Cautiously Optimistic

In between the rains, bitterly cold morning, MJ's shoeing problems and me occasionally getting sick I have not been riding much this past winter. I did not have anything much to write about this month other than being frustrated about not riding much.

Now spring is here, and I do have some progress to report!

We have been putting Cider's BOT Exercise boots, the Fenwick pastern and leg wraps for many months. She has been wearing the BOT Exercise boots for a few years, and yes they did help. I added the Fenwick stuff many months ago. The one time we did not put this stuff on her front legs she was markedly worse, flinching every step, and reluctant to move forward with impulse. I stopped this ride until Shannon ran and got Cider's front leg gear and put it on her, then Cider's flinching improved and she was more willing to move forward.

Finally, the last two rides I've had on Cider she is actually getting BETTER! All of a sudden she stopped flinching every step of my 30 minute rides and was much more willing to move on out extending her walking stride. We still have some problems going downhill, over broken up ground (grass ring), and doing turns, especially turns in place, but as long as we are going straight on level ground she does not flinch. She was so improved last weekend that I asked Shannon if she thought a short trot on level ground might be a good idea, mostly to check Cider's physical progress.

So we decided on the path, and I asked Cider to trot. Cider responded promptly and I did not have to use leg, leg, leg to keep her in the trot. Shannon told me that Cider was not bobbing her head (first time in years) but that her legs looked sort of uncoordinated. In the saddle I tried to post the trot but Cider's push from her hind legs was uneven, and after a stride I just got up into two-point. When we got to the end of the even path I asked for a walk and Cider sort of ignored me at first, and when she did the downward transition she was uneven instead of smooth. Still, this shows some progress, she started flinching after the trot but the flinching went away after a minute or so at the walk. All in all, during this ride Cider was in less pain from her front legs and willing to move faster than a slow walk.

Last month I finally got Shannon the Eqclusive Shining Pack of Haas brushes plus the Eqclusive New Generation curry comb. The horses just seem to prefer being groomed with these brushes, and these brushes also get the horse's coat cleaner and shinier. I have a theory that horses who enjoy their pre-ride grooming are much more likely to be relaxed during their ride, thus giving me a better, more enjoyable ride.

Last month MJ's front legs got worse. His navicular disease was acting up, mainly because his right knee was hurting and he started limping at the trot. Debbie wisely decided to start at the hoof, and got the veterinarian out to do X-rays while the farrier was there, and MJ ended up in a full pad, slightly different angles on his front feet which ended up with him toeing out slightly more, and with rocker shoes which give the horse some alternatives on how they put their hooves down on the ground and bear weight on the hoof.

Then MJ had to get used to his new shoes. He felt sort of uncertain under me, like his hooves just could not decide on the best way to go on the sand footing. He did not want to extend his walk, and when we did a very slow walk his flinching in his front legs increased, I guess from his front legs having to bear the horse's weight for longer when creeping around the ring. Larger, more gradual turns were sort of iffy, and turns in place, fore or hind, increased his flinching. Backing up was not good at all, and I had to content myself with one half-way decent step to the rear.

This week he was a little bit better, after warming up some. There was still an unwillingness to stretch out at the walk so I thanked him for at least trying to give me what I wanted. The slow walk still produced more flinching than his regular walk, and backing up was just as bad as the last time. Debbie told me more about MJ's history, apparently he had been used in jumping lessons 8 hours a day, jumped every day in every lesson, something that is not good at all for a horse in his late twenties especially a horse prone to navicular disease. Debbie does not jump him, she even listened to MJ when he “told” her that cross-rails, even just going over a pole on the ground, was painful for him. Nowadays MJ is only a WTC lesson horse in a hunt seat barn. Luckily Debbie has students that just want to WTC and could care less about jumping a horse.

Now Debbie just has to work on getting MJ's right knee feeling better, then he should improve.

Lately I have been reading about the sharp inflation of horse costs on the COTH Forum. People, it is getting BAD out there. The needless war in Ukraine has removed one of the world's most reliable “bread baskets” out of production, and if the Ukrainian farmers cannot plant their spring crops a large number of people, mostly in North Africa, are not going to be able to find food to buy, much less be able to afford the ever increasing prices on wheat products. This is raising grain prices worldwide, and unless the war quiets down enough to allow farmers to plant their spring crops the grain prices will continue on going up. Add in the shortages of fertilizer from Russia, ever worsening weather in our country, and the continual increase in demand from over 8 billion humans for grain products and I do not think it will ever cost less to support a horse.

BE PREPARED. Your feed prices are going to increase a lot. Your hay prices will also increase from the greater demand for meat and milk. Farriers and veterinarians will have to increase their charges to reflect the increased price of gasoline and diesel. Labor prices are also going up, when a person can make a lot more money slinging burgers farm workers just decide to go work in a safer environment out of the weather without handling sometimes dangerous animals. The costs of boarding your horse will have to increase or the barn will have to close because the costs are just so much more than people are willing to spend to support a luxury animal like a horse.

Lesson costs are also going to go up. Lesson barns have to support their lesson horses, feed, hay, farriers and veterinary costs are all going up at the same time. The past two weeks I voluntarily started paying $5.00 US more for my lessons/rides, and I told the ladies to please warn me when they think they will have to raise the price any more. The costs of owning a horse, or even riding a school horse are going to go up this year, possibly permanently.

If you buy a new horse consider feed efficiency before everything else besides temperament. Ponies, small horses, Arabians and any other food efficient horse will end up being less expensive to support than that gorgeous, show worthy bottomless pit of a horse who needs heroic amounts of feed to keep any weight on.

If you take lessons expect to pay more, lesson horses can be as expensive to feed as show horses. All of the costs at your lesson barn are going up and I do not think these costs are going to go down soon, if they ever go down at all.

Be prepared to pay more to be able to ride a horse. The only comfort about this is that later this year you might be able to buy a much better horse for your riding than you could get right now. People will be trimming down their herds, putting down horses that are just too old, not replacing horses who die because they do not know if they will be able to afford to feed these horses next winter. There will be some really good horses for sale, possibly at a more affordable price. Lesson barns and boarding barns are also disappearing now as people just get tired of boarders that do not want to pay what it takes to support their horse or the horse they take lessons on in a decent manner, plus not getting much money in at all for lots of working hours taking care of all the horses.

Have a great ride!

Jackie Cochran

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