Monday, December 31, 2012

Looking back on 2012

The last few days have been really low-key at Wyvern Oaks. Hubby and I had planned some house projects, but then we both got sick (he's got a 102 fever, I've got a lovely sinus infection AND a nasty case of conjunctivitis), so we are laying low, eating soup, and taking lots of naps. We both hate feeling sick and useless - blargh!

So, here's a look back at the last year. This is our third year at WO and it sure feels like not much happened compared to the previous two years. The house and property needed so much attention when we first moved in, so it's kind of nice to have the big things done and feel like we can get on to the rest of it in good time.

January saw my hubby riding Saga - with the goal of getting ready for the joust in May - and me on Reddums. We started regular jumping lessons again, and I loved it! Our barn was stocked with hay from Canada, which we had to purchase due to the 2011 drought. I pimped out my tackroom, and considered getting titanium blinds for the bedroom.

In February Saga became an official jousting pony, and I took a lot of jumping lessons. We started having some issues with the neighbors. Saga pulled a shoe and I took a hard look at what shoes were doing to his feet.

We almost managed to burn down the barn in March, due to a malfunctioning heat lamp for our baby chicks. Grendel, our truck, decided it needed a new tran$mi$$ion. We did a weekend kitchen remodel and we love our "new" kitchen! I decided to give barefoot a try again with Saga, but he was lame for most of the month. Boots helped but not enough, and we discovered that he still had super-thin soles. I played around with his feed (again) in an effort to help him grow better soles.

I met the hubby in Italy in April, and we had a crazy time driving in Tuscany. Saga continued to be lame, even just in the pasture, so I decided to put shoes back on him and consoled myself with a great ride on Cash. The spring rains meant that flies started on in earnest, but the garden did great. I contemplated going to a schooling hunter show but didn't have anything to wear. And a scorpion stung me on the neck (bastard).

In May, I called the pest control company and danced gleefully every time I found another dead scorpion. Our big joust happened (with bonus nasty storm), Reddums kicked ass in mounted combat, and Cash was everyone's favorite schpotted pony. Unfortunately, Saga had a tough time with the jousting, and we decided to shop for a new horse for the hubby.

We lost Anie, our faithful Great Pyrenees Guardian Dog, in June. The new horse we were trying out didn't mind armor one bit AND he had a cute jump, so hubby decided to keep him. The garden continued to produce lots of delicious things, and I made a baby blanket for a friend. We ended the month with a trip to France for a wedding.

In July, I learned I had accidentally grown a pumpkin in my garden. Saga's shod feet continue to look awful, even though he was sound. Cash and Saga's bromance continued in earnest, but was a problem when I took Cash to the vet to have carcinomas removed. I took a dressage lesson on Saga, went to a hunter show and didn't suck, then had an absolute blast schooling XC and wondered why I was wasting time in the hunter ring.

In August we started getting reading for foxhunting, going roading with the hounds, XC schooling, and taking some jumping lessons. I managed to get my jumping trainer to go roading too!  Elias waxed poetic about the rough life of a farm dog, and Cash demonstrated how to get really, really dirty. Oh, and since the hubby was out of town, the water main to the guest house broke. Both kiddos went off to college, which officially made us empty nesters (sniff).

We were supposed to go to the LOPE benefit show in early September, but it was cancelled due to rain so I took Oberon foxhunting instead. Saga got a new farrier and we jumped 3'3. Maddy ate an entire gram of bute out of Cash's feed tub, which resulted in a $1300 vet bill. Fortunately, she survived the experience. We made it to the rescheduled LOPE show, where Saga and Oberon both kicked butt.

October sucked. Saga hurt himself somehow and was lame, lame, lame. We treated him for a fetlock joint infection, but he was still in horrible pain.

Things continued into November. Saga had a splint on for almost three weeks. Despite stall rest and way too much Bute, he continued to be in a lot of pain. Six weeks after the original lameness, we found a bone lesion and degenerative arthritis in the fetlock, along with a lesion on the medial sesamoid ligament. He got a little better, but then he got much worse again almost overnight. New rads showed two bone cysts on the pastern bone, under the fetlock. I considered putting him down for the 100th time, but we opted to do a steroid injection to see if it would make him comfortable. Oh, and we broke the garbage disposal the night before Thanksgiving. :)

In December, the steroid injection worked miracles, and Saga went sound. I started to think about retirement options for him and Cash, and started to look for a new horse. The options weren't very exciting. Hubby and I took a ride at McKinney Roughs on Red and Oberon. We moved Cash and Saga to a lovely retirement pasture with 11 acres all to themselves. They don't even seem to miss us.

I'm hoping things will be looking up on the horse front in the new year. Hopefully Saga will remain comfortable with minimal joint injections, and Cash will have many years left to keep him company. I'm still horse shopping, and trying to figure out what to do while I only have Reddums to torment.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Cash and Saga: MmkayThanxMomBye!

Yesterday (Christmas) we went out to visit the boys to see how they were faring at their new retirement home. Sure, they've only been there for three days, but I have been worried about how Saga's fetlock would hold up to the different footing (sand) and his ability to gallop around like a lunatic move more, and for Cash the change in diet, as he has always been colic prone.

As it happens, I needn't have worried about a thing.

 The boys were not impressed with our arrival, despite the fact that we had carrots. They had no inclination to come when called.

 After schelpping our way up the hill to them, Saga realized we had treats, and proceeded to mug my husband.

Cash was somewhat more standoffish. 

 At one point the boys took a break from eating to watch their neighbor horses. Because neighbor horses are apparently more important than Mom and Dad with treats. Who knew?

 Saga mugged me for more treats while Cash politely waited his turn.

 And then Saga realized that the photographer was holding the bag of carrots... (not posted: several extreme close-ups of Saga's nose).

 A few more snacks were handed out...

... and then Saga realized that his new neighbor friends were out of sight at the top of the hill. He called out to them, and then he and Cash went moseying off on their own.

Hubby and I ended up snacking on the rest of the carrots on the way home. Ungrateful ponies!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Offically retired

Today, I hauled Cash and Saga out to their new retirement home - 11 acres of rolling grass pasture, with goats, a (terrifying) mini, and cows for neighbors.

We made the hour-long drive without incident, although about halfway there I confessed to my husband that I felt like I was abandoning my children or something. I'd packed the boys' feed, blankets, treats, Cash's meds, and had a full-page sheet of history and instructions for each of them. Me? Obsessive anal horse owner? Nah!

We pulled in, unloaded, and fed the boys dinner in their new pasture, in hopes of keeping them from doing anything that would annoy Saga's fetlock (for example, running around the pasture like lunatics). That only sort of worked... there was one short burst of speed, and then Saga settled for a showy trot:

 Cash was really not so impressed with Saga's antics.

Next, they had to sniff all the poop...

... meet the new neighbors... 

... do a quick check to see if I had any treats on me... 

 ... and then do some more neighborly gossip while sampling the local flora.

Here's the rest of their pasture... all 11 acres. That's hubby standing by the gate. Nice, isn't it?

We unloaded all the boys' feed, went over the instructions (including detailed medical history), and then said a final farewell and told the boys to stay out of trouble. I haven't heard from the BO yet, so I'm going to assume that all is well.

I know they're in a wonderful place, and that this is the right decision for them - especially Saga, who is still young at heart, even if his fetlock is all but destroyed. Having so much room to roam will be good for them both, and I know the BO has a watchful eye on them.

Sniff. I'm gonna miss them. Regular visits are no substitute for having them right out the back door, you know?


Thursday, December 20, 2012

McKinney Roughs ride

About 30 minutes away is a lovely state park with several miles of sandy bottomland trails that are open to horses. We haven't been there in years, but decided to go last weekend since we couldn't go foxhunting.

Reddums was his usual star pony self, blazing trails, marching past terrifying (for Oberon) fallen logs, and being only mildly interested in the armadillos.

Ear pictures are always cute, don't you think? When leading, Red's ears are constantly swiveling to keep an ear on everything around him. His ears are my "early warning system" for approaching horses or hikers.

Oberon mostly played follow-the-leader. 

Red tromped right through this mess of fallen tree branches; Oberon took a moment to decide to go. Doofus.

The park is right along the Colorado River (not that Colorado River, the other one), and the trails by the river go through an old bottomland pecan grove. This is the trunk of an enormous, 200 year old pecan tree we rode past. Beautiful!

ERMAHGAWD! A picture of ME!

According to Runkeeper, we rode about 7 miles in 2 hours and 30 minutes. I don't think we'll be doing any endurance rides any time soon, LOL! However, it was pretty warm out and the boys both have full winter coats, so we were having to be careful about them overheating. We also spent most of the ride walking, although we had two good gallops and a super-fun trot/canter through the woods. 

Hubby and I have made a pact to go riding here if the weather is reasonable and we can't foxhunt. I think next time we're going to pack a picnic lunch and eat at one of the lovely scenic spots!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Horse shopping: The ones I won't be looking at

Thanks, everyone, for all of your thoughts and comments on Tucker. You have all given me lots to think about! I'm definitely looking at other horses, but as I said, the pickings are slim and, uh, suboptimal. Let me show you some examples.

First off, how about a nice OTTB? Like half the blogs I read are about OTTBs that are eventing, so surely there's something out there. In fact, there's a great organization near here called LOPE (they sponsored the show we went to this fall, where Saga won the Ex-Racehorse award) that helps place OTTBs. So I checked out their web site...

Of the 31 geldings that are listed, 9 matched my age and size criteria. But almost all have things like a "slight tendon bow" or "racing ankles" or "knee surgery to remove a bone chip" or "completely sound following recovery from bowed tendons". EEEP! There were one or two that I called on but they  only have track training, and one was "out to pasture letting his hooves strengthen" (?!?!).  I'm just not willing to take the chance on one of these guys, no matter how much heart they might have.

Next up, we have a 4 year old breed stock Paint. He's got a super long back and you can see in the trot picture of him that the angles between his front legs and back legs don't match at all. There are a couple of videos, and I don't really like the way he's pulling himself along. He certainly doesn't seem like he'd be good prospect based on his conformation and movement.

For $7500 we have this guy, who has a cute expression in the picture, but watch the video. He's got something funny going on in front - you can see it especially well when he's trotting to the first fence. We also have a 4 year old gelding bred for polocross... now I can't find the video but suffice it to say he had something odd going on in his hind end. But wait, how about a 2 year old RSPI gelding? He's bigger than I want, at 16.3 hh, and he's still got some growing to do. I figured he was worth a look, until I watched the video. Tell me what you think you see going on there.

I had the opportunity to try out a lovely gelding who went to the 2011 AECs at Training level with a pro rider, and he's jumped around all the Prelim courses in the area. He was bought earlier this year by a junior rider as a jumper, but it didn't work out. They are selling him for a super-crazy discount (let's just say this guy originally cost more than a car) because they just want to be done with him. He was everything I expected a Training level eventer to be - tried hard, liked his job, knew his stuff. But after every jump, he bolted off with me. It seems to be a pain reaction, my guess is in his back, but probably being caused by something wrong in the hock or stifle (70% of back pain in horses can be traced to hind leg problems). His current owners are not willing to put the $ into him to figure out what's wrong, and I'm not going to take a chance on a horse that's got something like that going on. Poor guy.

There's a 7 year old Azteca gelding who seemed from the video of him jumping that he might be worth a look. I called up the trainer, and it turns out he's only been going English for 30 days. He was reining-trained before that, and so he won't touch the bit. I've already retrained two horses who were trained like that (Cash and Red), and they never really get over it. So thanks, but no. A coming 9 year old Paint gelding who looked quiet o/f in the arena, but y'all, he's almost NINE and he's basically green-broke. And a coming 8 year old QH who looks nice but really hot o/f. I'm sure that's something I could work on, but I'd rather work on it with something younger. And on and on.

And y'all, these are the NICE horses. The actual possibilities. These don't include the ones that look like this or this or this.

P.S. When photographing your horse for a sale shot, please don't get a picture of him just after he's done peeing. Really.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Horse Shopping: Tucker (opinions wanted)

Confession time: in between worrying about Saga, I've been thinking about what I really want in my next horse. Here's my list so far:
  • Must be a gelding. This is non-negotiable.
  • Must be between 15.2 and 16.2 hh. Cash is 15.2 and I thought he was a little short for me (well, ok, the jumps just looked really big, you know?), so when I was shopping for Saga, I wanted something bigger. What I did not factor in is that a 16.2 hh horse is WAY harder to get on, and I'm not getting any younger. Plus, bigger horses tend to be less "catty," and Saga and Oberon are no exception. So ideally the new horse would be 15.2-16 hh.
  • Would like something between 4 and 6, with some experience but not a ton of miles. Saga and Cash were both started at 18 months (Saga as a racehorse and Cash as a reining horse) and they both have had lasting effects.
  • Must be uphill, have a short back, sturdy legs, power behind, and overall decent conformation/balance. Cash, Oberon, and Red are uphill and Cash's back is short (so short saddles bridge, lol!) and they are all very naturally balanced. Saga is a little downhill with a very looong back, and he finds it nearly impossible to balance himself and sit down.
  • Must be athletic with a good work attitude, but I don't want something that's so keen to go that I'm sitting on a stick of dynamite (Cash). I need a horse who is just as happy to go on a trail ride on a long rein as go foxhunting first flight, or bust out a nice first level dressage test.
I know, I don't want much! I've been perusing options online, but y'all, the choices are not exciting for the amount of money I have to spend. There are a ton of off-the-track TBs and QHs around here, but most of them are broken in some way. Also, I am not sure I want an ex-racehorse - I rode quite a few of them when I was looking for Saga, and I felt like I was sitting on a stick of dynamite. I'm closer to 40 than I care to admit, and I know I am mortal and can get hurt doing the crazy stuff I do with horses. I need a horse I am confident with, which was one of the reasons I liked Saga so much.  

Ok, ok, so on to the important stuff. This is Tucker. He's a 15.2 hh 5 YO TBx (I'm not going to say what the X is just yet, but you are free to guess). Both parents are registered, but he is not registerable with any of the "normal" registries. 

Here's what I like: short back, sturdy legs, short pasterns and cannons, lots of power in back, uphill build.
Here's what I don't like: short neck that's currently muscled upside-down (fixable), not the most refined head, upright shoulder.

Here's a video of him trotting a bit, and jumping. This was his first jump EVER - it was about 2'. I like that he didn't even take a peek at it, and he gave it a good effort (as opposed to plowing through it, like Oberon does). 

Here's his canter. I like how balanced he is, and how easily he flows.

I have a lot more video of him, but suffice it to say that he's a decent mover. He's stiff and less respectful if you work off his right side. He leads well but is a little in your lap. He HATES being tied and left alone (paws constantly, but is happy to go to work as soon as you untie him and ask him to move off). He needs work on simple stuff like picking up his feet and trailering. And here's the big kicker: he's not been backed. In fact, he's barely been handled since he was a yearling, and has been out in a pasture with 17 other horses since then. However, after his third longe session (which I did, although that's not me in the videos), we sacked him out with a saddle pad (that took 3 minutes) and put a surcingle on him (which took 5 minutes). He was fine with both and then went on to longe again, no bucking, scooting, or anything. He seems to have a good brain and none of the "baby" issues one might expect from a horse with very little handling, so I think that he could be backed within a few weeks.

If I were to get him, I would leave him with a trainer I trust (the one in the video) for 60 days to get the initial work done, including working on tying and trailering. She has already backed Tucker's brother, and I really love what she did with him. In 60 days he has gone from being pretty much just like Tucker to being a solid, respectful citizen, and I have no doubt that Tucker would turn out similarly. As for why I am not looking at the brother, he's currently injured, RF, and it's too much like Saga's injuries for me to even consider him.

So, am I crazy to even consider an unbacked 5 year old? And how much would YOU pay for a horse like this? 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

My vet worked a miracle on Saga!!! :D :D :D

No words needed for this post. Just watch this video of Saga this afternoon, less than 36 hours after his fetlock injection.

Sure, he takes an odd step or two toward the end, but otherwise HE LOOKS AMAZING. This is a far cry from the horse who could barely walk yesterday morning. :) :) :)

In celebration, I went out to see a retirement place for him and Cash. 11 acres of pasture, all for the two of them. For the first time since this started, I am actually very, VERY hopeful that he will actually get to hang out there!

Thank you everyone for all your well-wishes, and for listening to me be so down on the whole situation. I have really not allowed myself to hope for much until now, and obviously we're still not out of the woods... but it seems like he might be able to be maintained comfortably with joint injections, which I am totally willing to do.


Friday, November 30, 2012

Saga update: And now there are bone cysts

Saga was doing really well earlier this week. His limp was barely noticeable. He was going out with Cash during the day into the tiny barn area, hanging out, and eating hay. He even had two whole days without standing wraps on – the first time since this all started! I had a post planned entitled “Look Ma, no wraps!” and everything…

… and then he got worse again.

First there was a little swelling, and the limp was more pronounced. Cold-hosing and Surpass didn’t help. The limp and swelling both got progressively worse. My vet recommended putting him back on 2g/bute/day and keeping him in. It didn’t help. This morning, he was sweating from the pain, despite it being in the low 60s. His limp was very bad. I called the vet, stuffed him in the trailer, and off we went.

The good news is that the fetlock joint is not infected again, just inflamed. We injected it with steroids to try to calm things down some. The bad news is that there are two cysts on the pastern that now show up on radiographs. Likely they were caused by some sort of blunt force trauma, but of course there was never a mark on him. Still, we finally have a reason for what’s causing the irritation and inflammation in the fetlock joint.

I didn’t know anything about bone cysts, so I did a little digging on Google. Conservative treatment, especially in older horses, is generally useless. They improve with box rest but as soon as more motion is required, the cyst irritates the nearby joint. In Saga’s case, “more motion” appears to be hanging out in a tiny paddock.  I found one article that said only 35% of older horses return to work with surgery. That’s not good, y’all. He’s not a surgical candidate, and he’s got a ton of other stuff going on around that joint – bone lesion, lesion on the sesamoid ligament, and of course the arthritis in the joint itself, caused by the infection.

We opted to inject the joint with steroids, in hopes that would calm the inflammation and improve his comfort level. In some cases that seems to help; in other cases it does nothing. We’ll reevaluate in a week and see where he’s at. If it helps him AND it lasts for a reasonable amount of time (~6 months), that’s something I’m willing to do.  If it doesn’t help him, or only helps for a short period of time… well, I’m not going to let him stand around in pain.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Like an extension of your own body

Maybe you've had a ride like this - those magical rides when the horse seems to be an extension of your own body, where you think a movement and it happens underneath you. Mine tonight happened with Red, in the "arena" where we ride. I was just out to do a little walk and trot, and prove that Red could still canter on the left lead (we went foxhunting Friday and I noticed he pulled the right lead almost exclusively). Nothing too exciting, just a nice evening hack. This was really my first serious ride since Saga got hurt, so I was looking for a little pick-me-up.

Red's got a ton of training, and is a great all-around horse, but he's a tricky fellow to ride. He's gaited, and shifting gears into walk/trot/canter (instead of walk/foxwalk/foxtrot/trot/canter) can be a challenge. He was trained to gait by steady rein pressure (with a 7 inch shanked gaited horse bit, ick) and by sitting on your seat pockets, so you cannot ride him with much contact at all, and you can't be heavy in your seat. He's also sort of like riding a noodle - the slightest half-halt on one rein or the other will have his neck practically bent in half if your timing is off. Downward transitions must be ridden ever-so-delicately, otherwise you'll find yourself eating his ears as he sits down, screeches to a halt, and throws up his head. He's good with laterals at the walk, but at the trot your timing must be perfect, or his legs seem to get tangled up and he shifts into gaiting. I've learned how to work around these things over the years, by playing around with nearly everything in my "toolchest" of tricks. I've never worked with a dressage trainer who has ridden a gaited horse, so everything I've figured out has been by trial and error (mostly a whole lot of error). I've always felt like I'm speaking English and he's speaking Russian or Chinese or some other incomprehensible (to me) language, so there's been a lot of clashing of heads and frustration over the years, but we have mostly come to an understanding. Of course, I'm not perfect, and neither is he, but we've been working together long enough that we get each other and are willing to let some things slide.

We warmed up with a little trotwork, and my contact was horribly unsteady, reins flopping at points. His neck and jaw were locked solid to the left (an old trick, precursor to some truly naughty behavior) and he was a complete noodle to the right. We took a break, and I decided to work on some stuff at the walk to see if we could get our act together. We started with a little shoulder in, and then worked toward walk squares (with 45 degree turns-on-the-haunches at every corner). I focused on using my body to slow him down, riding with my abs/core and not my hands. He responded by lightning his shoulders and shifting his weight back, becoming more and more responsive. We did a few rein-backs, then some 8 meter voltes into a haunches-in. This is a hard movement for him, so even a few steps of trying are a huge win. He started off doing more of a shoulder-out than a true haunches in, but eventually I got my aids and my weight situated, and he was brilliant. We then moved to 5 meter haunches-in circles, something that are a breeze with Oberon but I've never tried with Red before. And you know what? He really tried for me. Sure, they weren't perfect, but there were steps where I could really feel his shoulders swing over and his back come up. What a feeling!

We moved back up to trot and magically, we were steady in the bridle and no longer running around. We did several brilliant shoulder-ins each direction - smooth and round and steady. Of course we lost all connection as soon as I forgot about my inside leg, but I'd ride quietly until he got his balance back and then we tried again. He was so right there for me, I decided to ask for a little lengthen trot. He'd take a few big steps, break to a stride of canter, then come back for a few more big steps. Not great, but I've really never asked him before, so his effort was really nice. We finally got around to left lead canter, which was at times was flat and disjointed - but again, I rode quietly and supported him and let him find his own balance. We had a nice downward transition and took a walk break, then did a little more walk lateral work. We finished with a lovely hop up and down a stone embankment, which he did calmly and quietly.

I used to have these kinds of rides all the time on Cash, where I'd think "hey, we could do a 10 meter circle at B" and suddenly, he'd be doing it. The smallest shift of weight, a hip forward, a leg back, and he'd be flowing into some new movement. I got to share all his power, all of the amazing things he could do with his body, and he allowed me command all that was his. Maybe that's what riding an upper-level schoolmaster is like - I've never ridden one, but I can imagine.  It's when, at some point along the way, the rides stop being work, and start being an amazing partnership.

I want that again.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

No holiday is complete without a major appliance failing!

My parents and kiddo #2 are visiting for Thanksgiving - kiddo #1 is half a country away at school, and we're missing her very much today. My Dad, who was never a Boy Scout but is nonetheless always prepared for just about anything, decided to bring his trusty toolkit with him. (Yes, we have an entire workshop full of tools. No, they weren't enough for my Dad.) It's a good thing he did, because just about as soon as my Mom got in the kitchen, the garbage disposal failed fantastically, spewing nasty water everywhere.

I should note that several Thanksgivings ago at our old house, our garbage disposal failed after my Mom put cantaloupe peels through it. So we have a long-standing family history of appliances dying on major holidays. It's kind of like things breaking when my hubby leaves - you just sort of expect it!

 Good thing my Dad brought his toolkit, eh?

And here's my Dad, my Hubby, and Kiddo #2 fixing things. Kiddo #2 got to put some of his new-found electrical engineering skills to use when he dissected the old disposal.

I hope everyone is having a wonderful Thanksgiving with their family and friends. I'm thankful for my wonderful family, especially my husband, who not only gets up a 6 a.m. with me every day to feed, throw hay to the horses, and fill water buckets, but doesn't cringe too much when he sees Saga's vet bills on the credit card statement. I'm thankful that my parents are both in good health and came to visit us, and that both our kiddos are happy with the latest stage in their lives, as bona fide college students, and are making their own way in the world as mostly-responsible adults. I'm also very thankful for my very amazing extended family from all over the world - Australia, France, Germany, Maine, Idaho, North Carolina, Washington DC, and Dallas, Texas. We've been in touch with them today and it's great to hear from all of them, each celebrating this day in their own way.

I hope everyone out there in blogland is having a safe and wonderful Thanksgiving with their family and friends!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Saga's diagnosis - a triple whammy

After a nerve-wracking weekend thinking of all the horrible things that the vet COULD find in Saga's  follow-up checkup - up to and including fractured sesamoid bones - I was pretty much prepared to have to put him down. He'd have good days when I thought he was getting better, and then bad days when, even with the splint on, he was limping horribly. I really felt like he wasn't getting better consistently, and he was starting to go bonkers in his stall, even with Cash up in the barn to keep him company.

We xrayed Saga for the fourth time in 6 weeks... and finally, we saw something. There are arthritic changes in the fetlock joint, as one would expect with the massive infection in the joint a month ago. These changes will probably continue to get worse over time, but they can be managed with steroid injections.

Unfortunately, the other thing we saw was a bone lesion on the pastern, just under the fetlock joint. Oddly enough, Cash has ALSO a bone lesion on his left hock, just under the joint where the suspensory connects. This is what sidelined him from jumping all those years ago, and also what eventually caused me to retire him from all but light dressage work. Basically the lesion will reattach with rest, but as soon as there is enough motion in the area, the lesion will reappear. For Cash, the breaking point was any collection or extension work, which basically limited him to Training Level dressage movements. Of course, the fetlock is a much more mobile joint than the hock, which means it's likely that the healing/reinjury cycle will be constant. One wrong step, or even a moment of trotting, may be enough to exacerbate Saga's bone lesion. Time will tell.

There's also the lesion on the sesamoid ligament that we have to worry about too, so pretty much we're looking at three problems together - on top of the joint infection, which we've managed to take care of. Taken together, these are career-ending, and it's extremely likely (because of the bone lesion) that Saga will never be rideable again. My vet does think that he will be pasture sound in a month or two, so there is some hope for that.

We're taking it one day at a time. We've weaned him off the splint, and he's going out in the barn with Cash during the day. The two of them hang out and eat hay, and pick on each other a little bit (it's very cute). Saga is standing with weight on both front feet now, pretty constantly. He'll take a few steps that look almost normal, then he'll take one where it's obvious something is horribly wrong. He only makes left-hand turns, where the injured right leg is on the outside. I've seen him try to go right, and he literally has to hop around (like a canter pirouette) to do it. He cannot trot, although he really seems to want to at times. He's still wearing standing wraps pretty much all the time, but we're going to start to wean him off of those as well, and the bute. Whether or not he will ever get any better than this only time will tell, but as long as he continues to improve we're going to give him the chance.

I've starting thinking about horse shopping again, but to be honest, my heart really isn't in it. I have two broken horses, and although neither one of them got hurt while doing something riding-related, I still feel responsible. How is it that people keep horses sound and eventing at 16+, I have absolutely no idea. Plus, the thought of starting over is hard. Saga and I were really starting to form a solid team, a good partnership... and now that's gone.

Go hug your horses, y'all.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Finally, some hope

It seems like this week has been about taking one step forward, only to end up taking two steps back. Sunday, I took Saga to the vet. We took new rads, on the suspicion that he HAD to have a fracture somewhere to be so incredibly lame. The rads were clean. We checked to make sure the infection wasn't back in his fetlock joint - and while the white blood cell count was a little high, the numbers were more in line with inflammation rather than infection, but we put some antibiotic in there just in case.

Monday and Tuesday Saga got about 20-30 minutes of hand grazing 10 feet from his stall, and both times, he was noticeably worse after. Since then, he has literally not been out of his stall... and he seems to be doing markedly better. He's standing solidly on his RF now, at least some of the time, and when he moves around the stall the limp is not as painfully evident as it was. He's not sweating constantly from the pain anymore either, so that's good. I'm re-wrapping the RF every other day with standing wraps, then putting the splint on over it, then duct-taping the whole mess together. It's ungainly but it seems to help him be more comfortable, and he's being a saint about the whole process, thank goodness.

The wrap, pre-splint (this is actually the gamgee wrap the vet put on, but at $50 per wrap, I'm now using plain standing wraps. DIY and all that!)

Here's the splint that hubby made (the vet was impressed... we could have a sideline business!) The bottom corners are cut out so that the PVC won't put pressure on his heel bulbs.

Here's how the splint fits on. It has to touch the ground at the bottom in order to provide support.

Saga models the finished duct-taped mass while Fuzzypony fills his water buckets. He has been getting immense amounts of joy out of messing with the hose while his buckets are being filled.
The plan right now is to keep him in the stall with the splint on for another week and a half or so, then take rads again. Assuming we see nothing, then we'll start trying to wean him off the splint, a few hours at a time. If that works, we'll see about some hand-grazing and then plan from there. Long-term, the goal is to get him to a pasture at one of two retirement facilities that I've found nearby - with Cash as his buddy. Of course, if we take him out of the splint and he gets worse again, or we start hand-grazing and he gets worse again, then the question becomes how long we want to keep trying to fix him when we really have no idea what we're up against.

The really strange thing is, even if he has a tiiiiny hairline fracture on a sesamoid bone (which often don't show up on rads for several weeks after they've happened) it should not be causing him this much pain. I'm more inclined to think that all this is caused by some combination of the lesion in the ligament that we DO know about, the infection in the fetlock (which seems to have cleared up, thank goodness), and probably something going on (DDFT or impar ligament) in the foot that we cannot see. But of course, this is all pure speculation. We really have very little to go off of, except how lame he is. Poor pony.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

What 4+/5 lame looks like

Well, we did the joint lavage on Thursday afternoon. Friday Saga was only a bit better, but analysis of the synovial fluid showed the white blood cell count within normal limits. The hope was that we'd gotten the infection is just one lavage, so Saga came home to convalesce in his stall.

Honestly, when I picked him up he was not noticeably better. This morning when I took him out to graze for a bit (about 10 feet from his stall), he looked pretty bad.
This is how he stands most of the time - right foot out, with no weight on it.

This evening after dinner he looked even worse. The only way for him to be any MORE lame would be if he was 100% NWB on that foot - and that would make him a 5/5 lame.

It's horrible to watch, isn't it?

I called my vet, but at this point, there aren't many options. We are going to check the joint fluid again in the morning to make sure the infection isn't back. In the meantime, we've made a splint (per the vet's instructions) out of PVC pipe and duct tape, to immobilize the joint. Even immediately after we put it on, it seemed to help him a little. So that's something, I guess.

Slightly redneck splint, but it seems to be working.

I am not going to let my horse limp around like this for very long. Every day he's essentially non-weight-bearing on that foot, the risk of compromising the supporting foot increases. I'm keeping him in standing wraps, and checking him several times a day for signs of laminitis, but he could also bow a tendon or something. Not good. He's still perky and eating, but he is clearly in a lot of pain and it's not getting better.

At this point I'm trying to prepare myself for the possibility that this is not going to have a happy ending. Have I mentioned lately how much horse ownership sucks?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

All good things must come to an end :(

Well, it's been a good run this summer with Saga. We jumped 3'3, we went XC schooling, we foxhunted this fall. We even managed a small show last month, where we took home the "Best Ex-Racehorse" award.

And now, it looks like his riding days are probably done.

It will be two weeks tomorrow when he came in with a slight swelling on his RF fetlock. There were no signs of injury, not a hair out of place, and I was headed out of town for the weekend, so MC and Fuzzypony dutifully cold-hosed while I was gone. The swelling went down, then came back, but he wasn't off. I got back from our trip, wrapped with ice, and poulticed. He was slightly off. Then, last Wednesday night, he was three-legged lame. I panicked and called Andrea, and fortunately she managed to talk me down off the ledge before I rushed him to the vet. I soaked his foot in Epsom salts and then packed it with Icthammol, cold-hosed and iced his leg, then poulticed it and wrapped his off leg with a standing wrap for support. The vet came out early the next day and poked and prodded and blocked and x-rayed...

... and found a whole lot of nothing. He was not positive to hoof testers, the rads were clean, and he sort-of blocked to the foot. He was actually only slightly lame, even without the block - a miraculous recovery for a horse who had been hopping around on three legs the night before. The vet headed out with instructions for stall rest and poulticing, since we thought it was most likely an abscess somewhere deep.

He was back the next day for a second look, saying that things just didn't add up. This time Saga was 3/5 lame. More poking and prodding, and nothing. More stall rest, poulticing, and this time some bute.

Monday Saga was not better, and I was starting to suspect something tendon or ligament related. I scheduled an ultrasound for Tuesday, this time with my favorite vet, the one who took are of Taran when he stepped on a nail. Saga was LAME LAME LAME - so bad it hurt to watch him. He also gave a positive response to palpation of the tendon under the fetlock, where the sesmoid bones are, and he was HOLY CRAP LAME when the fetlock was flexed.  We busted out with the US expecting a giant gaping hole somewhere in some tendon under the fetlock... but 45 minutes later we had a whole lot of nothing. Not a damn thing, but a super-painful horse to show for it. We blocked the back of the foot and then the whole foot again, and he was slightly better, but all signs pointed to the fetlock. The vet wanted to do a final block of just the fetlock to see if we could pinpoint the injury, but I had to wait until today to do that.

And when we went to block the fetlock, massive amounts of synovial fluid came spurting out. Awesome. They caught it and it was nasty looking - yellow and cloudy. Definitely a bad sign. He went maybe 70% better after the block, even after the joint had been flexed. We opted to try another ultrasound, with a more powerful machine, and this time we found a lesion on the sesmodial ligament on the inside of the fetlock. Even better. I had to wait for the test results on the synovial fluid, but not surprisingly, they came back very bad - he had a 16,000 WBC count (should have been 500), and 85% nutracel (protein) count - should have been less than 20%.

So the bottom line is, he has a massive infection in his fetlock, AND he has a lesion on a ligament, AND he likely has something going on in his foot as well that we cannot see, based on the way he's blocking (DDFT suspected). The infection has been in there for 2 weeks now, so it's likely caused havoc in the joint - but of course we can't see that on x-ray or on ultrasound.

The prognosis is pretty sucky. I've opted to try to treat the infection with standing lavage (as opposed to surgery). The success rate with that is moderate, and we only get about 3 tries before it doesn't work any more. IF we get the infection under control, he needs at least a year out in the pasture to recover from the tendon and ligament issues. It's questionable as to how or if he'll come back from that, and of course it also depends on how much damage the infection has done to the fetlock joint. It's possible that he'll be sound enough to be ridden lightly, but it is highly unlikely he will ever jump or foxhunt again. He will also likely need steroid injections in that joint to keep him comfortable for the rest of his life.

If we don't get the infection under control... then there is really nothing else we can do, and he will be PTS.

In related news, Cash partied too hard (again) and is 3/5 lame on his RH. We suspect combined stifle/hock strain based on flexion and movement. The vet recommended that we just retire him, somewhere that he won't get pushed around by other horses (ahem-Reddums-and-Taran-ahem). Given his age (and that HE doesn't think he's injured!), that seems like the best course of action. My hope right now is that Cash and Saga can be retired together, since they're BFFs.

Horse ownership absolutely sucks sometimes, y'all. It just SUCKS.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Show pics - better late than never!

MC, Fuzzypony and I finally managed to trade pics from the LOPE benefit show. I'm still waiting on the professional pics from the show, and am hoping that maybe there's one or two of the jumping. But, they took some lovely shots of Saga and Oberon, so here goes!

 Saga looking pretty fly (for a bay guy).

 Mr. I-won't-bend-at-the-poll Oberon (me tipping forward probably does not help. What am I DOING?).

And for your viewing entertainment, we have Intro C on Oberon. Notice the lovely walk-canter transition at 3:08 (which I don't actually recall being in the test...)

 MC riding Cash, AKA Black Tie Affair, AKA The Fabulous M'sieur Schpot. (Yes, he is being ridden bitless. The show allows sidepulls - how awesome is THAT!?!?)

 Me and Saga with Lynn Reardon, the driving force behind LOPE.

This one's my fav. :)

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Saga wins ex-racehorse award; Oberon kicks butt in dressage (but gets eliminated by a culvert)

Today was the LOPE benefit show, which was rained out last weekend and rescheduled for today. Fuzzypony took Taran, MC took Cash (his first show in 5 years!!!), and I took Oberon and Saga. I had entered Oberon in an in-hand trail course, Intro B and C, and the 18 inch hunter class. Saga was entered in Intro B and C, the 2' hunter class, and an under-saddle trail course. In hindsight, riding two horses in four classes each, with only about 30 minutes in between each class, was probably a really bad idea, especially since I had to change tack between every class. BUT... we had a fantastic day, all four of the boys were great, and we brought home some really nice ribbons!

I started out with Oberon in the in-hand trail course. It involved walking through an L, a zig-zag, over a bridge, and a few other things. I thought he would stop at the bridge, but after a slight hesitation, he walked right over it. I got a few points off because I told him "good boy!", but whatever. We ended up 4th out of a very big class... I think there were 15 or so people in it. Considering he'd never done anything like that, I was very pleased with him.

Next up was Saga on Intro B. I had let him get some yucks out in the round pen several hours earlier, so I kept our warmup short and sweet. He was not as through his back as I would like (an ongoing issue), and I failed to set him up for good bend through some of the corners. All in all, I felt like I rode a really solid test, and we scored a 67.19%. This tied us for second place...

... with Oberon. Yep, somehow I managed to ALSO get a 67.19% on Oberon. I wasn't as happy with this test to be honest - we had almost no warmup time (the show was running 15 minutes ahead) and he took a really hard look at the judge's stand. He was also really sluggish and behind my leg for most of the test - I got "Needs ERG" like 5 times on my test. Oh well, we managed to muddle our way through.

After a quick tack change and even quicker warm-up, Oberon and I were off to the hunter class. The hunt classes at this venue are always fun, because it's over undulating terrain out in a big field, and in addition to jumping stuff you also have to some trail-type things. At this show we had to go into a "pen" with fake Canadian geese. I was really worried about the geese, but I SHOULD have worried about the culvert and bridge to the right of fence 4. He had a tantrum right in front of the jump - which in of itself didn't phase him, but the culvert, OMG THE CULVERT. After three refusals (the last of which involved me smacking him, HARD, and kicking the tar out if him) it became apparent that we were not going to get over that jump, so I went around it and finished the course. It's funny - the actual jumps were not the problem, but all the other stuff around them was. He spooked at the pond. He looked at some rocks. He looked at wreaths hanging on the fences. He spooked at the flowers in the finish box. ARGH! I could not keep his little walnut brain on the task at hand. Since we skipped the one fence, we were eliminated, but dammit, we made it around, more or less. Brat.

Another speedy tack change and it was Saga up for the 2' hunter. He didn't look at a single thing, but was a bit full of himself. He tossed in a buck coming off the second fence, then would not come back to a trot for the third element (the Canadian geese). We managed the geese without a problem, then got a good rhythm going for fences 4, 5, 6, and 7. I remembered to stay steady before the jump, but I am making huge movements for such tiny fences and it's really throwing him off. Oops. I again had a hard time getting him back for the 8th obstacle (walking over some logs on the ground), but our last fence was tidy enough. We're fine if we have a rhythm, but if anything interrupts it I just can't get our shit together fast enough. We managed a 3rd place on that one, behind two girls who ride at a hunter barn.

Next Saga and I had to go put in our ride for Intro C. Saga was hot from the jumping and had suddenly forgotten how to canter on the right lead, so going into the test I was concerned about getting the canters AT ALL. As it turned out, the canters were fine (well, for him. We scored poorly because we were unbalanced, but I expected that). However, he kept doing his "hopping" thing at the trot, where he throws his head up and tries to do a little mincing canter transition. My fault entirely, I didn't give him a real chance to come back to dressage mode and relax into forward contact. Still, we landed a very generous 62.5% for 6th place.

Finally, I had Oberon for Intro C. In the warmup I focused on forward. I got really lucky in that we rode right after the judge took a break, so I while she was gone I took the opportunity to show Oberon the judge's stand, and go down center line a few times. The result was that, if our turn off centerline wasn't perfect, at least we didn't spook and careen off centerline! I was very pleased with our test - it was much more forward, our canters were decent (for us, they still aren't super), and he had a lot more energy. I still can't really get him to bend a the poll - like at all - so we got marked down on submission. But I'll still take our 67.5% and second place!

By then, I was pretty beat. Today's high was about 95, no breeze, no shade. Oberon takes a lot of energy to ride, and his Intro C test was my 7th go of the day. I was supposed to ride Saga in a trail class, but I scratched. I knew that he was done, and I was toast for sure.

When we went over to collect our scores and such, and the show organizer told me that the judges had nominated Saga for their special "ex-racehorse" award! He got a giant purple neck ribbon, a tub full of sooper speshul horse cookies (I may eat one or two), and his photo taken with the organizer. *I* got a $75 gift card to a local saddlery. Woot! It's possible that I also got reserve champion for the show, but they were having some issues tallying scores. I should know in a couple of days.

I only have a few pics that we took when we got home, but I'm hoping that I'll get some nicer ones from other photographers later in the week. 

 Doesn't Saga look handsome with that big purple ribbon around his neck?

 Oberon required carrot bribery to stand for pictures.

MC did a lovely job with Cash in Intro B and C. I believe she scored above a 60% in both! Not bad for a rider who hasn't shown in 15 years and a horse that hasn't shown in 5. She also took him in the advanced in-hand trail class, where she got 2nd. She would have won if she hadn't used her voice to tell him "good boy" a few times, but oh well. He was a super star and he knows it!

I'm off to bed now - hopefully more pics soon. I hope everyone else had a really great weekend too!

Friday, September 21, 2012

The $1300 bute tablet

Wednesday morning, I was dishing out feed for the evening. This included a tablet of bute for Cash, who managed to twist something out in the pasture the other night. (I explained that he's 24 and shouldn't gallop around like he's two, but he didn't listen. Sigh.) As usual, Maddy was in the feed room, nibbling dropped feed off the floor and twining herself around my legs. When I dropped the tab of Bute into Cash's feed dish, Maddy came over to investigate. That in of itself wasn't unusual - she occasionally licks the probiotics off his feed, but what she did next was completely unexpected. SHE ATE THE ENTIRE BUTE TABLET OUT OF THE FEED TUB.

It happened so quickly - she just licked it up and it was gone. I immediately reached down and scruffed her, then tried to fish the tablet out of her mouth. In just an instant, she had already swallowed it. She then took offense at being scruffed, scratched me with a front paw, and when I let go, dashed off.

I finished up in the feed room, then looked for Maddy. I called and called, looked in all her favorite spots, but couldn't find her anywhere. I went inside and did some research on cats and Bute, and found almost nothing. Well, except for the part where cats are extremely sensitive to NSAIDs. Even a single aspirin, or a dog's dose of Rimidyl (100 mg), can kill them. Maddy ate a full GRAM of bute - or about 10 times the lethal dose. Awesome.

I eventually left for work without finding her. I spent the day worrying about her, and started looking for her again when I got home. I took care of the horses, and about 8 p.m. I was sitting on the couch when she staggered down the hallway. She was drooling profusely and could barely walk. I have no idea how she even got into the house, but I am so glad she did, or I never would have found her. I snagged her, put her in a crate, and immediately drove her to the emergency animal clinic. On the way, she had a seizure. It was terrifying.

Once at the clinic, they rushed to put her on IV fluids and start some Pepcid and carafate to try to ease the trauma to the GI tract. Amazingly, all her blood tests came back normal, despite the fact that she was ataxic and in pretty bad shape. She spent the night at the emergency clinic, but I had to move her to my regular vet in the morning. She had improved some during the night, but the 30 minute drive to the regular vet's office really set her back.

Fortunately, additional IV fluids, carafate, and Pepcid, along with a quiet environment, seem to have done the trick. The vet is fairly convinced that she vomited up most of the pill shortly after she ate it, since the full dose almost certainly would have killed her. After 48 hours of the best care (and $1300 in vet bills), Maddy came home tonight. She's still wobbly and is spending most of her time resting, but she's purring whenever I pet her and she's started eating again. She's not entirely out of the woods yet, and the vet warned me that she may never quite be her old self, but she's definitely on her way to a solid recovery.

The strangest thing about this whole experience is that a cat WILLINGLY ate an entire Bute tablet on her own. If you've ever tried to pill a cat before, you'll know that the concept of one actually voluntarily eating a pill is completely foreign, much less something the size of a Bute tab. I ended up having to explain to four different vets that yes, she did actually eat it, and yes, it really was that big. And yes, I was ABSOLUTELY SURE she'd eaten the Bute and not gotten into something else.

The hubby is due home next Wednesday. I guess Maddy was our "broken" thing for this trip. Poor little Mooster.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Show postponed due to rain? Go foxhunting instead!

The LOPE benefit show was postponed until next Sunday, due to all the rain we've gotten in the last few days. While I was a bit bummed that the show was postponed, we really needed the rain. It's been almost 6 weeks since it last rained, and the ground was starting to crack pretty badly.

Besides, despite the wet conditions, the first real foxhunt of the year was ON! Well, OK, it's only cubbing season, which means polo shirts and a much more relaxed atmosphere. BUT STILL! We got to take the hounds out to my favorite fixture, and  it was FANTASTIC!

I took Oberon instead of Saga, since he's never actually been on a real hunt before. We started second flight, but first wasn't going too fast so we moved up after about 10 minutes. OMG, Oberon is a natural-born hunt horse. He just keeps up with the group, no matter what they're doing. He also totally "gets" the hunt thing.

Hey mom? The hounds are over there in the trees. 

Fuzzypony went too on Taran.

We only had one silly/spooky moment. Those dots you see in the pond are hounds swimming (they were cooling off and getting a drink). Oberon was fine with hounds on land, but hounds in the water were a bit much. He had to stop and stare a bit.

The hunstmistress goes by with the hounds.

The only bad thing about this fixture is the mesquite. The grey spines you see in this picture are thorns - they are each about an inch long. There were small shrubs like this EVERYWHERE. Oberon for the most part went around it or hopped over it.

We were out for a good two hours, which is pretty great for the first of the season. First flight saw FOUR Talley-hos! Well, OK, it was probably the same two coyotes twice, but still. The hounds kept catching the scent and losing it, and then we'd see one of the coyotes go sauntering off from one copse to the next. We actually had one where the coyote went perhaps 20 feet directly behind the huntsmistress as she was cantering along! The hounds were nowhere to be seen, and the coyote was headed downwind so of course they did not catch the scent at all. Coyotes are very, very crafty creatures!  Good thing too - it means there's always something for us to chase next time. :)

The hunstmistress and hounds on the left, and second field on the right, headed home.

Oberon was an absolute blast to ride. He trotted when the lead horse trotted, stopped when he stopped, and cantered when he did too. I never had to haul on him to slow down, and the one time when I felt him accelerate into a flat-out gallop, I stood up a bit and half-halted, and he came right back to me. He was very balanced, even cantering down hills (Saga tends to sort of roll down them). He was happy to stand when the others stood, but caught on quickly that he was to move off with the group. I was worried that he'd have a problem keeping up with first flight, but I shouldn't have - he had no trouble at all. What a star pony!

 Yes, I'm all that and a bag of chips. Feed me now?

The hubby might not be getting his horse back. ;)