Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Smartpak's STABLE Program

Some months back, I got an email from Smartpak asking to be part of a...focus group? really large study? ongoing feedback loop?

Not entirely clear, honestly. They call it STABLE, which stands for, brace yourself, "Smartpak's Totally Awesome Board of Loquacious Equestrians."

Every few months, they send out a short survey. It's really, really basic. So far anyway. I think it's meant as really high-level strategy, to figure out gaps in their product line.

The screencap is an email I got a few days ago. I clicked on the link. I am a sucker.

I'll be honest, I signed up 95% hoping there would be compensation down the line (even a random drawing), 4% out of curiosity, and 1% because I genuinely wanted to contribute opinions. I've taken every survey they've sent me so far.

Did anyone else get invited to be part of this? Did you say yes? I'm curious as to how many people really are on this list.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Miracle of the Elastikon

My love for Elastikon is well-documented. I firmly believe that at least one roll of this miracle substance should be in every equestrian first aid kit. I could not begin to estimate how many rolls I have gone through in the last few years.

On Sunday, I returned to see Tristan for the first time in nearly two weeks after the wedding + mini-honeymoon. Before I left, I did my due diligence and had conversations with the vet and the barn manager about our tail protocol.

The plan was that his tail would stay wrapped as long as the wrap held. He could then keep it unwrapped as long as he was not rubbing it. If he was rubbing it, the wrap would need to go back on. Since the first wrap lasted about two weeks, I expected that the wrap would come off while I was gone and we would see whether or not he rubbed his tail. I didn't hear anything while I was away - the barn manager was very firm that she would only call or text me in case of actual emergency, since she wanted me to be stress free.

I arrived Sunday...


Let me contextualize this for you.

Tails are notoriously difficult to wrap, right? We've all been there. They are slippery and if you do them too tight it's super dangerous. So you have to strike an impossible balance on being snug but not tight, sticky but not anything that will actually damage the tail irreparably.

This wrap has lasted almost four weeks. I thought two weeks was an extraordinary gift. Four weeks!!!

Lest you think that the tail is damaged underneath, I checked carefully for chafing and rubbing, and found none. I'm not saying it will slide right off with zero problems, but I don't anticipate a complete mess when it's time.

Here's what it looked like after I took the old wrap off. Not too bad, huh?

In conclusion:


Monday, September 28, 2015

Back to our regularly scheduled (?) horse blog

I had all these intentions of writing delayed, content-rich posts while I was gone, and then the wedding took over, and then post-wedding brain + lack of actual computer and/or content did in the rest of my break.


I'm back, both home in Vermont and on the internets. I have 1200+ blog posts to read skim and I have not been inactive in the background either in the horse or the house front.

In the meantime, here, have some placeholder wedding photos.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Monday, September 14, 2015

Tail Lump: Final Diagnosis

My horse, the medical marvel. Here's what the final pathology report says:
The following histochemical stains were performed on haired skin, ventral tail nodule (slide 1; 4 sections): 
Toluidine blue (mast cells): In 2 sections, there are small aggregates of mast cells containing metachromatic granules. 
Throughout all sections admixed with the eosinophils there are moderate numbers of individual mast cells. 
Histochemical staining with toluidine blue reveals the presence of clustered mast cells, consistent with a diagnosis of cutaneous mast cell tumor. Serial deeper sections did not show evidence of Habronema parasites or any other additional findings. Equine cutaneous mast cell tumors are usually benign and often, as in this case, very eosinophil rich. Complete surgical excision is curative. Anecdotally, in some cases even partial excision has resulted in spontaneous regression of the mast cell tumor. 
Amended morphologic diagnosis:
Haired skin, ventral tail nodule: Cutaneous mast cell tumor

If you remember, this was the least likely of the three original possible diagnoses.

What a special snowflake.

Waiting on the vet's word, about whether excision is the next step and if so, how soon. Given that it is definitely receding thanks to the bioabsorbable cisplastin beads we sutured in this may not be an immediate step.

Either way, seriously? I have been exposed to my fair share of medical weirdness in person, and I am an avid reader of the COTH forums for weird medical stuff, and I have never even heard of this. I even did a search for "mast cell" on COTH and it came up with cancer stories in people and dogs. No horses.


Saturday, September 12, 2015

Weekly Blog Roundup

Some interesting posts from the greater horse blog world!

Polo Clinic With Helmet Cam Gifs from Fraidy Cat Eventing
Totally living the dream! This looks like so much fun.

Mean Ol' Dressage (Puns and Plots) from Fraidy Cat Eventing
I know, two in one week, but this is just about the coolest way to analyze your dressage progress that I've ever seen.

Favorite Followings from Bay With Chrome
I am more and more into Instagram lately. This is a great list to check out.

Inspection Photos from The $900 Facebook Pony

Body Shaming the Show Ring from If the Saddle Fits
I hate that I'm not surprised either, but - I'm not.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Getting an Assist

I know that there are many people who have trainers ride their horses regularly. I think that's awesome. Tristan always makes progress by leaps and bounds when someone who actually knows how to ride horses sits on him. It's almost like experts do stuff better than out of shape amateurs who jump on bareback three times a week.

Ahem. Anyway.

I'll be gone for nearly two weeks for Wedding + Aftermath, and right now, Tris is in a somewhat peculiar and precarious place. He's overall in good health, but his physical shape is utter shit. He's turned out on a hill, and I'm walking him a few times a week, but...that's it. Yeah. I know. Last week, I asked him to trot the (mostly flat) cross-length of the hay field and he was blowing hard when we got to the other side. Goooooood grief.

So I had a long conversation with the barn manager last night about what Tris will need while I'm gone (thankfully, not too much) and I voiced my problem(s).

Problem the first: I'd like to keep him in work while I'm away.

Problem the second, which is the larger, underlying problem: he's out of shape, and I've become too nervous to whip him back into shape. If he seems sore, or too tired, or breathing too hard, or anything, I get nervous. It looms much larger in my head than it should. I should just push through and stick to a program, but I back off and noodle around instead.

But he needs to be in better shape. Right now his muscle tone is poor, and he's week through his hind end, which means he's tripping even more than usual, and his body feels disconnected all through even in the walk. He's got a hay gut and no topline, and just overall an even more sedentary attitude. He needs more muscle, more energy, and a better body feel. He needs to go into the winter with a base of fitness.

Solution: while I'm gone, the assistant trainer will sit on him, maybe two or three times. She'll work out a program. Between the assistant trainer, the working student, and the barn manager, they'll get him started. When I get back, I will sit down with the assistant trainer and she will tell me to get the hell over myself and what I need to do.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Lump Progression

WARNING: some of these photos will be a little graphic, in the horse injury/treatment sense. Not bad - but if you are easily squicked, this is not the blog post for you.

Commence leaving some space as a buffer...

Discovery of the lump.

Biopsy, chemo beads inserted, suturing.

2 days later

 Last night, almost 2 weeks out.

Changes: definitely smaller. Developing a scab-like appearance, with separation of skin at the edges. Very sensitive - he would not tolerate even a touch of my fingers or the placement of a gauze pad in order to re wrap. It took some doing to get it covered up again. Sutures are holding just fine, no indication of index ion/drainage/irritation at the stitches.

I sent the vet the pictures. She was happy with them. We keep watching and waiting. If the wrap comes off again, he can leave it off as long as he does not try to rub. At this point, the skin had healed together but is stil new.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Pathology Report

I have to admit, this reads to me like the science-y version of a very elaborate and confused shoulder shrug, but there you have it. It does say that we are still waiting on further testing to hopefully prove or disprove at least one of these possibilities.

I share it here in the dual interests of education and curiosity. If you can interpret any piece of it in a way that sheds light, let me know! If you are just deeply curious about what a highly technical pathology report looks like, wonder no more.

If you just want to read my vet's layman's explanation for this, it's what I wrote up on Friday.
The histologic findings show a severe eosinophilic dermatitis. The top differentials for this lesion are habronemiosis, eosinophilic granuloma, or cutaneous mast cell tumor. Some horses have an atypical eosinophilic response to bacterial infection and some fungal infections such as, oomycetes. No bacteria or fungi are noted. No habronema parasites are seen in the examined sections but additional deeper sections to further examine for residual parasites are pending and additional results will follow in an addendum. Cutaneous mast cell tumor in the horse can be a highly eosinophilic condition with very few mast cells present. The clusters of mast cells required for the diagnosis of cutaneous mast cell tumor are not appreciated in these biopsy sections but histochemical staining to better highlight mast cells are also pending and results will follow in an addendum. Excluding these differentials, the remaining differential is equine eosinophilic granuloma, which is a common skin lesion of uncertain etiology. A hypersensitivity response to insect bites is one speculated cause. Lesions of equine eosinophilic granuloma occur most commonly on the neck, withers, back, and girth region and are often alopecic without ulceration. Early eosinophilic granulomas generally respond to treatment with corticosteroids while chronic lesions may require surgical excision. Strict insect control may diminish recurrences in cases due to insect bites.
I googled "habronemiosis" because what the heck, did a lot of digging, and came up with this slightly more readable explanation:

So...we wait. Some more.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Happy Labor Day!

I am two states away from my horse right now (because New England) so here, have the view out my bedroom window.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

House Post: Radiators, Part 1

Radiators! We have a lot of 'em.

Our house is heated by steam, a slightly tricky but ultimately rewarding heating system. It is more efficient than many other older heating systems, and it offers a comforting, humid warmth rather than the dry, on & off of forced air. It also makes those wonderful popping sounds when it's starting up.

However: all of the radiators in the house (there are eight in total) were painted to match their rooms. That paint is either a) ugly or b) peeling badly. In some cases, both!

I agonized for quite a while over what to do and how to do it. I talked to a ton of people, called places for quotes, researched online, and fretted. I thought about just getting radiator covers made - maybe something custom, to match the woodwork in the rooms. I thought about doing it myself, in place.

Eventually, our electrician recommended a place that was just half an hour around the corner from us. She said they sandblasted her radiators right down to the cast iron for a very reasonable price.

So that was the plan. Our radiators are older, but they have no fancy Victorian filigree on them that might be damaged by sandblasting. While my ideal would have been to have them powdercoated, I couldn't find anyone who would do that locally, and I wasn't convinced it would be as cost-effective for its supposed superiority.

Step 1: Get the radiators out of the house.


The radiator in the photos above was small, and on the first floor (my office). It still required 20 minutes of moving it 5' at a time with precise communication so we could both lift at the same time.

This radiator was in our master bedroom. It weighs several hundred pounds. It took 45 minutes to get it downstairs and out the front door. We did it step by step, and Matt's face basically says how thrilled he was with the process.

Remember what I said about ugly paint? This is the side that was facing the wall. Ack.

We put them on the front lawn, which slopes quite a lot, and I was able to finagle my truck so as to back it up directly to them. Then we just moved them forward a few feet into the back of the truck.

Then I drove them half a mile to the sandblasting place. They had a magnificent hydraulic lift that ran the length and width of their entire shop - a necessity, as 99% of what they sandblast is giant granite slabs.

Seriously, we need one of those at our house.

The guy who took charge of them for us was amazed at both the really ugly paint and how much of it there was. He shook his head in awe, and told us that they would be dramatically more efficient once he sandblasted them. Huzzah!

So now we await part 2: re-painting.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Weekly Blog Roundup

A few blog posts from the horse world that caught my eye this past week.

Before you read anything else, read this, and take it to heart: Helmets: Please Read from Racing to Ride. I have already made my opinions on this topic clear. If you still aren't wearing a helmet, you are making the deliberate choice to play Russian roulette with your life.

A Big Light Bulb Moment from Not So Speedy Dressage
I had this precise light bulb moment a few years ago. Hugely valuable way to understand your riding.

Making a Barn Dog Part 1 from Dandyism
Really good advice. I'm not sure if Arya will ever get there, frankly - some dogs just have the ability to chill out more than other dogs. Maybe in a few more years!

Three Years from Pony Express
Absolutely an inspiration, in every way.

Learning Styles & Lesson Format from PONY'TUDE
This is such an individual thing, and so important to know about yourself.

Horse Home Decor from All In
I am such a sucker for these posts, especially since I have a house of my own to decorate.

Anthropomorphizing from In Omnia Paratus
Read this.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Lab Results

Previously on why Tristan is a special snowflake who loves to confound his vet.

Last night at 9:30 pm - bless her - my vet called with the lab results.

Being a vet, she led with "It's not too bad!"


What follows will be a somewhat cursory summary; the connection wasn't terrific, and I have not the slightest idea how to spell the actual names of things she was telling me. She will be sending me the full lab report from the pathologist ASAP. (She probably, I don't know, had to go feed her baby or something last night after getting off the phone with me, jeez.) She also has to talk to the pathologist personally, as all she has right now is the report that arrived by email.

Here, have last night's sunset to break up text.

Important takeaways:

- the biopsy samples looked weird because they are weird; still no clear diagnosis
- no cancerous cells seen in the samples, and they were both good, clear samples

There are three possibilities for the lump.

The first is essentially a parasite reaction. Apparently there are flies that burrow under skin and cause lumps. There were no larvae seen on the sample, but the rest of the pathology fits this possibility. She had a specific one she thought was the culprit but I did not catch the name, and could not find it even after an hour of Googling. Way to be obscure, Tris. Solution: intensive worming regimen with moxidectin.

The second is just super-weird granulation tissue (kind of like the world's weirdest proud flesh). I didn't catch a solution to this. I'm not sure there is one other than wait and watch and make sure it doesn't take off. At least it's in an easy place.

The third is a mast cell tumor. These are apparently very rare in horses, and vet thinks this is the least likely possibility for a lot of reasons, chief among them that there were no cancer cells seen on the samples. If it is mast cell, they do not tend to metastasize, so that's good news. Solution: probably just what we did, inserting the beads of cisplastin into the tumor.

At some point today, vet and I will connect so that she can get me 2-3 vials of epinephrine. Apparently as mast cell tumors break down, they can release large amounts of histamine, which will basically mimic anaphylactic shock. So Tris will get an equine epi-pen just in case, and as the vet said, these are just good things to have around a barn. Vet was antsy enough about this possibility to say to me if I traveled with him I should bring a cooler and these vials. Eep. I reassured her we were going nowhere and he would be watched constantly, and then I seriously considered the possibility of sleeping in the barn for the next few weeks. Except, drat, stupid wedding. Hm.

So, keep on keeping on, I guess? Now that our drama seems to be receding (KNOCK ALL THE WOOD), my focus is back on fitness and setting us up for the winter. If we don't have a good base and a good schedule heading into winter, we'll be lost again.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Happy September?

A friend from high school posted this on Facebook today. She is very excited about her wedding, I guess.

I am kind of having the opposite problem. I am excited about my wedding in a mild, well, it should be a nice day and I am looking forward to being married, kind of way. But I want very badly to care about and do SO MANY OTHER THINGS, but wedding panic is creeping in and derailing me.

Anyway. Tristan seems happy and content and comfortable after his tail biopsy. After an initial scare on Friday night when the wrap slipped down, I carefully applied a slightly more snug elastikon wrap, and that has stayed in place since then. I'm checking twice a day to make sure, but all is progressing well. He's decided to be a shit about his antibiotics, but that was predictable, so he is back on the applesauce + syringe method.

13 TMS tabs, twice a day. I couldn't find any other containers to mix them in, so Smartpak wells it was. Mixed success. Only one more day, anyway.

Since he seemed otherwise fine, I jumped on last night for just a short hack. Now that his heel has scabbed over nicely, and he is in no distress from his tail, I hope to get out more regularly, especially as a sanity preservative ahead of the wedding.