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In Loving Memory...
~ Gogo Fatale ~

6/2/01 - 10/11/11
~ Forever the Marest of Them All ~

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Jabba The Foot

Horses are our greatest teachers. We can read about things in books, we can hear them from other people, but it will be the horse who always tells us the ultimate truth.

Have you been jealous of my gorgeous, immaculate 15 acres of thick, healthy pasture that Gogo has been out on for these past few months? I would have totally agreed with your opinion, until a few weeks ago. At that point, something happened to my pasture that changed everything.

Rain. Rain happened, and a lot of it. When it rained, the grass started to grow. Everything turned BRIGHT green overnight, where it has been just yellowish-greenish before. Dew lingered on the grass every morning, and huge thunderstorms pounded the ground every night for days. The grass flourished, and Gogo started rapidly expanding. Very, very rapidly.

And suddenly, I realized why natural hoofcare advocates are so seriously against turnout on lush, monochrome green, dewy pastures. You can read about it, you can hear it from other people, but until you see it with your own eyes, you don't believe it until the day you see just how much it can affect your horse overnight.

Until this severe green explosion of growth in my pasture, my horse's feet had been looking tougher than ever. They had fully exfoliated twice, and were the consistency of polished marble, gleaming in all their rock crunching glory. They were on dry, abrasive grasses with sandy soil, and everything was all hunky-dory. She walked loads trying to find the best bits of grass in her field, and the movement helped polish those feet to a glow. It didn't rain for nearly two months; we were in a severe drought. The grasses dried and turned yellow, and wildfires ravaged the area. Everything was just so DRY. And the horses benefited from it.

The rain finally started a few weeks ago, and really intensified over the past week and a half. The grass exploded with new growth, and suddenly my pasture became an enormous, sugary, delicious buffet, just waiting for Gogo's consumption. I eyeballed this with skepticism, unsure of what might happen to my easy keeper when released to this potential nightmare. Not surprisingly, she ballooned. A LOT.

She looks like Jabba the Hutt.

What has also happened that I did not anticipate was the complete and utter collapse of the rawhide-tough foot that she had been building up. It is shocking and frightening how quickly a hoof can change to adapt to the environment it is subject to, in this case an increase in wet pastures, sugary forages, and a subsequent severe slow-down of Gogo's movement, simply because she doesn't have to move around very far to get more than enough of what she wants and needs to eat. She was producing epic amounts of hoof beforehand, and suddenly, she isn't wearing them down anymore.

If you look at her hooves from the topside, they look fine. Totally fine! You wouldn't know anything was wrong with them. But flip them over, and they too look a little bit like Jabba the Hutt.

That is an ugly mess, and it all happened in less than two weeks. Almost five years of her being barefoot, and I've never seen her do anything like this before. She's always had gorgeous, robust feet. She has also always been stalled with minimal turnout, until now.

The good thing is that I know what is happening here. There are several different problems, all of which need addressing, but all of which should hopefully be simple to fix.

1) Major grass growth. Gogo shows no sign of discomfort in her wonky feet, so I'm not particularly worried that she's about to go and have wrestling match with laminitis, but she's gained vast amounts of weight in the past couple of weeks and this needs to be curbed immediately. She refuses to eat or drink when she wears her grazing muzzle and does nothing more than just stand by the gate, which is why I had been leaving it off of her when it was drier out, but now she's just going to have to wear it and deal with it. My hope is that she'll just get over it and figure it out, but I'm not so sure that she will.
2) Wet fields. I can help counter this with Keratex, but aside from that, there's not much I can do while she lives where she lives.
3) Grazing in a plush field disengages the caudal hoof. Ever watched your horse grazing when they have exactly the patch of grass they want? They eat and eat, then place one front toe forward for balance, eventually settling back down onto their heel as they rock their weight forward onto that foot to reach the next delicious bite of grass. Now imagine this situation 24/7. I was really watching the way Gogo grazes the other day, and was really surprised to see how little she actually walks while grazing. She doesn't have to, she has an endless sea of food around her in all directions. But this is a problem, and with hooves, if you don't use it you lose it! The integrity of her frog on her RF in particular (clubby foot, pictured) has been completely lost to her endless toodles on increasingly soft pasture. It's not soft, and it's not mushy, but you saw it. It still hard, but it's not right. What can I do about this? We're going to start handwalking on pavement every day. Not only should this help to reengage her caudal hoof, it hopefully will wear down some of that excess hoofwall she's producing and no longer wearing by herself. As an added bonus, it should help to realign some of those healing tendon fibers vertically. Both of our lardy butts could stand for a little exercise too.

The good thing about all this is that she still had a good, strong base to work with, and this hasn't been (and isn't going to be) a longterm problem. This will thankfully be something we can turn around quickly, although in the future I'm going to really have to reassess where I keep her on a permanent basis. I'm thinking there might really be more to Paddock Paradise than I had originally given it credit for.

Beautiful, gorgeous, picturesque green pastures.... you can all just go to hell!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Not too much to report.

I haven't had anything much to report on the Gogo front lately. She eats and eats and eats, naps under her shady tree, and eats some more. She's enormously fat now that the grass has been refreshed - we've had a fair bit of rain from the huge storms that spent the past week rolling through the area, and everything looks green and refreshed. We've had somewhere between 10 and 20 reported tornados in the area, and have had at least one close call every day for the past several days, yesterday being the first that hasn't been filled with terror and hiding in my hallway.

Check out the hail:

That is some big hail. I've never seen anything like it. And the storms that rolled through dropped BASEBALL sized hail in some places. And tornados, obviously.

We're all fine here. Gogo spent the scariest nights in a stall in the barn, away from the knock-you-on-the-head-kill-you-dead hail. I hope everyone else that experienced this recent set of storms is okay... I heard over 250 people died, and that we've had over 800 reported tornados, surpassing the old April all-time record of about 550 or so. It's been insane, to say the least.

Work is exhausting, school is crazy intense, and I've been super tired from doing the work of two people on no days off for a month now (our other staff member left in the beginning of April, and I am the sole employee now until we find someone else)... so I've just not had much energy to write, or do anything beyond study and try to maintain some sort of semblance to a normal existance. Not having any days off to recoup has been a bit damaging to me, physically as well as emotionally. Readers who were around last year might remember when I blew my hip out when I worked for two weeks straight and played catch every night in order to keep myself sane, and suffered horribly for it. I've been wanting to run again, but I've been getting increasingly uncomfortable, and am worried that the hip might blow out again. I've been working every day, doing everything in the barn, riding both competition horses, and doing most every night check. And I'm exhausted.

Which is why I haven't written much. I'm just not feeling so great.

Rolex is this weekend, and once again, I'm not going. I'm just as annoyed about it this year as I was last year. Next year, I am NOT missing it. I absolutely refuse.

I need a nap!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Possum Kingdom Wildfire Update

I apologize for being quiet all week.... as many of you have seen on national news, the area just northwest of my town has been fully ablaze for well over a week now, and it's not over yet. The towns that have most recently been evacuated are less than 30 miles from my house, and with a fire moving at potentially a mile a minute when the winds pick up, this doesn't give us much time to get out if it decides to swing this way. Possum Kingdom lake (I know, like many other alternative music fans, I had no idea that this was an actual place and not just an awesome song) connects to the Brazos River, which our farms backs right up to, and the damage had been unbelievably extensive. As far as I have heard, the fire is still only 25% contained, but at least the danger of it coming this way has (hopefully) mostly passed. Honestly, I barely know anything beyond the few bits of information the news has fed us - that the fire has scorched over 150,000 acres, that it killed a firefighter, that we're in severe drought - and it's been incredibly frustrating because of it. Nobody will tell us anything about the fire, or whether or not we need to worry about its location. We've had all our trailers hooked up and packed for days and days, just in case. Thankfully, we're pretty sure that we're safe. Maybe. At least the enormous clouds of billowing, hanging smoke have mostly dissipated. They've been hanging high for quite some time over the farm, but when they roll in low, we all cough, wheeze, and hack our way through the day, barely able to breathe. We had a bit of misty rain earlier in the week, nowhere near what we need, and this turned everything into a giant steamy, foggy mess. It's been a bit intense.

I'll have more updates later. Just wanted to let you all know that we are still alive and not burned to crispy pieces of bacon!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Photo Adventure Fridays: The Shady Tree

This week's Photo Adventure....

My own backyard, under the Shady Tree.
Because sometimes having to tramp all over God's creation to find where the heck your horse is on her 15 acres is an adventure in and of itself.

Monday, April 11, 2011


Gogo, the critters and I have all survived our first Texas twister. Yep, you heard me.... a freaking TORNADO! All those things I've been saying about how terrified I am of tornados? The fear definitely got healthier after last night!!

It's been hot all week, miserably hot. (Yes, I know it's going to get a LOT hotter, but it HAS been almost 100 every single day out here in the country...!) The forecast for yesterday evening had a slight chance of thunderstorms included, and I didn't think too much of it until around 6pm. Suddenly, out of nowhere, giant angry clouds appeared on the horizon just northwest of my house. One minute it was clear, and the next time I looked out the window.... BAM! That can't be good.

The clouds continued to build up in the west, and looked like they were going to land a direct hit on our place. Radar showed that the movement of the storms was north, but that they were crawling VERY slowly east towards where we were. I floored it over to the main farm, and found this waiting for me:

My boss made the comment that they looked like tornado producers. I didn't stick around long enough to find out. The lightning had begun, and I rushed to secure everything, lock the horses in the barn, and hightail it back to my house, where Gogo was still out in turnout next to her neighbor Bobo. I checked the radar, saw we were now under a Severe Thunderstorm Warning (had only been a watch before), and called my landlord's wife to let her know that we needed to bring the horses in, NOW.

Both horses were in the very back of their fields when we went to go get them. Neither showed any interest in coming to us, even though we were calling and calling their names. It was impossible for them to hear us over the roar of the increasing winds, and every time I turned back around to look at the incoming storm, I was blinded by ground-seeking bolts of lightning. At this point, Bobo had decided that he had had enough of this crap, and came galloping towards my landlord's wife. Gogo, not to be deterred, blasted off like a bottle rocket, galloping right past me (of course I was almost at the very end of the pasture by then.... thanks Gogo) so she could follow her boyfriend's every move. When she got near the gate, she stopped dead, eyeballs popping out of her head at the sight of the lightning. We got both horses safely in their stalls, gave them water and hay, crossed our fingers, and all took off to our respective houses.

This is what was outside my door at this point:

And then, night closed in around us. The wind completely stopped. There was nothing but silence, and darkness... the calm before the storm. It didn't last very long.

The storm crawled slowly closer and closer. It continued to move mostly north, but it didn't stop inching sideways towards us. All I could see at this point was lightning, neverending lightning. It flashed repeatedly every second, darting through the clouds, streaking towards the ground. The thunder became louder, the winds stronger. Without warning, the sky opened, and rain lashed the windows, rattling the panes and sending my animals into a tailspin. Quarter-sized hail came pelting down out of the sky, and I had a moment where I honestly feared for my windows. The lightning was so intense that I could do nothing at this point except stare wide-eyed out my window, breathing shallowly and wondering if this was the time to gather my pets and hunker down in my innermost bathroom - the only shelter I have against a big storm. And then, something strange was happening to the clouds. They were doing things that didn't make sense. Illuminated by the neverending lightning all around me, I saw the very finger of God coming down out of the sky, and my heart stopped. It can't be.

The Weatherbug on my computer chirped at me in a sweet way as I stood frozen in the windowframe. Tornado Warning! You might wanna take cover! I didn't even know if my legs would work to get my terrified self to safety. I was paralyzed with fear.

I was lucky enough that what I witnessed had already passed me by, and was some miles away from me at this point. I was very stupid NOT to go hide in the bathroom, but radar showed the cell to be passing us completely with a break behind it, so I didn't completely panic even though I maybe should have. The cell went right over the main farm, and my boss heard it and tried in a frenzy to get all of her dogs into her back room. By the time she had started to collect them, the roar of the freight train had already stopped. This morning, there are a few huge trees on the ground, and every jump we own is scattered all over the place, but those are the only signs that something was amiss last night. We were lucky. Really, really lucky.

As far as I know, the tornado that I saw never actually made contact with the ground. There was not much in the way of damage away from the farm, so I think it was just enough to give us a pretty good scare and nothing more.

Sure worked though. I went to bed at around midnight, and another mega cell came overtop of us not too long thereafter. The power went out, the lightning flashed, the thunder boomed, and I curled under my bedcovers and hid. Future Hubs was on high alert for me while he was at work, watching the radar and sending me alert updates, so he let me know what was going on with the storm. I had my bathroom all bedded up at this point, filled with blankets, pillows, water, and bowls for the pets, and I was ready for the moment when I needed to run. I probably should have just gone for it, seeing as tornados can and do randomly pop up in big storm cells like that. Next time I won't be so stupid.

Good lord. Welcome to Texas springtime. I knew I had a reason to be terrified!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Some Good News!

Earlier in the week, our vet Dr. H came to the main farm to give the first of our spring shots and pull Coggins. After I had roached Gogo's mane and cleaned her all up, I trailered her over in the morning to the main farm, and when Dr. H arrived, I asked if he would be willing to take a quick peek at Gogo as a fresh pair of eyes (he's our 'leg guy' and specializes in the lower limb). He said yes, and before we drew blood we pulled her out of the stall she was temporarily in and watched her jog.

Now, I get to see Gogo trotting and cantering around her pasture on a fairly regular basis. She mostly walks, but she does trot and canter over to see me on a fairly regular basis whenever I come to the gate. I've mentioned before that the lameness has improved over the past two months in turnout, and has progressed as such: for awhile, she was a little off at the trot, but noticeably off at the canter when she could only canter on the left lead behind (could canter on both leads up front but would crossfire behind). A few weeks ago, she started being able to canter on both leads comfortably and regularly with no more crossfiring and no heat or swelling in the leg after any of these episodes. She was just a hair off at the trot, and if I didn't know her as well as I do I would be willing to say it's not noticeable unless you're very versed in hind-end lameness. However, the day before the vet appointment, I watched her trot away from me while I was attempting to shoo her away from her favorite rolling spot after I turned her back out into the field following her bath. Wow.... she looked awesome! She was honestly and truly what I would really call sound. I don't give any benefit of the doubt anymore. To me, if she's even the faintest hint of uneven, she's still lame.

When I pulled her out for Dr. H the next day, I didn't expect her to look as good as she had the day before. I expected that since she had been running and playing the day before, she would probably be off, even if it was just a bit. I handed her off to the tech, gave them both a case history, and Dr. H and I stood back and watched while she and the vet trotted off.

"Wow," he said. "If you hadn't told me anything I would be asking what the problem is." She looked GREAT.

We discussed what my original plan was for rehab, and what modifications we should be making at this time. I told Dr. H that originally I had planned on turning her out in January 24/7 (which I did), reassessing in June just to see what we had going on, turning her back out for another six months, and then doing a total workup in December. Dr. H's comment on this was that we should stick to this plan at least up until June, "but if she looks this good now, there's no reason she can't go back to work in June." Personally, I think I am not willing to move any faster than my original plan states. This is exactly how it's been every single time - she comes sound quickly and without any major treatments, but one misstep and she's back to where she originally was. To me, that seems like we just haven't been giving this the time it needs. These past two reinjuries, even if she was sound and the ultrasound looked good, the tendon was not strong enough, and in both circumstances all it took was one misstep for the tendon to fail her. Doing things any faster than we are at the moment just doesn't feel like a good idea. What's six months to me anyway? I've got time. And so does she.

And I really like looking at her out my back window.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Denali's Gift - Done!

Remember way back last November when I asked you all to contribute to Denali's gift when she was scheduled to be euthanized? And then through a series of miracles she ended up making a turnaround and she is still alive and healthy today? I had an enormous response to my request, so much so that I had to take down the donation button after only one day!

Well, many months later the commission I made is finally finished. The artist is Sandy Rabinowitz, whom I am sure many of you are familiar with even if you don't know it directly - just open any Dressage Today and you'll see her artwork on the back page in the Solutions section. She also does loads of artwork for them in terms of articles as well. Sandy was one of our boarders at our barn in Connecticut, the one I was moving to when I first started this blog. As an added bonus, she's a fellow barefoot enthusiast ;)

Here it is!

Thanks SO MUCH to everyone who contributed to it! I already have confirmation that it has made Denali's Mom cry and that they are already looking for where it will hang on the wall!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Roachback Mountain

The results of the polls are in! I am thankful to say that most of the general public believes that Charlie Batcrap Sheen is in fact kookier than Gogo is. But you can't deny, Gogo is her own special brand of weird..... but at least she's not a social menace ;)

The other poll had to do with Gogo's eternally awful mess of a mane. The majority of votes were in favor of letting Gogo's mane grow out, with pulling it making a close second. Votes for roaching it trailed far in the distance.
So as predicted, I made the decision to let it grow out.... and then had a complete fit, whipped out my clippers this afternoon, and roached it. I don't regret it for a second.... it looks awesome. Gogo's mane has always been IMPOSSIBLE to keep tamed, and now that she's out all the time in the wind and the weather, there's just no controlling it, no matter what length it is. I gave up. It will grow back eventually if I let it.... but it's so much easier to work with, it looks so clean, and she doesn't look like some animal I roped in off the range anymore! I love it!

And she also got a pedicure.... her feet are doing incredibly interesting things now that they are out in a dry environment 24 hours a day moving around. Her entire sole has exfoliated on all four feet... TWICE. There are possible event lines from the move to Texas and the change in her pasture but they're subtle. Other than that, they keep getting shorter and shorter, and more and more concave. They look like polished marble, and feel like it too. Even her frogs are slick, hard, and shining like they've been polished. Most interestingly, her clubby foot exfoliated the most sole, a GIANT piece of bar included. It has not completed the entire exfoliating process, but when it does, given what it looks like right now it might just nearly match the other foot. It looks like it wants to possibly do that!

Gogo says, this is what I think of you shaving all my hair off: