Stories of Ponies: Ricci’s Saga

It all started in March of 2010.  I got to the barn one day to find Ricci with a swollen leg.  It was the inside of her right front, running from the inside, back of her knee and down into her pastern.  There was no heat, no reaction when pressed or otherwise manipulated, and no soundness issues.  It seemed to go away with massaging and moving, leading me to believe it was circulatory.  I worked her cautiously, monitoring her movement and ready to stop if she was in pain.

On March 18th, 2010, I had a chiropractor out for my old girl.  She worked primarily on Ricci’s loin/low back and neck, but I had her look at her legs too.  She noticed a slight restriction in range of motion on one her pasterns, guessing it was slightly arthritic, but I was no closer to an answer about Ricci’s mysterious swelling.

Working with a vet, we came to a decision on April 9th, 2010.  After a lameness evaluation and nerve blocks to localize the pain, and X-rays to confirm no laminitis or navicular issues, it was determined she had strained the soft tissue in the heel of her left hoof.  The swelling in her left leg was from overcompensating for the pain in her left hoof.  And so we begin the very long process of giving Ricci the perfect hoof, battling miscellaneous injuries, moving barns, and life in general.

November 6, 2009. A trim by my original farrier who, although did very well with Ricci, was a bit on the batty side. I think our problem started with the combination of a new farrier and riding on the road.

March 3, 2010, pre trim. This was no more than 8 weeks out, likely only 6 weeks. New farrier.

March 3, 2010. Side view of her very awful, almost laminitic episode looking, hooves.

March 3, 2010. Hind feet.

March 3, 2010. Sole of front right.

March 3, 2010. Sole of front left.

March 3, 2010. Sole of right hind.

March 3, 2010. Sole of left hind.

Ricci started to experience some more noticeable lameness and the swelling continued.  My vet was out early to mid March for teeth. I asked him about her leg and when he looked it, it wasn’t swollen at all.  He didn’t seem overly concerned since it had gone away and wasn’t particularly lame at the time.  She was pulled from work until all our issues were sorted out.

Mach 26, 2010. Trying to depict swollen right leg.

March 26, 2010. Swelling is slightly discernible.

April 20, 2010. Front hooves before trying the new, vet recommended, farrier.

April 20, 2010. Left front.

April 20, 2010. Right front.

April 20, 2010. Left hind.

April 20, 2010. Sole of right front.

April, 20, 2010. Sole of right hind.

April 21, 2010. Natural balance shoes.

April 21, 2010. Right front.

April 21, 2010. Left front.

April 21, 2010. Right hind.

April 21, 2010. Left hind.

April 21, 2010. Sole of right front.

April 21, 2010. Sole of right hind.

April 21, 2010. Right hind. Shoe extends past the hoof.

June 20, 2010. Possible splint or hard ding from pasture play, hard lump just above my finger, right front.

June 20, 2010. Possible splint, right front. Dark spot is small cut, leading me to believe this is a hard ding from playing in the pasture.

June 20, 2010. Left leg, no injury.

Mid July, 2010, we run into a situation with Ricci’s tendons appearing to be bowed.  Slightly warm, sporadic lameness, but not in obvious pain.  As has been the course of the summer, Ricci spends more time on stall rest with standing wraps, pain meds, and liniments.  Luckily, this too, did pass.

In November, I came out to feed dinner to find my lovely mare colicking.  At approximately 10pm, I was lucky enough to have my normal vet on call and out at the barn to pump her stomach.  While her colic was relatively mild, it was all very alarming.  The vet guessed the problem was the change in weather.  The water was getting colder, causing the horses to drink less, leading to their intestines being less lubricated and making it difficult to pass manure.

$500 and a few hours later, I was at the barn in the cold, walking my mare and praying for poop.  At 5am, I grabbed some McDonald’s breakfast, went home to shower and change, and was back at the barn by 7 to continue monitoring Ricci.  By the next evening, I believed Ricci to be in the clear, and ever since, I’ve been feeding electrolytes when it starts getting colder.

Getting deeper into winter, I was starting to doubt the farrier recommended to me.  Ricci’s intermittent swelling and mild lameness was persisting.  The idea was to help her grow a little more heel to relieve the soft tissue in the heel of her hoof.  She was being seen every 6 weeks on the dot, and was later shortened to a 5 week schedule.  Looking at it logically, I had been using this farrier for the better part of a year, and nothing was changing, she was not improving.  Talking to some very knowledgeable people on a horse forum, I tried to learn as much as I could.

In December of 2010, I decided to talk to a few different farriers and barefoot trimmers and get some of their input as well.  While I talked to quite a few that weren’t much help, and one who was a downright asshole, I eventually had a barefoot trimmer out to give me a consult.  What she told me made a lot of sense.  She pointed out how unbalanced Ricci’s hooves were and how much hoof she had in general.  She thought Ricci had much too much heel and it wasn’t doing her any favors.

I decided to express my concerns with my farrier and go from there.  In my opinion, he did not take it well.  I appreciated that he was a good farrier, but he just wasn’t working for my mare.  He was offended by my questions and concerns, and when I suggested maybe she had too much heel now, he said that was the whole point but had no qualms lobbing her entire heel off.  I didn’t make another appointment with him.

December 13, 2010.  Starting to doubt the vet recommended farrier.  Front right, pre trim.

December 13, 2010.  Front right, showing ripples, or bubbles, in the heel of her hoof and just a lot of hoof in general.

December 13, 2010. Sole of right front. The trimmer suggested her white line [which is aactually that dark ring around her hoof] should actually be around that shadowy ridge you see between the tip of her frog and her hoof wall.

December 13, 2010. Someone on the horse forum I was utilizing was nice enough to draw some lines to point out the imbalance.  Also notice the bell shape.

December 16, 2010. Front right, post trim.

December 16, 2010. Front right.

December 16, 2010. Front left, showing her general conformation.

December 16, 2010. Sole, front left.

December 16, 2010. Heel/sole of front left.

December 16, 2010. Heel/sole of left hind.

December 16, 2010. Heel/sole of left front.

December 26, 2010. Heel of front left.

December 26, 2010. Heel of front left.

January 30, 2011. New trimmer. Front left.

January 30, 2011. Front left.

January 30, 2011. Front right.

January 30, 2011. Front right.

January 30, 2011. Hind.

January 30, 2011. Sole, front left.

January 30, 2011. Heel of front left.

January 30, 2011. Sole of front right.

January 30, 2011. Sole, right hind.

January 30, 2011. Sole of left hind.

January 30, 2011. Heel of left hind. My only concern with Ricci’s trim was the very uneven heel.

January 30, 2011. Heel of right hind. Also uneven but less so.

March 10, 2011. Left front.

March 10, 2011. Left front.

March 10, 2011. Front right.

March 10, 2011. Front right.

March 10, 2011. Sole, front left.

March 10, 2011. Heel, front right.

March 10, 2011. Heel, front left.

July 14, 2011. Front left.

July 14, 2011. Front right.

July 14, 2011. Front left.

July 14, 2011. Front right.

July 14, 2011. Sole, right front.

July 14, 2011. Sole, front left.

July 14, 2011. Heel, front left.

July 14, 2011. Heel, front right.

Ricci’s feet were well on their way to perfect with the help of this trimmer.  It wasn’t long after using this new lady that Ricci started feeling better.  We slowly started getting back into work, and I am absolutely thrilled with her progress.

Then we ran into teeth issues which were making her uncomfortable and she started losing weight.  We were back out of work.  I kept her warm and fed her more than usual through the winter until I could get her teeth done.  The end of January, 2012, I moved an hour north.  My girls followed three weeks later.  The new barn is a little rough around the edges.  While Gracie hasn’t had much issue, Ricci has had a hard time of it.  In April, I came out for the first time in two weeks and found that she had taken a chunk out of her knee.  I found a vet, and he came out to clean it, cut away the proud flesh, wrap it, and give her some antibiotics and a tetanus booster.  While the wound was large and in a delicate spot, Ricci wasn’t bothered by it.  She reacted when you pressed on it, but was otherwise sound.

April 30, 2012. Approximately two days after injury was found and seen by vet, first re-wrap. Right knee.

May 11, 2012. Healing up very, very well.

May 26, 2012. Looking great!

Soon after this, the vet was out to float teeth.  We slowly started getting back into work when we faced another obstacle.  She developed a large lump on the front of her right knee.  Soon after, she started growing a similar feeling lump on the front of both pasterns as well as her other knee.  Following all the lumps, I saw a sore in the middle of all of them.  Ricci started coming up lame, again.  Having no idea what we were facing, and being concerned about the lump so close to her knee that she recently injured, the vet was out.  Again.

It was determined that she was simply banging her knee on the feeder.  The barn was an old cow barn, with a low concrete ledge that my mare was smacking herself on while reaching for as much hay as possible.  I was to keep applying triple antibiotic ointment to the sores but otherwise, it would heal itself as she was starting to spend more and more time out in the pasture grazing.  Luckily, this proved to be true, and I shouldn’t have to deal with this again until next spring when we stop feeding hay.

Now I have lots of reasons and excuses why Ricci’s beautiful hooves were left to decline this spring.  I won’t bore you with the details, but farrier work is one of the things that slipped under the cracks while I adjusted financially to the move and the vet bills Ricci accrued.  She is currently back on a 4 week trim with the best farrier I’ve been able to find in the area.  She was most recently trimmed on September 26.  Before the trim, I trotted her around and she seemed very sound.  After the trim, she was a little sensitive on her right front, which I assume is from the farrier paring away the frogs [not something I agree with].  When the soft “new” frog has a change to toughen up, I’m sure she will be fine.  I will also be asking the farrier not to trim away so much of it.

Our current obstacle is dealing with two abscesses that blew out in July. One for each back hoof, one much worse than the other.  Ricci’s hooves also did some significant “self-trimming” and she took a rather large chunk off her back hoof that has been causing her some discomfort.

July 6, 2012. Abscess blow out on the inside of her right hind hoof.

July 6, 2012. The huge, much worse abscess blow out on the outside heel of her left hind hoof.

July 6, 2012. Showing the depth of the monster abscess.

Keeping true to her clumsy, accident-prone self, I found this large wound underneath her tail in August.  While it didn’t inhibit her at all, or otherwise cause her much pain, it was still a large enough injury worth noting.  Luckily, there is a decent amount of blood flow to the area, and because it wasn’t able to get very dirty or covered in flies, it healed up quickly and without intervention.

August 10, 2012. Wound found underneath tail.

August 14, 2012. Wound underneath tail.

August 28, 2012. Wound underneath tail completely healed, leaving a scar and lump.

All of her wounds are now healed.  The injury on her knee has left slight scarring but aside from a small patch of wayward hairs, isn’t noticeable.  The scar and lump underneath her tail has grown smaller.  The abscesses are growing out with the help of a good farrier.  Hopefully by spring, after several months of consistent trims every 4 weeks, I will be able to introduce my lovely old mare back into the work she loves.  After almost three years off, I don’t expect us to get back up to the level we were previously at, but I know both of us will thoroughly enjoy getting back to work.  There is nothing like a great ride on a good mare.  I cannot wait for the day I can pull her out, saddle her up, and not be overly concerned that she will be lame. However, even if she can never be ridden again, she has a home with me for the rest of her life.  I won’t ever be ready to lose her, but I hope to have several more years.  Long live Ricci.

September 26, 2012.


Stories of Ponies: Pretty Ricci

Ricci [pronounced “Ricky”] is a 1992 Paint mare.  I bought her in 2007, right out of high school.

May 11, 2012

April 7, 2012

May 23, 2012


May 23, 2012


May 23, 2012


June 20, 2012

August 10, 2012

August 29, 2012

January 1, 2012

August 16, 2011


August 16, 2011

June 6, 2011


May 16, 2009

November 20, 2007

July 1, 2007


January 27, 2008

March 23, 2008

March 23, 2008


May 8, 2008

May 8, 2008


May 8, 2008


May 8, 2008

August 24, 2009

Tales of Kitties: “Skinny”

I started a new job last week at the humane society.  It’s a dream job.  The glamor of cleaning cat kennels is slight, but I have met some wonderful cats and fabulous dogs.  The kittens are cute and awkward, they think they are big and tough when I reach in to clean.  Standing up on their back legs, giving me the occasional swat.  There are some absolutely beautiful cats, with luxurious, soft coats and exquisite faces.  And then there is “Skinny.”

“Skinny” observing the “get acquainted” room in his lordly manner.

“Skinny” is a roughly 5 year old male, he came into the shelter as a stray on August 26th.  He’s a mellow guy, just trying to hang out.  On my first day, when I opened his cage to clean it, he stood up on his hind legs, put his paws on my shoulders, and rubbed his face on my jaw.  I was in love.  Hook, line, and sinker.  There is something about this cat.  Maybe it’s his tattered, scarred ears.

“Skinny” has lived quite the life. What I wouldn’t give to know his whole story.

Maybe it is the way he stands.  Calm and cautious, but confident and regal.

“Skinny” has the majestic stance of a lion, the perfect balance of caution and confidence.

He seemed excited to see me today.  He was more interested in my presence than the food I was trying to give him.  He stood up to “hug” me again and I knew, I have to take this cat home.  He purrs so loudly, and I just want to curl up on a couch or in bed and cuddle the heck out of him.  It’s been roughly nine years since I last had a cat that enjoyed snuggling.  My current cat loves me from a distance, occasionally curling up next to me, but not much of a cuddler.  My parents cat just wasn’t particularly fond of me, for reasons only he could explain.  So to have a cat that I can pick up and cuddle before bed, or when I’m sick, or just when I’ve had a bad day and want to feel better.

So there are a few hurdles I need to jump before I can adopt him.  I have to run this by my landlord and make sure I can have another cat, as well as find out what I would need to give as a deposit.  I will also have to take my cat into the vet for shots before I bring in a new cat, as well as verify that “Skinny” gets along with other cats.  As much as I want to bring him home right now, it will have to wait for at least a week, probably a few weeks.  I will rename him, “Skinny” just isn’t a great name for such a great cat.  I’m thinking Mufasa.

Craning his neck to see things from a better angle.

Wandering around the room.

Seeing if the counter is worth jumping up on and the fish worth further investigating.

How could I not fall in love with this cat?!

Like all cats, he wants to be “up,” but he also wants to stay close to you. This is his compromise.

Stories of Ponies: Meeting Gracie

We go back in time to March of 2009.  A friend from work has a 7 month old bay Quarter Horse filly, Gracie, she is looking to re-home.  I have been dwelling and deliberating for months.  Do I want her?  I decide to go meet her.  I find a gangly, goofy, dirty-looking filly covered in her winter woolies.

But she has a cute face.

She is silly.  She has this face where she looks like a donkey.  It is most unattractive.

She is also ornery.  Stubborn and pigheaded.  She is not inclined to listen.  When I picked up her hoof, she tries to drop to her knees and lay down.  When this doesn’t convince me to let go of “her” hoof, she nibbles on my shoe.  I poke her in the muzzle, demand respect, and she yields.  Albeit, begrudgingly.

I don’t know what I was thinking.  I didn’t need another horse.  She is a brat.  Pushy, obstinate, hardheaded, but surprisingly sweet.  Based purely on “baby squee” impulse and being a dumb horse-crazy 19 year old, I decide, on this cold, wet, day in March of 2009, to take home a cute, snotty, 7 month old bay Quarter Horse filly named Gracie.

And she still makes the most unattractive donkey faces.