Calm, Forward, Straight

Calm, Forward, Straight

Sunday, February 24, 2013

At the Barn #63 - An inconvenient truth, or To bute or not to bute - that is the question...

So - I was aware I have control issues, but there's nothing like a case of mystery lameness to bring that point home.

A synopsis of the last two weeks:

Val suddenly turns up head bobbing lame. (Abscess 1 - Soft tissue 0)

For several days I ran through the checklist thoroughly - no heat or swelling in any foot or leg. Val picked up / held up all four feet willingly. (Abscess 2 - Soft tissue 1)

Decided to go with some bute for a few days. Whoops - bute is contraindicated for abscesses. Ceased bute immediately. But how can you treat for an abscess when you don't know in which foot it might be festering?!

Thoroughly massaged both hips and shoulders. Val reacted very strongly to one shoulder being worked on. After obsessively watching video of the gimpage, confirmed the problem lies in the LF. (Abscess 2 - Soft tissue 2)

The next day, Val resists holding up the RF, and I (think I) detect heat in the LF hoof. Begin soaking and booting. The boot seemed to make Val move more comfortably... (Abscess 3 - Soft tissue 2)

Meanwhile pressure on the heel bulbs, sole and coronary band yield no reaction whatsoever. (Abscess 3 - Soft tissue 3)

Side notes - 
It's so much fun to be seen buying diapers out of the blue in a very small town. 
Resist the temptation to overdo the duct tape phase of the duct tape booty. There are no scissors strong enough.

Several days of more and less lameness, apparently disconnected to any treatment options. Definitely feel heat in the LF hoof. (possibly losing my sh*t at this point) (Abscess 4 - Soft tissue 3)

Many thanks to Dr. A at a fabulous veterinary outfit up the road in Virginia, who called me back and ran through the whole situation over the phone. He listened and eased my mind, as well as helped me formulate an appropriate plan of action.

Knowledge Dr. A laid on me - rarely, abscesses can reabsorb. Rarely abscesses can resolve invisibly. (I was expecting a geyser of pus) Rarely abscesses can abate and reoccur. And of course, this may not be an abscess at all. Possibly pulling out my hair at this point...

This past Thursday the lameness was markedly better overnight, but not completely gone, so I went for a short course of bute per Dr. A.

Today I walked and trotted Val out with eyes on the ground. He was not one. bit. lame. In fact, he was so not lame that he reared, bucked, pogo-ed and did his best to free himself from my clutches. Once returned to the paddock, he cantered the fence line switching leads.

Conclusion - Thank you Val for recovering before I had to seek therapy (for myself). And thanks to the friends who I bugged daily during this crazy making situation (that is theoretically over) - you know who you are. :D

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

(almost) WW

I told you it was this one Mom...
Playing find the treat...

Thursday, February 14, 2013

2.14.13 Hearts and Flowers

To: All our blog friends
❀❀❀ ♡♡♡ ♡♡♡ ♡♡♡ ♡♡♡ ♡♡♡ ♡♡♡ ♡♡♡ ❀❀❀

❀❀❀  ♡♡♡   Happy Valentine's Day!!!   ♡♡♡  ❀❀
 Big smooches from me and Val

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Update from the land of perpetual gimpyness...

Still performing twice daily inspections, pokings, and proddings. Still no heat, swelling or favoring. Still bearing weight on all feet evenly. Still scratching my head...

Also still bobbing, although it seems that the bobbing is worse as movement begins, and levels off after he's been walking for a while.

During our all too brief break from chilly rain and wind yesterday, I gave Val a massage. As he stood out in the warm sun (not haltered or tied) I systematically followed his hip and shoulder muscles from bottom to top, somewhat forcefully. Val stretched his neck, stuck out his tongue, yawned and chewed his way through the entire procedure. (he is a bit of a massage slut) Until I hit a certain muscle group that is. Then he slowly reached his head around and grabbed me with his mouth. With his teeth actually, but very gently. I worked on that spot a few more times and got the same reaction.

I've formulated a theory. I also took some video of the gimpyness, which is posted below. Keeping my conclusions to myself, so as not to influence anyone else's conclusions, should they have any, and want to share. Will reveal in a later post.

For those of our readers who haven't been following long enough to catch any of my "how inconvenient it is to live on a very remote island" rants - here's the deal - 'cause I don't want you thinking "why the heck doesn't she just take that horse to the flipping vet already".

When you can use our road off the island, not 100% of the time since hurricane Sandy, it's a 3 1/2 hour trip to the nearest equine vet. There would be no question if we had a medical emergency. A vague, hard to pinpoint without tons of possibly inconclusive tests situation... not so much. Not yet anyway.

I have consulted with my farrier (thank a million W). He thankfully agrees with my course of action so far, and will be here at the end of the month in person. He really made me feel better. I am fine with however much time it will take Val to heal, I just don't want to miss the opportunity if there is something else I can do, but just don't know to do it.

No bute in case it is a sneaky not that painful abscess brewing
Continue monitoring for heat, swelling, etc.
Keep him quiet - easy - he naps twice daily, it's been stand around and eat hay weather anyway
Handwalking + massages

Here's the video - apologies for the shakiness. I had a hard time outrunning Val backwards so I could keep more than his big 'ol loveable head in the frame.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

In the Arena #140 - Needle in a haystack...

Spring has come to my world. My world of landscaping work anyway. As in less time for playing hooky or lingering around in the blogosphere, hence I have let my blog posts back up. (time to call the wahhhmbulance)

There are three lovely rides to write about + new pictures and video. (!) Lots of gardening news as well. My plan was to compose a comprehensive post yesterday, but as I sat down to the computer (literally), my internet connection konked out. Technology. Can't live without it... can't live without it.

This morning's feeding contained another dose of reality. Val came across the paddock hopping lame. Head bobbing lame. A big 'ol hitch in his giddy-up.

I began by inspecting all four feet and legs very thoroughly. No heat, no swelling. I picked up and held all four feet. No reaction - he bore weight on all feet equally. After he finished his breakfast (appetite not at all affected) I dosed him with 2g of bute. A couple of hours after the foul tasting medicine, he may have looked marginally better.

I cleaned each hoof within an inch of it's life, tapped all over with the hoof pick, pressed all over each sole (hard). Pressed the heel bulbs and squeezed the coronary bands all the way around.  No heat, no tenderness, no reaction. At all. So --- I'm figuring an abscess goes to the back of the line.

Next I hand walked him. I turned him in fairly tight circles both directions. He seemed to falter a bit turning to the left. Watching his head as we walked, the bobbing downward happened on the movement of the left legs... sort of between the front and hind steps.

I can't for the life of me isolate where the issue is. I don't know where to stick some ice, dammit! My farrier suggested LF or RH going by my description of the head bobbing. The only other bit of info is that he seems not to be straightening his LF all the way - he almost looks like he's a bit over at the knee, and I heard clicking as I walked him.

Val came to me with an injury to his hip that required nuclear scans, and precluded him jumping anymore. He receives Pentosan Polysulfate injections monthly, and is just about due for this month's dose. He also gets hyaluronic acid gel daily.

He had a major flip out on Thursday last week in his grazing paddock. It looked like someone had done doughnuts with the tractor when he was through. Full throttle gallop right up to the gate - slamming on the brakes in soft sand - skids worthy of a reining horse.

I did some groundwork yesterday involving yielding his hindquarters, but haven't ridden since Wednesday, though overall we've been working longer and harder recently. Nothing over the top mind you. ;D

My plan is to see how he is in the a.m. and continue buting him tomorrow. The good thing is he's cooperative about his meds, and he is taking it easy voluntarily, plus laying down several times a day as per usual.

Helpful suggestions welcome. It's funny that I have finally gotten to the point where I'm anticipating riding with a light heart... just in the last few weeks. Hope my buddy's feeling better soon.


Monday morning update:

I went out to the barn at 0'dark thirty to check on Val because I couldn't sleep, and it was fixing to pour down rain soon. Picked the paddock as well as you can when you can't see. (yes - I had to "feel" around a little bit) Evening mash bowl empty, plenty of water drunk and hay eaten, and a horse ready for breakfast.

Gave him the once over - still no heat or swelling - still bearing weight on all four feet equally. I led him back and forth in the little wedge of light from the tack room. I'd say he looks 50% better today. Better enough to take off like a bat out of hell when a poop pile I chucked over the fence broke an insulator and started the hot rope arcing. I swear to you, when I have to do fence repairs, Val stares at me (from a safe distance) with a combo of utter respect + complete bewilderment. I am magical. :D

Cautiously optimistic...

Friday, February 1, 2013

In the Arena # 139 - When the cat's away, the mouse will play...

The weather has gone to crazy town.

January in a nutshell:
Several days of 70's - perfect, springlike, must ride, followed by some 50 mph winds and temps suddenly dropping into the twenties. Rinse and repeat. Not complaining about the June-uary days, or even January appropriate weather, but the ping-ponging makes for scary horse-keeping.

I've upped Val's salt ration overnight (when I can dole it out into his mash) to keep him drinking. He's been shedding up a storm (no lip gloss, no fleece, no lip gloss, no fleece...) for the last two weeks, so blankets must come out during the cold spells. It's easy to tell when he agrees with the choice to wear his clothing, because he puts his head through the neck hole voluntarily, and even cooperates when his head gets stuck because it's dark and I'm fumbling.


So - there was this Jane Savoie online clinic a while back. I might have mentioned planning on posting about it.. a few times. I took pages of notes. Full of great suggestions about how to structure your schooling sessions - checking your position, confirming go and whoa, and connecting the training scale to the tests. All info especially helpful when you are without a trainer. Too bad I (apparently) threw away my copious notes in a 70 degree day springlike cleaning frenzy. Even dug through the trash to salvage them - no dice.

Instead I'll share these nuggets from her monthly email -

  • Discipline is the bridge between dreams and success.
  • It’s always about connection, and it’s never NOT about connection.
  • First and foremost the horse must be in front of the aids. Then always analyze the quality of the connection.
  • There are no problems. Only training for more understanding, more strength, more connection, more collection, or more suppleness.
  • Think of “cooperation” rather than “submission”.

These thoughts dovetail rather handily into this week's ride reports. Both days it was possible to ride this week I rode. Since the boss dad was out of town, I naturally appointed myself the replacement boss. "RP" thought it a fine idea to get the crew started and head back up to the barn. ("RP" rocks)

Ride one:
After a lengthy warmup on the buckle while breathing deeply and rhythmically, the focus was on keeping eyes up and body even. Val started snorting from the beginning of the ride - first time that's ever happened, so I felt I was on the right track.

Once I took up contact, I tried to keep it as light as possible - giving the driving aid when it started to feel heavy. Thumbs on top of the reins. Straight line from the bit to my bent, pointy, heavy, elbows. This must become second nature. My former trainer probably said it to me 175,000 times...

The idea of practicing an actual test has begun to feel possible lately, so there are cones around the perimeter of the arena now. We traveled around doing circles, half circles changing direction or transitions at every cone. By the end of the ride Val gave me turns on the forehand on the buckle, and halts off engaging my core only. Then came the deluge of treats.

Ride two:
Another long warmup. A big shy / duck / scoot over something visible only to non humans got me off center for a bit, but we worked through it pretty quick. I continued asking for things and didn't acknowledge the cause of the incident - easy because it was a mystery.

This ride's focus was a repeat of the previous, but with special attention to getting an immediate response to my leg, backing up with the whip when I didn't. Lots of asking for the trot - wait - no, I changed my mind - got us a bigger, swingier walk and Val paying more attention to me.

We finished off with trotting figure eights and a lengthy cool out as work + unclipped pony = sweatmeister. Two point is definitely on the agenda next ride for sure as my ankles weren't feeling flexible enough for effective posting.

Another something only visible to non-humans moment

Something great has begun to happen over the the past month. My pre-ride anxiety is fading. Or maybe evolving. It seems I'm beginning to navigate the tricky path between fear, caution, anticipation, judgement and accomplishment. Thanks Val!

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