Saturday, September 29, 2012

And the verdict is...


After extensive physical examination, four or five different views on the rads, jogging up and back, and a consult with the farrier, the verdict from the vet is that my gut was right. Tristan just has a whopping big hole in his foot from the abscess.

It was kind of freaky to see on the rads, honestly. You don't like to see holes in your horse's foot. But we were able to clearly see that there was no involvement whatsoever with the joint capsule or the coffin bone, no hint of a keratoma, no pedal osteitis, and the big lump above his coronet band is just a particularly nasty bit of scar tissue that will need to grow down.

The farrier's opinion is that another 4-6 weeks of growth will make a big difference in his comfort level as the holes will grow down far enough to make the foot much more stable. Probably the holes won't grow out entirely for another 6 months at least. For the foreseeable future he'll need to be flushed and wrapped regularly to make sure no new debris gets caught in the tunnels in his foot and re-start the abscess.

Farrier put a shoe but no pad back on so that the foot can continue to flush properly. The vet tranq'd him for the shoeing so he would behave, and he was pretty stoned and pathetic. He got about 2/3 of the way through his soaking before he started to wake up, and since he couldn't have hay, he was pissed about the soaking. It was an adventure.

I'm glad to know that nothing truly dangerous is going on, though, even if it will be a while before we're back in action. He's losing muscling across his back, and it hurts to see. We should be back in serious work just in time to be stuck in the indoor for the winter, too.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The New Normal

I had a dream last night about galloping my horse, really giving him his head. It was a nice dream.

The farrier took a look at Tristan yesterday and determined two things. First, he has a drainage hole on the bottom of his foot, too, on the toe in line with the other holes. Not a huge surprise and even a bit of a good thing as now there's a clear entrance and exit for flushing.

Second, he is so sick of being fussed with that he behaved incredibly poorly for the farrier. So poorly that the farrier could not get a shoe on the RF even with help from barn staff. I was not pleased; it's important to me that my horse behave politely for the professionals in his life. Back to remedial pony school for him.

I got to the barn last night to see that the antibiotics had been delivered, huzzah. We've got the routine down, now. Flush with betadine and hot water with syringes with very thin tips, disinfecting the length of the hole. Then soak with his new soaking boot (more on that later) for 30 minutes. Then mix up the antibiotics, pack the hole, cover with gauze, cover with vetwrap, cover with duct tape. The whole process takes about an hour and a half.

The vet's coming back out soon-ish to check up and to take an x-ray. Tristan is only a tiny bit tender on the foot, which the farrier is convinced is simply some movement of the hoof wall from the sheer size of the hole. If he were more lame, I'd be worried about bigger problems. I'm still concerned enough to want the x-ray, but it should be more of a confirmation than a surprise. Resectioning is still a possibility, but something the farrier is firmly against.

I finally asked about a schedule, and pending the vet visit, it looks like another shoeing cycle will make a big difference in Tristan's comfort level on the foot. He just needs to grow out more foot to be more stable. So another 4-6 weeks, and maybe we'll be back on track.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Area 1 Scholarship Program

I'm part of the Area 1 Scholarship Committee, which awards four people each year with a small grant to pursue educational opportunities in the sport of eventing. It's all Hannah's fault, really; she emailed me with instructions to talk her out of volunteering to help create the program, and that ended up sucking me in too.

It's been an amazingly rewarding experience. I was deeply humbled by the applications we received: so many dedicated, brilliant, talented people who shared their lives and their dreams with us. I cried at more than a few.

As Hannah just posted, our first two recipients have written up their experiences [PDF]. We have our two fall applicants picked and confirmed. It's well and truly off the ground and I couldn't be prouder. Eventers helping eventers: awesome.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Never anything halfway...

Apparently the vet said something like "oh, wow" when confronted with Tristan's foot today.


The infection is pretty bad. He's off at the trot. The protocol going forward is as follows:

1) Keep soaking, epsom salt + betadine + warm water. There may indeed still be a walled-off abscess above the coronet band that will need to burst.

2) Keep the hoof wrapped at all times. No matter what. Nothing can get in there.

3) Along with that, make sure the hole is thoroughly flushed and cleaned out whenever the wrap is off.

4) The vet is mailing me an antibiotic called metronidazole. This acts specifically on anaerobic bacteria, like he's got filling his hoof. When it arrives, I need to mix water with the powder and create a paste the consistency of toothpaste, then pack that in the hole(s), then cover with gauze, then wrap with vetrap/elastikon, then duct tape.

5) Probably he will be on stall rest, or at the least very limited turnout. This is not a function of injury per se, rather that I am not confident his foot will stay wrapped if he gets too active in turnout.

I'm trying not to be too worried. We'll proceed with this protocol, and then check back in with the vet next week. If the infection doesn't show improvement, we may have to talk about cutting away some of the hoof wall to expose the anaerobic bacteria. If that happens, we're talking about months of recovery time. :(

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Supreme Mustang Makeover Video

Dear Tristan,

The mustang in this video was only adopted 90 days ago. Our seven year anniversary is coming up fast. Do you think maybe we could work on cantering on the bit sometime soon?

PS - enough with the abscessing, already.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Book Review: The Horse Boy

The Horse Boy: A Father's Quest to Heal His Son
by Rupert Isaacson

I've had this book on the shelf for ages, having been keenly interested in the subject matter. The first barn I ever rode at was also a therapeutic riding center, and I've heard about the incredible strides that autistic children are sometimes able to make on horseback.

I gather from the many thousands of reviews on GoodReads that this was a hugely controversial book. I don't know enough about autism to really analyze the book from that perspective. Was Rowan "healed"? Is it even fair to say that an autistic child can or should be cured? Were the shamanic experiences that Isaacson sought part of Rowan's incredible gains, or is that simply correlation without cause? Certainly the way Isaacson structures the narrative and tells the story means that he wants us to believe, as he believes, that this journey is what helped his son. I gave my copy of the book to a friend who is currently doing graduate work in special education and has a wealth of experience with severely autistic children; I'll be interested to hear his opinion if/when he gets around to reading it.

What I can comment on with some knowledge are the horse bits in the book, and they are...not good. Isaacson first discovers that his son, Rowan, responds to horses when Rowan escapes and sprints between the legs of a neighbor's mare, Betsy. Rowan sprints up to a lot of horses during this book, and Isaacson's theory is that there is some instinctive communication going on between the autistic boy and the horses. Specifically, he describes the horses' reactions as submissive. Here's a typical passage:
And there it was again, the horse's head going down, the licking and chewing, the voluntary submission. At least Rowan would be safe with the horse. (Chapter 9: Fits and Starts)
Okay: to my knowledge, no equine behavior expert has yet pinned down the licking and chewing reflex specifically to submission. It is displayed in tandem with other submissive behavior, yes. That doesn't necessarily directly mean anything. I've observed it in other distinctly non-submissive situations. My best understanding of it is that it means the horse is thinking about something and processing. I do tend to interpret it as a positive signal when I'm working with a horse on the ground, but the pure submissive/dominant interpretation of horse relationships frustrates me.

Isaacson claims a wealth of equestrian experiences - foxhunting, dude ranching, and he seems to have the basics of dressage down - but he often talks about horses in a way that make him sound like a complete idiot. Case in point:
Even so, when I did have enough money, it was only enough to buy something cheap. The horse had to be athletic enough to hunt and do shows, but at the meager price I could afford the only such horse would be a failed racehorse off the track. And these, as all horse people know, come with one fatal flaw - they are complete lunatics. (Chapter 5: The Adventure Begins)
No they aren't, jackass.  I'm not even going to bother to deconstruct this one. He's flat-out wrong, that's all.

Isaacson displays questionable horsemanship in several other situations - riding Betsy into a "lather" repeatedly by galloping her endlessly just to please his son, for example. He never once, in the entire book, mentions wearing a helmet. For that matter, since his journey with Rowan, he has started a therapeutic riding center for autistic children, and in one photograph that accompanies the book, has three kids piled bareback on a saintly-looking bay gelding that he's using a dressage whip what, exactly? Encourage into some kind of Spanish walk? The kids aren't wearing helmets. One of them is wearing Crocs. In short, it's a photo right out of an illiterate Craigslist ad.

Not all the horse stuff is bad. Some of it is just there, in the background. For every horse person there are at least two opinions on the right way to do something, and there were plenty of things that I didn't agree with but weren't disastrous. Overall, it really was a good, thought-provoking and occasionally touching read, and I actually would recommend it - just so long as you turn a blind eye to his horsemanship from time to time.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Queen Elizabeth's Saddle Pad

We interrupt this regularly scheduled horse blog to insert massive historical geekiness.

This blog post, about a saddle pad once owned and used by Elizabeth I of England is amazing.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Mixed Success

Long trail ride again Thursday night, and then today I took him out and put him back into a bit of work. We spent about 20 minutes at the walk, focusing on getting loose: bending, stretching, stepping up into the bit. All of it with mixed success. He was not thrilled to be on the bit (even a teensy bit) instead of walking the trails on a long rein.

I did two trot sets of 5 minutes each. He didn't feel great, though he evened out toward the end. I think what I'm feeling is mostly out-of-work stiffness, rather than unevenness. I picked up a canter very briefly, both directions, for just one or two 20m circles. Right felt fine. Left felt AWFUL but stiff and choppy awful, again.  Sadly, he was breathing a teensy bit after the second canter, near the end of the ride, which tells me that I will have some work in building him up again.

I did finally remember to take some pictures of his post-farrier foot, with a bit carved away to really make sure the abscess drained. I'm still flushing it after every ride to make sure it stays clean. I'll try to get some better pictures outside next time I go down.

You can see the first abscess hole, and above it the new hoof growing down (thankfully!), then below the second smaller abscess hole.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Back in the saddle again!

YES. I got down to the barn Tuesday night and put Tristan on the longe line, after a report from the farrier on Monday indicated there was no reason the abscess shouldn't be on its way out.

Sound at the walk, trot, and canter, both directions, even on the relatively small circle I used!

So I jumped on bareback and we had a 45 minute hack through the woods. He was so happy - charging right ahead, sometimes too fast as he took me onto side trails that hadn't been cleared in some time. I did a lot of ducking and grabbing mane. Nice, big, swingy walk and happy horse.

After the ride, I flushed out the abscess holes with hot water + betadine. The farrier had dug around a bit in the hoof to make sure it was clean and open, so his hoof looks pretty awful right now. The good news is that the hoof is clearly growing out more or less ok from the coronet band again; there's definitely a rim of new hoof above the abscess hole. It'll probably take a few months to clear up completely, but there should be no lingering abnormalities. I wrapped his foot with an Animalintex poultice pad just to be

I'll do the same again Thursday night, and then Saturday morning I'll put a saddle back on and start schooling again. He's been off for about four weeks at this point, so we'll take it easy with lots of walking and loosening up and a few trot sets.

Monday, September 10, 2012

King Oak Fall Horse Trials

I had every intention of taking photographs with which to illustrate this post, and...forgot. Ah well.

I scratched Tristan from the Beginner Novice, but still had friends going, and already had the day off, so I helped pack and load ponies on Friday, then drove out to King Oak. We arrived in plenty of time to do the course walk, and my heart did hurt a little bit - we could've handled it just fine.

In bed by 10pm after some pizza, and by "in bed" I mean an actual bed! For the first time in years we weren't sleeping in the truck, thanks to R.'s very generous offer of sharing her hotel room. It was lovely to have air conditioning and a proper bed and a shower. Unheard of for horse showing!

I helped clean tack and hold horses until my jump judge briefing at 8:15, and started to get a bit nervous during the briefing - the wind was picking up, and it was quite cold and cloudy. I told my jump partners that I'd walk out and meet them there, and went back to the car for my jacket.

I was sitting with two young girls and their babysitter, and so ended up doing the recording and radioing in myself, explaining eventing to the non-horsey babysitter (who was very nice and interested, and really picked up on things through the day) and answering questions for the girls. We were at a decently large Training fence for the morning, a sort of squared off stacked logs rolltop with some airy spaces in between. Fairly straightforward. It jumped just fine all morning, as it was soon after the water and usually by then horses were going.

Problems started when it started raining. Basic rain - not so much a problem. I mean, it was wet and miserable and the girls were not thrilled, but so it goes. I mostly kept my sheets dry and during a break ran to put my bag with my Kindle and cell phone in a dry car, and then resigned myself to getting soaked. The girls headed off, leaving me to judge the Beginner Novice fence with another set of jump judges, and at the end of the first BN division it started getting ugly. We heard thunder in the distance, and the wind and the rain picked up, and they called jump judges in when the radar showed a big, nasty storm cell close by.

I ran up to sit in the truck with J. and whew, the skies opened up. We waited an hour, and then they called off cross-country for the rest of the afternoon due to the forecast. I walked back up to the volunteer tent to drop off my things and stayed for a bit to help sort through forms to get them ready for tomorrow, then checked in to find that they were running BN in the morning, and R. was staying over in order to run her horse. King Oak was able to provide stabling, so huzzah for them!

I hung out at the volunteer tent and ate dinner waiting for that decision, and then was able to get back to the barn, soak Tristan's foot, wrap it up (more on the wrapping adventures later), and be home and in bed by 10:30. Whew.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Soaking, soaking, soaking

Not much new to report. Tris is now off at the walk as the abscess processes. He's definitely draining - if not always visibly, there's always a stain on the hoof to indicate goo. It seems to be coming both from the coronet band and from the newish hole a bit below the coronet band.

I'm soaking with epsom salt and betadine. Two days ago, I poured epsom salts, betadine, and hot water into a diaper and then did a wrap of that diaper, vetrap, and duct tape over the two holes. Last night, I did a sugardine painted directly onto the holes followed by the diaper, vetrap, and duct tape, and dried off the hoof and tried to get the duct tape to attach directly, in the hopes that it would last longer.

I did chat with the vet the other morning, and despite my valiant efforts to get him to spend my money, he said there was nothing to do but wait it out. Sometimes abscesses just hang around in the hoof and keep channeling around. I forgot completely to check in with them about the gassiness, too, in the hopes of preventing future colics, so I will have to call back this afternoon and at the very least order another tube of banamine for Monday.

I also want to check in with the farrier to see if he can just put eyes on Tris's foot during his regular rounds on Friday, and call Smartpak to see about doing a digestive supplement. Most of them look formulated for hard keepers or nervous horses - neither of which is a good description of my horse! We'll see what they have to say.

Tomorrow is a day off to make a Smartpak run to pick up some Animalintex poultice to wrap Tris's foot with, some assorted supplies for friends, and then to pack up the ponies and head out to King Oak. I am sort-of grooming for Hannah on Friday, then volunteering at King Oak all day Saturday. A bit bittersweet that we won't be running after all, but with the continuing problems I know I made the right decision, and I have plenty of friends to cheer on.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Book Review: Chosen By a Horse

Chosen By a Horse: How a Broken Horse Fixed a Broken Heart
by Susan Richards

My mother lent this to me a very long time ago, and now that I am no longer in graduate school, I've been working through my backlog of loaned and long-ago-purchased books. I picked this up to head off to a long weekend at a house in the White Mountains, and it suited lazy hammock reading nicely.

Richards has a very straightforward, simple writing style. Probably about half the time it worked for me, and the other half I felt frustrated that she was clearly describing things far too plainly. I can tell there's a good, knowledgeable horsewoman in there, but several times I spotted her dumbing down her descriptions or analyses for a broader audience.

The story of Lay Me Down really was touching, and well-told. The mare sounds like she was utterly wonderful, with loads of personality. I'm not sure she "fixed" Richards; as another reviewer pointed out, the battles with alcoholism and abandonment were in Richards' past by the time she adopted the mare. If there was some more profound connection between the mare's story and Richards moving to a new phase of her life - I didn't get it.

The only parts that truly annoyed me were some of Richards' horsekeeping decisions. More than anything else, her decision to enclose her barn inside her pasture and then...leave the stalls open all day, let the horses wander in and out of stalls seemingly at will, and feed them wherever they hung out, sometimes in the aisle, really, REALLY grated on me. I'm not sure what she expected would happen with an alpha mare and a small enclosed space. That's an accident that should NEVER have happened, and from descriptions later in the book she really had no intention of fixing the problem.

Anyway. Those reservations aside, this was a pleasant enough read. It didn't change my life, but I also found it quite readable and read to the end - something of a feat for me and books recently.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Again. Some More.

So, my horse has an abscess.

No, another one.

Or maybe the same one.

Do I sound like a broken record? I feel like one.

I was away for the weekend, and left anticipating that all I would hear was that my horse had some lovely walk/trot sets to ease him back in slowly. I was thinking, maybe I'll ride him in the lesson on Tuesday, even if we just do a bunch of trot stuff.

Then I got the text that he was off at the trot and there was some discharge from his foot - that same right front. #@!@!%$#%@

I got to the barn tonight to see a nice lump about 1/4" below the coronet band, quite hot, with a pinprick hole or two in it. He'd been soaked by awesome friends over the weekend, and I bought more epsom salts and betadine on the way to the barn to keep going.

I was frustrated, riding the tail end of a long weekend, and we had some bad moments early on in the soaking but I took a deep breath and apologized to him. We both stood and sighed for a moment, and he behaved from then on.

I'll call the farrier and the vet in the morning. Farrier just to take a look; vet to try and talk them into getting me some antibiotics and then coming out to see him on Monday the 10th when they're looking at another horse in the barn. I'm not sure it will work, but I can always hope. At this point, I don't want to chase this around anymore with soaking; I worry about it going more systemic.

He'll stay in tomorrow and be good and mad at me for soaking tomorrow night, but hopefully after talking to the vet & farrier I'll have a better plan of action. I'd like to be done with this already.