They’re right, long distance relationships don’t work!

As many of you know, I live a thousand miles away from my horses.  The reason is pretty simple:  I needed to make more money to fund the VLC’s show career.  When a fantastic offer came in from Los Angeles, I had to take it and move back.  Not that I minded moving back one bit, I love Southern California, but I hated the idea of moving so far away from my horse.  Moving him wasn’t an option at the time; I have yet to identify a stock-type trainer in So-Cal who doesn’t subscribe to the yank, crank & fix the tails method.  There may be one, I simply haven’t met that person yet.  Anyway, the plan was to leave him in Washington, and that is what I did, flying up regularly for visits and to attend his horseshows. 

It worked out fine until he got hurt.  You will remember that the VLC hurt himself at the Buckskin World Show and rendered himself three-legged lame.  He came home, got better, was sound enough to go to one more show for halter only, and then got worse again.  Vet came out, did x-rays, x-rays looked fine as they always do with him.  Why was he lame?   What exactly had he done to himself in that stall?  My trainer thought that he had stretched his back leg out, as he tends to do, and hit his hoof forcefully into the stall wall, possibly while lying down and trying to get comfy, but why was that still causing lameness two months later?   The vet wanted to do some combination of steroids and hyaluronic acid in his hocks.  I hate joint injections.  Hate them.  And I hate steroids.  And no horse of mine is getting any of that crap.  I veto’ed that idea and got on a plane to check the situation out for myself. 

I had decided it was time to get the shoes off.  After all, he wasn’t showing or working, and I wanted to get an opinion from Mark Plumlee at Mission Farrier School.  For those who missed my earlier blogs mentioning it, I basically think these people are geniuses when it comes to soundness.  They have gotten so many horses sound that have hideous x-rays.   So I figured it’d be great to give them a shot at evaluating my mysteriously lame horse.Unsurprisingly, they figured it out in, oh ten minutes.  Mark watched him walk and trot, tweaked him with the hoof testers, and said he was sore in the deep digital flexor tendon.  I have never had to deal with this particular injury before, but it makes perfect sense.  The DDFT extends down to the pedal bone so if you decided to be a big dumb yellow horse and whack your hoofie forcefully enough into a wall, you could absolutely hurt the tendon by doing so.The next step will be to ultrasound the tendon and see exactly what we’re dealing with, but at this point he’s just resting ’til he moves to California later this year.  The long distance relationship was worth a shot, but ultimately it just didn’t work out when things went wrong.  I’m far too frustrated with the inability to see my horse every day, see how he’s moving, and evaluate problems with my own two eyes.  No matter how great people are – and I don’t have anything but good things to say about my trainer, who has been awesome about caring for him – it’s never like doing it yourself.   I need to micro-manage this and I can’t wait to get him down to L.A. so that I can do that again. I’ve often noted that horses are not a good investment.  You cannot predict what will happen with them, and they can lose value in the blink of an eye.  Ultimately, putting a lot of money and time into a stallion prospect is just like going to Vegas.  Sometimes you come home empty handed but in most cases, you at least had some fun along the way.  I wanted to see if you could get a horse to be competitive as a stock-type pleasure horse without any of the abuse and keep him fresh-minded and happy.  I found out that you can — the VLC learned to do the AQHA thing, head down, collected and slow, without any abuse whatsoever.  Every time I visited him, he was his same old self – ears perky, happy, snuggly, and not a mark on him, the same as he’d been the previous year when he was doing nothing more complicated than cruising around with me in a bitless bridle.  It was great to see.  The only pleasure horse barns I’d been in previously had used all the cranking, yanking and crap to achieve this result.  It was nice to see it can be done without any of that!Of course, what I really wanted was for him to continue his show career and win at a higher level, in order to really make a point about abuse-free training, but he whacked his foot and that is pretty much the end of that.  I could go through all of the rehab on this and then try again, but I’ve concluded that is not the best thing for the horse.  Further stock-type pleasure work is going to be hard on that tendon.  I don’t want to risk crippling him.  If I saw him as an investment, I’d be doing anything I could to get him back in the ring so that he could stay a stallion, but I don’t.  I see him as a pet, and I’m going to geld him and keep him as a pet.  Next summer he’ll probably be ponying polo ponies instead of going to horseshows, and I can’t help but think he’s going to like it better than all of the clipping (which he tolerates) and the mane-pulling (which he despises).  He would miss his massages…I will have to keep those up!  Maybe he will even play a little bit of polo…he’s kinda big but I bet he will bump like a mack truck  🙂After all of this, I really do get it.  I understand, logically, how people justify standing horses at stud that haven’t won enough in the show ring (or haven’t been shown at all).  I could have bred this horse to a ton of mares already, collected the money, and laughed all the way to the bank.  I won’t do it.  I could list off all the possible justifications:  He has a wonderful disposition (true); it’s not his fault he got hurt (true); he’s already accomplished a lot more than a lot of horses standing at stud  (true); hell, he’s leading the nation in breeding stock pinto halter stallions (true, amusingly enough)…but it’s not enough.  I’m not going to have a stallion unless his get are going to be hugely in demand so that I don’t have to worry very much about them.  As I’ve observed before, I have actually never found any get of a big name horse like, say, Invitation Only or Luke At Me, in the kill pen  (sure, they’ll show up when they are 20 + year old barren broodmares, but you know what I mean).   Without that factor, no stallion should stay intact.  In this economy, and in these days when slaughter is still a very real threat, we need to be producing foals that are Porsches, not Kias, not even Toyotas, if we are producing foals at all.Of course, the adventures of what is going to be the VLG will continue in 2011!  Honestly, I can’t wait to hit a polo ball off of him.  I’ve stick and balled him with a broom and a beach ball and he was great.  🙂  We’ll see how he does but there’s also been some discussion about him getting some more show ring miles, but this time at the hunter shows with my friend’s nine year old.  Stay tuned…his story is far from over!

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Published in: on October 10, 2010 at 7:42 pm  Comments (18)  

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  1. A pity that he couldn’t continue his showing career, but all the points you’ve brought up are good ones. No reason to risk hurting him further, or more annoyingly, have him recover, and do the same exact injury to himself again.

  2. Good for you. Caring for horses is about the horse and not the money. I do have one thing to add, tho. Some studs should breed because of the quality of the babies, it is very rare but they do exist. My gelding’s sire has never shown, he was lest as a stud originally to be the teaser at a college where the main stud had a blown hock (over shown at 3 and 4, also a great stud). Stitch grew into himself and had 1 test season.
    OMG, this stud makes nice babies. Every baby of his I have met has been the big, willing sweethearts. I wouldn’t trade my gelding for anything.
    For Stitch’s owner it is about the horses and the breed, not the money.

  3. Ugh. So sorry for you, VLC, that you won’t get to enjoy the “fun times” you could have had if you hadn’t needed to sleep like a princess all stretched out.

    I commend you, Cathy, for sticking to your morals and principles. There is a stallion, Jax Fed Ex, here in Canada who is a very attractive buckskin as well. But has no credentials. His owner is pushing his semen hard – at over 20 years old. Talk about wanting cash. And not caring about all the babies that aren’t going to “make it”. His one foal that hit the ground this year is nothing special. Pity.

    I feel for ya Cathy, but I’m sure you will have an awesome fun time with VLC in the future. Hopefully you have time to update your blog more often!!!

  4. I was really looking forward to you kicking some ass in the show-ring with him, but I know he’s going to enjoy his new life, too.

  5. I’m proud of you for making a (probably) good decision with a pretty cheerful face, even though it’s not really your hopes and dreams all coming true.

    I’m worried about what to do with my gelding. He has two suspensory ligament injuries (LH and RF), partly due to my own ignorance, party due to some rough training by someone before I bought him. He’s only four, and I’m sure he’ll be sound enough for trail riding, which is my main goal for him. However, I was dreaming of showing him in gaited shows (after training him the non-abusive way), and I don’t know if he’ll ever be consistently sound enough to do that. We might try shock-wave therapy, but it sounds freaky to me and I’m not sure. What are your thoughts on it?

    • Yeah, I’m with you. I have people suggesting shockwave and people suggesting stem cell, but I’ve dealt with so many suspensory injuries in polo ponies and plain old rest (but not stall rest, moving around) and a slow, careful reconditioning program afterward has always gotten good results, so I’m not sure I’m going to do anything dramatic here.

      I guess I am just such a believer in Mother Nature for tendons…and then bringing them back super-careful. For example, first rides back will be walk only, for probably two weeks, then adding a few minutes of trot into the mix.

      Most of the trashed tendons I’ve seen are the result of rushing them back into work too fast as soon as they appear sound.

      • My vet prescribed stall rest, so we’ve got him in a 12 x 12 stall for about 16 hours a day and then he gets “turnout” in a 20 x 20 run in the pasture for like 8 hours a day. I do shoulder/back stretches with him that my chiro recommended. The vet also said a little handwalking would be good for him. It’s been about 2 months, so I think it’s time to ultra sound him again. I’m thinking once he’s “sound” that I will give him 1-3 months of pasture turnout before riding him again.

  6. Let me ask around. There are some Western trainers up in the high desert who are really good (I know, I know, but it’s true) and I’ll see if I can get a recommendation on one that’s not a complete fuckwad, if you’re interested.

  7. Whoops, sorry. Commented before I read the entire post. Sorry about the DDFT. That’s why I had to retire my hunter mare.

    • Yeah. I think he will be fine for other things, I just don’t see the collection needed for WP as being a good idea after this.

      • You’re right – you *could* ice him, Bute the hell out of him, give him a year off and then try to show him again, but we all know that DDFT injuries are usually career-enders (except for halter, of course).

        Kudos to you for doing the right thing for your horse.

  8. Well, bugger, I was really looking forward to following him through his AQHA career. Tendon injuries are such a bitch- one of my trainer’s horses had what she thought was a minor stifle pull turn out to be a career-ending injury. Best of luck with your big yellow tank’s retirement/second career.

  9. That sucks, I’m a warmblood person not a quarterhorse person so what would I know- but I always thought he was pretty gorgeous.

    I too commend you for making the right decision though, it’s better to have a fabulous gelding than a mediocre stallion, and it must be especially hard not living with your horses- don’t think I could cope with that one, micromanaging their lives is my life *blush*

  10. I think that VLC needs some diagnostic nerve blocks, and possibly advanced imaging, since there are literally dozens of structures in the lower leg that can be injured and cause lameness, and may not show up on ultrasound, or may not be even visible on ultrasound (the DDFT inserts on the coffin bone–no way to see that). Flexion test help localize the lameness, but nerve blocks are needed to really hone in on the site of issue. And these days, if you can’t see it on x-ray or ultrasound, MRI and CT are showing us some amazing things that are missed or can’t be seen any other way….my own personal opinion

  11. Is something wrong with fuglyblog.com? I haven’t been able to connect for days. -Cyg

  12. Yes, the fugly blog regularly crashes FireFox on windows XP. Bummer!
    It’s okay on Windows 7, though.
    Which is good, because it means I can’t read fugly while at work, only at home;)

  13. Well, you could always get some semen frozen, and then continue to have fun with him as a gelding and if he turned out to be a superstar later on have a “limited edition” run.

    I’d be curious to find out how a well-behaved stallion’s attitude changes after the “little brain” operation.

  14. Nonetheless, I always admire people who see it through. For better or for worse.

    Great work!


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