Zephyr and Jaime

Zephyr’s new owner came to visit him last weekend and I think the two got along amazingly well.  They seem well suited for each other.   Part of the sale price of Z included some training time and  lessons with Troy so when another event got cancelled, Jamie was able to come by and get some ride time on his guy.  I look forward to seeing the two of them riding in warhorse events next year!

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Hoof Abscess – Things I Have Recently Learned

Having always owned horses with great feet, that never required shoes due to their thick hoof walls and general superiority, I had never had to deal with hoof abscesses before this winter.

Enter Zephyr.

Z, while possessing fine hoof walls as well, is unfortunately a little flat footed. This means the soles of his hoofs come in contact with whatever he is walking over, more than other horses. This small conformation flaw makes him what is often called “tender footed”. In other words, small rocks or other hard objects he walks over tend to cause him more pain and he runs a greater risk of bruising.

All this I was aware of and I therefore avoided riding him outside the arena without shoes. What I had not considered was what happens when a warm, wet winter suddenly become a very cold one and the pasture freezes. The result of this is horses whose feet are softened by prolonged exposure to wet ground, suddenly find themselves walking on very hard, usually uneven ground. If the animals  run around or just move too fast they can rather easily bruise their soles, especially those prone to it.

Now a horse like Orion, with a hoof wall twice as thick as most horses, has the sole of his feet well supported up off the ground AND said sole is very, very tough. He runs very little risk of any damage, even on frozen pasture.

Zephyr on the other hand, with the exact opposite foot structure and a tendency to do silly thing like running around on frozen ground, is really at risk for such damage.

Now normally slight bruises are no great problem and the horse heals up very quickly. This has always been my understanding. What I did not know until recently is the fact that bruised soles are more susceptible to Thrush.

Hoof thrush is found in the underside of the hoof and can affect the clefts, sole and frog. It’s not known whether thrush is caused by a bacteria or a fungus, but the condition is more likely to occur in the damp oxygen-less areas of a hoof that are often tightly packed with dirt and manure. In the early stages it is harmless, but left untreated it can cause hoof damage and lameness. Thrush spreading into a bruised area of the foot is a common cause of hoof abscess. So combine a flatter foot, already softened by wet ground, then frozen ground, then wet again, makes for a horse prone to abscesses.

We already knew Z had developed and abscess in his right hind foot in December. We had Dr. Bridges out to open it up and treat it and all seemed to be fine. Yesterday our farrier came out to trim all the horses and when doing Zephyr discovered just how bad the abscess on the right hind had been. He ended up cutting away a great deal of hoof sole and quite a bit of the hoof wall near the heel. Now we knew this was going to happen to one degree or another as it is normal for a hoof that has had anabscess. What I was surprised by was just how much was lost. What surprised me more was when the farrier discovered that the left hind had an abscess as well, at just about the same time as the right. We hadn’t noticed at the time because Z was so clearly favoring the other hind foot and because the abscess on left had “broken out” meaning it had caused a small opening in the hoof and relieved much of the pressure, which is what causes the pain in the first place.

To make a long story short, I know too late, we ended up cutting away the damaged area of the left hind hoof as well. The farrier is confident that both will heal and grow back just fine if there is no repeat this year. To this end I am getting Z out regularly, cleaning our his hoofs and treating everything with Thrush Buster. Once the hooves have grown back and recovered a bit, we will be shoeing him again to protect he soles and watching to make sure the problem is not repeated.

All very educational for me and sad for Zephyr. The good news is, he is not permanently damaged, is in no pain and is still a character, always trying to get me to take him out.  It will just be a few weeks before I can.  No harm done. Lesson learned.

Year Wrap-up Zephyr

Z’s time with us has been a lot of fun. He is such a character and always makes me smile. I find him to be a shining example of the Morgan Horse breed, strong, smart, brave, engaged and engaging.

Currently Z is back out in his current owner’s pasture, awaiting his new owner paying the remainder of his purchase price and coming to get him. We hope to have him in his new home before spring is over, but until then we will let him relax a bit. When it gets closer to time, I will bring him back to the training facility and give him a tune-up.

He left us as one of Raina’s favorites to ride, with an exceptionally smooth ride and light touch. He never balked at anything asked of him and I expect he will be an excellent warhorse for his new owner. I look forward to seeing them both in competition this next event season.

Zephyr’s Shoulder Issue

We just had our vet out to look at Z’s shoulder and we could not replicate the favoring he had been doing in the past. We walked and trotted on several footing types, and I even road him pretty hard; not a limp to be found.  Bill said he would have given him a clean pre-purchase report.

Recent focus on straightness and balance training seems to have resulted in a noticeable improvement in the issue and Bill credits this for why we can not replicate the problem now.

Zephyr is right handed, so he carried a lot of his weight on his right front leg. Since his arrival, he has slightly favored that leg when asked to trot, as this applies the most strain on the right front of any movement.  Once he warmed up a bit, he stopped favoring the leg and moved normally.

It is my guess that he strained his shoulder some time ago, and is simply taking a long time to mend because of the amount of work that leg was doing for him.

Since beginning work with us, we have been focusing of trying to get help him balance out his left and right muscle development and even his weight carrying, front and back.  As he has become straighter and more balanced, Z has evened out the workload more between his four legs and has starting shifting his center of balance back a little. Subsequently, his right front is not working as hard. In his last session I saw no sign of any problem at all.

Zephyr November Update

Z is moving well now, with his weight distributed much better off the forehand, but is moving lighter than he has since his arrival.

He is very people oriented, coming to the gate anytime someone gets close. He is the easiest of all the horses on the property currently, to get to come work. He actually seems to really enjoy coming out and riding, despite the fact that he tends to lay his ears back without much reason. ;>

He is still a punk, but not hostile or aggressive. He can be a character to be sure, messing with things and demanding attention, but I find him amusing even when he is acting up.

He looks to me to be well on he way to be a fun, courageous mount. I think he will be a very capable warhorse, should his new owner want him for such activities.

Yes, Zephyr is still for sale, $3,500.

By way of full disclosure, Z has started showing a odd minor problem. When we first take him out to work, he ever so slightly favors his right front leg, at the trot only and only for a few minutes. After he warms up he moves fine, trotting and cantering willingly. We have had his foot pressure checked by the farrier and it does not seem to be a foot issue.  It may be his shoulder or another joint, but whatever it is, it does not seem too serious. We have a vet coming to check on him in a couple weeks, when we will take a few x-rays and see what we will see. A chiropractor might be in order as well, we shall see if is doesn’t get better soon.

Zephyr Update

We had an excellent day working with Zephyr today.  He looks like a completely different horse these days.

He has come a long way in a short time with us. His weight is now perfect and conditioning is way up. Raina rode him for more than 2 hours today, cantering much of the time and he never broke a sweat.

He is lighter on the forehand and far better balanced than we he first arrived, stronger, more collected and relaxed. What I find most striking is how much he enjoys being ridden. He never seems to get bored or want to quit. He just keeps going, alert and involved.

I really hope we can find him a new partner who will give him job. It would be a real shame for him to end up standing in a pasture all day again.  It would be even better if he went to someone who wanted to use him for medieval gaming. He has shown real promise at the elements, cantering the “Head” on his first time he was asked.  With his bold nature, curious mind and willingness to work, I think he would make a excellent warhorse.

Another impressive attribute, he is very, very strong. He may only measure at a little over 14.3, he rides like a much bigger horse. He carries me at over 200 lbs as easily as Raina and half that. He is the very incarnation of the Morgan Horse breed.

Zephyr is a real bargain at only $3,500.

Last day of August

Today I rode Zephyr, Raffona, Bellatrix and Orion. I will now post the status of each in regards to what I am currently working on with them.

Zephyr

Z has come a long way in a short time. His weight and physical conditioning are much improved. He is also much more flexible and collected.

He does appears to enjoy having something to do and was really into working today. He quietly took any gait I asked for, on the correct lead every time. We are still working getting him to get his butt under himself and lift his front end, but that will come.

He crossed all the trail obstacles we have laid out right now, with just a little bit of hesitation, due most likely to being alone in the arena. But after a bit he relaxed and took them all in stride.

To sum up, he is a very enjoyable ride, with soft, easy to sit gaits and I am sure he will just get better in time.

Raffona

Raffona has been and still is, one of my very favorite horses. She is so soft and light to the touch it seems sometimes you can guide her with your thoughts.

I have been working on slow canter and trot, bringing her down closer and closer to doing them in place.  She is making very nice lead changes now, looking for the new lead when I turn my head.

Oddly, it is getting her to extend that is proving to be the challenge. If she walked any slower she would be going backward and she opts to try to change gaits rather than extend her walk, trot or canter. I have to admit though, I have been enjoying her slow canter and trot so much I really haven’t worked on her extended movement as much as I should. 🙂

To sum up, if she continues to improve as she has recently, I am probably going to use her as my Palfrey in next year’s Hocktide Emprise.

Bellatrix

I hadn’t actually planned to ride Bella today, but while Raina was riding her, our little princess started acting the part and Raina did not want to correct her too forcefully for fear of doing something wrong. So we switched mares and up I climbed.

I instantly noticed how much bigger Bella felt from the saddle than she seems when you stand next to her. This did not feel like some little filly. She felt very much like Orion, but just a little closer to the ground.

For the next 40 minutes or so we walked, trotted and cantered. Her walk is forward and quick, with good flexing. Her trot, soft, with some good speed and extension when you ask for it. Good bend at the pole, but a little bit stiff in her lateral bend. Her canter was a different thing. She really didn’t want to bend or flex at first and would take any opportunity to try to head back to Fona. So we had some words and I put her in some tight circles at the walk and trot before I manage to get her to become a little more supple at the canter.  The great thing was, no matter how forcefully I insisted she behave, she never got upset. Her eye was always soft, ears quiet and she would stop and stand anytime I ask her to.

To sum up, Bella is a doll. She has her dad’s steady mind and willingness to try new things and her mom’s drive to compete. When we start her training for the games, I am positive this little tank will be a force to be reckoned with.

Orion

What can I say about Orion I haven’t said a hundred times?

In the case of today’s ride, it could be mentioned that he had not been ridden in days and he was not happy about it. Every time this week that I went to the pasture to get someone to work, he stared at me disapprovingly as I took someone else out.  So I expected him to demonstrate his displeasure by giving me a hard time. Did he? Nope, not for a second.

From the very beginning he was on his game, giving me exactly what I asked for. Stepping into his collected canter from the standstill, both leads, with his forehead exactly perpendicular to the ground. He went from this canter, to fast hand gallop, to a full charge and back down to a calm standstill with almost no prompting. Keep in mind getting his speed up without making him “Gamey” is what I have been working on lately.

He even cantered beside, behind and in front of Curly without issue, even doing close passes as he changed from one position to the next. Then just to remind both of us how it is done, I rode him with no hands for about 15 minutes, all over the arena, crossing the trail challenges, canter with Curly, turning, stopping and wheeling back into the charge. I eventually rode him to the arena gate, unlatched and opened it, then up to the gate to the barn, unchained and opened it, then herded the goat that had gotten out of the pasture back to where he belonged. Once all this was done, we trotted down to the tie off post. During all of this I never touched the reins once.

To sum up, I love this horse.

Zephyr Is For Sale

Zephyr
What a face. ;>

Our friend Nancy Morgan just spent a bundle on vet costs with her horse Tempo and finds herself in some financial straights because of the care she provided this one adored horse. Zephyr, whom I have talked about on the blog in some detail is her other horse.

It had always been her intent to own Z for ever and give him a great life by allowing him to live up to his potential. Now this does not seem possible because she simply doesn’t have the time or money to maintain a fulfilling life for two horses. After much soul searching, she has concluded that her beloved boy needs more to do in his life than run around a pasture.  So she has decided to find him a new home. I believe she is making the right decision as Z has demonstrated over the last few weeks a stronger work ethic and quickness of mind than he had shown when he first came to us.

Z is an 8 year old registered Morgan gelding tracing his line back to Figure, Justin Morgan’s famous stallion through the very typie “Government Line” of the Morgan breed. These are the horses used so successfully by the cavalry during the Civil War and in the West in battles against the warriors of the Plain’s Indians, again in the war with Spain and right up to time the U.S. did away with horses as mounts for warfare.

Morgans are famous for being bold, courageous, intelligent animals. Compact of build, they are very strong for their size with great stamina. Zephyr stand 14.3 and is built like a tank, thicker of body than the other, much taller horses standing in the pasture with him.  He has very smooth gaits and impressive speed.

Zephyr
Still some weight to lose but not much.

Morgans, because they are so powerful in a small frame can have issues with bending and flexing through the whithers. We have been working on stretching exercises to improve his flexibility and balance when under saddle. His condition and suppleness have improved and will continue to improve with time.

I will get some more pictures of the boy as soon as I can and post them here, but as you can from the pictures I have already posted that Z is a lovely “blood” bay with a fine head and solid build.

The price for Zephyr is $3,500, to an approved home. This is a great price for a registered Morgan of his conformation and mind, but to sweeten the deal I am offering a month’s additional training for both Z and his new owners to familiarize them with how he is trained and to facilitate a good transfer of ownership. Everyone involved wants to make sure Zephyr and his new owner will be good match and happy.

If you are interested in meeting Zephyr, feel free to contact me.

Zephyr Update

Zephyr
Still some weight to lose.

Zypher has had a couple round pen sessions with Raina since my last update for him.

During the first one he showed are real reluctance to allow Raina the upper hand and it took about 45 minutes before he was willing to acquiesce to her authority.  Once he had agreed that she was in charge, at least for the moment, he was quite willing to stand quietly and allow her to touch anywhere she wanted, pick up his feet, etc. He stood perfectly still through the whole thing, only moving to follow her if she walked away.  However, when we took him out of the round pen to hose him off he started testing, just a little, right away.

These tests took the form of moving up as he was lead until he was shoulder to shoulder with Raina and trying to move off and get some grass in the wheel barrow as they passed. Both of these were subtle tests he was making to see if he could regain the position above her in the heard.  She spotted this for what it was and gently put him back in his place.

Today was his second session and things went smoother. He came around much faster this time.   He seemed much more willing to accept that he was not going to be able to push Raina around, though he still made small tests to see if she was paying attention.

Another thing I noticed is that Z started out each session VERY heavy on the forehand and by the end, while still on the forehand, he had started to get his hind end under him and pick himself up a bit more.  He still needs some stretching work done with him before I start working him on the short line, but I feel that we can begin those in his next session.

Within a couple more weeks I feel his weight will be down, his flexibility/conditioning up and his willingness to accept a lower position in the herd should allow us to increase the pace of his tune up and we should be able to being him on gaming elements by the end of September.

Oh, I forgot to mention. Zephyr’s owner is talking now about looking for a care lease situation for him, so if anyone reading these blog postings is interested, feel free to contact me.

Zephyr Doesn’t Respect Women

Something I noticed about Z, when he was still at his owner’s place, was that he seemed to be a bit of a punk. He seemed to push his owner around a little and appeared to have no respect for her personal space.

Then he came to our place for a tune up on his training.  From the very first time I started handling him he was the perfect gentleman, so I thought “Maybe it is just the change of locations and that he remembers me from when I worked with him before.”  I mean most horses seem to pretty quickly realize that I am not really someone they can push. ;>

But after watching his owner, my wife and my assistant all handle and ride him before and after I had, I notice that he was fine when I am working him but quite different with each of the ladies. For me he came off my leg quickly and easily, neck reined from a light touch, pick up any gate I asked for, etc.  When any of them rode him, he would ignore the leg, cut off the arena, blow off the aids, on and on.  Basically he was a passive aggressive little pain.

Now each of these ladies rides differently. One with more leg strength, one with better hands on the aids, one with perfect balance, and so on, but his reaction to each was almost identical.  So what I feel we have here is a respect issue. He has it for me. For them, not so much. ;>

So what do with do about this.  Many trainers would tell them to get after him in the saddle. Just “force” him to listen and obey.  I approach this a little differently.

We are going to take him back to ground training.  Start over from the basics with each of these ladies working with him.  Beginning with making him stand still while being handled and touched. Then contact movement, followed by no contact movement, then on to short line spiral lunging .  In short, all the work I did with him way back when I first had him in training. The goal here is to get the same respect for each of them that he already has for me.  Once he is the habit of automatically following direction from humans of both genders, then we can go back to saddle training.

Just goes to show, each horse presents you with unique issues.