I realize that Thoroughbreds all change age on January 1, but I still like to acknowledge the actual birthdays of my horses. Now, I’m not one of those crazy people who forces my horse to wear ridiculous birthday hats (Amanda), but I do give extra dinner or special scratches or something. Plus it’s a nice time to reflect on the time each horse and I have had together.
Today, Simon turns 8! I first brought him home a couple weeks before his 3rd birthday so this makes FIVE years together! As per usual, in some ways it seems like he came home yesterday and in other ways it seems like it has been much longer than five years. What first sold me on Simon was his chill. An accomplished riding friend went with me to look at and try him on like January 2. It was less than 45 days since his last (of 2) race, he was 3, it was unseasonably cold in Texas (I think the high that day was in the 30s, if not colder) and we rode him in a pasture. Even with the perfect recipe for a baby racehorse to go bonkers, we could hardly get him to canter! Partially because he had no idea what we were asking of him and partially because he just didn’t want to go forward.
I bought Simon with the purpose of filling Jaguar’s shoes as my hunt horse and he’s done that exceeding my expectations. He’s whipped in, gone first flight, gone third flight and hunted in seven states! I’m biased, but he’s always one of the most attractive horses at a gathering. He has a soft, kind eye. A fun big blaze. He’s tall, dark and handsome. He moves as nicely as he looks. He jumps beautifully. He’s game to try most anything I ask of him, including foxhunting and moving cattle within days of each other. Plus he’s gone on hundreds of miles of trail rides. The only thing he hasn’t done is go to a horse show.
I’ve mentioned previously that he’s had some soundness struggles and we are still figuring out what is ailing him. A couple weeks ago he was standing outside my office, asleep with his buddies, and he collapsed. I’ve had a sneaking suspicion for a while that he does not lie down to sleep very often, if ever. He often has rubs and scabs on his front legs that match exactly the movement he made when I watched him fall down in his sleep. He also has a difficult time getting up from rolling. I’ve seen him try 5-10 times to get up from rolling and even have to lie still for a minute to catch his breath to try again. So, today (his birthday) we are visiting our veterinarian (again) to try to figure this out.
If you google these symptoms you’ll find diagnoses about lameness, neurologic issues and general weakness due to illness. None of them exactly seem to match his symptoms. I’m (I think) hopeful that it’s a pain/lameness issue that we can diagnose and treat. I’ve had a PEMF practitioner tell me he seems like he has EPM, but when I asked my vet about that (years ago) he thought it was silly. He did the tail pull test, which Simon passed with flying colors. Simon does stumble a bit, but usually only at slower gaits and it’s never gotten worse or even changed in a few years. Plus he’s always been very sure footed while hunting and trail riding on uneven terrain.
Additionally, Simon has had some disposition changes over the past year. He used to be always chill, sweet, easy going and never spooky. Now he’s more grumpy with other horses, spooky, bitey for certain things like grooming and tacking and generally a bit anxious. I don’t think our year or two of traveling around the country did him any favors. I’ve learned that he is an anxious traveler. Plus the hunt we ride with in Texas now is a 240 mile round trip, again likely not advantageous to a nervous traveler. He is still mostly sweet and easy to be around, but something is definitely up.
As is always true with horses, I have a feeling that this one appointment isn’t going to find and fix the problem. I think there is a more systemic issue going on that will take time, perseverance and patience to find and (hopefully) fix. I’m hopeful that we can continue his work under saddle, but will do whatever I can to help him get back to (or as close as possible) 100%. Please send him some good vibes/prayers/fill in the blank!