Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Update 1: Penn's New Home

Alright, it's time for some updates. Because I've actually been super busy, which is why I haven't posted updates.

First up, Penn is no longer mine.

PC: Austen
She took AMAZING pictures of Penn and me, on short notice, in 5 degree weather. They'll get their own blog post!

I had a bunch of health issues at the start of the year, and I felt completely drained/wound up/fried from monitoring Penn's care. Does he have enough ace, is he out of supplements, oh wait I need to drop off more needles, did he get to go out today because if not I need to make sure I go walk him, is he trying to bounce around too much, etc. My blood pressure was in "needs to be hospitalized" range (it was discussed with me by my doctors). I needed to make a life change for my benefit.

Then on top of all that, he started being disruptive to ride... which is the only exercise he was allowed to have. I had to ask people to hold off on trotting/cantering around the ring because he was threatening to buck and play. He almost dumped me in early January from leaping in the air and playing before I could get his head back up. I NEVER ask people to stop doing what they're doing because my horse is having an issue... I work it out with the horse. The only problem was, I couldn't send him forward to put him back to work. I had to leave him as a ticking bomb or get off. Letting him play in the indoor or lunge or in turnout wasn't an option- he wasn't supposed to and he wasn't going to be mine in a few months. Letting him play was not my decision to make when it could permanently lame him or set back his healing.

So I made the best decision I could for him, and for me. I called his new owners and asked if I could bring him the last weekend of January instead of June.

PC: Austen

They were thrilled and said yes.

So I took Penn to his new home on January 26, 2019. There were tears (mine) but immense relief too. He is out of my hands. Not mine to worry about anymore.

Chicken friends!

He has settled in beautifully. He isn't being drugged anymore, and he's living out 24/7. There's a round pen for when it's icky outside and the ground is super soft, and there's a fairly level field that he goes out in by himself when the footing is nice. He hasn't raced around the field or round pen, he mostly travels in straight lines when he trots, if he bothers to trot at all. He isn't stalled anymore; he just won't tolerate it. Their horses come and go as they please 24/7, so he'd find himself left alone in the barn overnight and he'd stall walk badly. His new owners bundled him up in all of the blankets they have, and ear bonnets (lol), and sent him outside. They send me updates with how he's doing, and pictures too.

He loves it. He's happy.

While my heart is broken that he's not with me, I am thrilled that he's so happy... and that's really all that matters.

PC: Austen

Friday, January 25, 2019

Quick, Help Needed!

Bloggers are a spectacular group of people. Knowledgeable and willing to help out. I need some help!

Incredible bloggers are why I have incredible pictures like this.
PC: Austen

Is anyone near Chattanooga TN? Or would enjoy visiting near there on a weekday and would like to be my eyes? And possibly live text me constant updates? I promise to be super chatty and needy. 😛

Email me, codexdressage at

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

2018 in a Nutshell, 2019 Plans

Meme of the year

A lot of shit happened this year. I have trouble finding the good to be honest. You all know Penn's falling apart story from April onward.

But there were things I didn't share that all happened concurrently: Husband lost his job (luckily he found a new one quickly). I was in a car accident (not at fault, I got T boned by someone not paying attention when they turned left). Work took a major downturn and the stress there doubled. My truck had thousands of dollars in repairs done in December.

More recently, we found a large tumor on  Felix's paw and it had to be removed on 12/26. Luckily, it popped cleanly out and the vet was able to save the toe next to it. The biopsy said it was a benign round cell tumor, which the vet said was like saying its a car in a parking lot... no real specifics as to what kind of car. She's hopeful it won't come back, but in cases like this they often remove a centimeter of tissue around it to be sure. The problem is, a tiny cat paw doesn't have that much tissue. It may or may not come back, if it does, they'll remove the toe. If it comes back after that, they remove the leg. Please 2019, we don't need this to happen.

I finished the year by going to the ER on Christmas. I tried to hold out for med express, but I was panting at Christmas dinner and opted to go to the ER at around 9pm Tuesday because I couldn't breathe. I have pneumonia and my asthma is acting up. I ended up having an EKG and blood clot tests because my blood pressure was astronomical and I should have been admitted on that alone. The docs let it be my choice, I could be admitted to have a couple days of breathing treatments and IV antibiotics and steroids and they could also watch my blood pressure, or they'd write me RXs for more inhalers and pill antibiotics and steroids, and I could come back to have my lungs and blood pressure checked. I opted to go home at 4am.

After having my IV in for 6 hours, my arm had a dull ache and I couldn't sleep anymore. 
12/28. They uh, did a good job... The 5"+ bruise is finally gone as of today.

I am feeling better and I rested appropriately. Work bent all of their working remotely rules and I was home for the rest of 2018 and didn't go back to the office until 1/3. Husband was also home at the end of the year, so he kept an eye on me... and Felix (who is doing well!).

Highlight of 2018: dressage cow horse. Such a shame that his collateral ligament damage will prevent him from chasing cows again (the quick side to side action to move them).

Let me list some good things: I lost 25 pounds from May to September, and have managed to keep it off. Husband and I built a garden. I re-found my love for biking. I did get to chase cows with Penn and I've ridden a few different horses this year. And I'm afraid to say it lest I jinx it, but all of my direct family members are still with us, animal and human. I am grateful for that.

Ok 2019. We've started and you've already graced one of my girl cats with a UTI with a ton of blood. Please, please don't decide you need someone to hold your beer so you can make everything even worse.

Goals for 2019 are simple:
  • Get Penn settled in his new home.
  • Find a new horse.
  • Stay on top of my own health (treat asthma appropriately, de-stress to lower my blood pressure, continue to lose weight or at a minimum don't gain back what I've lost).
  • Bike from Pittsburgh to DC.
January and February are suddenly very full- the next 5 weekends suddenly have a ton of plans! More to come!

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Monday, December 24, 2018

In Search Of

There's a few developments on Penn's situation. It amounts to I've found him a new home and he'll go there in June 2019. I've spent two days sobbing over it but it's the perfect place for him. The timing is a long way off, but I highly doubt it will fall through.

A face worth crying over.

I've started a casual search for another horse. GP Trainer is checking her contacts, but I figured I'd post here too. The blogosphere helped bring Penn to me. Maybe you can help find the next one too.

I'm looking to either purchase a young green horse or free lease a schoolmaster that does at least 4th level. There is no hurry right now to find another horse. The horse:

  • Must be able to live outside 24/7 until Penn goes to his new home (fields have run ins)
  • Must be a gelding
  • Must be able to do group turnout
  • 15.3-16.2hh (17h absolute max)
  • Green horse: 2 to 7 years old, does not need to be broke to ride if on the young side. I do not have a lot to spend (mid 4 figures). I don't prefer an OTTB, I'd rather have a TB cross, but the budget may not allow that
  • Schoolmaster: under age 20, some maintenance is ok, but he must have competitive years left. Must be a free lease, non-negotiable

I'm open to traveling quite a distance for something that has a high chance of being the perfect fit.

You all know that any horse that comes home with me will be extremely well looked after and loved on. Email me at codexdressage at if you have anything!

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Since Thanksgiving

Since getting back home, Penn's life has been turned upside down.

He's still a pretty happy, cuddly guy.

Activity Level. He's back to tack walking and the first few rides were interesting... He was hot and spooky and was as naughty as a horse can be without actually doing anything bad. The first ride back, I brought him into the indoor and he proceeded to stare at the footing and snort at it for 15 min straight. Seriously dude? Though, he's never done well with time off.

He's being aced for turnout and tied in his stall when he wants to stall walk. True story, sorry not sorry. This will continue for months sadly until we figure out a long term situation for him and for when his ligament damage is more healed/not freshly healed.

Snoozing in an ace-and-sun-aided trance on an unusually warm December day.

Interestingly, his stall walking may have played a roll in the collateral ligament tears. Did it do the actual tearing? I don't think so. Did it not help the situation? I think so. Penn has been an avid stall walker for the 3 years I've owned him. I've tried a bunch of things to make him stop (Quiessence, Total Calm and Focus powder, CBD were the big ones), and they did help to some degree but didn't make it stop. For the record, the CBD made the biggest impact on that aspect of Penn's life. It brought the stall walking down from an intermittent night time affair with mad walking at feed time to "I only walk at breakfast and dinner while I'm waiting excitedly for my food to arrive."

Penn always, ALWAYS stall walks to the left. That puts both collateral ligament tears on the inside and he pivots hard on them. I meant to mention the stall walking in my previous 2 posts, but I simply forgot because we didn't really think of it until the drive home.

Silent protest

New Shoes and Accessories. He got his new duds, that my farrier so graciously made for him ON THANKSGIVING, so they'd be ready to put back on ASAP. He got them back on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

You'd think by now I could take a picture that wasn't blurry.
They make very unique footprints.

I ordered him new bell boots on Black Friday, since my favorite Italian Pull Ons can't be removed once his larger than life shoes are on his feet. I tried. The vets tried. We gave up and took them off after his shoes were pulled for his MRI.

He's a Back on Track poster child.
The medium BOT bell boots are actually slightly taller than the large KL Select Italian bell boots. I was very happy that they would provide the same excessive heel coverage that Penn needs! And if there's anything to the product, they'll help increase circulation in the hoof, which won't hurt Penn at all!

More X Ray Review (last bit, I promise). I got a little focused on the P1 imbalances in Penn's front legs for a hot second, because why not? I have all these images, may as well obsess over them and do some learning. I should have had this ready for the last post, but honestly I just didn't think about it. The program that handles the x-rays and the online viewer has a measuring tool. I decided to measure how different each side of Penn's P1s are.

Right Medial: 3.96", Right Lateral: 3.74", 0.22" difference
Left Medial: 3.76", Left Lateral: 3.43", 0.33" difference
Uh, that's a big difference. I think I'm lucky to have gotten to 3rd Level with him. Apparently some difference is normal, but I don't have a value for the max of normal.

Other Medications/Supplements. As the group think tank started cranking after we got home, we figured one thing: the healing of the collateral ligaments is so low because the hoof has poor circulation. What can we do to increase the circulation in his feet? Vasodilators and blood doping techniques. Blood doping, the way it was explained to me: athletes draw an amount of blood out of their body, oxygenate it, and at least a month later after the body has replenished the blood drawn, they have the drawn blood put back in. That way they have more red cells available to carry oxygen for sporting events. That's not really an option for Penn, so we focused on the second one: vasodilators. A common drug for navicular horses is isoxsuprine hcl. I asked home vet and VEI vets if it could help him, and got the same answer from both: It probably won't help him, but it certainly won't hurt him. I did get him some, with the logic of: it's relatively cheap, it should increase blood flow to the hoof which may help, and he's got a shit ton of navicular issues so why not?

All the meds.

The other thing I did was up his CBD to 150 mg per day, 75 in the morning and 75 in the evening. It's right in the middle of the chronic pain dosage. Overkill? I donno. It was easy enough and I found someone who would split the 10lb size, which we bought on a huge discount on Black Friday. It's enough to see him through until April for a "reasonable" price and then we can reevaluate his situation. Again, it should promote healing. If it doesn't, oh well. I can truly say, I tried everything.

I also put him on OrthoPur Si from HorseTech (he's been on it for a month and a half now). HorseTech makes products like SportWerks, Hylasport, Hylasport CTS, Reitsport, etc. A farm friend and I got talking about supplements and she had really good luck with that company. She called them and together with vet information, they made up a support plan for her horse (who had a freak accident involving a porcupine of all things and shredded his suspensory). I did talk to rep from the company and gave them a detailed run down on Penn's issues, and they custom made a supplement for him and recommended OrthoPur Si as additional support since it's more bio-available than dry silica. I'm not ready to make judgement on the custom mix (which I'll probably be changing in light of his last vet visits) or the OrthoPur, so we'll see how that goes!

I found a horse I can borrow for a couple months at least while Penn's situation develops. There's more plans in the works for another horse for me, but I have to stop hemorrhaging money on Penn first. I have some other fun horsey plans scheduled for the end of January, so I'm working hard to get back into real riding shape instead of just tack walking shape!

Thursday, December 13, 2018

11/21/2018 - Diagnosing Penn, Part 5 (Treatment)

This took an extra day to get out because of the massive ups and downs my own emotions are taking on an almost daily basis since Thanksgiving. I had settled into a generic dead feeling about all things horses, but all the emotions were stirred up getting the last post together.

Collateral Ligament Badness

So where we left off, the collateral ligaments were #1 on the vet's list, with the coffin effusion and navicular issues neck and neck for #2.

Without treatment on the collateral ligaments, Dr Allen gave him at best, a 30% chance of being sound again. He suggested PRP injections into each CL, with shockwave following each injection. He gave a 40-60% chance of soundness if we did that. He also recommended some shoeing changes to help support the ligaments while they heal.

The shoe on the right is the one they took off Penn. It's his right front shoe, you can see the medial branch is wider and the whole thing is rolled. The shoe on the left is what the vet wants on him instead, but Penn's shoes need the other branch widened. It's basically a regular shoe with a cut of a second shoe welded to the inside. The vet thought steel shoes would eventually get too cumbersome and recommended an aluminum pre-made shoe eventually. And no more pad since that nullifies the effect we're going for.

He said we can also do PRP injections into both coffin joints for the effusion. He said that the injections he got back in August seem to have done their job, but he thought the effusion was coming back and we could readdress it.

The last thing he wanted to address were the navicular issues- he suggested another round of Osphos. He said it lasts between 3 and 6 months, so people generally do Tildren because it lasts about double the time. They end up costing about the same though in the long run.

Doing my due diligence, I asked how much all of these options cost. I already knew the cost of shockwave and Osphos, but not the PRP. Umm... let's call it "cost prohibitive" to do 4 PRP injections, plus 2 shockwave treatments. The cost for 2 PRPs was probably among the more expensive things we've done for Penn, aside from the 5 shockwave treatments that his insurance already covered.

Keeping in mind the reasonable vs unreasonable vs cost, we opted to go short term. Coffin injections and Tildren mean nothing if the collateral ligaments don't heal. We felt, while expensive, the PRP injections for the collateral ligaments were Penn's only real shot at soundness. We also opted for Osphos since while expensive, it's almost reasonable compared to everything else. Lastly, we decided to take new hoof balance x-rays. I didn't realize the ones from August would be considered old by now!

Part of the decision for no PRP injections for the coffin joints is I wasn't sold that Penn's coffins are actually hurting him, which sounds awful. Sure, his coffin joint in both fronts has some funny bone growth, but I'm betting it's always been there and isn't brand new. He was sound at one point in time. He felt a lot better after the steroid coffin injections in August, but about 2 weeks later he started to revert back, so I don't think they did much, and even Dr Cricket said they didn't appear to have worked for him.

We made all these decisions late Tuesday. Penn slept over at VEI so he'd be available when they were ready for him.

Before I got to the vet office Wednesday morning, they had taken him to the back for his hoof balance x-rays.

Did you know that horses who 'toe out' generally have P1s that are different lengths on the medial and lateral sides? The medial (inside) side of both of Penn's fronts are drastically different lengths than the lateral (outside). I mean, it wasn't as obvious to me in the previous x-rays, but the first thing I asked was, "I'm guessing it's not normal for the P1 to look like that?" Dr Allen was happy I noticed, and basically said there's nothing we can do about that.

Will his legs ever be perfect? No. Are they better? I'd like to think so. He's still flat footed, but he's less crooked. It looks like he somehow has even less sole in those 3 months... though I will say he had an uneven amount of sole and we did fix that. His toe can still be brought back a bit. After Dr Allen looked at the new x-rays, he did hem and haw over pads- he immediately said, "I can see why Cricket put him in pads." and then had a good think over what he wanted to do, but eventually decided on no pad. The ligament support is more important than the sole coverage right now, and the pad interferes with the ligament support since it goes across the foot.

What I'm curious about, and I didn't talk to Dr Allen about it, but the vet who did Penn's PPE noticed he was crooked and said they could have addressed it as a baby (but then of course she's like, no matter, it's fine!). I'm wondering if he received different nutrition or care (ahem, better... I have many reasons to believe his VET breeder was much closer to a backyard breeder than thoughtful vet breeder), if his legs could have been straighter. Would leg braces have encouraged the bone to grow more on the deficient side?

Dr Allen also said something curious, he thought Penn had a sheared heel on the right front. He pointed out how the inside heel was taller than the outside. Not really knowing what that meant, I said OK and logged it down. He asked for the medial side of the right foot to be trimmed down over time. I had to look it up after I got home, then I immediately went out and looked at Penn's feet.

Top hoof is the right, bottom is the left. Apparently the right foot is sheared. I mean, I see it, but it's very very slight. The right hand side of the picture is the inside of the foot.

I came in while they were finishing up his x rays and putting his neck catheter in to pull blood for his PRP. They shaved his coronary bands at that time too. I did get a chuckle out of that- they always say how good he is and I told them he might be funny about the clippers, and they were like, "Really?" They flicked them on and he immediately became agitated and spooky. I asked that they touch his shoulder with them running and then he'll stand for it. They looked at me like I had 12 heads, but did it, and sure enough he stood like a gentleman and let them shave him... though, he did watch them very suspiciously!

Penn got some time to just be a horse after that. I took him out to hand graze while the team was prepping for his injections and the PRPs were spinning in the centrifuge. 

I got to be there for the PRP injections, and it was absolutely fascinating. I had a real job to do while they were doing that, so I couldn't take pictures of anything, but basically a team of 5 people is what it takes to get this done (vet doing injections with sterile hands, vet working the ultrasound with sterile hands, tech taking x-rays, tech handing everyone else things, and someone to hold the horse).

The method Dr Allen developed to inject PRP into the coffin collateral ligaments is ultrasound guided, x-ray confirmed, and pulling the needle out slowly as he injects. I'll bullet out how everything worked:
  • One of the vets did nerve blocks to the entire foot in both front feet to help prevent any pain from bothering Penn while they were injecting.
  • Scrub the lateral side of the left front and the medial side of the right front coronary band area thoroughly since the injections will be quite deep.
  • Sedate Penn.
  • Set Penn's front hooves up on two wooden blocks, since they needed to take x-rays during the procedure.
  • They started with the right front. Dr Allen placed the needle while being guided by ultrasound by the other vet, with the extra tech turning knobs and pressing buttons on the ultrasound machine.
  • The x-ray tech would place the x-ray plate and aim the hand held unit and take front and side images to make sure the end of the needle was placed in the wing of the coffin bone.
  • Dr Allen confirmed placement, then proceeded to 'push the plunger' and slowly draw out the needle, thereby injecting PRP solution up the length of the ligament.
  • Repeat for the left front. The right front was placed correctly the first time, but the left front was much more difficult to place. He got it though.
  • Pressure is placed over the injection site, especially over the left front because it well hell bent on spewing lots of blood. Ok well maybe it wasn't lots, but blood runs really easily in short alcohol soaked hair, haha!
  • Shockwave was done immediately following each injection, and then both of Penn's fronts were wrapped up.
And because I may as well share all the cool shit from this shitshow of a week, I have the placement x-rays too! 

Penn was a champ for his injections, everyone said what a good boy he was. In my head I was like, "How could he not be? You nerve blocked him and sedated him. He should be an angel." Apparently that isn't always enough. He didn't even need to be twitched. That's cool, I'm happy if everyone loves Penn, that means I've done my job in teaching him to behave, even if it majorly sucks. After he woke up a bit (and even at his Friday visit), all of the staff were stuffing him full of treats because they just liked working with him.

Dr Allen was happy with how the injections went. As he was doing the actual injection, I was sitting there thinking, "OMG why isn't it going in? Do they have a bad syringe that's sticking and broken?" He was shaking with effort to get the fluid out of the syringe. Apparently this is a very good sign. It means the tissues are still healthy. He said the horses who he can just squeeze the fluid into easily are generally shredded inside.

So Penn's final notes included:
  • Changes to his shoeing with extra wide medial branch of the RF and lateral branch of the LF shoes. Slowly take away from the medial side of the RF to help fix the sheared heel.
  • Two more rounds of shockwave to each collateral ligament, for a total of three rounds. He got the first round on 11/21, he got the second on 12/12, and he'll get the third on 1/2.
  • Hand walk for a week after he gets home (this is already completed).
  • A follow up appointment should be scheduled for 90 days after his 3rd round of shockwave.
  • Limited turnout in generally pristine conditions, tranquilize as needed. Keep him as quiet as possible.
  • Tack walk 3-5 days a week for 20-30 minutes until his recheck in spring.
They sent me home with a bottle of ace because the "minimal" bouncing he's been doing in turnout is unacceptable- he must only walk and stand. No trotting, bucking, playing, etc. I don't want to use reserpine because of the diarrhea risk, and because those COTH threads were scary. I did talk to a friend who used it on her horse, not knowing about the more rare side effects... and while he was generally fine, he hasn't been the same mentally since).

I've been a bit of an emotional train wreck since this vet visit. First was the, "We have a plan and we'll see how it goes", then the "OMG HE'S NEVER GOING TO BE OK AGAIN", then there was a strange "He's going to be just fine!" period, followed by a more mellow "he's not going to be ok" period. There's a bunch of stuff up in the air, and it won't settle back down until his recheck, which is kind of what I think it killing me a bit. I'm having trouble making it out to the barn to do his walks. I get out there 3-4 days a week now instead of 4-5 that I used to. I'm burned out on horses in general on top of being sad for Penn.

Dr Allen was hopeful I'd be able to start trotting him after his spring recheck, so I think that's keeping me running a bit. Do the rehab properly. Penn deserves it.