Things Equestrian


Thursday, February 11, 2016

The Night My Horse Fell Into Our Swimming Pool

Have you seen this photo advert for a pool cover?

Or perhaps this one?
They are very impressive advertisements for the mesh type of pool cover and look indestructible, don’t they?

So when my horse showed an interest in it and raised a front hoof to walk on it, I wasn’t too concerned.

He’ll be a bit surprised, I thought, and he won’t like the feel of the cover sagging underneath him, but at least he’ll be able to get off it without going through the material into the water.

Boy, was I wrong!

The Irony

During 2015 I had worked very hard with Cruz to get him to trust me when I asked him to walk on ‘strange’ surfaces.

Following his adventurous pasture buddy, Gabe, the 18 hand Clydesdale/Thoroughbred cross who belongs to my friend, Christina Dale, he had become very brave.

By the end of the year he was walking fearlessly across bridges, through streams and into water with the waves lapping around him. He finally believed he wouldn’t die if he trod on pallets with rubber on them for the trail class at our OPRC rally.

I was so proud of him!

But I paid for all that hard work on Tuesday, 16th December last year, when a gate blew open and the three horses wandered into the back yard.

Setting the Scene

Dusk was descending when I happened to look out of the back window and see equine forms drifting past the bushes around the pool. I did a double take: they weren’t supposed to be there! 

The dogs were outside and had given me no indication that anything was amiss.

But sure enough, Cruz, Gabe and CD were happily grazing on the much nicer grass of our four acre lawn. Mercifully, the dogs came when called and I walked outside.

The horses were close to the pool at that point, which has happened before without mishap. Normally they give it a wide berth.

Cruz raised his head as I came out of the back door and I said “Hi, there. What are you doing, buddy?”

He took a few steps forward onto the brick area by the pool, and for some bizarre reason, was fascinated by the cover. He stretched out his neck to smell the edge, then inched forwards.

Amazed at his boldness, I decided he was close enough and should back away.

“No, Cruz!” I shouted.

Elephants and Cars

But I could only watch helplessly as he strode confidently onto the pool cover.

Of all the times for him to show such bravery!

At first I wasn’t too concerned, for the reasons I stated above. If this cover could hold a baby elephant or a large car, surely it could hold a horse? The worst that could happen was that Cruz would be frightened and would never again walk onto a pool cover.

Not so. His front hooves went straight through the mesh and the rest of him followed.

He immediately started thrashing about, and turned around to get out.

Mercifully, he fell in at the shallow end. It is still several feet deep, but I shudder to think what would have happened if he’d chosen the seriously deep end to plunge into…

This is the photo of the hole I posted on Facebook the next morning!!

To Exit Or Not to Exit?

People often ask me how I pulled him out.

Here are my answers:

1) It never occurred to me that my athletic horse couldn’t get himself out.


2) Anyway, how could I get a horse out of a pool with his legs flailing in all directions?

He got his front hooves onto the pavement and almost heaved himself out. 

Then sparks flew off his metal shoes as they scraped on the cement and he came crashing down on his knees and slid back into the water.

Now I started to panic. Supposing he couldn’t get out by himself? What then?

But he gave a huge lunge and sprang out of the water before I had to put a plan together to assist him.

A Blasé Fellow

This is where the change in his feed and our work during the year had some benefit.

Cruz shook the water off his body then put his head down to graze as though nothing had happened!

By now it was dark, so I couldn’t see how badly hurt he was. In the light from the house he looked sound in walk, but that was no guarantee of anything. I wanted to check him for injuries.

He was very easy to catch (what a star!) although it took some clever thinking to get the other two to abandon their new-found lush grass.

Eventually I had everyone back in the barn, and was able to examine the damage to my poor guy.

The left knee had a much deeper gash than the left one

There was some concern about serious stifle injury
These scrapes were not too bad

Battle Scars

His front knees were pretty scuffed up, and he had a small gash on his left stifle, as well as a long cannon bone graze on the left hind and a few fetlock grazes.

I cleaned the wounds with iodine in warm water and spread triple ant-biotic ointment on them. I also gave him 15 SMZs and prayed he’d be sound in the morning.

On Wednesday I gave him 15 more SMZs. I washed the wounds again and reapplied the triple antibiotic cream. Nothing had swollen overnight, which was a good sign.

The question then became: should I, or should I not, call the vet?

The injuries seemed superficial, with the possible exception of the one on his left knee. Better to be safe than sorry, I thought, and rang for a veterinarian’s opinion.

The Prognosis

The main vet was busy, so a new lady came who was possibly not long out of vet school. She was very nice, but unfortunately began with the worst case scenario.

Being: broken left stifle bone and knees that would remain swollen and become arthritic.

On top of that, Cruz was to go on stable rest.

I explained that Cruz – in the immortal words of this vet's boss – ‘is not a candidate for stable rest.’

He appeared a little stiff in trot, unwilling to completely bend that left stifle joint. But that was to be expected, since it had taken a bit of a bruising.

I then asked for the best possible scenario?

This was: a bit of bruising round the stifle joint and no riding to let the wounds heal. I assured her that I had no intention of riding him until he was fully recovered!

So she shaved around the wounds and cleaned them off, before applying generous dollops of antiseptic cream.

I was to do this every day for five days, and give him 13 SMZs twice a day, as well as 2 bute for five days, and one daily for the next five days. She would check him in a week.

What I Actually Did

I explained that I would hope for the best and not change his daily routine. He would continue to wander in and out of his stall at will with the others.

The vet was fine with this when I explained that Cruz would go ballistic inside his stall and do more damage to himself than good. I am a great believer in allowing a horse to maintain his habits, if at all possible, to prevent inhibiting his recovery through becoming stressed.

If in seven days he appeared lame, I would reconsider his treatment.

The thought of his being on bute for 10 days bothered me a lot, so I consulted another vet. He said that I should give my horse UlcerGuard or the equivalent if I really wanted him on bute for that length of time. But 5 days would be better.

So I gave him 2 bute for two days, and 1 a day for the next three days.

I cleaned is wounds daily and plastered on the goop until Saturday, when I had to drive down to Florida. Gabe’s owner, Christina, then had to take over.

She did a wonderful job, and switched to Equaide a fantastic cream that prevents proud flesh (another concern I had) and brought down the swelling around the wounds – a big worry especially for that left knee.

She sent me photo updates to reassure me that he was healing well.

Last Call

A week later two other friends, Kelli and Joan, were kind enough to be there for the vet when she finally arrived at 6:30 p.m. in the pouring rain. Joan had to trot Cruz up and down my barn aisle with most of the lights not working!

Cruz was pronounced sound.

The winter weather is hampering my efforts, but I am now working him again in walk. He is trotting and cantering just fine in his field.

In Conclusion...

When something like this happens to your horse, you think: This will make a good story if, and only if, it has a happy ending.

Thankfully, it has.

And now I’ve tied rope around the gates which lead into the pool area for added security. Not that I expect Cruz to wander over the pool cover again. Actually, it’s currently being repaired and the pool has turned into one huge ice block.

But I don’t want him walking on that, either!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Finding Your Horse's Song

Have you ever thought about riding to music? When you watch freestyle tests, do you ever think, wow! that looks like fun.

It is, and you can easily do it, too.

Enter Michael Matson

You can do this without the clinic, but I think you'll find the following information useful.

(If you disagree, go to The Takeaway section:) )
A friend of mine organized a clinic with Michael Matson, an equine music man with a database of over 1400 songs to choose from. Intrigued, I signed up.
Michael asked me to walk, trot and canter Cruz so he could determine the gelding's beats per minute (BPM) in each gait. Asked what kind of music I like, I answered "classical."

This is my genuine preference, but research at Hartpury College in England has determined that horses respond positively to classical or country music! So I'm on the right track.

(I remember my heavy horse van sinking into the mud while I was competing in a one day event at Hartpury. It had to be towed out by a tractor. My life is never simple!)

Letting the Horse Decide 

Michael said Cruz would let me know when we found the right melody. I thought this was pretty far-fetched, but rather than argue I carried on trotting while he searched for music to fit Cruz’s BPM in that gait. A few songs came and went, with no approval from my bay.

Then, bingo! he suddenly began to swing to the rhythm of the next tune, with new energy, cadence and lift. It was just as Michael had said: Cruz was loudly pronouncing "this is the track, Mum!" It was astounding.  

He was so into the beat that I relaxed and ‘rode with the flow.’ We were - at last - a dancing partnership, moving in sync and enjoying the music. I had a silly grin on my face: Cruz tends to be the exception which proves the rule and I had worried that we would never find ‘our song.’

He was pickier about the right tunes for walk and canter, but he did discover them. :)

It was exciting to watch for those aha! moments with my friends' horses, too. We had a terrific time at the clinic. Michael is great fun to work with and patiently takes as long as necessary to find the perfect melodies for each animal.

The Takeaway

He concluded our session by giving me a CD with my three tracks on it, plus information on how to find local experts on putting a freestyle test together. But he also included a link to free software - called Audacity - to download and use for producing my own freestyle test CD.  

Although I thoroughly recommend putting one together, you don’t need a clinic to get this information. Michael has an awesome website where you can learn how to determine your horse’s beats per minute and find music to match his walk, trot and canter.  

Michael's resources page gives the link for the Audacity software plus the Freestyle webpage at USDF where you’ll find instructions for creating your own freestyle test at every level.

The Next Step 

I immediately put Cruz's music on my iPod. At Walmart, for less than $10, you can purchase a small portable‘boombox’ for iPhones and iPods. Attach it securely to your belt (you’ll need to use more than the  original clip to keep it from moving) then you and your horse can both hear the music while you ride: it’s way more beneficial than just listening to it by yourself. 

At home I’ve been playing the music during my regular riding sessions and it has hugely improved my sense of rhythm, as well as relaxing both of us. We keep in sync when we hear our songs.

Using the Audacity software and the USDF instructions, I've put together a First Level Freestyle Test to use for my team ride at the PVDA Chapter Challenge in November. We need lots of practice before then, but it’s gonna be fun, and I will update you on how our competition ride goes.

Meanwhile, how about finding that special song in walk, trot and canter for you and your horse?

Here are those links again:

I promised an update on our results at the show: we got 70%!