Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Almost Ready for Work and Turnout!

Day 60 is this Friday, 4/3! Mikey is allowed to start light work and be turned out again.

Mikey's shoes were a concern this month. He was due to be reset on 2/9 (8 weeks), which we skipped because he just had surgery and being a little long would be fine to stand in his stall. When I took him back to OSU, I asked if it was ok to reset his shoes. OSU directed us to remove his hind shoes, and to not let the farrier do too much bending, or any pulling. My trainer and I weren't keen on pulling his hind shoes, Mikey had taken a liking to the support they gave and we weren't sure standing around was the time to remove support. We weren't concerned about the bending, our farrier is great and very conscious of injuries and not making them worse. She consulted with him, and said he agreed with OSU. As he put it, "I can fix the hoof if it breaks down, but I can't fix the hock." He was not concerned about the bending either, he could do it with minimal bending, but he was more concerned about the pounding that happens when he nails in the shoe. He pulled Mikey's hind shoes around 3/16 and trimmed and reset his fronts (13 weeks after his last shoeing... nothing we could do about that though) and he'll put them back later in the year when Mikey's workload merits it. I don't know why, but the loss of his hind shoes upsets me- like it's a nail in the coffin that holds our old competition and riding goals.

Mikey is getting better, and he certainly feels good. He's taken to bucking and squealing and trying to kick his stall down every morning. He gets yelled at, has the decency to look contrite, then bucks and squeals when you've left the aisle. When you come back, he puts on his cute "It wasn't me, Mom!" face and there's nothing you can do to stop him.

How can you be mad at that face?
He's worked everyone over. He just stands there and looks sweet with his head hanging out of his stall, and he gets love and treats and pats. Spoiled rotten.

I took this video on 3/21, walking in a small circle around me outside on the driveway because no one else was around that could walk and trot him for me. I think his right hock looks good, bending just as much as the left. He started on the OCD pellets that day.

About two steps after the video ended he squealed and bucked a few times until I got him back under control. Sigh.

He hand walks for about 20 minutes every day, and he now walks with a chain over his nose because he can't be trusted to walk politely anymore. I walked him twice in the evening last week and he got to calling (which he never does), then started letting loose little quiet squeals, and eventually blew up. I got the chain, put it over his nose, and he quieted immediately. I don't even have to engage it.

We had some lovely weather this past Sunday, so I walked Mikey outside. He got all excited, tried to buck and pull away from me, jerked himself into his stud chain and then was like, "What the hell?!?!" and quieted down and was a gentleman to walk after that. A very alert gentleman, but good about keeping out of my space and all four feet on the ground. We meandered around the gravel part of the property, walking up a hill to the first of the two outdoors. I let him have a good look around before walking him back down the hill.

It finally occurred to me that I could hand graze him! Doh, I don't know why I didn't think of it when I had him outside for the few outdoor walks I've had him on. Probably because he's only allowed to walk for a short time, so I assumed I had to put him back in his stall. He moves around in his stall, and he moves a little as we hand graze, but I bet it's similar.

Happy horse!
He was a very happy camper. I had to put him away so I could set jumps for my trainer so she could jump Cody and get a good school in, but I took him back out while we were trying to pass the time before bringing the horses in. It was too nice a day to bring them in around 3, so they stayed out until about 4:30.

Our plan for introducing him back to turnout has changed many times. The only thing we've kept with every idea is that he must go back to work first and do some work over his back before he's allowed back out. Here's our ideas, as we thought them up, then promptly ditched them:
  1. Ace him for the first day and turn him out in a 24' square temporary fencing. We ditched the small area because if he runs and bucks, he's just going to turn hard when he hits the fenceline. Then we ditched the Ace idea in general because if he's loopy and tries bucking around he might kick or misjudge something, and fall. Remember, with drugs comes poor decisions!
  2. Turn all the horses out, do a half day outside with exercise in the morning, then hand walking all the way out to where his old herd eats hay at the top of a big hill. Tossed this one simply because he'd stir up the herd and get them running up and down their big hill.
  3. Keep him in for another month and put him to work for that month. Let him heal more and work more, then put him out May 1. We got rid of this one as it was a lot of work on our end, more hand walking at a minimum, and probably more work that he should do, and the work wouldn't be hard enough to get his energy out anyway.
  4. Turn out with a horse that's part of a 2 horse herd where the second horse was leaving. They'd share a 1 acre flat field. This one got the boot because the other horse is also an excitable Thoroughbred who will run if Mikey runs, and then they'd run each other, and Mikey might get kicked as they played.
If you haven't figured it out, my trainer and I are both terrified to put him back outside. She knows how much I've spent to fix him, and she does really care about him. She knows how much he bucks and plays when he hasn't been locked up for two months. She doesn't want a pasture accident to undo all the good healing that she's worked hard to get. I also care about those things, but I trust her to do what she thinks is best.

We settled on this: I'll work him lightly Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday morning this weekend. I'll already be out Friday and Saturday since I'm helping take care of the horses while she's at The Fork 3*, and Sunday my husband and I will be driving past as we come home from his parent's house, and then I took a half vacation day on Monday so I didn't have to pay someone to work him. Monday after he works, we'll turn him out in the indoor to get his bucks and running out on good soft, solid, ultra flat footing, and then turn him out in the 1 acre flat field with King. King is an ultra fat, ultra hairy, unflappable older pony who's goal in life is to eat as much as possible. He won't kick or partake in running like a fool.

I am not going to be sitting on him this Friday. Or Saturday. Or Sunday. Maybe Monday. We taught him to long line before his surgery, so I think I will start there. I know he'll buck and play, but I'm not about to let him buck me off (so no sitting on him), and he won't be able to carry on as much as he would if I popped him on the lunge line. I might see about attaching a chain to one line and hooking it over his nose, just in case he gets out of hand. I hate to match up stuff like that, but he is absolutely not allowed to jump around like a fool. Maybe I can dig up a western curb chain and put it loosely over his nose. I rode a jumper pony that went around like that. So if he started to get out of hand, I can pull back a touch harder and shut it down.

A new Dover Saddlery store opened about an hour from my house on 3/26, so I went there a couple times last week as I thought up stuff that would be great to get on super sale. I don't normally buy from them because they are way too expensive and my usual tack shop sells the same thing for much less. I did order a new surcingle from Dover though, which I'll be picking up in store sometime this week. They don't stock the Cadence Surcingle in that store, but it can be shipped (for free) from one of their other stores to this one, so I don't have to order online and pay ridiculous shipping. My old one is nylon and neoprene and does the job, but it doesn't have the shoulder blocks and turns sometimes. Between that and the girth biting me every time I girth him up (cheap nylon), I decided a new one was in order, especially if I was going to spend a bit of time on the ground with him.

All black, and made of leather and web. Yay!
I will keep you all posted on his progress!

Monday, March 30, 2015

Getting Back Into the Swing of Riding

Over the last two weeks I've been riding what I've dubbed "The Shea Monster". She's a 7 yr old OTTB who needs retraining and has a lot of potential for eventing. Our rides consist of go straight, try to bend around the corners and circles, no running, no head high in the air, no curling, no falling on your face, no stopping, and no turning around and bolting to get away from other horses in the arena.
"Do I look cuter with my tongue out?"
So she sounds like a mess right? Well she kind of is, but she's super bright, has a lot of try, and has all the mare attitude and more that you would ever want. She's going to be something nice, for sure.

She also likes me- I went to get her out of the field and she nickered at me :-)

"Please bring me in. I'm from Ocala where it's WARM."
By the end of my barn sitting weekend (3/21-22, trainer went to a show), I had Shea working through and soft in walk and trot for most of our rides. I had ridden her all week beforehand because my trainer was prepping for her own event and her young horses got the week off. Things had been going well, so I tried to canter Shea on 3/21, which was a disaster. No wonder my trainer said, "Don't worry about the canter. Do walk/trot hell with her." She wanted to run into it, which I wouldn't let her do, even if she's a baby. It's not her first canter. I finally got a canter and had to pull it up halfway around the arena. Or rather try to pull it up. She went around with her head in air like she wants to do in trot, but tried to pair it with running away, shorten the neck, etc. I wasn't alone in the arena, and I wasn't in complete control, especially if she pulled her sideways freak out, so I was more concerned with getting her pulled up than fixing the canter.

My trainer rode her on 3/23 and said, "She's so much better! Good job!" Yay! I haven't spent a lot of time on green things in a long time, so I wasn't sure if I was actually helping the little mare. Green ones weren't always around, or available for me to ride if they were around. But right now my trainer has 3 young horses of her own to work, in addition to her 3* horse (Cody), and her many training horses, and I am short a horse, so I can pick from her list of horses and ride something (Cody is becoming less of an option the closer we get to Rolex).

She tackled Shea's canter a little this past week and said it wasn't as bad as it was, but you have to apply the same strong half halt from hell, force her to go through instead of inverted, and then soften and give as soon as she does. I'll give that a whirl this week when I have the ring to myself.

I rode this past Saturday while lessons were going on, and I ended up sitting on her for an hour and half, then she stood in the indoor for another half hour. She was going well, then lost her cool again when I trotted a circle at one end of he arena, the lesson cantered a circle at the other, and we passed head on. She spooked right, so I nailed her with my right spur and she stopped immediately. We had the spooky thing happen a few more times before it subdued into: shoot right, block right, move left, block left, shoot forward, block the running away, stop dead, kick on. So she melted down into stopping, prancing in place and trembling.

I got her working again, sent her in trot over some poles for something to think about, and then quit partway through the next lesson (Ed was back for a lesson with our trainer) when she had at least tried to go back to work. I decided to sit on her in the middle of the arena and watch. I ended up getting off when Ed's owner wanted to get rid of her jacket, and we wanted to see if Shea would freak out with it near her face.

Nope. Trainer rubbed it on her face a little first to make sure she wouldn't completely melt down, then literally tossed it over Shea's face. Covering ears, eyes, nose, everything. That wench didn't flinch or even think about moving her feet. We did that a couple more times and she kept cool as a cucumber. If I had my phone on me I would have taken a picture.

Other horses in the arena? Not cool with Shea. Cover her face with a jacket? No problem. Whenever you're done using her as a coat rack is cool with her. Wench. I guess that's mares for you. Pick and choose what and when it upsets them.

I think this graphic from Horse Nation will apply to Shea:

I hung out in the arena with her, fully tacked up, and lined her up near the canter poles to force her to stand there while Ed worked around her in his lesson. Coming up behind her, coming at her head on, circling, etc. She eventually reverted to pinning her ears instead of spooking. The logic is she's got to be able to handle a XC warm up ring, so she's going to spend time with other horses in the arena. Our barn hosts 3 hunter shows throughout the summer, and my trainer said "She's going in every single flat class." I asked, "How many are you going to be dismissed from?" She laughed and said, "A lot."

Ed's owner offered to let me try him after her lesson was done. He's not the best mover but he's very safe and sane, but turns like a tractor trailer. As in, if you want that 90 degree turn across the school, you had best plan and start turning much sooner than you would with any other horse. In his downward transitions and circles he tends to lose the outside hind, and his bend. So I'm good at getting the bend back, and using my inside leg to support horses that fall in during downward transitions, but he threw me for a loop where I needed to support more with my outside leg in the downward transitions. Neat guy. I'd like to spend some more time playing with him because once I got that worked out, he was soft and through and very pliable.

A quick side note, while my trainer was gone, I taught a couple lessons. Here's a picture of 18 hand Ed before tackling the poles from hell on 3/22:

Ed and his mom evaluating my poles from hell.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Mikey Jogging, AcuLife Patches, OCD Pellets

So while I was off working at my real job last week and riding Shae over the weekend, Mikey was hanging out in his stall. After the injection he needed complete stall rest for 3 days, so no hand walking Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.

I walked Mikey Sunday after riding Shae and being ground crew for the weekly jump clinic. I walked for 10 min or so, and then asked my trainer to watch him jog. He was given a Grade 3 lameness at OSU, but it was barely visible, just the right hock not flexing as much as the left. He's always been weak in that hock, so I wanted her to watch him trot because she knows what his "normal" is (even if it's a lameness on that scale).

I jogged him away from her, then took him across a diagonal so she could see from the side. I had given him his head so he'd be "free" and he jogs well without shenanigans... usually. No problems on the away, but on the diagonal I asked for more, she clucked, and he tossed his head, flung his legs around, and moved out while arching his neck like a fancy boy. Everyone laughed, but she said he looks super and very close to his normal, and didn't see a reason I couldn't take him down centerline by August.

On a side note, we talked Saturday about me taking Cody to a USDF show to finish my bronze after Rolex. She had said before I could take him, but in all seriousness, even if I had a fancy newer trailer, I'd be terrified to haul a horse as valuable as him (I'm sure we're looking at 6 figures after Rolex), when I didn't own said horse. So I asked if she could spare a weekend to play in the sandbox, and maybe bring one or two of her young horses that need to get out so it wouldn't be a total loss for her. I believe one she got in the fall last year competed in hand at Devon, so he's already got a USDF number and everything. She said absolutely, we'll go to one of the bigger shows that runs 4-6 rings. She completely understood that I didn't want to pressure Mikey to be ready, or take another year to finish my bronze, because in reality, Mikey might never be ready. He may never recover enough to help me finish my bronze, and Cody will no longer be available to me at that point.

We had a (free) clinic Sunday with a woman who uses Aculife patches on horses to help relieve pain and tension, and aid in healing injuries and reducing swelling. The patches can be used as an alternative to acupuncture. They do not deliver any kind of medicine to the horse in any way, so are safe to use at horse shows, and have no withdrawal period, so they fully comply with all FEI and USEF drug rules. You put a max of 6 pairs of patches on the horse, sometimes 7 pairs depending on where they are. They go on acupressure points. They have a max effectiveness at around 12 hours, but you can ride with them on and leave them on for up to 3 days (which is when they usually fall off on their own). When they fall off, there's no wait period, you can pop new ones on again for another 3 days. They can be used on points that will help relieve pain, or several points for calmness. We jokingly asked if there's points on humans for losing weight, she said yupp! There are points for helping cut down on cravings. We were like, oh!

She also takes thermal images that she can send away for another team to look 7 layers deep at injuries or pain points. She can see hoof abscesses right as they're starting so you don't waste any time getting the farrier out or simply soaking the foot while you wait for the farrier. She expressly said, "Do not call me in lieu of a vet or farrier! I can help while you wait, but make sure you call them!" I trust someone who says that for sure. No asking for blind following.

If I was smart, I would have taken a picture of what the patches looked like! But a google search produced this sad, non-photographic image of the patches:

Pretend this image is real life. It's a tan and white material on the sticky side of  a clear sticky circle, approximately and inch to inch and a half in diameter.
The patches come in positive and negatives. I forget which is which, but one is white, one is tan. The tans go on the left side of the horse, the white goes on the right. Maybe white it positive? I think that's right. I get all messed up because I use red and black in the accounting world for negatives and positives, which screws me up in the electrical world because it's swapped. Anyway, straight from her pamphlet:
"AcuLife non-transdermal patch system utilizes new technology to gently stimulate acupressure points to literally prevent, and remove muscle spasms, tensions, and strains throughout the whole body."
I don't normally subscribe to stuff like that, but I've spent so much money on Mikey trying to get him back to pre-injury wellness that I'm willing to listen to just about anything that could make him heal just a little bit better, as long as it won't hurt him and the worst I'll do is throw some money away.

I watched Cody be treated as the demo horse. He is a cocky, look at me kind of horse who is not known for being very touchy-feely, especially with people he just met. She felt him all over and put some patches on him, just the right side to start. Before she put the matching patch on the left side, he was already licking and chewing, and dropped his head. After she had all of the patches on, he nuzzled the bejesus out of her, stopping just short of licking her face. Not in his character at all!

The next couple horses had similar results: yawning, licking and chewing, relaxing, heads dropping.

The horse that had the most issues and the best reaction was a little chestnut QH mare who came to her owner several years ago with a rearing problem and in need of an attitude adjustment. She was just unpleasant to be around, and hates you touching near her face. Her owner recently started her on gut support for possible ulcers, which has helped her attitude immensely. The horse came into the arena all tense and barely standing still (not uncommon for the horse, and she rarely relaxes anyway). The woman went over the horse and found 7 points just in the front half of the horse, with many more in the back of the horse. She put 7 sets of patches on the horse because of the sheer number of problem spots. Within five minutes, the mare was licking and chewing, nuzzling and gladly accepting face rubs.

Mikey was not on her list of horses for the day, but I asked her if she could look at him because of the severity of his injury. The horses that got full body thermal imaging had to have their blankets off for over an hour before being looked at, so Mikey couldn't get the thermals of his body, just the leg. She still went over the fleshier parts of his body, identifying places we could work on later after he returns to work. There was one point by the poll (she asked if he likes to fake his connection or lock his jaw- yes and yes), one point by the whithers, one by the loin, then a couple in the hindquarters. One of those was the horsey hamstring essentially, and was very very sensitive. All of those lead to his trouble with truly sitting for our collection work. I didn't want his body patched because I would have no way of knowing if it helped and he was just standing in a stall anyway, so she put two white patches and one tan patch on his  bad hind leg, slightly above the most swollen/scarred part of the hock. The white patches went on the inside and outside of the joint, and the tan went right on the front.

Yet again, I failed to take a picture. Doh. I'm not very good at this.

Now Mikey didn't have the same reaction to the patches the way the other horses did, simply because they got a full body patch job and he got a hock patch job. But my trainer reported to me on Monday that the hock was the smallest it's been since the injury. I think I might contact the woman and ask if I can buy a box of patches from her to patch Mikey's hock myself over the next few weeks. I don't mean to short change her, but it's a $50 farm call if I'm the only one (she waives the farm call for 5 or more horses) and $20 for her to do the patches. I can't afford that all the time, and I wouldn't patch his body myself, just his hock.

She did take thermals of the hock for me, and she was surprised at how good they looked based on what we had told her was wrong. Normal horses have soft yellow bodies with soft red legs. Injuries come up as bright yellow or worse, bright red/pink. She took 4 pictures of his leg, each at the quarter view.

In the second and last pictures you can really compare the two hind legs, the damaged one and the normal one. She expected there to be more bright yellow and some bright red. I didn't have her send them away for analyzing- I know what's wrong underneath.

If other people are willing to have her out again, I'll have him full body patched at that point to see if it helps him out as we get back to work. It certainly can't hurt him.

Speaking of doing things that may or may not help the horse, but won't hurt him, I finally clicked the link to OCD Pellets from their sponsored rehab posts on Eventing Nation. This OCD stands for: Optimal Cartilage Development Pellets. Sounds right up Mikey's alley.

I read what they claim, ingredients, and then endless testimonials. And I mean ENDLESS. Mostly racehorses, most with spurs, cysts, OCD lesions, fractures, everything leg bone related under the sun. It increased bone densities, made fractures heal and almost disappear from x-rays, in general made a lot of those type of problems disappear or almost disappear, and eased the pain of osteoarthritis. All (of course) said OCD products helped immensely. None had the chip and fracture bed problem Mikey has however. To have so many raving reviews, and a good one for an 18 yr old Thoroughbred performance horse who had osteoarthritis problems, I couldn't not look into it. Especially due to the sheer number of ultra positive reviews (and more positive reviews from other websites). The product has to have SOMETHING going for it.

I stole these handy dandy factoid images from Eventing Nation, who had them courtesy of OCD Doc's Products Inc. I hope they don't mind me posting them and free advertising.

I have a feeling this product is NOT USEF legal for shows, but it doesn't matter because Mikey isn't showing anytime soon.

We had pulled Mikey off oral supplements simply because as he gets older, his digestion isn't what it used to be, and his body could end up cannibalizing the supplement for food instead of allowing it to be absorbed where it's really needed. We opted for hock injections since that was his main pain point, and they helped immensely, and for all of last year, he felt really super. Now that we've poked and prodded his right hock, it's a waiting game. I decided if there was anything I could do to help him out, I would do it because I want my partner back, and I'm so far into this monetarily that spending a couple hundred on supplements that might help, even just a little bit, is worth it to me. He's barely lame. All he needs is a little bit.

Basically, they're doing a free 4lb  pail with any first time customer order. A 4lb pail has 64 scoops in it, if you're feeding at a maintenance level. Mikey would be eating at the maximum level, so of course it's only good for 32 days. They said to feed the free pail first and if you don't see any results, send them the paid for pail back for a full refund. Good enough incentive for me!

I did email Dr. Beebe, the doctor behind the science, who replied very promptly. I gave him a brief overview of what happened to Mikey and what we've done so far, and asked two questions: Is the product effective in older horses that might have weaker digestion and how long should I give the product to show a result? I figured I'd need more than the free pail to see a result, and I was right. I got a several paragraph answer, but to sum it up: He said it works well in older horses (as I expected he would say), and I may or may not see a result in 30 days due to Mikey's age and the nature of the injury. He said to allow 4-6 weeks to see any benefits. He encouraged me to follow up with Mikey's progress.

I was good with ordering it as long as he didn't say anything bad about using it with older horses (significantly less effective etc). So off I was to look at prices (ok so it's not the first time I looked at them):

Get a look at those prices!
I decided to buy a 4 lb pail with my free 4 lb pail. I'll check on him close to when both pails should be finished up, 64 days/approx 9 weeks, and see what he looks like. I'll probably buy another two 4 lb pails at that point so he has a solid 4 months on maximum dose. It certainly won't hurt him.

I ordered his OCD pellets yesterday, along with more Chia seeds (I'm not sure they're doing any good, but I'm not going to change his supplements now while he's recovering from his injury), and I ordered a new jack for my trailer. Expensive morning.

Mikey was a good investment. I can barely afford to buy HIS drugs.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Non-Mikey Updates and New OTTB, Shea!

Life has been quiet since I got back from OSU. Mikey is getting his own post next since he's been sitting in a stall doing nothing.

I did want to share this cute pic of Penny. I took it back in February, but forgot to share it.

Cute adorableness. When my husband and I replaced our windows, we made sure to get the extra wide windowsills so the cats have a place to sit.
The one exciting thing that happened after our OSU visit, our Rolex tickets came!

So many tickets! I collected for 18 of us and ordered them all together to make sure we could all sit together. We have grounds admission for all 4 days, and seating for both dressage days and show jump day.
And I got to work remotely last Thursday with this adorable face who didn't want me to keep working.

"No more working. It's snuggle time!"

I went to the barn Saturday, but didn't have a lesson on Cody. My trainer is taking him this week to an event, so rightly, she rode him. I took my trainer's new young horse, Shea, out for a spin instead. She's a 7 yr old OTTB who hasn't done much since she stopped racing, but she's a nice mare. Going to be a superstar for sure- reminds me a lot of the 2* horse my trainer sold a couple years ago. My trainer said I'd probably like her as she's similar to Mikey. Her old rider kept her "in frame" through sheer force and held her there, so my trainer has been working in the walk and trot only, aiming for soft and through, and trying to get her off the inside leg because she likes to lean on it.

I had to work around my trainer's lesson people, which is fine, but I was having trouble getting Shea round or off my inside leg. I ended up doing a lot of sitting trot. I don't like doing that on young horses just learning to work over their backs, I don't think it's quite fair. But when she was running through me, head in the air, trotting off like a mad woman, I sat the trot and used my seat to force her to keep a slower pace. Posting the trot was just not effective enough. My trainer said no worries about it, she does the same thing when she sits on her. As soon as the little mare softened I'd post, and sit again when she inverted. Once I figured her out, she was fairly easy to get round and stop her leaning on the inside leg. Cody refreshed the importance of riding outside hip to outside hand, supporting with the inside leg. I used that theory on Shea, and every time she'd come through and soften, if only for a stride or two. We also had a little practice just standing in the middle of the arena watching the lesson finish up. She doesn't like to just stand, so we stood!

I came out Sunday morning to ride her before my trainer's Sunday jump school because I wasn't happy with how the ride went Saturday, and I wanted to try again. I had a much better ride to the left, but it all went to hell when I tracked right. I was sharing the arena with a lesson again, and I was tracking the opposite direction. When it came time to pass the lesson horse, Shea freaked out, tried to spin and bolt, and almost scooted out from under me because I blocked her from turning, so she flung herself across the arena instead. I thought she was going to dump me, but thank goodness for long dressage legs around a thin TB barrel! I spent the next 15 min working the opposite direction, forcing her to simply walk round without freaking out. Every time I took her off the track to let the lesson pass, she lost her marbles. I put her back to work after she was freaking out less, and had a spectacular trot to the right, for 3 laps around the arena! Lots of good girl, patting, and posting trot.

A lot of her freaking out could be predicted by how the other horse was traveling- in front of the girth, and Shea wanted to stop and spin. Behind the girth, she wanted to bolt. My trainer hasn't ridden her with other horses in the arena since she usually rides her training horses in the morning before anyone gets to the barn, and said it's very good to know that Shea can't handle it right now. She was going to possibly take Shea in two weekends to a dressage show as a simple outing to see how she does- and she still might take her and if they scratch, they scratch. It seems Shea doesn't understand that herd rules don't apply in the ring! So she's going to be my riding buddy this week, and I'll make sure we ride with a friend!

My trainer is going away this week, as I said. Since she's going away, I'm going to help with barn work Saturday and Sunday, and teach both days. She takes a cut of the lesson money since they're her students, but that way we both make some money while she's gone, and her students get supervised rides in at a discount price. I'm basically doing the barn work for her for free because she's spending quite a bit of time with Mikey making sure he's taken care of properly. I'm glad we're both on the same page when it comes to his care... that she walks him herself, and wraps him herself instead of letting her part time working students do it. I have a good history with the one who I would trust to walk him, hack him, just not wrap him, she doesn't have a lot of experience with it. The other I have a shaky history with and have known for over 10 years. I wouldn't trust her to lead my horse out of his stall. When I got him and he was out running in the field, she said "I hope he falls and breaks a leg." I've heard other unsavory things from and about her, straight up lying to my face about things, and I don't care for the way she rides- aggressive all the time, walking and trotting the horse off his feet, no quiet riding. I chatted with my trainer about her and my trainer isn't thrilled with her (she's been working there for a couple months), and isn't letting the student work with the horses anymore, or work at all unless she needs the barn help. I'm not sure where that's at, but she's not handling Mikey, so I don't really care.

But anyway, so I'm teaching this weekend. And in the spirit of the lovely lady whose insane pole pattern videos are going around Facebook, I've come up with a pole pattern from hell for some of the lessons I'll be teaching (it'll be hell to them):

My trainer's students seem to think I'm tougher than our trainer when I teach. I don't see it! Ha!
When I answer to our trainer at the end of the day, we don't mess around!

Set at the 4'6" between trot poles (and middle to middle of the curved ones), allowing for 2-3 steps between the straight poles and curved, to be determined by the number of poles I have at my disposal and how they actually fit in our indoor (I may add a 5th pole to the straight set if I have the poles to do it and the room). I have this mostly in mind for a 17.3 horse who has trouble with his foot placement, hence the max pole distance.

I can think of a bunch of different ways to tweak this if I had enough poles and arena length to work with. I'd rather have a pole every step through the change in direction and through every 'circle' but space and pole numbers limit me. I'd like a serpentine, where each change has one of these to guide you through, or maybe a shallow loop or two down centerline, like straight, bend right for a shallow loop, go almost diagonal across centerline to bend left for a shallow loop, and then finish by ending up straight on centerline at the other end.

The goal is to keep the horse connected, and even between the aids. Trotting 20m 'circles' and 'figure 8s', keeping to the middle, no weaving or wobbling. And if that gets easy, trot the curved line of poles through the middle, canter the bigger circle, trot and keep your shit together before the poles, work through them and change direction, repeat. There's a handful of students whose horses get away from them and cut the turns and don't stay even, and most need help getting their horses into their corners on the short sides, so I figured it would ride like a 'figure square'. The poles in the middle force the rider to ride into the 'corners' in the middle, and then they can keep that same feeling across the short sides at the end of the arena. I'd like to try it myself on a horse educated enough to deal with it. But alas, I've only got a string of young horses available to me to ride this weekend, and maaaaybe one could mentally handle this (the 4 yr old I rode at one point in February), but the rest are working on being through in w/t/c, so this is entirely inappropriate for them.

Mwahaha! Students beware!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

OSU Visit #2 - Tuesday 3/10 to Wednesday 3/11

My mom and I packed up and took Mikey back to OSU this past week for a recheck and APS treatment. I now have a much better understanding of what an APS treatment is because they let me watch and tag along with the students who were learning how to do it.

Tuesday was mostly uneventful, with only two bad parts:
1. My new trailer jack doesn't sit as far above the trailer tongue as my old one did. This means the two blocks I have under the foot (a 4" and 6") are much too tall, and the jack can't lower the trailer enough to get on the ball. I had to get a bottle jack to lift the trailer, so I could pull the smaller block out, so I could lower it enough to get on the ball on the truck. We're looking into a different jack since the bottom of the jack is too close to the road for our liking. I do love my new jack though. It isn't a full body workout to jack up and down.

Can't lower the trailer any further. The jack doesn't suck up any more. Note it is not on the ball of the truck!
The foot hovers about 8in off the ground. I took the foot off and was able to turn it a few more cranks and got another half inch or so.
2. It was it raining the entire drive. It took us 6 hours to get there because I was getting tired driving in a constant downpour and trying to deal with rain, pot holes and 18 wheelers flying by me. My back was killing me and I was not feeling well by bedtime.

Dry horse who got impatient with the trailer ride. Not that I blame him!
Munching in his stall. The same stall he had last time! We think his hock was extra swollen from the trailer ride, because it wasn't that swollen when we left Tuesday morning.

View from his hay door, through the plexiglass. Which is why his face is funny, haha.

The students weighed him when he arrived. He weighed 1130lbs, ten pounds less than he weighed when he came in for surgery. Not what we were hoping for since he's been locked in a stall for a month and a half eating. He does looked to have filled out a little, but lost topline muscle, so let's go with muscle weighs more than fat, and he lost muscle?

Mom and I got up early Wednesday to make sure we were in the vet hospital well before they took him out for evaluation, because I wanted to see him jog. We got there while they were doing rounds, and we got to hear them tell the students about Mikey's injury (using big veterinary terms I couldn't even hope to parrot back to you all).

Mikey got his turn to trot shortly after. The surgeon checked him over first, and was very pleased with the lack of infection from the incision that was still draining when I took him home, and how nice all of his incisions looked. Everything had scabbed over and healed over very nicely, and there was less swelling than she expected. Everything in general looked much better than she expected. She said I did a really good job keeping it clean and taken care of, so I passed the high praise on to my trainer. She's the one who did the work, checking on him daily and micro managing it, and also keeping OSU's directions in mind as we both rejected our own vet's wrapping instructions in favor of OSU's.

After she checked him out, the surgeon had a tech walk and trot him on the pavement inside. She said he was walking with some stiffness, which I'd expect since he spends all day in a stall and traveled the day before. They jogged him, and she gave him a grade 3 lameness, but it was very mild. He wasn't flexing the right hock as much as the left. I could barely see it. They didn't bother with the flex test, she said there wasn't much of a point as he'll flex positive the rest of his life anyway, so there's no reason to pressure the joint. As a background, he flexed a grade 4 pre-surgery and was almost crippled in his movement. Just short of 3 legged.

Does anyone out there understand the 0-5 lameness scale? I obviously don't because I don't know why a very mild lameness would hit grade 3. I didn't want to pester her with the questions about the scale since they had a full schedule and it's something I can research on my own. Is it just a consistency thing? Since he was consistently not flexing the hock as much? It was more a stiffness than a lameness I thought. His right hind has always been weak and he never bent it as much as the left. We're always after him to keep up with the right hind.

Anyway, the surgeon said she was comfortable doing the APS injection, so everyone scurried to get him prepped. They didn't need to shave his leg again as not a lot of the hair has grown back. They spent 10 minutes or so scrubbing him! As they scrubbed, they pulled a huge syringe of blood.

Before going into the process, Mikey is one of under 100 horses to get this treatment. APS stands for "Autologous Protein Solution" and is essentially an injection of concentrated protein rich plasma that has regenerative qualities into a damaged joint. His surgeon helped develop it, and here's a link to an abstract from her research, and here's a link to a PDF that has more layman terms of the experiment on page 3. He got one of the last kits she had, and each kit is a mind boggling $1500, but I got it for free. I feel very lucky.

Pardon me if I get some of this wrong but here's what it looked like how it went. I didn't take pictures even though I really wanted to. I thought it'd be rude!
1. Pull a huge syringe of blood from the horse, add an anticoagulant. Ok, so maybe not huge, it's a standard size that seemed huge to me! Looked like at least a 5 inch tube that's an inch in diameter? Huge.
2. The first part of processing the blood is how you would process for a standard PRP (Platelet Rich Plasma) injection. They put the blood into a sectioned off cylinder with some chemical or something in it, then into the centrifuge for 15 minutes at 3200 rpm.
3. Drain off the yellow plasma in the upper section of the cylinder, then pull out the ~6mL of platelet rich plasma (it's red) at the bottom of the upper section, leave the other red stuff in the bottom section. I guess those are red cells? I either don't remember that part of biology, or we didn't go into enough depth. Put the platelet rich plasma into the next divided cylinder, and smash the little beads at the bottom into the blood until they're all absorbed. They basically pull out water.
4. Put the cylinder back in the centrifuge and spin at 3200 rpm for 2 minutes.
5. Drain out the bottom section. I believe this amounted to about 2mL of protein rich blood/plasma/platelets? Not sure what, but it's super protein rich and highly regenerative.
6. Inject into the horse's joint.

They put Mikey under a light sedation and injected the full amount into the front of the joint. She wanted to split the injection- one in the front and one in the side, but she wasn't comfortable doing the side because there was a lot of scar tissue where it needed to be injected, so he got it all in the front. She popped a needle in first, and nasty orange/red fluid started dripping out. They took a little vial of it to hold on to for records. No idea what was in it or if they tested it. He got his injection and was good to go!

Mikey's care directions were complete stall rest for three days because of the injection, then he can keep walking for 15 minutes a day... but the good news is we can gradually increase his walk time! He was approved for ground driving, very light riding, and turnout again (with the help of Ace the first few times) at day 60 (the beginning of April). She said to gradually increase his workload back to normal over several months, and reevaluate him in June/July for lameness and his ability to go back to pre-injury work

Overall, he's doing much better than expected. His surgeon left his prognosis as 50-70% chance of a full recovery where he can continue to do his pre-injury workload. It took some of the happy out of his very good visit, but hopefully that's just the cover their butt percentage.

We had an easy trip home, driving in the sunshine!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Everything Between 2/6 and 3/9

3/8: Bad pony rolling around in fresh sawdust with the bag leg down! Sigh. He obviously doesn't know he's hurt.

So the time Mikey has been healing has been very stressful and tiring and depressing so I haven't written. I've barely ridden! But Mikey is going back to OSU for an APS treatment on 3/11, but we're leaving tomorrow. 

The extra shor
t story: Mikey's leg is healing beautifully. His soundness is the only question left. He's healed up without any infection or oozing after the one incision stopped draining.

The short story:

-2/9/15: Mikey's oozing incision was done oozing by Monday after surgery. Yay!

-2/11/15: Our vet flipped shit about his vet wrap covering the point of his hock, before she even saw the leg. She wanted it wrapped as a figure 8. We ignored her because he was being very good about laying down with the good leg on the bottom, so he wasn't rubbing the bad leg in poop, or laying on it in general. There's no reason to make that leg more flexible, and OSU was wrapping him with it completely covered by vet wrap. She sometimes goes off on tantrums. We deal with it because when you're having an emergency, she drops everything and comes out. Oh, she also forced me to take a 16" no bow wrap. A single no bow. Not a pair. Because a 14" wasn't tall enough... even though the 14" was overlapping the hock wrap. >:-(

-2/21/15: Mikey got his stitches out on day 19 after surgery instead of 14. He also tried to colic that day. We had wrapped him with the figure 8 wrap so the vet wouldn't flip shit, so he promptly laid down on the bad leg, got cast, got upset, and began to colic. All on a day that we were hosting a clinic, the pipes froze, the tractor wouldn't start, and the arena drag was buried. They stitches were delayed to this date because the one incision had just stopped draining, and then the temps dropped to a high of 1 degree, so we weren't about to undress him and make him stand on concrete to have stitches out... they weren't healing into him or loose or being pulled, so no reason to have them out. She said only wrap him for that night, then no more. My trainer and I also ignored that. The horse was open to the bone. We weren't about to let him lay down and rub freshly scabbed incisions into his bedding. Hello infection. So the hock wrap stayed on. He also started a series of three Legend IV injections (one every week for three weeks) and a series of ten(!!!!) Adequan injections (one injection that day, then six more every four days, then once a month until gone). After a couple other incidentals, my vet bill for this visit was $824. Talk about blowing through the money I set aside for his after care.

-The next week, he walked for five minutes on days that she changed the bandage. She wasn't about to let him colic again... we'd end up walking for hours if he did.

-2/28/15: Mikey is bucking and squealing in his stall for the second day in a row. So much for 'stall rest.'

-3/4/15: Mikey reached day 30! He's now allowed to walk 15 minutes every day.

-3/7/15: We stopped wrapping the hock. The scabs had healed nicely, and everything looked super. We're still wrapping the lower leg since he's been wrapped continuously for over a month. We also started the Back on Track Hock Wraps for a couple hours each day.

-3/7/15: My wonderful husband and father-in-law put a new jack on my trailer since the old one got stuck and almost couldn't lift the trailer off my truck when we got home from OSU in February. Thank goodness my husband's dad raised him to fix anything.

I'm still very nervous that Mikey will never be sound again. He rolled this weekend and had to get up with the bad leg underneath him, and he struggled. How will he ever be able to do even training level under saddle? Very depressing. I'd never sell him, or give him away. He'd have to be retired and I can't afford to keep a second horse. Buying one wouldn't be a problem, I'd hit up RRTP classifieds and find an OTTB right off the track. Leasing a horse might be an option, but nothing is appropriate at our barn. Everything is capable, but every horse has an eventing career in its future, not straight dressage. And everything is at training level dressage. Not to rag on that, but when I'm so close to my bronze, to have to start over would be very sad.

I only rode a handful of times in Feb, partly because of the distance to the barn, and partly because it was so cold. I rode one of my trainer's 3 year olds for one of my rides. Best 3 yr old ever, plus an OTTB to boot! Quiet, attentive, and a very good boy. It's been a long time since I sat on something that green!

I rode her 3* event horse two more times since my last mention of him. He and I are slowly getting to know each other. I had joked with her about taking him to finish my bronze medal after he ran Rolex. She said go for it! So I might take Cool Decision, "Cody", the Rolex horse, down centerline to finish my bronze. I'd rather finish it on Mikey, but... I think he's going to need time, if he's even able to do 3rd level again.

I'm terrified of screwing Cody up, so I find I'm not as commanding as I should be on him, which of course will screw him up! He is very well schooled, and will do what you want, if you ask the question the right way. In a way, he's an extension of my trainer. For his whole life, he's only been ridden by her and a handful of other people, who have done at most hack him around. So he responds to being asked correctly. When you don't ask correctly, he doesn't guess at what you want, but he doesn't throw a tantrum either, he simply waits for you to ask properly, then promptly rewards you when you do ask correctly. She's letting me just ride him, not in lessons, and it's like I'm getting a free lesson. I have my trainer in my head, and I'm sitting on her horse, so I hear her in my head, I apply what she says, and he responds. With only 3 rides on Cody, I've almost broken my hanging left rein habit. Cody won't connect in the canter to the left because I'm too heavy with my left rein. Recall right hip to right hand, lots of thigh for a half halt, and releasing/soft inside rein, and he connects immediately. And lower leg. More lower leg support than I ever gave Mikey.

When I rode him last Sunday, I really got the feel of what she meant when she described him as a man's ride. Cody is very, very strong, and he's a cocky confident boy. I needed very strong thigh and core half halts to get the good response. My legs hurt for days after riding him! He's giving me quite the education though. When I lose connection, I tend to shorten my arm instead of encouraging more neck stretch to the bit. With him, when he shortens his neck, I feel it, and I know immediately shortening my arm won't work, and I'm able to push him forward and back to the bit. He's gotten me to soften my left hand. He's gotten me to pay a lot of attention to my hip and inside leg and my bend, and then ways to get it all back. He's also gotten me to get my flying changes more accurate and timed better. No more kick and hope. It's plan, get the timing right, and ask. If I botch it, I get a rump high change, if I don't, I get a smooth change.

She also said I can come ride him in the evening during the week whenever I'm out! :-)

He's by no means an easy ride, but he's as close to a school master as I'm going to get! I'm hoping to ride him in our farm's dressage show in June, and maybe take him to one or two USDF dressage shows and do 3rd, and maybe 4th level just to see. My trainer will be selling him after Rolex to pay for her farm, so if he can be ridden by an AA down centerline at a USDF show at his highest level of education, that's all points in his favor. I'll be trying to get to some shows early in the season before he sells. After he sells, Mikey will be the most advanced dressage horse in the barn, and if he's not sound... well then no more fun stuff for me! But everyone deserves to ride a horse at the top of their ability to ride, that knows a lot. It's very enlightening.

I'm going to ask for an actual lesson on him and see if she'll take a little video of me on him.

So here's a mass of pictures from the last month:

I may have gone overboard on the no bows and the cotton sheeting!

Nickels in his dog blanket. He gets around really well in it! 

Mikey's leg on 3/1.

Some awkward snuggling with Penny. Silly upside down snuggle puss!
I got domestic and made Danish Heirloom Cake. 

3/7: Let the rehab begin! 

Completely adorable.

Monday, March 9, 2015

OSU Visit: 2/6 Friday - Coming Home!

Friday morning was a whirlwind of packing and getting all of Mikey's stuff ready. The vet went over the stuff I would need to wrap Mikey, and I took home a first set of bandage change materials:

The stuff.
But we were finally off! Mikey loaded just fine and we were on our way. By the way, Columbus has a lot of pot holes. I pissed off someone by going so slowly through the city and back to the highway. He honked and flipped me the bird as soon as he could pass me. I wanted to scream at him that I had a horse who just had major surgery in my trailer, so F Off!

Trailer cam, going home!
The drive was long and I was getting tired halfway through. I was drained from the week. The weather didn't help, the back roads had been snow covered all week and I had to go the long way around to avoid a steep section of road... only to find a Fed Ex 18 wheeler parked in front of the barn driveway, delivering the dressage show arena!

Dressage arena delivery!
He had to back up so we could sneak in the drive, and then my trainer backed my trailer right up to the door of the barn so Mikey would back off the trailer and onto the concrete isle, and then walk forward and turn right into his temporary stall. A little pony was evicted to Mikey's bigger stall in the back, and Mikey got a small stall up front where he could hang his head out all day and look outside, and hopefully not spin circles!

Mom and I finally got home, and we were happy to be home!

OSU Visit: 2/5 Thursday - Stem Cell Injection

My phone got all jacked up Thursday morning, so I missed the call for the stem cell treatment, so I missed seeing his leg unwrapped and how they were wrapping it. By this point they were finally wrapping both lower legs as both had fluid building up from him not moving.

I did get a call about my truck, and they said the rear line had been spliced by a past owner instead of being fixed properly. We knew the lines were rusty when we bought the truck, the question was how rusty. They needed to be changed anyway, and we were planning on doing that in the next year. We opted to have them replace all the brake lines (front and rear) with stainless lines. They said they would have to hand bend the lines, and it might not be done by the end of the day, but it would be done by noon Friday.

We went to the vet hospital and heard from the vet that everything went very well with the stem cell injection. She said that one incision was still leaking and they were worried about infection and wanted me to consider leaving him there for another week. They were fine with him going home or staying.

Much happier today, licking the wall after a mint.
 We brought Mikey a 3lb bag of carrots and he was very happy, and so the staff kept giving him carrots every time they checked on him.

I talked to my trainer, explained they wanted him to stay for a week at least and why, and we both agreed he should come home. My trainer was a vet tech for 8 or 10 years and keeps a meticulous barn, neither of us were concerned about infection. We made arrangements for what Mikey would need when he got home, so my mom and I were off to the local tack shop for shopping therapy!

I bought this wee little dog blanket for Nickels. It was on super sale!
Mikey had a good haul for the day. My wallet is extra empty.

Standing wraps, a wall treat to keep him busy, Back on Track No Bows, a new lead rope because he's had the same lead rope for almost 10 years, stall guards so he can hang his head out for the next 40-50 days, and some cheaper wrapping supplies. I also ordered Back on Track Hock Wraps from Smartpak.
We got a call from the Chevy dealership around 5pm that my truck was done. We had decided that if it wasn't done by 10 Friday morning, we weren't going to go home Friday because we'd be unloading in the dark. Unloading a horse that doesn't want to walk in the dark by backing him off the trailer didn't sound like a good idea.

We went to get the truck and thanked the dealership profusely. The person we were working with said that he told the mechanic that the truck was an emergency and he had til the end of the day to finish it. The bill was large, but better than we expected because nothing broke unexpectedly as they took apart the components and changed the lines.

We let the vet hospital know we would be taking Mikey home Friday, and went back to the hotel to pack.

Some pictures of Mikey in that evening:

Adorable boy :-)

OSU Visit: 2/4 Wednesday - Recovery Day 2 & Brake Failure Day

Apparently I didn't take many pictures on Wednesday, and none were post worthy!

We stopped by the vet hospital to see Mikey in the morning and I got him to move via mint offering. And by move I mean, awkwardly three legged sideways hop that almost looked like he was going to fall down and break a hip. Apparently he can walk, but moves awkwardly at first. They walk him to the treadmill room every day to change his bandage.

It was like, 40 degrees that day, so Mom and I decided to go to the Columbus Zoo for a few hours in the afternoon. We were on our way there when I got an error message on my truck dash that said "Service Brake System". I checked for error codes, nothing. I found the nearest Chevy dealer on my phone, and off we went.

When we got there, the building was empty, the parking lot was empty, and everything was just abandoned. Great. By this point I realized that when I stopped at traffic lights, after ten seconds or so, my truck would slide through the brake and creep forward.

I remembered that we passed a Ford dealership on our way to the Chevy dealership, so I went back there. I explained we were out of town, the truck brakes seemed to be going, I was supposed to take my horse home the next day, and he had had surgery two days before. They weren't willing to work on my truck because it wasn't a Ford. I didn't understand, they sell used cars. Not every used car is a Ford. Fix my brakes. Instead they sent me a quarter mile up the street to another Chevy dealer.

I got to the service center of that dealership, explained the brakes were going, out of town, horse had surgery at OSU, blah blah, emergency, can you fit me in today/tomorrow/this week? I was told, nope, nothing until next week. Try somewhere else. I asked, can you give me a phone number of a dealership near OSU? I wasn't about to keep driving a truck that was slowly losing it's brakes. They grudgingly gave me a phone number of yet another Chevy dealership. Thank goodness I was near a major city and they're all over the place.

The phone call went something like this:
Me: "I'm out of town, I lost my brakes, I have a horse at OSU for surgery and no way to get him home without the truck, and no way to get myself home either. This is an emergency. Can you fit my truck in sometime this week?"
Lady: "Well we might be able to get to it tomorrow."
Me: "Good enough for me, what's your address?"
Lady (whatever the address was) "Our service center closes at 6, will you be dropping it off after hours?" (it's about 3:30pm by now)
Me: "No, I'm coming by right now. I can't get anywhere else. Do you have a rental car available?"
Lady: "Well... I'm not sure. We might, but I think they're all gone."
Me: "I'm five hours from home, if you don't find a rental car I'm going to be sleeping in your showroom."

By this point in the day, I was frustrated and upset, and mom and I were mostly laughing so we didn't cry. Nothing else we could do.

To get to the dealership, I was that guy on the 70 mph highway going 45 mph with my blinkers on. I'm sorry. I got to my exit ramp, put my foot on the brake, and nothing happened. Talk about cold pits in your stomach. Pushed the brake down harder, finally got some stop.

By the time I got to the dealership, I had very little brake so I rolled my truck to a stop by running into a snow bank. I wasn't driving through the glass doors of the service center or hit one of the brand new cars.

We went in, they asked where's the truck, I pointed out the door and they said to bring it in, and I handed them the keys and said go for it. The brakes aren't so hot. The guy almost hit the glass door after pulling into the center.

They got me set up with a rental, a brand new Chevy Cruz with 3 miles on it. I think it wasn't a rental, and when I called and threatened to sleep in the showroom, it became a rental.

I apologize if anyone has a Chevy Cruz, but I hate that car. It's small, uncomfortable and I hate it. But it got us out of there.

As we were moving stuff to the crap car, some of the guys looked under the truck and waved us over. The rear brake lines were pouring all their fluid out onto the service center floor. They said they would have a mechanic look at it first thing in the morning and call us then.

We went back to the vet hospital after leaving the dealership and let them know that we couldn't take Mikey home Thursday like we planned, it would be Friday at the earliest. We stopped by to see Mikey and he was doing just fine, and being spoiled rotten by the staff. His 2lb bag of carrots was almost gone!