When I wrote about my plans for the summer, almost a month ago, I was wrestling with Elf feeling a bit low energy and a lack of forward. It was starting to click in my head that this very hot summer was going to require a bit more active management to keep him comfortable.
Since then, Elf made it abundantly clear that he was not onboard with status quo. He never outright misbehaved, but everything felt hard and that’s just not normal for him.
Exploring Elf’s Wellness
So, I made a vet appointment to get his teeth done and a lameness exam in case I was missing something, and kept our rides to easy hacks through the lovely pecan grove that our barn enjoys.
Unfortunately, his teeth were normal and while he seemed a bit body sore, there was nothing that explained the change in behavior. I mentioned that my farrier in NC had put pads on his front feet to give him a little extra support, and the vet thought that might be a good place to start. Our very hot weather has kept the ground incredibly hard. If the hard ground is making his feet tender, he could be moving defensively causing the cascading effect of body soreness.
So, after a chat with my farrier, he had pads put on in the front last week.
Back in the Saddle
He was lunged lightly last week and had a couple Theraplate sessions before I rode on Saturday and Sunday.
I kept both rides short – less than 35 minutes – but both showed a significant improvement over the last month or so. We’re going to follow up again with the vet next week to run some bloodwork and chat about joint support and helping him handle the heat, but after 6 weeks or so of feeling up and down about our rides, it feels like we’re headed in a positive direction.
Rethinking Summer Management
Texas always demands some extra care from horse owners in the summers. It’s hot, dry, and dusty – at least in Central Texas where we are. Just moving to night turnout isn’t quite the answer – the late afternoons are often the hottest part of the day. Dehydration is a constant threat, which increases the chance of impaction and can impact their appetite. The constant heat and lack of rain makes for very hard ground that impacts hoof health. Just for more fun, horses can be very individual in how they react to all those things.
I’m still experimenting with the best ways to manage Elf through this. He colicked last August, shortly after we arrived in Texas, so I’m trying to stay on top of these environmental conditions that could cause issues. We’re seeing the vet a bit more proactively this year than we have in the past. I’m also investing in more support in keeping him healthy and happy.
At this point, most of my riding goals are paused as I figure out how to keep Elf feeling like his fabulous self and enjoying the work.