Photo: DIY small-hole hay net from 2 regular nets.
Just when I think there is no further possible special treatment for a horse made out of tissue paper and filigree.
At the clinic, Rodney stood tied to the trailer eating hay. My outstanding groom – in both senses – sat with him while I audited other clinic sessions. Groom thought horse was attacking the hay with remarkable enthusiasm.
Item. I used to put Rodney up for several hours in the morning. Breakfast. Hay. Nap.
Item. Recently, this hasn’t been working. Breakfast. Twenty minutes with hay and he’s ready to go out. Leaving him in longer didn’t lead to more hay consumption. Body condition sufficient but not stellar. [Nah, I’m Good]
Proposition. Everyone was tired of eating last year’s hay.
Item. Rodney gets a stiff muscle in this neck, right over C2, the axis vertebra. Comes out with short massage. Mostly on side opposite the chronic divot in his back muscle.
Proposition. Neck used as a diagonal counter-balance to compensate for muscle damage/atrophy on opposite side. Seemed likely, as it tracked with riding in the trailer.
Item. Neck bulge had gotten noticeably larger lately, despite no trailering.
Item. Both horses have been tearing into the new hay. Rodney was preferring it to grass at the clinic.
Item. Rodney has been a bit spooky to work around lately. That’s his go-to move when he is uncomfortable somewhere in his body. It seemed out of proportion. Riding was going well. We thought we had a handle on his issues. Reminder, that’s not our call.
Summary Proposition. He has developed a small over-use injury in his neck related to his lateral asymmetry. Eating from a hay net will address this and add calories to his diet.
Here’s what we think. Grazing in the field means you have clear line of site when your head is down. Grazing in the stall means your line of sight is blocked when your head is down. Take a bite. Lift head to see over front half wall. Bite. Lift. Bite. Lift. And so on.
Not a problem in the normal course of things. That’s how horses are constructed.
Somehow, somewhere, Rodney got out of balance. Neck got sore. Repeated head lifting aggravated the problem.
This would be consistent with him not wanting to eat much of the meh hay while in the stall. When the hay got better, he was more willing to use his neck.
Item. Eating on the ground is better for a horse.
Counter item. Not when the horse has a wonky ergonomics.
How it is going? Can you say Instant Tradition?
On Monday after the clinic – i.e. day three of the hay net experiment – I offered Rodney an afternoon snack on the floor of the run-in shed. He went over to stand by the stall door. He gave me a look that said, Everyone knows that I eat in the stall from a hay net.
Also, if he gets sufficient calories at breakfast and dinner, I may be able to cut back on serving lunch.
Despite my lengthy post yesterday, finding out that he needs a hay net might be the biggest thing to come out of the clinic.
Stay safe. Stay sane.