So one of the things that I did in Aiken was take new conformation shots of Ringo and Kiki... sort of. I definitely didn't take NICE ones (and stupidly, I forgot that they were standing facing the other way in all the previous ones I've taken of them), but I think they get the job done. It's been interesting to compare them to the shots I took last summer to see where they've been going physically. Let's check out Ringo first:
Late July 2010:
Ok, some comparisons:
Body Weight: I think he's looking much better now than he did then. I've always had a hard time keeping weight on him when I've initially moved him to a new place, and he was definitely still showing the signs of that after about a month on a farm in the July shot. By the time he came down to Aiken in December he had filled out considerably, and Suzi has done a great job maintaining that. Weight-wise, he looks as good as I've ever seen him.
Topline: Well it's really no contest here that his topline looks tons better now than then. His neck not only looks about a foot longer in the most recent picture, but also has much better muscling. I remember thinking when I took the July photo how much his topline had already melted off (he'd been in almost a month of stall rest at this point), though if I look at even earlier pictures it's not as if he were particularly cresty before.
(Ringo at Gina's in March 2010, showing off a medium between what we had in July and what we have now - the dude's neck has never been his most impressive feature)
Feet: Again, I'd say they look a little better now. It's hard to tell from these photos, but his front feet are significantly different size and shape, and in July that was being exacerbated by some weird farrier work he received back at Stanford. His angles are also a little more pulled back now, which is a personal preference of mine.
Overall: It's hard to avoid seriously getting my hopes up for the future when I see how much he's been blossoming over the past few months. Suzi has done a class job with him and he seemed happy, relaxed, and eager to work while I was down visiting him. Physically, he's in a great place to give himself the best possible chance to heal, and I just hope we can maintain this good momentum over the next few critical months. Yay Ringo!
Late July 2010:
Body Weight: You know, she looks pretty good in both cases. She's a pretty easy keeper, and it's always more a question with her of feeding her as little as possible to toe the line being trying to build muscle and strength and having her explode. I was pretty happy with her condition in July and I'm pretty happy with it now, though she might be a hair thinner at the moment. I think Suzi is going to up her grain a little bit again as she goes into harder work, just to make sure she stays where she is.
Topline: Here is where I'm not happy. Where did her topline go? Kiki has always had a fabulous little crest that stuck with her well into her stall rest and rehab last fall:
(One of her first rides back after a month of rest this fall, still looking pretty fab in the topline department)
The April photograph is perhaps a bit of a wonky one for looking at her neck (as she is impishly turning to the camera, as always), but there is no doubt based on my observations of her over the past few weeks that her entire strength over her neck and back is significantly reduced from what it was at the end of last summer. I don't really know what to make of this and brought it up with Suzi, who also didn't have an answer. Kiki's been on a pretty light schedule, so perhaps as the workload increases it will come back. But it definitely raises some questions in my mind about the quality of the work she's been doing while she's been down here.
Feet: 1000% better now! Her incident lines from moving to California have grown out, her front feet no longer look like flippers, and everything is looking big and symmetrical and strong. Thank you Tom at HVFS!
Overall: It's obvious that the care Kiki has been receiving is absolutely top notch. She's in good weight, her feet are looking beautiful, and she had her usual wonderful attitude firmly in place while I was down there. Her vanishing topline, however, highlights some weird things that I was feeling under saddle when I rode her. She's very sound so I don't think it's a lameness issue cropping up again (or at least, dear god, I hope not). She just... doesn't feel strong over her back. She never has been super strong in that area, but she definitely was better at times last year. Now, for example, I couldn't dream of riding her in a dressage saddle, because I think the mere force of having me sit in the saddle would make her collapse. Suzi doesn't ride in dressage saddles, does the large majority of her work in a very light seat, and admits freely that she doesn't really use her seat as an aid at all. I think for most horses this is beneficial (which is why I still think Suzi is one of the best riders I've ever met), but perhaps for Kiki--who is already a bit intolerant naturally of the seat and so needs extra time devoted to strengthening and desensitizing that issue--approaching her that way leaves a training piece out. I don't want to complain because it's clear that she's going so well in sooooo many ways (and she's sound!! This should be a miracle enough!!), but it's something interesting to think about going forward.