growl of their name as they glance at one of the other buckets and they instantly return to their own feed. I wander across the field, to see if I can find T, and to check their hay bags.

Loads of hay, but the gap in the fencing, secured by slip rails, which serves as a second gateway so that we can reduce the poaching at the front of the field, wasn`t closed properly. The bottom one was on the floor.

That`s when I started to panic. I ducked under and checked the main path of the woods. Where was T? There weren`t any anomalous hoofprints and the other two weren`t at all bothered. I managed to secure the slip rail and tried ringing T`s owner, who I knew was in London with family.

This is our conversation:

Me: Hi, I was just wondering if you know where T is? I`m at the field and he`s not there. The slip rail was off …
P: He`s not there? Oh the silly pony must have taken himself for a walk. What a monster he is.
Me: So no ones brought him in? When are you coming back?
P: Unfortunately I`m about two hours away. I`ll pootle back slowly and see if I can find him.
Me: [sigh] I`ll let you know if I find him.

Next I tried ringing the yard staff. No answer. I tried again, and thankfully got an answer.

Me: I`m at the field and I`m missing T. Do you know what`s going on?
M: Oh yes… I brought him in this morning. He`s hopping lame. He`s in the riding school barn. I`ve cold hosed and given him a bute.

Phew. Panic over.

I took a detour to the riding school barn on my way back to drop the feed buckets off and collected T to take him to his stable where I fed him, gave him hay and water before ringing his owner who said he would “poodle over” to check him that evening. Then I rang G’s owner to update him.

So the net result is that O is living out 24/7 to keep G company as G won’t live in and it’s bad for his arthritis. At the moment this isn’t a problem as I planned to give him a holiday over the festive period and am busy with family, but come Wednesday when I want to get back into the swing of riding and fittening us both we will have to find another solution to keep all the horses happy – I’m lucky O doesn’t mind being in or out and isn’t likely to lose weight when in the field.

Meanwhile, T is still lame in walk and has significant heat just below his pastern which is being cold hosed. If it’s going to be long term box rest then we will borrow a companion, possibly from the riding school, so that G has company in the field at night, and O can be worked and live in at night. Additionally G can be brought in as and when necessary. If T is likely to be back in the field within a week we will have to work something out so that I can still ride O.

The politics of sharing fields!