Sunday, November 29, 2015

Detective work

About two weeks ago I noticed that over several days, Clair was acting crabby when I saddled her. I palpated all over her back, and she seemed fine. Then one day when I was riding, she suddenly stopped dead for no apparent reason. I asked her to go forward, and she backed up, over and over. My first thought was that it was a disobedience, but she had never done anything like it before, and we hadn't been working on a stressful movement or anything like that. I remembered her crabbiness in saddling and wondered if it was physical discomfort. So, instead of getting after her, I just sat quietly at the halt until she relaxed and walked forward on her own. We did a few trot circles and ended on a good note. I noticed when I tacked her off that she was completely dry-mouthed, which isn't like her. A few days later I came out to ride, but when I went into the pasture to get her, she was not herself at all. Usually she's happy to see me, but that day she just stood still with her head down. I listened to her gut and heard good sounds, so I decided to lunge her lightly. Again, she was crabby tacking up, and then on the lunge she was lethargic and didn't want to canter. And she was still dry-mouthed.

I was starting to think ulcers. At our previous barn, she had been on forage only (free choice round bale plus a flake of alfalfa morning and night). At the new place, we had started her on 3/4 scoop of Complete twice a day, plus grass hay and alfalfa. I wondered if she would do better on less grain. I asked to reduce her Complete servings to 1/4 scoop twice a day and double her grass hay. I also started her on Cool Calories. And I gave her a week off. I figured if she was still feeling poorly after a week, I'd give her a round of ulcer meds.

Happily, after the week off, she was back to her usual, cheerful, busy self: greeting me in the pasture, caring not at all about the girth, and foamy-mouthed. Relief! In the future, I need to notice sooner if Clair loses the happy; grumpiness probably means something's wrong.

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