Sunday, November 4, 2012

The tail end of fall . . . time to pack it up for a while.

I like the end of the show season for a couple of reasons.  Usually it's a relief to get to claim a few weekends and days off doing something besides traveling, competing, or packing and unpacking the trailer.  Daylight is running short and football and the holidays are a fun priority.  And I like to give the horses a break, plus to be perfectly honest I don't mind backing down on the riding when it's cold and dreary.

This year the season ended one SJ trip short of what I was expecting, when Boscoe's bandages came off the morning after XC at Midsouth and he had a nasty little bump on the back of his right front flexor tendon.  An "oh, crap" moment.  He hadn't taken a bad step on XC but he did slip a couple of times and I'd asked him to gallop just a little--the consensus on ideal velocity is getting closer, but still requiring compromise on both sides.  Ultrasound showed only a little fluid and he wasn't lame at all, but we treated it as a de facto bow and that was an abrupt end to our weekend.

Thankfully, a follow up ultrasound last week shows NO fiber damage, and the best guess is that Boscoe must have struck himself with a hoof at some point.  He had beefy boots on but who knows?  I'll take that explanation, just so long as it continues to look good.  Another 4-6 weeks of mostly loafing and then we'll leg up again and get to work for 2013, where a Training 3-Day is my goal and I'm just not looking any farther than that . . . for now.   Too much dressage to focus on this winter to daydream about green flags and we still have a galloping agreement to work on!  I have clearly forgotten what going fast actually means after 7 years as Our Lady of Perpetual Novice.  (obvious on the video below)

The high point of the weekend (other than a great XC trip) was seeing my darling Bonnie take my friend Niki, who had ridden her exactly three times beforehand, to a win in one of the big Open Novice divisions, finishing on their terrific dressage score.  Bonnie has become quite the little event mare this season!  My theory is that in addition to just growing up and realizing there are no horses left to dominate and that the world really is not in need of constant vigilance, she's feeling better in general.  My guess is her hocks have been quietly fusing for the last couple of years, and now that they're done, she's just happier to do things in general.  She was never, ever sore or grumpy or unwilling to work, but there has to be some explanation for her becoming a reliable and dependable horse this year and so this is my working hypothesis.

Bonnie's been so good, in fact, that the thought of her having earned her way back into the gene pool has been floating around in my head.  She's built really well, kind and easy and she was born broke, easy to ride and a happy and sensible horse.  A credit to her Irish heritage--horses that were asked to do a little bit of everything and were generally happy to comply.  That's Bonnie!  We'll see.

Keebler is feeling like a million bucks and went out to do half of a Horse Trial earlier this fall, in hopes of getting to Midsouth for a real outing.  He was a little fresh, a little green, and I felt like he needed one more trip before I was ready to ask him to handle a tough course with galloping, so we didn't make the trip to Kentucky.  He's working at Erika's again and waiting for us to get him hooked up with a rider who has the time--sadly, that is not me!  I have tried juggling more than one "active" horse and it just does NOT work.  And of the three that I have, Bonnie is the only one that does fine with part-time work.  The boys are both better when they work a lot.  And since I also work a lot, well, something's got to give!

Boscoe's dressage and XC from Midsouth

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Brief horse and life update. Probably in parts as I really don't do "brief".

Time has demonstrated that I am an inconsistent and not terribly productive blogger, to say the least.  It isn't that I don't enjoy writing, or that I haven't got much to say.  It is, I think (aside from just lack of time) a sort of uneasy relationship between my tendency to be extremely verbose and without personal-information filters on the one hand and an aversion to self-absorption on the other.  Ah, well, may as well keep at it for the exercise in proper sentence structure and the use of language, if nothing else.  And putting up lots of pictures of pretty horses and various family members will always appeal to someone, I reckon.

It appears that my last update was in February, just after the Super Bowl.  With the new NFL season just around the corner, I guess that will serve as an adequate segue into the biannual (maybe I can do better) update.

In March a very cute and wrinkly and funny-looking puppy came home with me.  Our old retrievers, Brady and Amber, died months apart almost 5 years ago, and there's been a dog-sized hole in my life ever since.  It took some convincing, but I managed to talk Chris around to a LITTLE dog, one that wouldn't shed (much) and would not be (too) difficult to travel with.  Enter little Loki, the brindled, wrinkled, under-bit mongrel that Evan found on Petfinder.  He was one of a large litter and if anyone hasn't heard this yet 50 times, the runt of the litter, who looks just like our little goblin, is STILL in the rescue, poor little pup.  (hint, hint, everyone needs a little goblin in their lives!)   Loki comes with me to work, to horse shows, and is extremely cool for a little dog--my first one under 50 pounds, ever.  I hope he doesn't take it too personally that looking at his funny face just makes me laugh every time.

March also found the new guy, Boscoe, in Florida with Erika.  Things were not going so well--he'd been great in October and November after some odd behavior when I brought him home in August, which I attributed to a new home, maybe some ulcers, new rider, etc.  When Boscoe is worried, Boscoe checks out mentally.  And not very many things worry him, so when he began acting really anxious and checking out mentally (bolting, rearing) the big question was "WHY?".  Long, LONG story short, he had some really great moments in Florida and some really scary ones, so when he came home we had him checked out pretty thoroughly by Dr. Rob van Wessum at Equine All Sports Medicine Center, not far from home.  The horse moved out perfectly sound and no problems were obvious in the limbs, but he was hypersensitive around the right side of his neck, stiff in his neck, and would panic and rear even if a fly landed on certain spots on his neck. 

We went with a bone scan to try and sort things out, and rather than "hot spots" which would typically point to an area of rapid bone turnover/inflammation, we found . . . a cold leg.  Something indicating that an entire limb (the right front) was not being perfused with the radiotracer as much as the other limbs.  This, simply put, means that that area is getting less blood flow for one reason or another.  Since there was nothing whatsoever anatomically to suggest an arterial supply problem (pretty much unheard-of in horses' front limbs, I'm told) then we had to figure out what else it might be.

(The image on the right is from the bone scan, and the right leg is on the right and the left on the, well, left.  See how the right limb is "paler" than the left?  No?  Well, that's why they call it "unclear medicine".  It's not hugely striking but I am used to looking at fuzzy scintigrams so it's pretty clear to me.)

So the working diagnosis, supported by an absence of any other compelling findings by X-ray, ultrasound, etc. was nerve root/brachial plexus injury in the right side of the neck, with a sort of RSD (reflex sympathetic dystrophy) picture where the right front limb was (conceivably . . . hard to ask a horse) painful and/or numb and/or tingly and/or hypersensitive.  Now remember I'm not a vet and there might be more proper veterinary terms out there for this sort of problem, but I'm translating it into "human" because that's what I understand!

So what to do with a horse with a leg that probably felt funny and who would react to certain things (like a right lead canter depart, brushing his neck, girthing up, even walking on concrete sometimes) with an 1100 pound panic attack?  Well, steroids, to be brief.  And some rest and targeted exercises.  Off the big pinto went to eat off the ground (keep that neck stretched) forevermore--no more hay nets or racks--and a 3 week course of dexamethasone, followed by some bute, some longeing in a "long and low" apparatus, and gradually return to work under saddle.  Bye bye spring and early summer shows, but riding a panicky horse wasn't all that much fun anyhow, so I was happy to have a PLAN.

(skip a lot of long, boring weeks doing nothing with my fancy new horse except longeing and peering at his neck)

The first couple of weeks back under saddle were . . . full of anxiety on my part.  Would this horse be OK?  He was still acting VERY particular about girthing, square saddle pads could NOT be tolerated, only shaped ones, and only ONE saddle on earth was allowed on his back.  A four thousand dollar one, naturally!  Fine, fine--I did my best to just be patient, and lo and behold, it has all just gotten better.  Tincture of time?  Entirely possible.  All I know is that for the last six weeks I have had this absolutely lovely, willing, (mostly) quiet horse to ride on the flat.  Jumping still brings out his inner Gwennie (who never did a jump school ever without behaving like a complete goon) but it is exuberant and fun and not scary and mentally absent goonery.  Exuberant I can handle, and in fact I secretly LOVE a horse who acts like the jumps are there to be pounced over con brio.

So that's where we're at with one horse.  Went around Hunters Run a few weeks ago very quiet, laid back, and professional while still retaining the YEE-HAW that tickles my inner wuss to death.  My own courage is directly proportional to my horse's courage to the jumps.  So lately my courage is pretty high!  Off we go to Silverwood this weekend for the big move-up (again . . . I'm counting and this is my sixth time) to Training level. 

I hope to be suitably motivated by a successful outing to fill in the rest of the details on the rest of the recent stories, but that's enough for now.  Cheers!