Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Meet Eli!

As you saw in my previous post, and if you follow me on Instagram or are my friend on Facebook, you'll know that my new guy, Eli's Coming BHF, came home August 13th!

Eli's Coming BHF
2013 Black Hanoverian Gelding
17.0+hh
Pedigree for the folks who are interested.
I got to add him to the All Breed Pedigree website, and then went down the wormhole to add his mom to find the right lineage for him!

It took me about a week after Liam's death to start shopping again. I couldn't decide what I wanted, but I knew I wanted it to be fun right away... No 2 year olds, no promise of future fun. The next horse needed to be ready for fun now. They also needed to be safe and sound over talented.

One heck of a horse shopping weekend. Leave Sat morning at 7:30am, come back home Sunday at 9:00pm.

I found Eli on my 1200 mile sojourn to Canada and back to outside Philadelphia. The horse I saw in Canada was my favorite for the weekend based on the videos. I thought Eli might be too hot or have a buck in him and I wasn't fond of his advertised height (17h). After the Canada horse turned out to be not as I expected, I was pretty sad and didn't have high hopes for Eli. When we arrived and I walked in the barn and met Eli, I was like, "Oh hell no. This horse is massive and not for me. It's going to be like riding in the clouds. He's just too big."

Uphill build, not an accurate representation of just how big this horse is. Seriously. He's wonderfully proportionate and is MASSIVE.

And then I rode him. And I was in love. He doesn't ride like a big horse. He doesn't feel big and wide (because he isn't wide), he doesn't feel tall unless you look directly down at his shoulder, he turns like a normal sized horse instead of a tractor trailer. He's responsive. I felt like I was sitting around him instead of on him, and he's just plain comfortable to ride! He's also the perfect size for me. We look well matched.

A bit down in the trot
Up in the walk-canter transitions!

He does want to curl behind the vertical in the walk and trot, and he doesn't have much cycled power from back to front... which shows in that he wants to be down in the front. It doesn't seem like anyone has really asked him to pick his front end up and use his hind end. He's just been allowed to pull his weight down his front legs. Somewhere along the line, someone held/pulled him "in frame" so he got heavy in the bridle. They've been working him in a pelham since then to lighten him, but I think that has made the curling at the walk worse.


For the record, I rode the canter very poorly. It all kind of squirts out the front, he wants to be down in the head/neck/shoulder, he's unbalanced and big strided, and I'm rusty and out of shape. A perfect combination!



He has some good training and some stuff to fix, but the general base his breeder gave him is really good. He already knows how to go off the outside rein. He jumps, trail rides, goes XC, travels, loads, stands for the vet and farrier, is mostly polite (he's got a very itchy head that leads to rudeness), and LOVES face rubs and snuggles and hugs. If I was braver, I could have taken him straight to a show and he would have been very green, but well behaved.

From Aug 13, the day he came home!
Such a sweet, kind face.

His breeder is a lovely lady who tries her best to breed quality and good tempered Oldenburgs (GOV only) and Hanoverians, and then handles them from birth and gives them the biggest education she can. Eli has spent time with her under saddle, as well as with a hunter trainer and dressage trainer. She puts a bunch of different riders up on her horses so they get used to a variety of people riding them. He's been to Devon for the Young Hunter class (no place, but that's big show with lots to look at!), and he's been to hunter/jumper and dressage schooling shows, as well as schooling with Boyd Martin at Windurra. He jumps beautifully!

I learned about hanoverian brands after he came home. The hanoverian H and 13 for the year he was born. I didn't expect his brand to be so visible.

I had a rather extensive PPE done (26 x-rays) and he had acceptable confirmation faults and acceptable findings, so we moved forward with buying him! The vet that did his PPE called me after the physical and flexions, after each set of xrays (fronts from the fetlock down, neck, hocks), and after everything was done to chat. He said Eli won him over with his personality and unflappable demeanor, and he made a point to note that in the PPE notes. A massive thunderstorm rolled in while they were shooting his front hooves and the wind whipped through the little barn, the tin roof made a ton of noise, and he didn't even flinch. The vet didn't need to sedate him to take any of the xrays.

I have my own Black Beauty!
Or my own moose. Take your pick.

We're going to make some changes to his shoeing, based on the PPE vet notes, xrays (they showed the insides were still good!), and the look over he got from the farrier when he came home. There must have been some time period where his nutrition changed for the worse, because the bottom 4" of his hooves are rather fibrous and have some waves in the walls, where the top inch is pristine hoof. The fibers have made it almost impossible to keep nails in his front shoes, so we're most likely going to switch to glue ons until his good quality hoof wall grows down. The fronts also bulge near the bottom, indicating at some point his toes were allowed to become quite long. He has rather thin soles, so he's probably going to need pads, but we're not going to do that just yet. His frogs are massive, especially behind. It's to the point where the frog hits well before the hoof wall on his barefoot hind feet, to the point of bruising. Last Saturday he came in with a large piece of hoof wall partially broken off, so BO Farrier decided to trim his hind feet and start removing the flares. He took off some of the frog since it was taller than the hoof wall, and there were bruises underneath. The medial/lateral balance of each hoof is a little off (especially behind, where the lateral aspects are lower than the medial). He doesn't land heel first up front, so we're going to address his needs with some careful, frequent shoeing and a low sugar diet with as much biotin as I can stuff in him (40mg am and pm) to get that nasty bit of hoof to grow out as quickly as possible. I think making those changes will really help him with his front leg action below the knee so he's comfortable reaching forward through the whole leg, and it should give him a better hoof to sit on behind.

He is the biggest horse on the farm now. And significantly bigger than this stall's past occupants.

I know he's not the most gorgeous moving thing on the planet. His trot is weak but is the easiest gait to improve, and his canter and walk have a good footfall pattern to build on. What I really love is his brain and how he's constantly thinking about what I want, and checking in with me. He's on task and has been taught to learn. I don't think he's going to lose his shit and put me in the dirt (knock on all the wood, haha). He is not intimidating to sit on. To be honest, his gaits reminds me a little bit of an OTTB- short trot and unbalanced canter. It'll get better with training and time. He's put together decently, so we should be able to improve his gaits and add expression.

Making new friends. He doesn't look big until you put him next to a 15.2h paint and 14h (ish) pony. 

I know he really needs to transition out of the pelham into some kind of snaffle to really teach him to go to the bit, but I'm just not there yet mentally or physically. I can only do about 10 min of walk and trot before my head waves the white flag. I'm not having the same vertigo issues as I was a week ago, but as I get warm exercising, my head starts to misinterpret what my eyes see and I'm not 100% on my balance game. I'm lunging him before riding even though he doesn't need it, because I can't risk falling off at the moment. If he were a big moving warmblood, I wouldn't be able to ride him at all. I'm keeping the pelham as a last resort e-brake if needed. He has great from the seat brakes, so I've been riding with generous loop in the curb rein.

He knows how to use a run in! I shouldn't be excited about that, but I see so many geldings who just stand out in the weather when there's a run in available.

Eli had a training ride with the local dressage trainer last Wednesday (the day after he came home). She had him going and reaching in no time, much better than any of the videos of me riding him. She'll be helping me out at home with him, especially as he settles into a new routine and as we get to know each other. She loved him and thought he was an excellent find. She rode him on a similar long rein with little curb contact, and stressed that whoever schools his canter for me needs to keep it just as big as it is now, with leg on, as they work on balancing him. She wants to encourage his inside hind to keep stepping forward, and shortening his stride won't do it. She did another training ride Monday this week when she hauled horses over to participate in a clinic at our barn.

He's a character!

I finally got to ride him myself last Saturday and Sunday! My head got worse last week so I went back to the doctor. She prescribed new meds for some newly popped up health issues, and my head cleared almost immediately. My rule is, if I can't drive myself the 45 min to the barn, I can't ride. I was able to do that after new meds, so I did! I tried him on July 28, hit myself upside the head July 30, and didn't ride again until August 17 when I rode him for the first time at home, so judge the videos below lightly. I'm mostly concerned about staying balanced and with him, and keeping him upright with the inside leg. Nothing else. I'm actually pretty happy to see him come above the bit and in front of the vertical since he wants to curl and be down.

In the videos below,  I rode him after the clinic was done for the day Sunday, and everyone was sorting out dinner. The clinician was so kind! She hung out in the ring to see him go and did some hand holding with me for the 10 min I rode, even though she had taught all day and I wasn't on the lesson list. Hopefully I'll feel better by October and I'll be able to have a real lesson. He definitely plods like a lesson horse in the videos... but I rather like that right now. I need a bit of plodding at the moment, and I know he can be jazzed up too.



So there you have it!

I'm now hunting down new tack and equipment for my moose horse. I'd peg him at 1300# minimum, and probably 1400 to 1500 by the time he's done growing... because his breeder warned me that her babies usually grow until they're 8. I don't expect he'll get much taller (I think he'll be 17.1 or 17.2 when he's done), but he should widen a good bit. Luckily, my saddle fits him well enough with a wider tree, and should be perfect after the fitter comes out to adjust the flocking. I had to order a new bridle (flexible fit oversize in all pieces except the nose), a new girth (32", but I suspect a 30" would be ok), a new fly mask (oversize), new fly sheet (the one I want runs big and he should fit in an 81"), and I need to order all new blankets (87"). Ha. Hahahaha. He does fit in an 84" right now in the Smartpak Ultimate line, but if he grows much wider, he's going to need that 87... so I'm just going to cut to the chase and get the 87" so I'm not replacing blankets next year. Thank goodness I got the trailer I did! Saddle and trailer don't need to be replaced, just everything else!

Monday, August 19, 2019

New Trailer!

When Liam came home, it was obvious he was going to be a big boy, bigger than my 7' high, 6' wide trailer was going to be able to handle. I knew I'd need a new one soon-ish... but the real kiss of death was when I took my trusty Bison to the shop for frame repair and got a phone call instead. It needed a three to four thousand dollar repair, not the thousand we expected. What was supposed to be a quick partial frame rail repair turned into a repair where all 3 main frame rails would need to be replaced. To do that, it spiraled into thousands in labor to remove the fenders, all trim, peel back the steel skin inside and out, take out the floors... all to get to the frame to cut it out and replace it. Not to mention the thousand plus to put the paint, floor, and trim right.

All hooked up for the Bison's last drive with us.

So I started the hunt to see what used oversize trailers are out there. My base criteria: steel frame, aluminum skin, ramp, 7'6"+ tall. My hunt took a positive turn when I got some inheritance and was able to look at new trailers. I was originally interested in rear facing trailers, but found them to be too expensive. Sadly, I also ruled out gooseneck trailers. I am uncomfortable hauling one with my short bed, 3/4 ton, gas truck. I ruled out companies that I had to contact a dealer for specs like "how tall is the trailer inside" and "what is empty weight". It's just bullshit that that information isn't easily accessible. Eventually I found Hawk's bumper pull 2 horse straight load with side ramp, complete with Hawk's online brochure of specs. I fell in love with the size of the Classic model and all of the windows (4 extra) in the Elite model.

We had a photo shoot in a Hoss's parking lot. #notashamed

I set about finding one already in existence (the Classic Elite model), but only found one with some interesting custom options I hadn't thought about in OR. I contacted the dealer to inquire about shipping, and they said it would be cheaper to have one newly built for me and shipped directly from Hawk than to buy the in stock 2018 and have it shipped. So I started looking closer.

Ramp down. The passenger horse does have to be a bit smaller and more flexible to use the ramp, but the driver horse has plenty of room (the head divider swings to allow the driver horse to leave).

I did my homework: contacted Hawk for MSRP who also told me the dealer should knock a significant amount off MSRP, got things rolling with a dealer near me, disliked the prices they were quoting me because they seemed to be full MSRP minus a pittance, considered dropping custom options I liked, took the advice of a friend and contacted another dealer almost 5 hours away who quoted me almost $5000 less, so I took that quote back to the first dealer who honored it. Woot!

The driver side has the dressing room door and an escape door, while the passenger side only has the side ramp.

I put that first dealer through the ringer. Constantly asking about different custom options (would you believe there isn't a book of upgrades or even available items you can add on?), constantly asking what was standard vs not (because you know I managed to find things that weren't on that spec sheet), constantly changing my mind, and making last minute changes. The woman I worked with was delightful and took everything I threw at her in stride. Her office now considers her the "Hawk Custom Option Expert". I'm sure there were some exasperated sighs in her office when I'd email her!

One of the late customizations was the full rear doors and extra long exterior ramp.

When I went to the dealership to sign the papers to order it, they had a gooseneck model of the the Classic Elite on the lot and took me to see it since I had yet to see my trailer in person... I may have drooled on it. I wanted that gooseneck model so badly! But I hadn't come prepared to haul that kind of trailer or bargin for that model.

Not to rag on the dealer who sold me the trailer, but my Hawk spare tire cover that came with the trailer magically "got lost" and "oh no problem, we'll put one of ours on there!" I'll be ordering a replacement Hawk cover.

I placed my order on Memorial Day (May 27th), and my trailer was ready for pick up August 3rd! Apparently several customers tried to buy my trailer while it was out on order because it sounded so great and it showed up in the stock list.

I can't pull through parking spaces anymore, this trailer is 4' longer than my Bison. The trailer is 19'6" long, just a hair shorter than my truck.

I opted for quite a few custom things:

  • Upgrade 3500# axles (7000# GVWR) to 5200# axles (10400# GVWR, derated to 9990# for inspection and registration purposes)
  • Oscillating fans on remote switches in the horse area
  • 2 LED lights on each ramp
  • Bulkhead window
  • Full rear doors with extra long (4' vs 3') exterior ramp
  • Tubular head and shoulder dividers
  • Retractable screen door for the tack room (and removal of the dressing room door brush box)
  • Spare tire mounted to the outside of the trailer

Seriously, if you have the option of doing a bulkhead window, do it. You won't be disappointed. It lets in SO MUCH LIGHT.

Reasons:

  • Upgraded Axles: The trailer weighs almost 4000# empty, and with a 7000# GVWR, that's only 3000# of cargo. The trailer is built for oversize horses, so I could easily fill it with 3000# of horse, and we'd be overweight as soon as we put hay, tack, and other items in it. I would never ever do that out of kindness to my truck, but I plan on keeping this trailer for 10+ years, so it seemed silly to put a limit on it now. I expected Liam to be 1400-1500# when he was done growing, so this upgrade seemed reasonable. I will say, the brakes on those axles are beefier and despite this trailer being 500# heavier than my Bison, we towed it home on a lower brake controller boost rating.
  • Fans: Duh, it get hot and fans are fantastic.
  • Ramp lights: Duh, it gets dark and lights are fantastic for loading and unloading in the dark.
  • Bulkhead Window: This was one of the items I considered dropping since it was the silly notion of "I might be able to see my horses from the truck." I am SO GLAD I didn't drop it. It's divine to look through and lets in even more light.
  • Full doors/Exterior ramp: Do you know how many times I've been kicked by the horse already on the trailer while trying to load the second? How many horses I've watched try to back out over or under the butt bar while their friend refuses to load? Not anymore! Shut their rear door and they're in.
  • Tubular dividers: For increased light and airflow.
  • Screen door: I don't want to take barn cats to new farms. I've shooed cats many times, and my old screen door always ensured I didn't take anyone home with me that shouldn't go home with me!
  • Spare tire: in the original floorplan, the spare is mounted in the tack room. That's a huge no for me. Non-rectangular tack rooms waste space with odd angle corners, no reason to add to the waste by putting a spare tire in there. I had it moved to outside on the passenger side of the trailer.

There's a tiny step up where the ramp attaches to the back, but it's no worse than some step ups into a barn aisle.

I am beyond thrilled with it. I LOVE it. When it got home to the barn, I gave several tours through it. Love love love it.

Husband and I brought it back to our house before taking it to the barn to put my stuff in the tack room and to change some of the decals. He and I... don't care for dealer stickers. At all. He made the dealership remove their sticker from his Camaro when he bought it. And he expertly removed the dealer's stickers from my trailer... all THREE of them. One of which was very crooked and made his eyes bleed to look at it, and another covered key weight ratings on the tongue. Completely obnoxious.

Husband is good with decals, so he removed the dealer ones and added our own!

Also have to say, it was so cool to haul it home and it had never been driven around. It shipped on a truck from WI where it was made with several other trailers, so it literally had zero miles on it when I picked it up.

The fans are visible in this pic. The trailer came with triangle managers, which I don't think I'm going to use except to catch hay from hay nets. Right now they're water jug holders until I can get everything organized.

I haven't driven it around yet because of my head/health issues that are causing eye strain/fatigue/motion processing issues. Husband went with me to pick it up and has been the only one to drive it so far.

A good shot of the dividers. I love tubular ones!
The air flow in the trailer should be really good- all of the windows open and the rear doors have windows (a huge selling point of the Elite model for me), and there are roof vents that swing two directions as well.

Yesterday (Sunday 8/18), it went to my local truck/trailer/tractor/diesel guy to lose its delightful new trailer smell. To avoid the issues I had with my Bison, he is undercoating it while it still has under 200 miles on it to stop it from rusting outside in, and packing the steel frame with grease to prevent it from rusting inside out. This is the first brand new vehicle I've ever owned, and it will probably be the last, and I want this trailer to last for at least 10 to 15 years.

Safe at home :)

Oh wait, who is this?

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Happenings

Ok, enough of having Liam's sad post as the last post on this blog. I may have fallen off the blog wagon, but let's have a change of scenery. It's long overdue.

My garden is at it again this year: Sunflowers, green bush beans, broccoli, piquante peppers, cantaloupe, and butternut squash.

Horses have been rather sad and confusing for me. I took a month off from working at the farm (but offered to pitch in 4th of July weekend when BO looked short handed and didn't want to ask me to come in). I liked not having an obligation to go to the barn. I liked choosing to go out there, and choosing to ride or not. Going because I wanted to, not because I had to work, do wound care, do meds, monitor healing, monitor exercise etc.

You definitely only drive 1200 miles in one horse shopping weekend because you want to.

I've been borrowing a school horse because Madonna both went to her new home (her owner bought a farm to keep her horses at her house) and became super super strange to ride (head flipping/shaking, body twitching, general weirdness). The school horse is a dutch mare in her 20s that has enough attitude and motion to keep you working but is totally safe. She is doing wonders for my confidence... one of the sale horses I saw in March destroyed my confidence and I've been having trouble getting it back ever since. An almost year of tack walking doesn't help rusty skills that are very rattled.

Went to Canada again! Love visiting Canada.

I've been looking for a new horse, and I went to see one twice before ultimately deciding he wasn't for me. I also realized I have an inability to go with my gut when shopping for myself, despite being able to do it for others. I'm having a lot of difficulty finding something I like in my budget, so it probably also has something to do with "if I pass on this horse, I'll never find another" when in reality that's not true. I have another in the works that was so out of budget but went to see him anyway and I LOVED riding him.

I ADORE our set up this year. Husband bought a small farm tractor this spring to help with some projects around the yard (regrading to help yard flooding issues, see the seeded area to the right) and building some retaining walls. Since he had the tools, he tilled a section of the yard to grow corn and pumpkins, because why not and the neighbors already know we're crazy.

I've been battling what seems like depression. Sure, Liam's death caused "surface" unhappiness. Of course I'm going to be sad and upset. This whole last year has been incredibly sad and disheartening. I think I finally understand what they mean when they say "you don't enjoy the things you used to." I went to the barn the other week to maybe ride and to talk to people and all of a sudden I just wanted to go home. I didn't want to be there anymore. I didn't want to go back ever. It was a lot deeper than not wanting to be there because I don't have a horse anymore. However, I have no idea what to do with myself besides horses and I have no interest in developing a new interest that is just as time consuming (I already nurture a liking for gardening and biking). I've had that feeling several times, but more and more time inbetween so I consider it "getting better", but I still like to keep to myself when I am at the barn.

The squash have taken over on the right and the beans have taken over on the left. It's a jungle in there, and the squash are trying to escape out the door!

That feeling combined with confidence issues have definitely held sway in what I've been shopping for: fun, safe, sound, sane have been number 1 on the list, followed by dressage ability/movement.

A solid hit to the head, courtesy of clumsiness and an iron beam.

Of course everything has been slightly derailed by me getting a concussion last week. It wasn't even horse related! Pure clumsiness. I went out to get breakfast at work downtown, and as I was focused on stepping down off a curb then crossing an alley while walking around a tall bed construction truck, I walked directly into a rusty iron beam sticking out the back of the truck. Didn't even see it. I scraped the top of my head to the point of bleeding, so I went up to the PCP/health services in my building to have them make sure there wasn't metal in my head, that it was just a surface scratch, and to get a tetanus shot. A week later and I'm still dealing with side effects- mild headaches that happen when I look at screens for too long, motion sickness, ear pressure issues up and down hills, and eye strain. I'm not driving very far these days because 10 minutes can sometimes cause eye strain issues that make it difficult to focus. I'm just driving straightforward roads to the bus stop and back. I'm obviously not riding, nor am I driving myself to the barn. I started biking again, which I've had to stop again.

Life continues to be exciting, despite a lack of horses. I have some very good things going on, but I think I've earned the right to express, "ffs, why is it always me?"

Anywho, more to come.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Liam's Final Chapter

Today, I had my sweet, bright, alert and enthusiastic 2 year old euthanized.

The cute snoot

OSU diagnosed Liam with wobblers. They rated him a 4/5 on the neurological scale, which also made him ineligible for the ultra expensive basket surgery that attempts to correct wobblers. Surgery will generally downgrade horses by one grade, two grades if they're lucky. Surgery is therefore only done on horses who are grade 1 or 2, SOMETIMES 3. At 4, Liam was a non-surgical candidate. Grade 1 is sometimes rideable, grade 2 is sometimes pasture sound.

After a baseline neuro test that showed he struggled to control his hind end and triggered some struggle with his front, we moved on to neck radiographs.

From https://veteriankey.com/the-neck-and-back/

The radiographs painted a very bleak picture. Liam's neck was still growing since the growth plates are still open in the vertebrae (and at 2, they should be). The C1 to C3 looked good, with normal joint spaces and what appears to be plenty of room for the spinal column to pass through. The joint space between C4/C5 was a little cloudy and ill-defined, indicating some arthritis. The joint space between C5/C6 and C6/C7 were both very cloudy and barely defined, indicating severe arthritis.

Normal growth plate, MSD, SD, and the unlabeled green ovals are joint spaces.
The C4/C5 space is a little cloudy. C5/C6 is pretty cloudy, and the C6/C7 has a very occluded edges.
Not pictured, C7/T1. Rood and Riddle also suspected severe arthritis in that joint as it was just as occluded as C6/C7.

A secondary problem in the C7 vertebrae was a narrowing of the spinal column space (minimal sagittal diameter-MSD below) in relation to the sagittal diameter (SD below). The C7 should be the widest channel of all the cervical vertebrae. The ratio of MSD:SD should be 50% for C2-C6, and closer to 60% for C7. Not only does his C7 narrow, it was the lowest percentage of the 6 at 51%.

From https://dspace.library.uu.nl/bitstream/handle/1874/289531/Scriptie.pdf

The neck presented solid enough evidence, that when combined with his in hand neuro tests, the vets were confident that his spinal cord was being compressed somewhere in the neck, most likely near the base, but it cannot be determined from only x-rays. X-rays only paint a single cross section of the horse, meaning, while it appears the C7 spinal cord channel has gotten shorter in height, it could also be wider than the other vertebrae, which would not cause compression. Sadly, x-rays cannot be shot from above. I could opt to take him to Rood and Riddle, who would do a CT scan of majority of his neck. It would go up to the shoulders, which are simply too big to fit in the machine, so we may not even see the C7 in the scan. The other option was a myelogram.

Myelograms are highly invasive procedures where the horse is put under general anesthesia and a spinal tap is done at the cranium. Special dye is injected into the spinal column and the horse's neck is extended and flexed, and x-rays are taken as it progresses down the spinal column to see where the dye stops (which indicates compression). It is a relatively traumatic procedure for the spinal column and can result in seizures and a temporary increase in neurological issues after the horse wakes up.

Here is a great link to the myelogram procedure.

The day I officially signed papers and paid for him 

Reasons to do a myelogram: confirm exact locations of compression for surgery, confirm compression for insurance purposes, confirm for a personal need to know.

None of those reasons apply to Liam. He's not a surgical candidate even if we could find it. I didn't get insurance set up on him yet so they have no say (I'm sure that would be audited and questioned, oh geez... 2 months in and a major claim on a fairly clear PPE? FRAUD). Finally, I personally do not need to know more beyond 'in the neck somewhere'. My need to know does not out weigh the suffering he would go through waking up. The vets warned me he would probably be grade 5/5 coming out of a myelogram and would probably need a sling to stand up and stay standing.

Beefcake! His shoulders really grew at the end of May- his topline was much more level in June than in this pic from April.

The vets did put out another offer: they can do the myelogram and just not wake him up... euthanize him on the table so to speak.

I didn't think the cost of doing a myelogram justified my need to know. I spoke with event trainer, who whole heartedly agreed we don't need to know.

Liam wasn't sure he needed to know about this ball.

So instead, Liam spent several more days at OSU with several gallon size bags of horse cookies (no lie, I left 4 gallon bags of treats and 2lb of carrots), and a note that said "Please feed me LOTS of treats. I also enjoy neck scratches."  I had to go home and work several days, but then I went back Wednesday to spend time with him, and today followed the shipper back to event trainer's farm. The vets gave him a bunch of anti-inflammatories to help him be more stable for the trip home, and he arrived without a scratch. The vet met us there, and he was humanely euthanized this afternoon, happy in the sun and eating grass.

Handsome boy

Sometimes you can try "stunting" the growth of a young horse with mild wobblers and pristine neck rads, and try to get them to grow out of it. The advanced level of his neck arthritis made this option a non-option.

Sometimes high doses of vitamin e also alleviate the inflammation in the spinal column. Natural Vitamin E (d-alpha, not dl-alpha) crosses the blood/brain barrier quite easily making it an excellent anti-inflammatory for the spinal cord. Therapeutic doses for this are 10,000 IU a day. We were already doing that.

The vet said we could reasonably give him anti-inflammatories for the next 3 weeks and keep him on stall rest to see if he got better and by how much. This didn't have a good feel for me, he could hurt himself at any time. This option just prolonged the inevitable with possibility of disaster.

He took his napping VERY seriously. He would lay flat out for an hour at least once a day.
He scared his vet tech the day before he came home- he was down flat out in the stall and twitching all over. I told his vet upon his arrival that he does do this daily, and it's perfectly normal for him to be down for more than an hour.The tech called her thinking Liam was having a seizure. Better safe than sorry!

We don't know why he suddenly went downhill very fast. None of his genetic line have reported cases of wobblers in the foals. His dam was carefully matched to a stallion. He was carefully fed by a wonderful woman with 40+ years of growing baby horses experience. He was turned out as a baby and yearling. All of the right boxes were checked. He also checked off the big ticket at risk checklist: big, fast growing, male, baby warmblood. What made the arthritis happen? Who knows. OSU ruled out injury since the issue is in more than one joint space. He has been brewing this for a while, it didn't just happen in the last two months. I do not think anyone knew about it, I want that clear. I do not think I was misled or lied to. The prevailing thought is he was brewing the arthritis and he might have slipped in the field playing with his new friends and tweaked it in a chain reaction. He also grew again at the end of May, where his chest widened a little so he wasn't so base narrow and he got taller. All of the above? None of the above? Wobblers is poorly understood and unfortunately is put in the "shit happens" category.

I do not think his PPE failed either. We had no reason to suspect neck issues and it doesn't make sense to do a PPE that costs 40% of the cost of the horse.

So itchy! He was always up for a grooming session with lots of currying.
Link to YouTube

I am going to try to rejoice and treasure the time I got to spend with him. Working on his confidence in the world around him, standing and leading skills, and marveling at his think first personality that lead to an incredibly brave, curious, and sensible baby horse with an old soul. I'll remember the head hugs he gave me when I cried into his neck the weekend he spent at OSU waiting to come home. How he groomed my leg with his nose when I scratched just the right spot on his neck. How quickly he came to trust me when I would tell him "step" from the halt when he was scared, and he'd pick up a front leg and put it on a mat or different color pavement or whatever was frightening him at the time. He was the horse I wanted, for sure. I was thrilled to make him a long term partner to do all the things with. I even considered a return to low level eventing because he was so sensible and had a great sense of self-preservation. I am heartbroken that it ended like this.

I taught him to step confidently onto a mat to prep him to be confident stepping into a trailer.

I feel like I failed him, even though I know we did everything that was reasonable. Putting him down was so difficult when he was bright, alert, hungry, and interested in life. He was perfectly aware he couldn't do things and was happy to walk slowly and didn't get riled up about being left behind. His mind was still perfectly intact while his body failed. In reality, I know he was dangerous. He could have wiped out at any time, injuring himself, another horse, or a person. He could have spooked and fallen and broken his neck or suffered some other traumatic event requiring an emergency vet to rush out to euthanize him... and he'd have to wait for that vet in pain. All of that logic still doesn't make it any better to have to euthanize a 2 year old who is still mentally vibrant.

Oh curiosity! He finally got over his fear of water, decided this puddle was fun, decided to roll in it, and then changed his mind half way down and kneeled for a while.

I had finally picked a registered name for him and sent it in with his DNA sample: Legato. "In music performance and notation, legato indicates that musical notes are played or sung smoothly and connected." It was a hope for connection and flow in the future. Maybe I should have kept it as Lawless, since he broke all the foaling rules and all the growing rules it seems.

At this point, I am not very upset at the further loss of my dreams. Those have been dead for a while. I have not been hungry in a while. I'm more upset at the loss of a budding relationship that should have had years to bloom and grow. But I am most upset about the life Liam never got to live. At least in his brief time here, he only knew grass and love, and never unkindness.

Legato "Liam"
April 30, 2017 - June 27, 2019

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Liam's Pre-OSU Story

Before I get into OSU's findings, I want to go through what took us there.

I called the emergency vet many Fridays (5/31) ago when a hind end lameness turned full blown neurological. I already had an appointment for a vet to come out for a lameness exam to see if he pulled something stomping at flies, but swaying and staggering changed things... it wasn't a pulled muscle anymore, he was sick.

The emergency vet came out and took his temp (101.2, a very slight fever), did a run over of all his joints and general condition. She had him walk away from her, and turn small circles. She didn't even try pulling on his tail or stacking his hind feet- he was so unstable on his own feet that she didn't think it was fair. She didn't feel anything in the joints, but the elevated temperature and neurological problems bothered her.

Forgive my lack of polo, as I was packing for the barn before work, I realized I was out of barn shirts!

She pulled a ton of blood for various diseases, and Liam got a hefty dose of DMSO tubed into his stomach, a shot of dex, a shot of banamine, and oral vitamin e.

By Saturday morning, Liam's temp was back under 100 and he was much more stable on his feet. He'd been on stall rest for 4 days at this point.

*Gets on soapbox*

HAVE YOUR VET VACCINATE YOUR HORSE. I know it's annoying and more expensive, but let me tell you, having my vet vaccinate Liam at his PPE was a great decision. We knew exactly what he'd been vaccinated for and what manufacturer and what batch, etc. This whole incident was/is stupid expensive, but the vaccine manufacturer paid for one of the very expensive tests (a blood and nasal swab).

*Gets off soapbox*

I hesitate to share all that was tested for, because I don't want to scare people or put rumors out there. But I also want to take care of some rumors I've heard: we tested him for EHV (blood and nasal swab), west nile virus, EPM (blood only, no spinal tap since that has to be done at the clinic), lyme, strangles/rhino/upper respiratory diseases (guttural pouch culture). EHV was the big name disease of course, and the vet had to notify the USDA of a possible case. The USDA took it very seriously, and they visited the farm the next business day to check our bio-security and isolation. They made suggestions on keeping Liam properly isolated to keep the other horses as unexposed as possible, but also safely isolated so he didn't hurt himself. They discussed quarantine procedures if Liam was positive.

The geldings on the farm were redistributed to new fields, and Liam was put in 24/7 isolation with a tribute friend (literally, the barn owner turned him out with Liam and told him, 'may the odds be ever in your favor') in a field that didn't share a fence line with any other field, and both horses were banned from the barn. The virus doesn't live well outside the horse out in the sun, so this was actually ideal. Liam's stall was stripped and the barn and his stall were bleached.

Liam shredded his fly sheet in less than 24 hours... and didn't like Jaxon's clothes either. He did keep his shoofly leggins on though!

Luckily, all of this effort was for nothing. Most of the tests came back negative, including the big one, EHV. Yay! We did twice a day temperature monitoring, and his temperature was in normal range every time. As he started feeling better, he started fighting barn owner on having his temp taken, and taking his meds (liquid vitamin e syringed and marquis).

The one positive was one parasite for EPM. I'm not exactly sure what the test was looking for, but I am fairly sure it was the ELISA test. His ratio was 1:1000, and the "exposed" range is 1:250-1:4000.

From the ELISA tests detailed on this website:
Although a wide range of serum titers was observed for necropsy positive EPM cases, there was a trend for higher serum titers (≥ 1:4000) to correlate better with EPM.
Without the spinal tap to compare to, we could only make a guess that EPM was causing his issues. We started treating for EPM the day after his emergency visit without the results yet, deciding that treating him won't hurt him, but waiting could. The vet decided we should keep treating him, even though his blood serum value isn't greater than 1:4000, because his value is elevated and he's experiencing neurological problems.

Liam seemed like he was responding to the marquis and vitamin e when the vet came back to do a guttural pouch culture (because of the bacteria findings on the PCR nasal swab) on 6/6. His throat looked fantastic and healthy, so we expected the culture to come back clean (which it did). He was super alert, mildly fighting the vet, and in general being dramatic.

He took a downhill turn on 6/11. He came in from the field with swollen hind legs and a fever again (101.3). A video from the morning showed him looking very subdued, slow, and more neurological than he had looked in a while. The vet was called to make sure the hind leg swelling was *just* cellulitis and not something more sinister. He had some rubs on his hind legs, so we agreed the cellulitis was not directly related to the original ailment, but related in that he probably interfered because he's neurological.


By the time she got there, he was more neurological than the morning, but his fever had gone. She pulled blood to do a CBC, which they test in house. He got a shot of exceed as well. He might be more neurological as the parasites die off and increase inflammation in his body, or it might be the inflammation returning because it's not actually EPM that's causing the issue. EPM doesn't cause fevers though, but cellulitis can, but he didn't have cellulitis the first time around. The vet asked us to monitor his temperature twice a day to see if there's any kind of pattern and to see what kind of variation there is. He proceeded to spike fevers of 101.3 to 101.8 in the morning after cool nights turned out and return to 99.6 to 100.8 by the evening. It was a bit baffling. It did clear up as the cellulitis cleared up.

A visiting clinician had her boyfriend (a vet) do a look over of Liam at the end of her first day teaching at the farm, who thought he had wobblers. A third opinion was requested, and I sent her all the videos and information I could. She thought he might have broken his pelvic floor along with EPM, and encouraged me to take him to OSU immediately and not wait the 3 weeks until she was going to be traveling to my area.

So there's some back story.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Off to OSU We Go

I got a few more opinions on Liam over the weekend, and another vet reviewed his stuff Monday night. She told us to take him to OSU as soon as possible.

She suspects he has multiple issues going on- a right hind lameness as well as something impinging the spinal cord or up high behind (EPM, fractures of the vertebrae or pelvis, wobblers, etc).

I'm trying to scramble everything together to get him to OSU today, everything is falling into place, but I have to send him on ahead of me while I finish working this morning.


Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Liam Update, Part 1

I don't know when part 2 is coming. What was supposed to be a real update today or tomorrow was scrapped when he had new developments.

Pouting, back when he felt better.

We've tested him for ALL the things and have almost no answers.

He was very neurological (very unsteady walking) with a ever so slight fever (101.2) on 5/31. Heavy doses of meds made a solid improvement, but he seems to have back slid today.

I'm devastated basically.