We've had an easy time the past couple of weeks. The first bit of good news is that Operation Reverse Weight Watchers is working! Royal has been gaining weight very nicely for the past month, and is looking a lot better. I switched him to the Senior Glo (and the recently, Cool Calories) and he is doing well on that. Right now, he's on 3 lbs a day, and he absolutely loves it. His hindquarters have filled in really well and his barrel looks a lot better. I would still like to see him add at least 50 lbs before winter hits, but that seems very doable. He knows the sound of the pellets going into the bucket and licks it clean. The weather has been gorgeous and the horses have been basking in the sun.
We've been playing with the figure-8 pattern both OnLine and Freestyle, and working on advancing it with flying lead changes on the ground. It took him a couple sessions, but he's getting better. He switches front consistently, but not always behind. If he's fully focused on the task, everything switches in one clean stride, but if he gets fast and emotional, only the front switches. So, my task was to keep him from getting too emotional, and everything would work.
Until Thursday. I went up Thursday evening and Royal was... odd. Not lame or sick, but not himself. We tried playing OnLine and he was lazy. Really lazy. Until he wasn't. Then, all of a sudden, he would have these wild bursts of energy and almost rip the rope from my hands, and then go back to being lazy. Hmm. Nothing I did seemed to change anything, until I asked him to sideways towards and over one of the Bloks I was using as a marker. Which he did very well.
Still, he felt odd. No elevated temperature, heat in any of his legs, or loss of appetite (he ate all of his grain), so I couldn't quite figure it out.
Friday, he got really weird. He came right up to me in the pasture, but while I was grooming him, he very deliberately stepped on my foot. I say deliberately because he didn't put any weight on it and was looking straight at me while he did it, with an air of "What are you gonna do about it?" Well, I'll have you back up to the end of the line and not come back until you look at me all nice-like. Then he decided to be more of a moving target than usual, so he found himself tied to a tree.
He was less than happy.
I decided to try riding and it was more of the same. Laziness and herdboundness punctuated by really fast trotting and cantering. I couldn't quite get him focused and ended the session on kind of a "meh" note. Still no temp, heat in legs, and he wolfed down his grain. Hmm.
Saturday was pedicure day and he was crabby at first. He was tied close to Coco-pony and decided to try bullying him, to the point where he bit Coco hard. That meant that Coco got untied and was able to graze freely, while Royal stayed tied up. That miffed him very much. He behaved for the farrier and seemed very cheerful afterward.
Today he was still odd. He seemed very happy while I groomed and tacked him up, but riding was really erratic. He kept circling by the gate and again, I couldn't keep him focused. Again, we ended on a "meh" note.
One weird session is no big deal, but three is alarming. It feels like something's up, but I don't know what. The first thing to consider is physical issues, namely gastric ulcers. They seem to be the go-to cause for any "miscellaneous" problems, and he does have a few risk-factors. 1. He gets grain. A grain designed to be easy on the digestive system, but it's still grain. 2. He's active. Light-to-medium work, but part of that was showing. 3. We just did a lot of traveling. We trailed back and forth to Steepleview, which added up to 6 hours of trailering total, and that can take a tole on a horse. But on the other hand, he has a lot of mitigating factors: 24/7 turnout, lives with a bunch of horses, unlimited access to forage, fairly light riding schedule. In addition, he's not showing any overt symptoms, such as girthiness, unexplained weight-loss (quite the opposite, in fact), or frequent colics. So, it's hard to say. The only way I can know for sure is to trailer him to a specialty equine hospital ($$), have him scooped ($$$$), and do a course of Gastroguard and Ulcerguard ($$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$).
There are cheaper alternatives, such as omeprazole granules ("pop rocks") or a mixture of aloe juice and MSM powder, but I don't want to try anything right now. The horses will be on hay pretty soon, and we'll see what happens then. If it's just a weird blip, then no big deal. If it continues, that I'll start looking into treatment options.
I hope this is nothing serious.