Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Moore Horses Horsey Bootcamp Heaven: Rambo Edition

While I have long had intentions to take Sheza up to April Moore of Moore horses for training, April is a great buddy and horse enthusiast and was also kind enough to help me evaluate and torture my brain over my latest Craigslist special save, Rambo Peg-Leg as we affectionately called him by the end of the week. 

Rambo came home with me approximately 3 1/2 months ago. I first heard about him from a couple of Sale ads posted various places online, and then got a mutual connection to the old owner through a friend. Hearing that he was auction bound if he didn't find a home ASAP, I chose him as my next Project and arranged to drive the couple of hours north and haul him home. As far as I knew, this was the horse I was getting, plus or minus some lbs of body weight:

December 4th 2013 Rambo Trotting Sound Video

Upon arrival January 12th, 2014, I found that Rambo was sweet as a bug and couldn't wait to cram his head in my halter and go home with me. He was, umm, misunderstood at his old home, to put it delicately. He is only about 14.1 hh but big boned and had a winter coat so the photos never truly reflected his actual condition, which was not at all appalling but certainly not the plump fellow my early photos would have you believe.

***He also had a scar next to his right hind stifle and another on his right hip bone, a visibly atrophied right flank, and he swung his right hind leg when he walked in an obvious accommodation, though I won't call it a limp.***

If you've ever played the Craigslist Gambling Game, or rescued a horse in general, you know the risks. Very rarely do people re-home or give away truly healthy and okay horses these days, I don't care what the hype says. Yes, the market is down and there are great horses to be found for a deal, but there are also *multitudes* of "Deals" that can easily end up being the most expensive "free" horse you'll ever set your sights on.

Rambo is by no means my first attempt at this Russian Horsey Roulette, and he won't be my last. In general I put time, research, and money into the horses that I hope will take me places and last a long while, but in the face of that careful preparation there are also those horses like my 18 year old Blaze, scooped off of Craigslist for a deal 5 years ago and the most wonderful little sound-as-a-dollar guy I could ask for, versus my high dollar mare who had everything right on paper but at the same age is retired only pasture sound. I always hope that the horse I bring home can have a wonderful and useful working future, whether with me or someone else, but that isn't always the case either.

Regardless, on this day that I thought I was picking up this sweet boy with a great trot that I had video proof of, I found myself leading a sweet boy with a Peg Leg, essentially. He never moved like it was painful, and still doesn't, but there was and is clearly a hitch in that Giddy-up. Still, my commitment was made, and home he came with me.

Rambo says Yes, Take me Home, the day I met him
another new face peeking out of the ole faithful trailer :)
I had my much trusted horse chiropractor out within the week to check him over, confused/intrigued by the atrophied flank and weird walk, and worried that his stifle was damaged. She checked him all over and couldn't find anything out of adjustment, and in her opinion both stifles "matched," as it were. It took another couple of weeks for my very busy vet to make it out for spring shots for everyone, a couple of dentals, and a Rambo check-up. In the meantime I put him on a big half hill/half flat pasture, piled the groceries in front of him, and watched his weight and muscles start to build. As I said he was a bit underweight but not at all severely and with his youth and my good groceries he started packing on pounds and muscle pretty quickly.

right hind flank/stifle scar
 this photo barely shows the outward drag of that right hind toe as he walks
When she made it out, my vet checked him over and agreed that both stifles matched and felt undamaged from a brief exam, and we got on about our shots and dentals. At that time and the weeks following I could see improvement in his leg swinging walk as his muscles filled in and he could maintain some impulsion up under himself, and I was hopeful that with time it may disappear entirely. We did some hand walks and hoof trims but basically I just let him take those 3 1/2 months and hang out, heal, plump and muscle up.

late January, out for walkies, you can see that scar behind his right hind stifle but the muscle is already starting to come in in the flank
mm groceries foreva!
No really, groceriesss ;)  Late February, after a bath
one of the gang
late March, saying hi to my husband at the bottom of Sheza's Hill
  When it came time to head to April's with Sheza last week I thought that it would be a perfect opportunity to bring Rambo too and evaluate him with a second and very experienced eye (and someone who could handle him for me to film, hard to do alone!). At that point I had not worked him on the circle or done any further evaluation beyond the simple chiro/vet check, months of pasture rehab time, and the ever-weak self reassurance "well, He looks great flying around in pasture." 

Rambo at Moore Horses, April 15th, 2014.
 We worked Rambo in the round pen a couple of different times, taking videos as friends and vet student friends recommended different angles and things to capture. April also had a quick session with him to so see how he did being hopped on, since I had some horror stories of the "riding" that had been done on him before I got him.

no big deal!
  He really is a sweet fellow, and I am glad that his Peg Leg doesn't seem painful at all, but these videos still frustrate the heck out of me, especially when viewed next to the sound, un-scarred video taken just over a month before I got him. Such, my friends, is the nature of the Craigslist Gambling Game.




He isn't painful, he honestly seems like he's got a "peg leg" as it were that affects his way of going sometimes but isn't Ouchy. It's a head scratcher to watch. As a 6 yr old project save with all this going on, I am realistic about what I can and cannot put into Rambo, and my conclusion is this. He'll be pastured a few miles away in a large pasture that I ride by often and can check on. I'll trim his feet and re evaluate him on the circle every few months and there are quite a few that think the tincture of time and movement may heal him yet. In an ideal world I could throw a lot of money at x-rays and ultra sounds and fancy recovery plans but this is real life and I can offer him a safe big pasture and the possibility of a recovery in time.

Sweet boy, I never regret bringing them home and doing what I can, whatever the outcome.


  1. He is so cute, I'm sorry he is so off/stiff/odd moving. It really is an odd gait he does, the videos are interesting.

    It does make me thing of a mare I used to ride. She had her shoulder broken as a foal, it never healed quite right. She always had a hitch, and of course wouldn't pass a vet check, but was a great trail horse, trotting and cantering just slightly off. I made sure to work her hills, tried to be balanced, and she was good for 10-15 miles (never tried more). Interestingly I stopped riding her and she became a full-time school horse for little kids. Without the consistent exercise she became progressively weaker and was finally retired.

    I am sure adorable Rambo has a future, and it's so nice that you can give him time.

    1. I definitely wonder if he won't always have a different way of going but will come "sounder", having heard the mention of broken limbs causing that from multiple sources. It will definitely be interesting to reevaluate him after another month of pasture time and see if there is any difference.

  2. He's so gorgeous - he's really blossomed with good hay and a hill to run up and down. I bet he'd stay sound for light trail riding if he doesn't keep improving!

  3. Ashke had the same type of injury when I got him. He was short striding on the right hind and had a hamstring injury. It's taken almost two years, but 98% of the time he is completely sound. He still abducts his right hind in a little bit when he moves it forward, but it's gotten so much better than it was. The key ingredient was the dressage practice and training we put in this winter, that helped develop his back and flank muscles.

    In researching his background, we know for sure that his left patella was shattered and surgically repaired. We also believe that he was dropped on his right hip in such a way that it damaged his right hamstring (I think a cowboy trainer wrapped a rope around his hind legs and threw him.)

    I don't believe that we will ever be able to do anything more than an LD. We will see how his hip and knee hold up to the increased riding demands this summer. I believe that even if he could do the distance, there is no guarantee he could pass the inspection, because of how he short strides on that hip, especially when tired.

  4. So glad that you put the whole story here. I hadn't really gotten all the "pieces" and it's very nicely laid out here. He really is a nice looking boy. I know you said he's downhill but he has such a reach with those back legs, looks like he has a good motor back there. Nice that you got April to go on his back just in case..... :)

  5. I like your plan. He really is a pretty boy and I'm crossing fingers that he comes completely sound with some more time!