Friday, August 31, 2012

Here we go again

This post was supposed to be all about how I trotted my horse last night, and even bareback around the ring for a few minutes it felt good, and he's sound, and we're going to ease back into work, and so on and so forth.

A few minutes after I got off, though, he pawed at his hay a little bit. Okay, I thought, he's begging. Then he pawed some more, and when I got back from putting his bridle away, he was laying down. Then he got up and circled his stall and pawed some more and wasn't eating his hay.


So I started walking him, and a helpful friend went to check on the possibility of some IM banamine. No dice, so we dosed him with half a tube and started walking, and walking. About 15 minutes later he really started getting that peaked colic look: hunched and yet distended belly, labored breathing, worried face. His gums were quite pale.

I had my hands on the phone to call the vet when T. came out and watched him walking and reassured me. I had in fact seen him pass some manure not long after I rode him, and he had gut sounds, so there was clearly some movement. We kept walking. Another 20 minutes or so and he started easing up a little bit at a time: his walking became more natural, his breathing a bit easier, his gums a teensy bit pinker.

It still wasn't fast enough for me so we gave him the other half of the tube and kept walking. All told, I walked him for about an hour and a half. I let him stand quietly when he wanted to. He sniffed the ground quite a lot but never quite offered to roll. When he started mugging me for treats again when we paused, and T. went back up into the house, I put him on the crossties in order to strip his stall - I didn't want him adding anything to his stomach, and wanted to be able to see every bit of manure he left.

He pawed up a storm on the crossties but it was already starting to look pissed off instead of painful. I put him in his stall and he started rooting around for hay, getting little wispy bits but not much more. He stood in the open stall door and pawed and pawed and glared at me, clearly furious that I'd taken away his dinner before he finished. Within 30 minutes of being back in his stall he'd pooped, peed, and passed copious amounts of gas. Just a little over three hours from first noticing symptoms to being totally comfortable with his recovery.

This is not new for him, unfortunately. He's a very gassy horse to begin with, and when he adds anything to that mix he can get colicky. I wish he didn't, and it terrifies me every time, but he has clear and recognizable symptoms and I always keep banamine to hand for precisely this reason. Next time the vet is at the barn I'll get another tube, and we'll talk about some maintenance things to help him out.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Obsessive Organization: Tristan's Medical Binder

Given that we're currently wrestling with a medical issue, it was fitting that I spent time on Sunday going over Tristan's medical binder and getting it ready for the next few years to come. Yes, years.

I have a system. It is meticulous and yet simple, and I love it. I spent a lot of time creating it and tweaking it to suit us just right, and I am quite proud of it. Here it is, in a nutshell.

The main tool of the system is a three-ring binder. Within that binder, years of medical records are separated by tabbed dividers. I usually keep the current year and 1-2 years previous as well as 1-2 years upcoming, which means that his current medical records sit in the middle.

Each tabbed section contains two parts: overall calendars and specific invoices.

At the beginning of each section are twelve monthly calendars. I use for just a basic, no-frills blocks calendar. Behind these twelve months are all of the invoices for all of Tristan's care, in chronological order. If an invoice (say, for a farrier bill) is smaller than a page, I tape it to a blank page and then three hole punch that.

Whenever he gets any treatment, I write a quick note on the day of the treatment itself - something as short as "vet - spring shots" or "farrier - trim." I usually include the name of the professional as well, just to keep track of our help through the years. Each type of visit is color-coded: green for the vet, blue for the farrier, so on and so forth. I made myself a key to the color-coding that lives at the front of the binder so I don't forget. I color-code by highlighting the first word - "vet" or "farrier" - of the entry. If there's an invoice, I then file it behind those initial sheets.

Now I have both an at-a-glance overview as well as an easy way of finding more information. Every two years or so, I take out a few years from the back of the binder and file them in my larger filing cabinet, again by year, and then print out another few years of at-a-glance calendars for the binder.

There is also a folder at the back of the binder that contains some miscellaneous things not necessarily date-related: copies of his radiographs, feed labels, his vitals.

In the front pocket of the binder I keep my current boarding agreement as well as five or so copies of his current Coggins. Whenever we get a new Coggins, I always file the original pink carbon copy as well as one clean copy in the back part, and then make many copies to go in the front to use up as needed, replacing the ones I keep in the trailer, tack trunk, etc.

I've used this system successfully for three years now. It was a bit of a pain to put together - backfilling all those records - but it's worked brilliantly going forward. It provides a good visual reference for how recently he's had his feet done, or had a massage, or when the vet did spring shots last year, and it gives me the confidence that I have all the information I might need right at my fingertips.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Slowly, Slowly

Last night, I put Tris on the longe line: sound at the walk and trot, a bit stiff at the canter but in a way that suggested to me he was just unbalanced and out of work, rather than hurting. Huzzah! He was also fresh  - well, for him - and kept picking up a trot when I'd asked him to walk, and even gave me a little flourish in his transition into the canter.

The abscess site looks like it's healing well. I scrubbed it with betadine and soaked it, then iced his leg while getting my trailer ready to haul this weekend. The leg is still a bit spongy, but after chatting with J. I agree with her that it needs to be worked off at this point.

So, he will go back under saddle at the walk and have something of a rehab schedule, working up to trotting and cantering again slowly to make sure the leg clears up as we go along and he doesn't get stressed too much.

I'll keep soaking his foot through the weekend, and probably then hold off unless I see signs of a renewed problem. The abscess looks to be cleared up at this point, thankfully.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Onward, Upward

Tristan's slowly, slowly getting better. The leg is down a bit; the hoof is a bit more stable, but still draining. Per the vet's advice, I put him on the longe line: sound at the walk, iffy at the trot to the right (when he had to put more weight on his RF).

I soaked for an hour (two 30 minute sessions with water as hot as I could get it), then iced the leg and gave him a gram of bute. I'll do the same tonight. I can see the path and the destination, but I don't quite know how long it will take to get us there.

I sent in my withdrawal to King Oak today. I'm holding off on a decision about Valinor until Thursday; I still have hopes that we'll be able to go and do a dressage test, though I may just cancel it altogether and focus on something like, say, the October Beland schooling show. There's also the possibility that the barn will go to the October Hitching Post schooling show, where we had such a good run in the spring, and there's the Groton House Fall Classic. Then there will be a multitude of hunter paces for experience in that regard.

New goal: finish the fall on a high note, getting him out and running around, and re-focus on some specific improvements that I want to see over the winter in our dressage. I have half-seriously said in the past that he will probably never canter on the bit, but I would like to improve his canter, to improve our transitions, and overall get him more consistent in the bridle.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Best-Laid Plans

Things have been happening so quickly I haven't updated. To recap: last Thursday Tris was a bit off. I blamed the crack in his RF, and scheduled him to get shoes on Friday.

Wednesday morning, he came up quite lame in the RF, and stayed inside. Thursday night, I went down to check on him/ride, and he was very VERY lame - and leaking copious amounts of pus from an abscess that had burst through his coronet band, in line with the crack. His leg was also quite stocked up. I am about 99% sure this is the same abscess we dealt with some months ago, that just never quite blew out before.

Friday morning, the farrier saw him, put shoes on, and said he was getting near to done draining, but to keep soaking his foot. So I've been doing so. There has been some reduction in his leg, but it is not cool and tight. The area around his coronet band where the abscess blew is still open, still hot, and I believe still draining a bit. He's also still got a clear pulse in the leg, so: still working through.

He went back out for the full day on Sunday, and I was hoping the leg would go down with some walking. No dice. It also didn't get worse overnight, so there's that. I checked in with Mass Equine, and they weren't worried just yet. Tonight, I'm to put him on the longe line and see what he looks like at the trot, and bute him for a few days to help resolve things. I'll check back in with him for a few days.

I don't feel comfortable putting him back into work with his leg blown up like that. If it continues through the middle of the week, we may have to scratch Valinor this Saturday. With everything that's been going on, we've fallen behind on our prep. If his leg isn't magically better tonight, tomorrow morning I'm going to scratch from King Oak.

I'm an odd mixture of heartbroken and zen. I am pretty clear on my options, and pretty clear in that I don't think we're ready for King Oak, and even if he were magically better tonight we'd be hard-pressed to get ready. Scratching tomorrow, on the closing date, gets me a refund to re-direct toward hunter paces and schooling shows in the fall. Then, who knows? The possibility of getting to a recognized event diminishes greatly if I scratch King Oak, but it doesn't vanish. We'll keep working.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

200 Situps

I've felt for some time now that my own physical preparations for riding were lacking. My schedule was so crunched, however, that there was no time I could scrape out regularly to exercise more. I would go to the gym with my boyfriend, using his pass, when our schedules lined up, but other than that, not much on top of riding.

While away on our road trip, my sedentary lifestyle and road food meant I gained a few pounds. I don't really have body image issues, but I noticed that with that extra weight came a bit of a tipping point of lethargy. I've been losing energy for some time now but this was my signal that something needed to change.

I've instituted two small things that will help turn around, and in the coming months might visit the idea of getting my own gym membership and making sure I carve out time to use it.

The first is that I've downloaded the 200 Situps app for my iPod Touch. I followed the program for a few weeks a few years ago, and liked it. So far, I've found the app is a good way to keep track of where I am with the program. It was only $1.99, and it should help my core strength. I'd love to add the squats program too, but I doubt my knees would take it.

The second is that I've redoubled my efforts to eat better. I've always been vegetable-averse but I've let that slide the last few months into generally unhealthy eating. In the past, I've successfully and happily made healthier lunch choices. Time to go back to that. Lunch today was melon, cottage cheese, some whole wheat crackers, and water. I've packed some protein granola bars for snacking to stave off the temptation to grab fast food on the drive to the barn.

It's late in the season to be pushing hard on this, but if I can get myself back into better habits and carry them through the winter, next summer will be much better.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Welcome back, have a crisis!

I was already a bit nervous about being away for two weeks on a road trip. It had been a complete mental vacation: certainly I missed Tris and I missed riding, but we were so involved in what we were doing that I wasn't planning and fretting constantly like I usually do, so I felt behind the ball.

My nervousness was not helped when I pulled him out of the stall and looked at his RF. He's had a small toe crack there for a little while now; I've been keeping an eye on it, and had asked the farrier to come check it just before I left. He did so, and took the toe down pretty far, but there was some crack left. While I was gone, the crack moved aggressively. There was some flare on the right side of the hoof, and a bit of a bulge at the coronet band in line with the hoof. None of which I was a fan of.

Crack in RF, with a bit of flaring all around, worst on the outside.
Side view. If you look closely, you can see a bit of a bump near the coronet band, about where my car's tire is.
He was reluctant to go to work, but not off, and he is reluctant to go to work on the best of days. I did not ride particularly well, and was second-guessing myself quite a lot, wondering if I should pull him up. He took some off steps, but he was never lame, and when I pushed, he moved quite nicely.

Nevertheless, as soon as he settled back into his stall I called the farrier. We've had this conversation before, when he had his abscess: he's working with more intensity than ever before, and wearing down his feet much harder. The quality of hoof is still great and rock-hard, but the quantity is lacking. I'm sure that contributed to the aggressive growth of the crack. He's certainly chipped away at his toes before, but he's never had a crack move like this before.

It was pretty clear to me that the crack wasn't going to heal without help. After almost seven years of going barefoot (save for one cycle in which we tried to support his heels with absolutely no difference in his way of going, so pulled the shoes), he'll get four shoes all around on Friday, with pads & packing in the front to support. I am a bit sad; I really though we could make a go of it. Perhaps somewhere I could control his turnout environment completely, and check him every single day, and work with a farrier who specialized in barefoot trimming, we might've. I can't help but feel like a bit of a failure - either because I've pushed him too hard or because I haven't managed his gorgeous feet well enough. All those conflicts are internal, though. I've always said that I would get him shoes when he gave me signs that he was no longer comfortable barefoot. We're there.

He was pretty pleased to get some extra hand grazing time while I got my camera.
The cherry on top was the call this morning from the barn that he was sore on his RF, probably from riding last night. So I feel rotten about that. He'll be on stall reset until Friday, when he gets his shoes. I'm not quite sure what to do about the XC school we have planned for Saturday. It may be that he just needs the support of shoes, and he'll be totally sound. It may be that he needs some time off to adjust.

Going forward, however - we are entered at Valinor on Saturday following, and King Oak after that. King Oak closes on the 21st of August, so he needs to show significant improvement by then or I might consider scratching him. I'd be heartbroken to get so close to our goal of going recognized and have to cancel it, but - that's horses, I guess.