April 20, 2018
Spring has arrived
Very quick Hugo update. This week he has been working on learning about vertical flexion in the halter. It's interesting that pressure on his nose, creating vertical flexion, causes him to champ his teeth, much like a horse would in a bridle, except he isn't wearing one. After allowing him to trot for a while, he relaxed and lost the urge to grind his teeth. I pondered if a horse that did this with a bit in it's mouth would simply have a flash put on. Certainly in Hugo's case, it's nothing to do with the bit, just a lack of understanding at this point in his education.
This evening I took him and Shaun for a ride and lead session to the bridle path. We stopped to talk to some neighbours and Hugo fell asleep - Power Save Mode! We cantered to the top of the hill and they ate sticky grass. I love Spring - it really does give us hope for the coming months.
April 8, 2018
I haven't had much to do with Hugo recently as he has had a little cough, which appears to be allergy-related. It's quite interesting as he has odd ways of showing anxiety - manifesting in a very exagerated head tossing - but he also seems to cough more when he is worried. This might happen when Shaun has gone out of sight or it's feed time - probably Hugo's favourite time of the day!
Anyway, in preparing him to ride, I have found that if he feels like he is being 'made' to go forwards, he gets grumpy, swishing his tail and bunching his body up. So when I get on him now, I just sit there and let him go wherever he wants. The good news is that now he really sets off at a good march and walks everywhere like he's sure he's supposed to be doing it. Obviously I don't want to slow my little introvert down, so I just tell him he's a good boy and occasionally steer. Today he felt really good so I thought about trotting. He is so sensitive that just the thought of trotting sped up his stride. Next, I gave him the voice cue that I do for trot - one click - and he just did it. We did one stride of trot and I stopped him - don't over-exert yourself Hugo! - and got off. This might not be the most conventional or quickest way of starting a horse but I relaly want him to understand what each question is. I have no timescale on how long starting him takes and in fairness, when you see diagrams such as the one below, I relaise that baby horses should not be rushed physically, mentally or emotionally.
"Owners and trainers need to realize there's a definite, easy-to-remember schedule of bone fusion. Make a decision when to ride the horse based on that rather than on the external appearance of the horse.. For there are some breeds of horse--the Quarter Horse is the premier among these--which have been bred in such a manner as to LOOK mature LONG before they actually ARE. This puts these horses in jeopardy from people who are either ignorant of the closure schedule, or more interested in their own schedule (racing, jumping, futurities or other competitions) than they are in the welfare of the animal.
The Schedule of Growth-Plate Conversion to Bone
The process of fusion goes from the bottom up. In other words, the lower down toward the hooves, the earlier the growth plates will fuse--the higher up toward the animal's back you look, the later. The growth plate at the top of the coffin bone, in the hoof, is fused at birth. What this means is that the coffin bones get no TALLER after birth (they get much larger around, though, by another mechanism). That's the first one. In order after that:
Short pastern – bottom before birth; top between 9-12 months.
Long pastern – bottom unites with shaft at or shortly before birth; top 13 to 15 mos.
Cannon bone – top unites with shaft at or shortly before birth; bottom unites with shaft at about 18 mos.
Small bones of the knee – top and bottom of each, between 18 mos. and 2 years
Radius-ulna – upper weightbearing surface, between 15-18 mos.; distal surfaces, between 3 and 3.5 years
Humerus – bottom, between 1.5 and 2 years; top, between 3 and 3.5 years
Scapula – glenoid or bottom (weight-bearing) portion – between 3 and 3.5 years
Hindlimb – cannon bone, coffin bone, andpasterns same as forelimb
Hock – this joint is “late” for as low down asit is; growth plates on the tibial and fibulartarsals don’t fuse until the animal is 3-3.5(so the hocks are a known “weak point” –even the 18th-century literature warns against driving young horses in plow or other deep or sticky footing, or jumping them up into a heavy load, for danger of spraining their hocks).
Tibia – bottom, between 20 mos. and 2years; top, between 3 and 3.5 years
Femur – there are 4 major epiphyses on this bone, including the head that goes into the hip socket; they fuse between 3 - 4 years.
Pelvis – the hip socket is firm between 18mos. and 2 years, but the rest of the bone does not stop growing until the horse is 5 or more years old.
And what do you think is last? The vertebral column (spine) of course. A normal horse has 32 vertebrae between the back of the skull and the root of the dock, and there are several growth plates on each one, the most important of which is the one capping the centrum.
These do not finally fuse until the horse is at least 5 ½ years old (and this figure applies to a small-sized, scrubby, range-raised mare. The taller your horse and the longer its neck, the later the last fusions will occur. And for a male – is this a surprise? – you add six months. So, for example, a 17-hand Thoroughbred, Saddlebred or Warmblood gelding may not be fully mature until his 8th year – something that owners of such individuals have often told me that they “suspected”)
Significance of the Closure Schedule for Injuries to Back and Neck vs. Limbs
"The lateness of vertebral "closure" is most significant for two reasons. One: in no limb are there 32 growth plates! Two: The growth plates in the limbs are (more or less) oriented perpendicular (up and down) to the stress of the load passing through them, while those of the vertebral chain are oriented parallel (horizontal) to weight placed upon the horse's back. Bottom line: you can sprain a horse's back (i.e., displace the vertebral growth plates) a lot more easily than you can sprain those located in the limbs.
And here's another little fact: within the chain of vertebrae, the last to fully "close" are those at the base of the animal's neck--that's why the long-necked individual may go past 6 yrs. to achieve full maturity. So you also have to be careful--very careful--not to yank the neck around on your young horse, or get him in any situation where he strains his neck (i.e., better learn how to get a horse broke to tie before you ever tie him up, so that there will be no likelihood of him ever pulling back hard)."....