From Endurance to Dressage
Pretty damn slow if you must know. It was a week ago Monday that I first felt something amiss in Izzy's gait. Initially I chalked it up to body soreness from Sunday's ride. By Tuesday, he was clearly more than body sore, but I wasn't 100% sure it was an abscess, and if it were an abscess, I couldn't tell if it was the front right or left. By Wednesday, Izzy tested positive to hoof testers on the right front. I scraped his sole a little bit hoping to find a clear track line, but I came up empty handed. I poulticed and wrapped the hoof for 48 hours.
At the end of 48 hours, I again poked around with the hoof testers and the hoof knife. His reaction to the hoof testers was even more pronounced, but I still couldn't find the abscess with the knife. He was also still lame at the walk. I poulticed it a second time. At the end of a second 48 hours, he was sound at the walk and at the trot in a straight Line. On the circle, he was still lame, but not that lame. I caught him rearing, bucking, and cavorting around as though he were fit as a fiddle. Even so, he still tested positive with the hoof testers. So for a third time, I scraped with the knife and poulticed. That was Sunday.
Yesterday, I called the vet and gave him a quick rundown. Dr. Gonzalez's suggestion was to keep doing what I am doing until I see a trot that I like. He also said that I might not ever see the abscess actually exit since the Numotizine is slowly drawing the abscess out. I did a fourth poultice. This one might be the final one, or I may have to repeat with a fifth, sixth, or even seventh one; patience, grasshopper.
Fortunately, Izzy is not dying, and it is obviously not very painful, but it's still there. Yesterday, he actually started pawing vigorously with the abscessing hoof while I was laying out the poulticing material. He was bored. My farrier is due at the end of the week or the beginning of next week. If the poultice hasn't drained it by then, I am hoping he can find it and open it up.
Fingers crossed I see a beautiful trot out today.
This is not the post I had scheduled today, but sometimes, circumstances change. When I rode Izzy on Monday afternoon, he was sore. I chalked it up to body soreness from Sunday's challenging ride. Instead of working, we spent nearly an hour just walking. He wasn't outright lame, but he wasn't right either.
When I showed up at the ranch yesterday, he was sore in the front. My first thought was abscess. It has only rained twice all winter. The first time was quick and didn't even make mud. Last week's rain though left everything soaked, so an abscess seems like the obvious culprit.
I grabbed my hoof testers and went to work. I was only able to get the slightest response on the right front but nothing on the left. When asked to pivot on his front feet, Izzy could pivot on the left, but was uncomfortable when asked to pivot on the right. In a trot out, the head bob was seen on the left. Even with all of this, it seemed as though he were sore on both front feet. This would not be good.
There was no filling on the left leg and only a faint "softness" on the right, so subtle that your average Joe wouldn't have even caught it. With the ranch owner offering her feedback, I gave the hoof tester a second try. Again, I could get a slight reaction on the right and nothing on the left. When I used the hoof knife, I was immediately able to find what looked like a track line.
During the trot out, Izzy got a little "wild child" and jerked the lead rope from me and cantered gaily off to visit his friends. He was clearly not near death's doorstep. He was willing to carry weight on both feet, but it did seem as though he preferred to keep the right foot in front with the heel ever so slightly off the ground.
Is it an abscess? I don't know, but it's more than likely. I left him unwrapped for the night. I am "hoping" he'll be a little more lame this afternoon so that I can make a better judgement call. If he is obviously more sore on that foot, I'll poke around with the hoof knife to see if I can find an abscess so that it can drain. Either way, I'll poultice for two days, and then have another look. Fingers crossed that it is an abscess.
Better would be to say, fingers crossed that it's gone.
It's been a while since I said anything about Speedy's latest abscess. In this case, no news was good news. Basically, I rode him on a Wednesday, saw him racing up and down the fence with Izzy on a Friday, and then got a text that he was lame on a Saturday.
By the time I got to the ranch that afternoon, this was the day we had gone to Kernville, he looked sound at the walk. Usually, when Speedy has an abscess, you can see it at the walk. He never presents with I've-broken-something-and-I-may-never-walk-again lameness; he just looks really sore. The ranch owner has a pretty good eye though, so if she saw something, there was something to be seen. I jogged him out, and yep, there was a slight head bob.
Unlike any of his other abscesses, I couldn't really pinpoint where it was. With the hoof testers, he was testing positive all around his toe. I used the hoof knife to scrape away some of the loosened sole, and found what looked like an abscess track traveling from one side of his hoof to the other. Without knowing exactly where the abscess was, I opted to simply poultice and see what happened.
Once his hoof was wrapped, I put in a call to my vet to see what he thought. His number one concern was that this might be the early signs of laminitis, so he had me check the other front foot. I got no reaction on that hoof. Speedy was also standing squarely on all four feet without the classic toe point or leaning back to get off his front feet. There was no digital pulse, and his pain level looked to be a zero.
Dr. Tolley said that abscesses in the toe aren't as common as in the bars, although he had just dug out a pretty deep one that week. He felt that poulticing was the right course of action. While I had him on the phone, I asked him about using Ichthammol as a drawing agent instead of the Numotizine that I've been using. It had been recommended by several people. He was pretty quick to tell me that he hated using Ichthammol because it doesn't wash off. That was all I needed to hear.
I poulticed for three days and two nights. When I took the poultice off, Speedy jogged out sound. The next day, he was sore again, so I repeated the poultice. When I took it off several days later, he was sound and has remained so. So was it an abscess? I am not sure. Dr. Tolley thought it could also have been a small bruise. Either way, poulticing was an appropriate treatment.
Of course, while I was poulticing one foot, I was also keeping my eye on the little hole in Speedy's hoof. For those that don't remember, my vet thought it might have been caused by white line disease, but my farrier found no signs of that. He felt it was more likely the remnants of an old bruise. For the first week or two, I scrubbed it clean with a stiff brush and coated it with Tea Tree Oil. Now, it's nearly grown out and hasn't caused any trouble.
But because nothing in life is simple, Izzy came up lame last week too. As I was walking him to the feed room, my spidey-sense noted something was amiss. Izzy didn't sound right. You know what I mean. I've lead this horse about a billion times, so I know what his footfalls sound like. I didn't see anything thought, so I tacked him up. As we walked up to the arena my intuition again said that something was NQR. As soon as I mounted and asked Izzy to talk off, I knew I was right. I couldn't see it, but I could feel it. I kept him walking, trying to pin point which leg it was.
It felt like he was hitting the ground harder with his left front which suggested he was off on the right front, but that didn't check out. I asked for a quick jog and felt a slight head bob, but for the life of me, I just couldn't figure out which leg it was. I started to suspect it was the left hind.
I walked him back and untacked him and called the ranch owner. I needed a second pair of eyes. There was definitely a head bob, and we both felt like it was in the hind. It was actually kind of funny. We both kept trying to reason it out. If his head goes down on the left, it has to be the right. But if his hip comes up on the right, it has to be his ...
Ultimately, we finally dragged out a lunge line. On the circle it was clearly the left hind. Why it took us so long to think of trotting him in a circle is beyond me. I couldn't find anything with the hoof testers, so I poulticed Izzy's foot too - on the same day that I had already poulticed Speedy's!
I wasn't surprised by Izzy's abscess. We've had a really dry month followed by heavy rain. He's abscessed once each winter over the past several years, so this one fit that pattern. And only once have I actually seen the abscess erupt, and that one came out just above his heels. He's typically sore for a few days and then it fades away.
The next day, the ranch owner saw Izzy rearing up on his hind legs as he played with Speedy. He was clearly feeling pretty good. On the third day, I pulled the poultice. I used that day to give everyone a soundness check. Each horse got lunged in the arena at all three gaits, and both horses came up sound. Everybody has been ridden several times since then, and they're both sound.
Now if it would just stop raining for a day or two, we might be able to get back to work.
Speedy didn't look so good on Saturday. While I felt bad, I at least knew why he looked Not Quite Right (NQR). The poor guy has been through a lot the past three weeks. He's had an abscess. He got vaccinated. His teeth got the rough edges taken off. I gave him a dewormer on Thursday. And to add insult to injury, his dose of Prascend got doubled starting on Friday.
When I pulled into the ranch on Saturday morning. I could see Speedy standing in the farthest corner of his field. His head was hanging rather dejectedly, and he didn't even bother coming over to say hi like he normally does. My heart started to beat faster, and I had to restrain myself from hopping both fence lines get to him more quickly. Instead, I fed Izzy his cookies as I walked around to Speedy's gate, all the while watching him for signs of illness.
My mind was whirling with next steps; take his temperature. Check his pulse and respiration. Call the vet. I walked out to him and immediately felt marginally better when he looked at me expectantly. He wasn't willing to walk over to get a cookie, but he was willing to check my hands and pockets for one. I breathed a sigh of relief when he contentedly chewed up his cookie and asked for more.
Instead of checking for soundness like I had planned, I brought Speedy up to the feed room and gave him a thorough grooming. Lunging could wait for another day. I worked the dirt out of his coat and pulled layer after layer of shedding hair. He stood with a leg cocked, and basked in the attention. He wasn't feeling great, but he appreciated the gentle strokes of my grooming glove. He rubbed his forehead against my hands and seemed to groan in pleasure.
I turned him loose in the yard to graze for more than an hour as I rode Izzy. Grazing on the spring grass while visiting with each horse in turn seemed to lift his spirits. By the time I put him away, he looked almost like his old self.
The next morning, he was markedly perkier even whinnying at me when I pulled in. We walked up to the arena for that postponed soundness check. I put him on the lunge line and was delighted to see that he was sound both directions at all three gaits. I didn't ask for too much, just enough to encourage a big stretch down and a longer stride. He seemed happy to finally be back to some semblance of work.
Things may be changing for Speedy and me, but at least he's feeling better and looking like he's ready to get back to work.
About the Writer and Rider
I am a lifelong rider.
I began endurance riding in 1996 where I ultimately completed five, one-day 100 mile races, the 200-mile Death Valley Encounter, and numerous other 50, 65, and 75 mile races. I began showing dressage in 2010.
Welcome to my dressage journey.
About Speedy G
Speedy went from endurance horse to dressage horse. After helping me earn a USDF Bronze medal in the summer of 2020, he is now semi-retired. Speedy is a 2004, 15'1 hand, purebred Arabian gelding. His Arabian Horse Registry name is G Ima Starr FA.
Izzy was started as a four-year old and then spent the next 18 months in pasture growing up. I bought him as a six-year old, and together, we are showing at the lower levels. He is a 2008, 16'3 hand warmblood gelding. His Rheinland Pfalz-saar International (RPSI) name is Imperioso.
National Rider Awards
State Rider Awards
State Horse Awards
CDS Sapphire Rider Award
Third Level: 63.514%
Third Level: 62.105%
2023 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
2023 Show Schedule
2023 Completed …
2023 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
Qualifying Training Level
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%: