Monday, December 16, 2013

And We Have Liftoff!

We trotted under weight today! And we weren't hobbling lame! We weren't lame at all!

She is so relieved, and so am I. She's got all this pent-up energy, and I had to keep her from jigging when I picked up the reins. Pony wants to GO! I was super nervous to trot her, but it all went great and hopefully I won't ever have to feel that horrible lameness ever again.

My tentative plan is to actually tack her up on Wednesday and give her more of a real ride, maybe put her together a little bit at the walk and start to get back into the dressagey aspect of things. I don't want to let it go for too long and have her regress, her neck and everything is looking so nice that I just want to preserve that.

Last night there was a snowstorm, and she must have flipped out or something because this morning as I was feeding I looked over and saw her in this stallion's paddock (the stallion is in a roundpen in the paddock, fortunately!). It was one of those surreal moments, like, "Is that my horse? Where she definitely should not be?". She crawled through the fence at some point in the night, walked all over the paddock, and got covered with snow. She also lost one of her magnetic boots, which led me to declare "I'm not even looking for that thing!" But luckily enough, it was sitting right in her paddock, on the pathway the horses have made to the gate, easy to see.

I just put in 48 hours at my job this week, and I was hoping to go home today (haven't been home in 6 days), but my car had other broke down in the middle of the street, and I had to call a tow truck and then stand there watching people try to drive around me. Then I couldn't get a ride home, so I just had to pick out what worldly possessions I needed, and walk back to the place where I've been staying (fortunately within walking distance of my mechanic!).

I know exactly what broke on my car,'s a $30 part that I just replaced a few weeks ago when this happened the first time. Ugh, life. Why is everything I own hanging on by a thread and duct taped together?

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Good Things Are Happening

The rest/light work/bute/magnetic blanket combo seems to be working. It's been bitterly cold, but Sofie has been sound enough to trot around her paddock without a hitch in her gait (she was also bucking and jumping around the other morning, and didn't go Ouch, ouch, ouch afterward).

The applesauce method has been working well for getting the bute into her. She's not the greatest at taking oral meds, but I can deal with her, and this way I know it gets in her. She's just so fussy. I've been leaving her magnetic blanket on almost continuously. She's had it on since Wednesday, minus a half hour a day. I finally took it off and left it off today for fear of making her radioactive, or something. Although that's probably unfounded.

We haven't been doing much, but I've been enjoying myself anyway. On Thursday we went for a brief driveway ride even though it was like 10 degrees out. It was sunny! And it was nice to get outside and go for a little mini trail ride. Then yesterday the arena was empty, and I was going to ride but I decided to go old-school with some good old free schooling. I turned her loose in the indoor, and she trotted off right away and went several times around at a trot. She looked good - free-moving, pretty even, maybe a little tight still on that right hind but definitely much improved. She has so much pent-up energy from not being worked like she's used to - I could tell she was happy to just move for a change. She trotted both directions without an issue, and then as we were winding down I turned away from her, and she followed me. So I decided to play around with it, changing directions, jogging, stopping and transitioning back up to a walk or jog. She stuck with me the whole time and trotted right by me, close enough to touch. We haven't done that in forever, and I forgot how much fun it is to play the "my horse and I are one" game. She's just stupidly adorable sometimes.

It's supposed to warm up (kind of) tomorrow and Monday, so I'll get on her again and see how she's doing. Depending on how she's moving, I may or may not try a few trot steps. I'm kind of nervous to trot her under weight again, but she is doing way better. I'll just have to judge the situation.

In other news, I recently took the plunge and stuck my novel on Amazon (well, the process was actually sorta involved..."stuck it on there" doesn't begin to cover it). I'm still super new to the process of marketing and networking, but I'm excited to have it out there, and hopefully it takes off!

I'm sure those of you who frequent this blog have seen the (hopefully not too obtrusive) link on the homepage, but I just wanted to share the cover, which still makes me super happy:

Very glad I had a horse person design it for me. Accuracy is so important in the equestrian-writing arena! And I figured, if I'm going to make the investment and put it out there for the world to see, it better look damn good!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Sometimes you just have to ride

This morning dawned cold, and I thought I wasn't going to go to the barn. I'll wait 'til tomorrow, I thought. I don't want to drive over there...

Inertia nearly took over, and I thought about leaving my boyfriend's place and just going home. But something stopped me. Peeking out the door, I realized it wasn't that cold. Cold enough that no one else would be out riding, but not too cold for me.

I got out the Friesian mare's stuff, and brought her in from the field. She was agreeable, with good ground manners, and soon I was on her back, settling into her swingy walk and riding out the occasional spook. She was looky, stopping and staring at the snow under the door, or the harrow behind a metal gate, or a light patch in the footing. I was annoyed, and a little tense myself. But I kept riding, praising her when she crept past the scary objects. I took her up to a trot, fumbling through the motions of posting and keeping up with a typical Friesian-cross trot when I'm used to my comfortable, smooth operator. But we worked it out. By the end of the ride I was keeping up with her a little better, and she was walking on the rail and listening to me.

And somewhere in there, I just felt better.

I gave the Friesian mare a quick brushing and rubbed her face. She was sweet and cuddly. I returned her to her field and went to get Sofie. She was walking fine, no better, but no worse after our last ride. I set out her magnetic blanket to put on her later, looped her lead through the D rings on her halter, and climbed on her bareback.

I didn't pick up the contact, or do transitions, or do much of anything. I just let her walk freely, and I just rode. My mind calm, I was able to enjoy the moment. The warmth and comfort of her broad back, the soothing rhythm of her walk, the gentle expression in her eye as I watched her in the mirrors. The promise of what's to come.

We've had many setbacks, and much progress has been made. We're not about to be taken out by a mere pulled muscle. It may take until the warm weather comes, but we'll be back. We'll come back.

And until then, I will relax, and ride, and trust. These little things can be the hardest to master.

We'll be alright. We'll be alright. We'll be alright.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Prognosis: Blah

Things are much the same since my last post. My mom came out to look at her, and she pointed out that her right rump is definitely tight - it even looks visibly smaller than the other side. I walked her around, and flexed and wrenched on her pastern joint some more, and nothing. She is just really super tight and painful on that side, and now that the cold weather has set in it seems like she can’t get any relief.

She’s fine at the walk for riding, but after a little while she starts to rush a little and not be as relaxed. At the trot, she’s bad. I did an experiment the last time I rode her and kept trotting her for a while, doing more transitions instead of just testing it out for a few steps. She actually seemed to work out of her lameness and loosen up somewhat with the continued trot work, which was encouraging, but then afterward she was visibly gimpy at the walk again. She wasn’t horrible, but she clearly wasn’t feeling too great. I’ll see how she is when I go back out on Sunday or Monday. If nothing magical has happened, we’re probably looking at walk-only rides for the foreseeable future.

The good news is that she seems to be getting around fine in her paddock, even now that there is some wet heavy snow on the ground. The only question is how much exercise to give her at this point. Giving her time off doesn’t seem to do her any favors - she had a whole week off recently, and it just makes her go stir-crazy and do dumb things like run around in her paddock. She’s a relatively high-energy horse, and she’s used to being ridden frequently and doing things. I think she needs some semblance of a normal routine, to at least be walk ridden a few times a week. Which I can do, but it’s really hard to take. It’s depressing to see her not getting better, especially when I spend so much time at the barn working. Other people are out riding (or at least have the option to) and then I finally get done with my shift and all I can do is limp around on my horse. It really sucks.

Banamine and time off don’t seem to do any good, so I’ve quit giving it to her (plus I’m running low and I need some on hand for emergencies). I tried putting her magnetic blanket on, and that didn’t make any marked difference in her way of going. I can do massage and stretches, which are probably somewhat helpful, along with the light exercise just to keep her from losing her mind.

The obvious thing is to give her bute, but she won’t eat the flavored powder I have on hand, so if I want to bute her I’ll need to mix it in some applesauce and just give it to her orally. I’m working six days in a row next week, so that seems like the ideal time to give it a try. I’ll be there, so I can dose her (and watch for adverse side effects), and it will be consistent. I see no sense in giving her bute on one random day, and then nothing for a day or more. It’s hard on her tummy, and it won’t solve her issues if it’s not given consistently over a length of time.

On the bright side, the lady who is leasing the Friesian cross mare offered to let me ride her, because she can’t get out as frequently as she would like. So I have a horse to ride, which is awesome. But the days are so short right now that after
working 7+ hours and taking care of myself and my horse, I have to make the choice between riding this other mare or driving an hour home over questionable roads while I still have daylight. Still, I’m hoping to get on her soon. I really just need to ride a horse that isn’t falling apart, just for my own morale, which is pretty low right now.

Sunday, December 1, 2013


Well, it looks like we’re in for our annual, ominous start-of-winter, is-this-the-end routine. We were due for one of these.

It’s been over a month since Sofie came up lame, and she is still really bad. Apart from those two promising rides mid-November, when she cantered without an issue and seemed like she was on the mend, she has come up hobbling at some point during every one of our rides since that day she pulled something, or did something, or something happened.

On our last “real” trail ride, she was feeling good, and when I first started trotting her she broke into a canter, which of course disintegrated into hobbling. We went on, and I tested her occasionally. She was mostly okay at the trot, and when I tried the canter once more, she felt great, but then she just broke and started limping again. She was fine on hills, and fine trotting, except occasionally when she’d limp, but then she’d work out of it.

The last time I rode, I just got on bareback in the indoor arena for a few minutes. She was okay at the walk, but she couldn’t trot to save her life. She’s not lame at the walk, and she’s not lame even when she’s not carrying my weight, so we’re not quite back to square one. But it’s still very discouraging.

I’m at the point where I may want to have a vet out and have some flexion tests done, because I can’t figure this out. She did so well throughout this year. She was so strong, and so sound. And this doesn’t feel to me like the typical arthritis flare-up. With arthritis, there’s usually more guarding, and disengaging and self-protecting. There’s more buildup. And when she’s not cripplingly lame, she looks and feels great. Even the other day, her canter was spot-on before she broke. It just doesn’t make sense. It feels more like an acute injury than ringbone.

But then I recall all the things I’ve read about how ringbone can be career-ending and super painful, and I get confused all over again. Maybe this is just what happens. Maybe this is how it goes. But there’s no heat in the joint. The lump on her pastern is cold and hard. It’s set. It shouldn’t be causing this much pain. And besides that, I can pick up her hoof and flex that joint hard, basically wrench it and torque on it, and I get no reaction from her. If I palpate up on her rump, where Chiro Lady said she pulled that muscle, she moves away from me more often than not. And a lot of the muscles on that right leg and rump feel super tight. So, I don’t know.

What has changed? Certainly the mud was a factor. I can blame myself for not being more proactive, but mud happens where horses live, and it has never been a problem before. And, we remedied the situation when it did become a problem. That’s all you can do.

The main thing is that Sofie’s herd has undergone a lot of changes. Horses have been moved out of there, and new ones have been introduced. The new herd seems perfectly peaceful to me, but the fact remains that my horse keeps going lame. Something needs to change, because what I’m doing is not working.

Fortuitously, one of the mares Sofie used to live with needed to be moved out of her new herd. She is a pretty nasty, dominant mare, and she was causing dangerous situations when people went to bring their horses in. Sofie always got along with her, though, so when I heard my boss was thinking of moving her to a smaller paddock I asked her if we could move Sofie, too. She loved the idea, and I moved both horses the day before Thanksgiving.

They have a nice spot right out in front of the barn, with a shelter big enough for the two of them. They even have a slow feed haynet. Sofie is fine being by herself at night (the other mare is on stall board) and she has a friend during the day. The other mare has a friend she likes and gets along with, and she’s not endangering people and their horses. And I’m hoping that being in a smaller space, with only one other horse will be what Sofie needs. As much as I like having her in a big field, with an active herd, it’s no good if she hurts herself all the time. And maybe as she gets older, and with all her fused joints and old injuries, she just needs to be a little less active on her downtime.

It feels like a good decision for all involved. Hopefully it pays of for Sofie.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Conformation Shoot Fail

As I type this, it's 8 degrees outside and blowing snow. Who's excited they're not working today? This girl!

Recently, on a way-better-weather day, I spent some time hanging out with Sofie after a ride. And I had the brilliant idea that I would take some conformation shots outside.

My horse, historically, does not take good conformation pictures. She doesn't set up, doesn't square up, and stands really awkwardly in general.

Well, with legs like this, I guess you can't blame the girl...

But I persevered, and set her up outside. She was standing nicely! Yeah, this was going to work.

But. Then. She. Kept. Moving. I'd set her up, tell her to "stay", and step back to take the picture (because horses are more like landscapes than plant life. The Macro setting doesn't work!). And every time, inevitably, she would take a step toward me.

So I ended up with this:

Almost a decent shot, but not quite what I was hoping for.

Would've been a nice shot, but now it just looks like she's doing a very slow reining spin.

Oh, well. I guess unpretty conformation photos are the price you pay for a pony that loves you.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Ugh, horse ownership

Do you ever have one of those weeks where you just think, ugh, horse ownership?

I had one of those weeks (actually, a couple of them) a little while ago. After a great year of strong rides and minimal soreness, we hit a rough patch where Sofie seemingly just could not stop injuring herself.

The start of winter has been very mild and wet, resulting in serious mud in the paddocks and pastures. Sofie’s pasture was mainly dry, but there was some deep mud by the haynets where the horses spend much of their time eating. She had been a little off, not bad, but I figured the footing was probably aggravating her ringbone a little, so I took it easy on our rides.

When we headed out on a Wednesday afternoon, the weather was good, the footing was decent, and Sofie was feeling good. She was eager to trot, and I felt no hesitancy in her gait, so we went on our usual route, ending up at one of our favorite trail loops that is very wide and open, with gentle slopes and good footing. We often canter here, and we did some of that, slowing to a walk at times when the surface turned slick with mud. She felt pretty good, but started breaking in the canter so I figured she was at her limit, and we turned back to head home at a walk. I took a slightly different route than usual, over a trail that is still being developed. So the footing was a little uneven, but by no means terrible.

After a few minutes, Sofie seemed to be struggling, and it became more obvious as time went on. She was lame. Really, really, dramatically lame. Going uphill, it was even more clear - I could feel her hiking up and almost dragging one of her hind limbs.

Not. Good.

I rode on for a little while, thinking she would walk out of it as so often happens, but she never did. I even got off at one point to check her legs, but of course nothing was amiss. She was just really, really sore. Unfortunately we were out on the trail, so there was nothing I could do but take my poor horse home and reassess when we got there.

When we got back, I untacked her, and even after standing and resting for a while she was still really. Fucking. Lame. I debated whether to give her pain meds, but I didn’t have any syringes on me at the time, and I also didn’t want to mask her symptoms when I wasn’t really sure what was going on. Whatever it was, it was making her hurt pretty dramatically, and I didn’t want her running around on it when she clearly needed to take it easy. So there was nothing I could do but take her back out to the pasture and watch her limp away. I felt really shitty about it.

I was back the next morning to feed, and she seemed okay first thing in the morning.
But later, when I went back out to play with her, she was standing off to the side while the other horses ate hay, resting her bad leg and looking pretty miserable. Obviously that deep mud was the worst possible thing for her right now. I went to talk to the barn manager, kicking myself for not realizing how disastrous that mud would be.

I asked if we could feed the mares away from the haynets until the ground froze or dried up again. That got shot down, but we eventually settled on a solution. I would leave Sofie in the paddock right next to the mares’ field until the pasture could be dragged and the mud could be scraped back with the tractor. I felt pretty good about this. She still had access to the automatic waterer and she could be right by her friends, but she was on better ground, resting her leg, and the mud situation would get taken care of. I also put her on a diet while she was in solitary, since she needed to drop some weight anyway.

After all this, I went home for my day off, where I relayed the situation to my mom. I was feeling sick about the whole thing, and worried by how much the ringbone appeared to be hurting her. I assumed this was officially our start of winter, This Is The End arthritis flare-up (we were due for one, after all).

After I told my mom all this, she went “She probably pulled a muscle. That’s what it sounds like to me.”

And I went OMG YOU’RE RIGHT. The sudden, dramatic onset, the marked improvement with rest, the aggravation of the deep muddy footing…total muscle pull. Sofie had gotten those before, she used to get them all the time. We were due for one. Muscle pull it is!

And I felt vastly better about the whole thing. Sure, my horse might still be super fucking lame, but at least it’s not the big, scary, potentially career-ending KIND of lame I thought it was! It’s ONLY a muscle pull! Hooray, champagne and cupcakes all round!

Sofie did well in her temporary paddock, and the next time I rode she was vastly better. I even trotted her some, and while she took a few bad steps she felt like she was on the mend. I also had her chiropractically adjusted, and the Chiro Lady confirmed the muscle pull. Basically, she pulled a giant muscle in her rump, on the right side.

The mud got scraped back, and the footing by the haynets was once again solid. Brimming with happiness, I opened the gate so Sofie and her friends (who had joined her in the side paddock while the work was being done) could have their field back. Hooray! Be free, ponies!

Yeah, uh, THAT was a giant error. Because of course the two other mares took
, and Sofie went with them, straight up galloping around on her bad leg (or bad butt, I should say), bucking, leaping, and doing that super-excited, “ooh look I’m an Arabian!” trot with the tail up over the back. Also, she went to the extra trouble of galloping straight through one of the piles of scraped-back mud. Yup. After all that, she was super fucking lame again. But still, I was happy to see her out with her friends, happy and full of herself.

The next time I came out, the field had been dragged, and the mud piles had been scattered up on the hill. The footing was as perfect as could be. Sofie, of course, was still pretty lame under weight, so we just limped around bareback for a little while. She was kind of okay at the walk, but at the trot, she was dramatically lame. Oh, well, I thought, she’ll be better in a few days.

And then they introduced the Friesian Mare to the herd.

And my horse fell in love, which is to say, she lost her fucking mind.

Picture this: I walk out the field to collect my horse, and the new Friesian-cross mare who had previously been in the round pen is in the field with my horse. No big deal, herd introductions happen all the time. My horse is sensible, she never gets all that excited by newcomers.

But. I forgot that Sofie loves mares, and her old best friend had just been moved. I forgot that Sofie loves Friesians, as the Friesian stallion who used to board here was the only stallion she was ever sort of bicurious about. And this mare looks like him. But she’s a mare.

Sofie brain = explode

Mmm, sexy...

My horse (who, btw, was still super fucking lame) looked right at me, and took off in a canter. As I watched, she broke to a walk (well, a hobble would be more accurate to describe her gait at the time). I caught her up so we could go limp around for a while, and she kept craning her neck, not wanting to leave her new best friend/love of her life. Also, she was nonstop talking to this horse, whickering and just not shutting up. You know how they make horses sound in those old Westerns where they dub the sound in? That’s how my horse sounded. Like a movie horse.

In the barn aisle, my horse typically just stands there, ground-tied, while I get her ready and/or leave her for extended periods of time. Like this:

Well, she would. Not. Stand. She kept moving forward, peering out the barn door in the direction of her lost love, and I’d keep backing her up. But she couldn’t really back up, due to Super Fucking Lameness, so she’d just kind of hop/hobble backward, and then look at me like “Ouch”. At one point, I left her for a second to grab something, and she just straight up walked down the aisle and out the door to
the gate that leads to her field. She kept stepping on her lead rope, which would normally cause her to feel the pressure and stop, but on this day she just twitching her head to free the rope, with an expression on her face that basically said “I will stop at nothing to get back to my new best friend/love of my life”.

I did ride her, and we limped around for a little while, but it wasn’t very enjoyable because whenever I’d try to trot her at all, she would basically start hobbling. I don’t enjoy feeling like I’m making my horse super fucking lame (although she was really doing it to herself at this point with her antics), so I put her back in the field.

Does it end here? Nope. I went out the next day, and immediately noticed there was blood on her leg.

Her good leg. Her other leg. Her non-ringbone, non-butt-pull, non-fucked-up leg.

It was a nice, fresh wound too, so it was still dripping blood. I dragged my horse out of the pasture, and segued easily from “Oh I might actually get to ride my horse” to “LOL nope now I just get to deal with my horse’s leg wound”.

Which I did, in short order. I got out my hydrogen peroxide, my Vetricin, paper towels and my headlamp and got to work. I cleaned it out (although it was a very clean wound, but I still needed to get in there and see what was what) and did my usual “how deep is it, is it a puncture, and are there any tendons or ligaments affected” visual inspection. I freaked out at first because there seemed to be yellowish joint-or-tendon fluid coming out of it, but I determined that it was just normal seepage, because the location of the wound wasn’t really near any tendons or joints, and even if it was, she wasn’t dramatically lame enough on it for me to think that such a structure would be affected.

She was flinchy when I touched it, but she cooperated pretty well (we’ve done this a lot). It was her usual kind of wound - about the size of my thumb, with hair missing from the outer edges and then a deeper chunk of skin missing in the center. She normally gets them on her pastern or coronet band, this was up on her gaskin, which kept it way cleaner.

I didn’t want to ride, because the wound was still so fresh and I just wanted it to set up and stop bleeding. So after I had cleaned it and stared at it a bunch, I Vetricined it and just stuck her back in the field. She limped off (it was now impossible to tell which of her legs hurt more) and I went back to put away my stuff. I mentioned what had happened to the people at the barn, asked them to “text me if her leg stocks up like a tree trunk or if she’s bleeding to death or something” and went home, hoping I did NOT get a text the next day (my day off).

At this point, my mind was so overwhelmed by all the ways in which my horse was hurting herself, so frustrated by the fact that I couldn’t do anything but limp around on
my horse (I may have told her, in a mildly threatening manner, “I could really use that extra $250 a month that I work off for your board, Sofie”), and so perplexed as to why my horse had lost all her good sense. This horse has lived a life of chronic ailments and little injuries like this. She knows how to take care of herself when she’s in pain. This is a horse, who, during a time when her hocks were fusing and she was in a lot of pain, walked straight into her field when I turned her out after a short ride and lay down immediately, resting her achy joints in a pile of hot sand. She knows better!

This is when things started to get really weird in my head. I thought things like, I hope she doesn’t keep running around, because that wound will never heal. Then I started to think, Hey, maybe this is a good thing! If she’s sore enough on that left hind, maybe she won’t run around and she’ll rest her butt muscle! Yeah, this is good. I hope that wound really hurts!

In conclusion: she didn’t stock up, the leg wound is healing uneventfully, and her butt muscle is on the mend...with the occasional setback. We had enjoyed a real actual-ride-resembling rides, and even some cantering, and then today, as soon as I got on her...super fucking lame. Again. I was not that sympathetic, as I had been hobbling around on a killer shin splint all day at work, so I walked her on flat ground and she worked out of it a bit. We had a nice little hack and called it a day. She limped out to her haynet, and I limped to my car.

Ugh, horse ownership!