Trying to crawl out of a hole

Or: Please don’t let history repeat itself.

This time last year I had gotten my sweet boy Joey unexpectedly back from a lease. Lame.

I miss you friend

Lame and rapidly deteriorating with no real answers from my vet and no desire to keep throwing good money after bad on pursuing advanced diagnostics.

He was my first horse, the horse I busted my ass to get after my entire life of working towards it. 30 years in the making, he was my dream horse in so many ways. It was only months after I bought him before he went lame and was never truly sound after that. I owned him for a year and a half before it became clear to me I would have to euthanize him. That was this time last year.

Handwalking is only fun when you can paw in the standing water in the arena.

Here I am, once again in December with a horse that has been not quite right since early October. Phoebe was doing well rehabing from her pulled muscle, we had done our prescribed weeks of handwalking and I lunged her once (where she was so wild I couldn’t assess soundness whatsoever). Then the weather started its normal November downpours, my arena started flooding, and when the arena wasn’t flooded the wind was so bad it was a supremely bad idea to lunge a fresh horse in the dark, and risk any reinjury. So I resigned myself to just leave her alone for a bit and try again in a month.

Bored pony is bored.

Phoebe, naturally, decided to let me know just exactly how she felt about being on an extended break. She broke out of her run several days in a row and very passive aggressively tried to avoid being caught and brought back to the barn. She figured out how to open the gate between her and Wake and for another several days I found her in Wake’s stall, having played so vigorously with his water trough that it was empty. We got new gravel in all the runs (yay!!) which my special mare promptly dug a giant hole in. I get it Phoebes. You are over it. So am I.

Clearly she wanted to go back to work so I was planning to just deal with the weather and leg her back up. Then the farrier came and we discovered some heat in her hoof on the left hind. Naturally she is off on that back end as well. Could be an abcsess, could be who the hell knows. I’ve been soaking for about a week with no signs of pus.

So much foot in bucket time. Also, WOW do I need to sweep in here.

Honestly I am feeling pretty defeated. I don’t know what I am doing, I have been trying for over 2 years now with my own horses and I haven’t even been able to manage three lessons between them. I have put so much time and energy and of course money into this and it is just not going well. Originally I wanted a horse that I could maybe do prelim on. Now I just want a horse that I can ride and take regular lessons on. Yet even that seems so monumentally out of my reach.

I don’t know. I hope I am just stuck in bad brain land and that these thoughts are just a super fun negative feedback loop brought on by the gloomy weather and short days and all that. Except, if it isn’t? If I have a horse that can’t really stay sound? What do I do then? I am not confident I can handle having to euthanize two horses. After putting so much of myself to get to what I thought would be the actual beginning of my eventing career only to not even be able to get started. Currently I don’t have any faith in my ability to choose a sound, appropriate horse for myself. I also don’t have any money, and since I have decided to go back to school in January (while continuing to work full time… ) all of my money will be going there. So where does that leave my life with horses? Do I just accept that the universe has been screaming at me to just give it up already?

I know I am still an incredibly fortunate person and that plenty of people would love to trade their problems for mine. I also know that I am likely viewing this situation through a pretty dark lens. But that’s where I am at right now. A place where I feel pretty grim about my future with horses.

Day in the life

5:30am-I wander in the barn in my jammies, take off Phoebes sheet and put on our borrowed BOT cooler, I plug in the arena light (yes, singular), and we walk around in a pre coffee (me)/pre breakfast (her) stupor for ten minutes. Once the timer goes off, we go back in, put the sheet back on, pick feet and Phoebe does her own hind leg stretches, then into her stall to await breakfast service.

This fits right?

6:00am-Sheri wanders into the barn also in jammies (benefits of keeping the ponies at home!) and they all get breakfast (hay and grain). If you are a Phoebe, proceed to paw incessantly and earn “last one fed” spot due to being the most annoying. Watch in a jealous rage as Donny and Wake get their rainsheets taken off for the day while you stay clothed. Grey horses who roll in mud and need to keep their injured butt warm have to wear sheets.

7:00am-5:00pm- Spend the majority of the day out in your run, generally standing at the fence talking to Wake and rolling. If it’s pouring rain, stand in your stall with your head and neck staring out so you get as soaking wet as you can.

Hiding behind me like a dork.

6:00pm-Walk again, depending on mood either spook constantly and get away from me several times or follow me like a lamb, trying to rest your head on my back the whole time. There is no in between. A real quick curry and more leg stretches then back in the stall.

Just a quick curry … right?

6:30pm-More hay and grain for all ponies. Much pawing by Phoebe. She will NOT BE FORGOTTEN.

7:00pm-Maid (me) comes to clean the stall, which is normally not so messy except SOMEONE loves to play in her water so under the buckets there is always an excessive amount of nasty wet crap that needs to be shoveled out. Water is dumped out and buckets scrubbed daily since, again, SOMEONE, is great at making her water disgusting and brown over the course of a single day.

7:30pm- It’s lights out and time for bed.

Middle 20m is lit, one end is dim, other end is black. I use the whole thing

Now when Phoebe isn’t on no turnout/no riding obviously there is no handwalking involved and she gets around 2+ hours of turnout in the big pastures with the other horses a day. They all have very large runs that they have 24 hour access to so no one is ever shut in the stall unless its vet ordered. If I am riding (soon I hope!) then I usually get on around 6:30 and am all done with barn stuff by 8pm. This time of year is rough, I leave in the dark, I get home in the dark, 75% of the time it’s raining… Just. ugh. Though usually it’s just the transition into the dark and rainy season that is the worst. I just need to acclimate. And try to get different hours so my hour long commute isn’t a literal hour anymore.

 

What’s the story, morning glory

We have a tentative diagnosis. And I (along with my bank account) got lucky, no nerve blocking, ultrasound or other injecting was needed. Phoebe strained her butt. Likely doing something in turnout like the athletic ding dong she is.

Phoebe was a pro for the flexions, trotting off completely sound except on the right hind when my vet flexed the stifle out behind her (which would strain the affected gluteal muscles) and even then it was still a slight gait abnormality. The discomfort was mainly visible on the lunge in the transition into and out of the canter, getting worse as the appointment went on and the muscles showed more fatigue.

Little Miss Piggy over here. Why do all grey horses insist on being so filthy??

For the next week she gets 2g of bute a day, twice daily handwalks and gentle stretching for at least three weeks and no turnout. However she can still have 24 hour access to her very large run as long as there are no shenanigans. Which may mean she will be getting shut in her stall with a flake of distraction hay while the boys have their turnout. Next week I will check in with my vet about how the bute went and we will go from there.

The good? Ummm all of it pretty much. This is super minor, the treatment is so simple (time and handwalking), Phoebe lives at home so walking her twice a day involves no back and forth commuting to the barn or begging/paying someone to do one of her handwalks. I do the pm feeding so there will never be a question of whether she got her bute or not. And hey, a good time to play my favorite ground work game, old man young man. Basically I walk real slow and shuffly, like an older person, then pick up the pace and march forward like a young person and she needs to walk with me, not lagging behind or charging ahead.

The bad?

Too early for this shit

Due to my stupid hour long commute, in order to get in two handwalks a day I now need to wake up at 5:30am. As a non morning person anytime before 6am that is not related to a horse show just seems….horrific. Somehow I will just have to survive it.

 

 

Still NQR

This makes it over a week with no improvement in that right hind. I don’t think it’s an abscess at this point but I could of course be wrong.

At the trot Phoebe is very stabby with her right hind, and in the canter transition she holds that leg up for an extra second. She has also been pretty clear that she doesn’t feel right. Normally she is always eager to be worked, now she makes grouch faces and turns and walks away from me when she sees the halter. I have only been throwing her on the lunge for a quick 2 minute soundness check every other day or so.

More baking therapy. I have dreams of Martha Stewart quality xmas cookies

Luckily there is no heat or swelling anywhere so hopefully whatever she did is minor. The vet comes out tomorrow to check her out. Blerg.

In the meantime I have ridden Donny a few times to practice my 2pt, only reminding me how much harder it is to practice when Donny doesn’t stay nicely forward. I guess it will only make me stronger right?

In a non emergent situation, how long does everyone else wait until the call the vet? Are there some things you wait longer on and other issues that make you have the vet out ASAP?

Hot or not?

Anyone remember that godawful website, hotornot.com? Where you would submit photos and rank people based on their looks? Just… ew.


This is not about that.

This is about Kaity’s post where she ruminates on what the label of “hot” really means. The scale I was taught was a 1-10 scale, where 1 was a horse you could barely kick into a trot and 10 was a fire breathing dragon.

For a long time I didn’t think about the scale, it made sense to me. I was only ever riding lesson horses that may have been difficult, but they were chosen with my skill level and safety in mind. So to me, I wasn’t riding “hot” horses, I was riding Tom, and Westley, and Qui, and Red. I was riding individual horses with their own quirks and was focused on working with the horse under me to become a better rider.

However when I started actually shopping for my own horse I started asking my trainer to rate the horses I rode most so I could have a better, more concrete idea of EXACTLY what it meant when an ad described a horse as a 7. I wasn’t interested in wasting my time looking at horses or even contacting sellers when I knew that it was not something I wanted to buy based on the ad you know?

Westley

So I asked about Westley, an 11 year old TB that I loved dearly but difficult would be an accurate descriptor. He would rush jumps, was kind of spooky, and had quite the buck. Trainer pegged him at about a 7. Eventually he was found to have a myriad of physical issues, kissing spine included which no doubt contributed to his under saddle behaviors.

Tom

Then there was Tom. Oh Tom. He was incredible. A TB that I rode when he was around 8 and I was a teen, and again as an adult when he was in his late teens. This horse was something else. An incredible athlete but oh man. Another tough one to ride. Tom would bolt, he could be spooky as all get out, and he had this patented move where he would buck, then when you were out of balance he would buck again but with a twist. Would get you on the ground every time! Trainer pegged him as an 8 most days and on a bad day a 9 or a 10.

Qui

Qui was yet another TB and numbered a 6.

26850_1252921094604_3646464_n

Red

Red was a steady QH, a 5 on the scale.

Donny

I can’t forget about Donny! Categorized as a 5 by my trainer, when in my mind I always thought he would be a 2. I would have described Westley as a 5, Tom a 7, Qui a 4 and Red a 2.

So basically, what I would consider a hot horse may be very very different then what someone else (including apparently my much more knowledgeable trainer) does. Your definition of hot could change as you get older and less likely to bounce when you fall. As your skill level increases you may find the horses that you once thought hot are now not so intimidating.

Phoebes. Hotness level TBD and subject to change.

A green horse or a horse in pain or a horse in need of a feeding/turnout change might be pretty spicy for now, but mellow out with age, pain management or more turnout. A horse that is considered hot for an eventer is going to be totally different for a horse that is hot in a discipline like Western pleasure or hunters.

So while having the 1-10 “hotness” scale can be a useful tool when thinking in terms of broad generalities, it really is just a matter of perspective. You need to know your abilities (or have experienced people helping you), and know what kind of ride you are comfortable on and will enjoy.

Ugh, that’s like, SO lame

Whomp whomp. It’s nothing serious, but it IS annoying and just. Oh well.

Phoebe was reshod on Wednesday, and she was trimmed differently at the training barn then how I (and my farrier) prefer. They had her in 00 shoes and they were pressing on her bars and just….wasn’t my favorite. At any rate, I expected a little foot tenderness so she got a few days off.

Not the worst shoeing, but still getting real close to the frog on the right

Then Saturday I noticed there was a little blood on her coronet when I was tacking up. An abscess draining out before there were any signs she had one? Entirely possible.

But…where’s the pus?

She was a little off on the lunge but nothing drastic so I hopped on for a nice easy walk around.

Sunday Phoebes still looked a little ouchy in turnout so I did some baking therapy instead.

Not too shabby for my first attempt at royal icing

Fingers crossed this week brings happier feet.

 

RIP Toggi’s.

In 2011 I went to England with my then boyfriend to celebrate his Grandmother’s 90th birthday. Of course, while I was there a big priority was finding and spending $ at a tack shop. Duh.

So there I was, in Exeter, at some tiny tack shop that I’ve long since forgotten the name of, trying on Dubarry style boots. They did not sell anything made by Dubarry (see: in England, Dubarry is an Irish brand…) however they had plenty of Toggi’s. I needed (wanted?) a pair of insulated, cute, waterproof mucking around boots, I was there, they fit (sorta) so it was a done deal. I came home with a pair of slightly too big Toggi Quebec boots, size easily remedied by putting in some cheap insoles.

Oh to be young and perky

Over the next six years I proceeded to trash the shit out of them. They were worn on hikes, at horse shows, at the barn, WORKING at a barn, sometimes riding, bathing horses/dogs, in the snow, walking the dog, and on and on and on. They were cleaned zero times unless you count walking through water complexes and the occasional hosing off.

They served me well. 

And now they’re dead. The first signs of any wear was last winter, when the lining of the right boot started to tear, causing my heel to get stuck when I pulled them off. No biggie, I just was careful how I pulled my foot out. Then the same thing happened on the left boot. And then, the nail in the coffin. There is a hole in the seam of the ankle on the right one, and the left one is no longer sealed completely where the boot meets the sole. Waterproof no longer.

Damn you hole. 

There is a void left that I just don’t know how to fill. What am I supposed to wear in the barn now? The corpses of my Toggi’s mock me in my house. Laying there as cruel reminders of the recent past when I had proper footgear for chores in a wet, wet climate.

HELP ME! I am reluctant to buy the same ones again because I didn’t find a great size the first go ’round and I don’t really want to deal with overseas shipping. I am hesitant to buy Dublin’s only because I know of several people who’s boots only lasted a year. I need something reasonably priced, that will hold up to neglect, and stay waterproof for two plus years….

 

Any genius ideas?