Thursday, August 23, 2018

Well F**k

Alternate Names for This Post:

Feels like Groundhog Day: 7 more weeks of walking!
Reasons to buy a horse with straight legs.

He likes it at VEI, he just watches out the window and in general is very relaxed!

I'm going to bet you've gathered Penn's recheck didn't go so well. It's really not all gloom and doom, but this is something I could have avoided by not buying Penn. True story folks.

Oh yea, this also happened on our drive down. A dime sized chip in my truck's windshield.

Let's rewind a bit, last we left off, I had gotten bored out of my mind and trotted Penn briefly because he felt mostly sound at the walk and I wanted to see how the trot went. I knew walking into this appointment that he was still lame. Doing better, but lame. I expected 4-6 weeks of additional walking.

First thing they did was take his temp (they're now monitoring all horses, taking their temp before they set foot in the barn), and do a general body evaluation. She noted that he kept his muscular conditioning beautifully, and I mentioned that I'd been making the most of our tack walking by really encouraging self carriage and lightness of the forehand ("It can only help take weight off the front end right?"). I was worried that actually working him at the walk would be bad, but she approved wholeheartedly about it and didn't tell me to stop what I was doing. She liked how his shoes were- they have great breakover and the toe is short enough. She'd like the shoes set back even more for more heel support though. The RF medial branch is wonderfully wide to support the inside tendon as it heals.

The first test she did was watch him walk and trot on the straight line, where the RF lameness was still there, but only a 1/5! We went down to their covered hard surface round pen, and he trotted again. He was <1/5 unsound on the RF when tracking left, and 1.5-2/5 RF when tracking right.

Back up to the barn we went and did some flexions: The hind flexions didn't bring up anything worth noting, but they did flex positive. Dr Cricket wasn't concerned about them because he didn't trot lame in the other tests; in fact, his hind end was more sound than it was 10 weeks ago (and we had resolved his previous hind end lameness by blocking the front legs). The front flexions were interesting though. Flexing the lower RF made him more lame on the RF (as expected), and flexing the lower LF made him more lame on the RF (what?). She didn't explain why that would be, but happily noted his LF lameness from the previous visit had gotten better.

Look! It's my pretty garden! I'll use it to break up some text.

The next thing she wanted to do was nerve block directly below the strained tendon on the RF. He hadn't gotten that much sounder on the RF in 10 weeks, so she wanted to know if it was hoof or tendon injury that was bothering him.

Nerve block done, off we went for the straight line and circle trots.

Fuckity fuck fuck.

He was 90% sound.

So the problem isn't mostly the tendon, there's a problem in the hoof. Off for x-rays. I asked her to do some shots of the LF too, because we had discussed him possibly having sidebone and I wanted to know. We opted to leave his shoes on since his foot shape is quite wide, and it's a 5 hour drive home. They thought they'd be able to get the angled shots through the shoe (I'm not sharing those because I don't really know what they show), and if they couldn't get what they needed to see, they were going to pull his shoes and I would call GP Trainer and ask for her farrier's number to put them back on.

Well his feet are a bit of a mess internally, and I doubt any of it is new. From what I can glean from his PPE x-rays, now that I know exactly what I'm looking for, I can see traces of all of it. His PPE x-rays are so blurry and low res that it's really difficult to see... so I can see why some of it was missed, but I'm kicking myself now. I would have sent Penn back to his breeder if I got the below news 3 years ago. Sorry buddy. I love him, and I don't really regret buying him, but I would have done the extremely hard thing of sending him back.

Red cicles: remodeling of the coffin bone, worse on the LF, which also has remodeling on the P2.
Red lines: Neutral palmer angle (I may have drawn the line wrong, sorry), aka flat footed.
Yellow arrows: The horns of the coffin bone. They should sit next to each other on this view, not be offset.
Lower red circles: mismatch/crookedness of the joint- the outside of both legs have less space than the inside.
Upper red circle on LF: Sidebone
Vertical lines: The coffin is shorter than it should be from this view (flat footed).
Horizontal lines: The coffin is also crooked. The RF is worse. There is more sole on the outside edge of each hoof in addition to the leg itself being crooked.

Of course by this point, it's all red alarms going off in my head ("My horse is so crooked he's never going to stay sound while in work."). I knew his legs were turned when I bought him, but the twists keep going all the way to the ground internally. The idea I got from his PPE was he would just have some flail in his front legs when moving. Not that I need to be actively getting x-rays taken to ensure we're shoeing him correctly for his internal confirmation. The vets had a very difficult time getting x-rays straight on enough to make an evaluation. Dr Cricket did say something about his navicular bones, but honestly I can't remember what because it was low on her list of issues to deal with, and sounded like it should get better as we correct all the other things.

Any sadness I feel is really being offset by the anger I feel towards his PPE. I can see the sidebone in the PPE x-rays, albeit faintly, but it's there (but it is NBD for now). This level of crooked isn't new. That tilted coffin? Yea, I can see it because in the one side shot, they angled the machine in such a way that the coffin looked straight... and the shoe he was wearing curves right off the bottom edge of the x-ray image and all you can see are the far side nails reaching up to the bottom of the shoe on the near side. I could have sent him back, or I could have prevented a lot of his issues by simply having him shod to the x-rays. He's heavy on the inside of each hoof, meaning without correction, he'll probably keep tearing the medial branch of the suspensory tendon. Don't forget the fetlock joint remodeling that Dr Cricket found in our June visit. That was one the PPE did find and called it nothing. I didn't know any better and I was still deep in Mikey's loss and didn't question it.

Speaking of buying him, we celebrated his 3rd Gotcha Day same day as his recheck. Oh the irony of his PPE being almost 3 years to the day as this recheck.
I got him a belated present, a name plate for his every day halter, just what every horse wants! Lol!

On the bright side, we can shoe to correct a lot of these issues, now that we know they're there. It'll take time, but it's doable. What we can't fix is the coffin remodeling (or fetlock, but that doesn't appear to be an issue as it is significantly less). That will only get worse as he ages and as he works. We decided to inject both of his coffins, even though the RF is the one that's hurting. The LF is actually worse off, so it's actually a good thing that he has more pain in the RF.

Bandaged after coffin injections, and receiving his shockwave treatment.

Another bright side, the ultrasound showed that the attachment of the medial branch of the suspensory is looking great. It is almost identical to the good lateral attachment, but the tendon itself isn't as 'dense' as the good tendon. All that means is he needs more healing time, and more shockwave if we can manage it (we will manage it). He got a shockwave treatment at VEI, and he'll get another 3 weeks later, then he has a recheck at VEI 4 weeks after that.

I finally remembered to ask about a prognosis. She kind of didn't answer the question, but she said we can keep injecting the coffin to keep him comfortable (we'll come back to this), and this is first and foremost a soft tissue injury, which takes a solid 6 months to fully heal. Cue the ridiculously long tack walking... we'll be 17 weeks of tack walking when he goes back for his next recheck. I know she is looking at this in the long view- sound to perform his job like he did before. She's hopeful he'll be healed enough to start trotting after his next recheck. That's about all she was willing to commit to.

I get the feeling that he shouldn't have a problem returning to full work in time- maybe by the first quarter of 2019. I can appreciate that she's looking at this for long term soundness with a low reinjury risk and is taking an ultra conservative approach. Either way, Penn won't be leaving me, ever. I won't sell him or give him away, not knowing what I do now (not that I was planning on it, but things happen). If he can return to 3rd level, but not progress further, I'll work on completing my bronze bar. If he can't do 3rd... we'll see what he can do and I'll work on what part of my bronze bar I can. Then depending on his level of comfort, find a nice AA lady who wants to lease a lower level horse with a ton of experience.

I have a long term tranq on order. He's been generally good, but he's starting to get a little feisty when he's not being ridden. Can't wait for it to get here! I'll stop worrying about him doing stupid things. In the last 2 weeks he's ripped a flysheet, cut his hind leg, and rubbed holes in both hocks. No one ever sees him do more than mosey around and eat hay. If they saw more, they'd catch him and bring him in!

For now, he's having every whim catered to. Including breakfast outside because he simply could not tolerate being in his stall a moment longer, even though he had to be carefully bubble wrapped after his coffin injections.

This is where I'm reaching out the blogosphere think tank:

I am NOT keen to inject his coffins every 6 months to a year for the foreseeable future. He's only 9, if we're only looking at yearly injections, we could do that 10 times before he's 20. I don't think that's a viable plan. He'd need a step down in workload at that point, not injections. Note we're not looking to willy nilly inject him yearly on a set schedule- it'll be when he cues that he's hurting again. 6 months is as frequent as is "safe" but more than a year seems overly hopeful. I've been a bit lax on his Adequan this year (he hasn't had a dose in about a year), but he's going to go back on the single dose every 4 days for 7 doses, every six months. Home vet and I talked about doing Prostride coffin injections instead of a steroid. VEI said we can do steroids until that doesn't manage it, then step up to something I don't remember, then step up again to PRP/APS injections. I've had him on Doc's OCD since he came home from VEI the first time, since it should address bone problems. We will be doing yearly hoof x-rays to keep track of the remodeling.

I'm looking for things (preferably USEF show legal, but usable with withdrawal periods is fine too) that we can do to make his coffin injections last longer. Holistic is fine, a different option than Adequan is worth looking into (I'm not sure how effective it was for him), and cost can be moderate. Barefoot is not an option. He has a vet prescribed plan in place that I intend to keep to. Other than that, I am open to suggestions.

One suggestion I've already looked into is CBD oil (it'll be fed powdered or pelleted), which has gotten a warm response from two of the vets I've talked to that are involved in his care. I'm just having trouble getting a hold of solid information about its use in equine care. I find a lot of "Are you ready to be pain free?" in bold letters on information pages that say a lot without actually saying anything. It needs to be pure and THC free (meaning non-hallucinogenic), and that's about all I've got.

Let the opinions roll!

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Penn Update!

So what's Penn been up to?

Well, he's been walking. And walking some more. And then walking. In between walking, he lives in his stall or the dry lot.

The frustration levels have sometimes been high for both of us.
Sorry bud!

It was rough to start; I started picking at the walk because that's all I could do. Be on the bit, don't lean on my hand, repeat endlessly. I figured if I could get him off the forehand, all the better for his front right leg. I quickly found myself constantly fiddling with the reins. I popped on draw reins so I could encourage him to be off my hand with my leg and he wouldn't be able to lift himself off the bit too much and stare around. So much doh.

Eventually it dawned on me that I was riding him poorly. I wasn't putting my leg on, I wasn't sitting up, I wasn't using my core. I wasn't riding him like GP Trainer wanted me to- from leg and core. I was treating him like a fragile horse when in reality, the tendon hasn't separated that much and hell, he's allowed quiet flat turnout and up to 25 min of tack walking 5 days a week, and he doesn't need to have standing wraps on 24/7. He can certainly work on holding himself up properly!

He has been super happy and chill in his tiny private turnout!
He also will not eat the grass in there, he will only eat the hay that's put out for him.
And he will only eat it up by the gate where it is in this picture. I tried putting it down the fenceline, closer to the grass, to help not beat up the same spot on the ground. Nope. He ate like 3 bites then walked all over it and wasted it. Facepalm.

So first, I bought him a Nathe bit. I'd been wanting to play around with one for a while, so why not now? (for the record, I need to pop his Korsteel oval loose ring back on and see if there's a difference) He does seem to really like it (he takes it very easily btw, not that he was bad before, this is just better), but I'm not thrilled with it's durability.

It looks sharp though with his ombre browband and silver noseband piping.

He chewed through the plastic down to the steel cable core in a single 20 min ride 4 weeks after I put it on his bridle. Smartpak was great and gave me the benefit of the doubt (apparently that's a COMMON occurrence for Nathe bits) since I only had the bit for 4 weeks, and they sent me a replacement. If it happens again, I'm going to try the Herm Sprenger Duo, which is apparently slightly less flexible but more durable.

Umm, that's a chew mark down to the core. He figured out he can suck on it, which pulls it up into where his teeth are, then he chews it. I was not happy- the bit ad explicitly states it encourages chewing, so shouldn't it hold up to chewing?

Next, I rode him properly. The same way I tell all the ladies who are learning their dressage basics: have a steady following contact on both reins in the walk, with elbows in and at your side but not rigid, and inside leg on as the swing of the horse's barrel goes out. Catch the motion with your outside elbow, and voila, like magic, the horses are generally seeking the bit and trying to lift their shoulders. I hadn't been practicing what I preached. If all those ladies can stomach the fight on their OTTBs/QHs at training level, I should be able to work it out on my 3rd level horse! It was hard, but I did it. So far it's been 8.5 weeks of working on the connection in the walk, but we did it. I also made sure I did it without gloves (so the rubber lining of the rein bites my hand when there's too much weight) and without spurs (make sure I create the impulsion correctly, without resorting to simply spurring him on).

Basically, I spent a lot of the last 8 weeks remembering how to properly follow the walk, and how to properly put a horse on the bit without constantly nagging them. I even got a couple rides in on a reluctant OTTB who led a rough life as a lesson horse, and is relearning all his dressage basics. He is deeply offended by the leg (nagging children riding him), and would rather be hit with the whip (sad face). His owner has trouble motivating him to move any faster than a snail, so it was quite educational for me in following the walk/trot/canter properly and timing the aids correctly to create happy impulsion, which led to prompter transitions, and a less offended horse.

I've also been biking A TON. I've logged quite a few 16-20 mile rides on days I don't ride.
I almost fell on my ass a bunch of times getting this picture, lol!
I also bought the Finntack ice boot that's been plaguing me with ads on FB and IG. I figured I religiously iced Mikey's old bowed tendon after jumping, and his hock for months after exercise after his surgery, so logically I should ice this too.
Overall, I'm super happy with it. It's very flexible and stays cold for a long time. The downside? They come in SINGLES. As in, not a pair. It was $40 FOR A SINGLE BOOT (I got mine from ebay, I didn't price shop properly!). Though, I'm happy enough with it that if I still evented, I would probably buy a second one. (Though let it be noted, if you don't want fun colors, Big Dee's sells them as a pair in black)

We also had a small back scare- he grew a palm sized oval of white hair. I called the saddle fitter, sent her a picture, and scheduled her to come back as soon as possible to make sure my saddle wasn't bothering him. The saddle still fit, but she and her office manager discussed what could cause that kind of mark. Since he was so dropped on the right side earlier int he summer (May to mid-June, before he got his new shoes and his right side lifted back up), the saddle probably pulled on the left side every time I rode him, creating that white mark. We decided to try an experiment with their Concept saddle pad. They did pressure testing on it during the R&D phase of its creation, and it showed a large reduction in pressure when compared to a regular saddle pad. Sure enough, 2 weeks after starting to use that pad, his white spot is almost completely gone.

7/5/2018 on top, 8/3/2018 below. Only difference was a saddle pad change on 7/20/2018.
I despise the shape of this pad. I could live with the flank cut out, but the forward sweep of the front makes my skin crawl. But alas, pony likes it. He's gotten a lot less bitey when saddling since I've been using it.

When the fitter was out, she noted that he has gained a huge amount of neck and whither muscle, enough that if he keeps going, we'll need to change his tree. Great. New saddle at the end of March, horse went lame for spring, we rehabbed for most of summer, and she's been out twice to check things. She'll be out again before the year is out, I'm sure! But we both seem to still love the saddle, yay!

That neck topline muscle is really coming along!

So how about some news about where Penn is at soundness-wise?

It took a long time for him to start feeling sound again at the walk. When we did the second round of new shoes, Farrier made the bar on the medial side of the right front even wider and we saw an immediate increase in soundness at the walk. That was about 6 weeks into the walk rehab. He had his 3rd, and hopefully final, shockwave treatment that week too.

I had Husband out this past weekend, so he grabbed a little video for me.

Video #1- Penn shows the most unevenness when he walks away from the block. He's always been that way- shuffling around until he gets going. This unevenness he shows in this video is far less than anything he's shown recently.

I don't know what happened to the video quality from this video and the next. It was super humid, so maybe that's it... or maybe there was something on the lens. Who knows, but I apologize for the low quality!

Video #2- After about 10-15 min, he's generally working well. He was a bit fussy the day I had video taken, his forelock kept getting in his ears and he hates that! I also realized how much my outside leg hasn't been doing anything... I'm losing the hind end!

Video #3- Since we were 8 weeks into the rehab, and Penn spooked at nothing and ran off with me the day before, I figured a short controlled trot around the outdoor wouldn't hurt him. Plus I was DYING of curiosity to see where he was soundness-wise at the trot. He's very heavy in my hand in this video, but I wanted to see where he naturally went in the trot, and I didn't want to interfere with his gaits. The dude gets a break anyway, he hasn't trotted in 8 weeks. I was really happy with what I saw- he's much more comfortable with his front end in general, he's still lifting the shoulder even if he's laying hard on my hands and falling down (if that even makes sense? he's not as down in the front as he would have been a few months ago if I left him to trot on his own). He is of course still lame, and it really shows tracking right on the curved line.

He goes back to VEI on Aug 16 for his recheck, and we'll discuss injecting things at that point too. I have a feeling we're going to get another 4-6 weeks of walking though. This tendon seems especially slow to heal, and it needs to be done right. No more trotting!

Obligatory, cherry picked screen grab! I need to remember to sit up!

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Activities for Humans in Equine Rehab: Raised Garden Beds (picture heavy)

If you follow me on Instagram, you already know about this.

The current (8/1/2018) state of the garden.
The spaghetti squash has staged an escape attempt.
Unfortunately, the roses have suffered slightly as I learn about caring for them.

Way back in the start of June, I got a bright idea that I wanted to garden and grow some of my favorite vegetables and plants. Because why not? I barely had time to do everything else I needed/wanted to do, so let's add one more thing. Penn had just been declared to have a tendon injury, I found some free time, and bam, a project was born.

This started out as such a simple project, "I want raised garden beds because I hate kneeling on the ground, and I want them protected from wildlife." Oh boy, this project got a lot more complicated! And I love the final product.

Husband pitched in and helped me build it: aka, I was the support system and he drove the project.

Anyway, without further ado, here's a picture-driven story of building the garden beds!

I helped Husband cut the boards apart, then he did majority of the assembling under a work light in the dark.
Assembled and placed!
Walkway sod has been removed and the beds are ready for dirt.
6/16/2018 - Dirt! Well, half mushroom manure and half topsoil.
2 scoops of each, delivered on Saturday in the morning.
Thank goodness Husband has a Gravely mower/tractor and a cart!
And ramps for the car! This would have been much more difficult without those.
A fun little gif of dirt going in! 4 and a half loads for each bed, then we added even more to each after wetting the soil down. The soil settled quite a bit, we'll have to add a lot more next year.
All full!
Garden cloth down to prevent weeds from coming up through the rock path.
Not enough rocks.
Leftover dirt. We used it to fill ruts in the yard that the truck left over the winter, then planted grass seed.
6/18/2018 - The garden has a door and basic framing for the fence!
Plants purchased!
Yellow Straightneck Squash
Cherry Tomato
Bush Bean
Sunflower Seeds
Spaghetti Squash Seeds
Kaleidoscope Carrots (purchased later)
Radishes (purchased later)
Sunflower seeds planted in neat rows.
4 all yellow Mammoth Sunflower (9-12' tall)
4 Evening Sun Sunflowers (4-5' tall)
4 Mixed Color Sunflower (7-9' tall)
4 yellow and brown Mammoth Sunflower (9-12' tall)
6/18/2018 - I was desperate to get my plants in and growing since I was already a month behind... so everything was planted in the dark at almost 10pm, haha.
Hey look, my calla lilies were doing great and blooming!
6/25/2018 - It took just 7 days for my sunflowers to come up! 13 of the 16 seeds I planted germinated, including 7 out 8 Mammoth Sunflowers. Off to the left, there's one plant not in a row... I wasn't sure if I messed up planting or if that was a weed, so I let it be. It was a weed, lol.
I planted two spaghetti squash just in case one didn't come up. I was SUPPOSED to pull one out... I didn't. I will next time!
Carrot seedlings!
7/1/2018 - Progress on the fencing slowed down as I changed my mind about what kind of fence to use. Originally we purchased large 2"x4" 5' tall fence, but I really loved the 1/2" square hardware cloth that we got for the door. More expensive, but it created a much nicer final product! The mesh cloth ended up almost see through and encourages the eye to look past it.
7/6/2018 - The hardware cloth didn't come wide enough (5' would have been ideal), so we had to purchase 2' and 3' wide rolls, and sew them together with steel wire.
7/6/2018 - The 4th of July holiday long weekend was very productive! We used it to finish the fence and a lot of the final touches.
7/7/2018 - Putting up the outer trim pieces that hide a lot of the staples and the sharp edges of the hardware cloth.
Decorative flowers purchased too!
Oh, and this. As we spent time outside in the yard over 4th of July, we realized we had a Japanese Beetle infestation. The beetles were eating my rose bushes and several of my new vegetable plants, so we got this nifty beetle trap. This was barely 2 days worth of beetles... when we finally threw that bag out, it had about 7 inches of beetles in it.
7/8/2018 - Husband dug up the sod around the beds, and I put garden cloth down.
7/8/2018 - Sod dug, cloth down, roses planted. Ready for mulch!
Another view of ready for mulch and rock!

And the final product!

Humming bird feeder, rain gauge, thermometer, horsey wind chimes, and a cute garden kitty!
The very first produce from the garden!

We found wonderful solar powered motion lights so it's easy for me to water when I come home from the barn after dark.
I just want to put a chair in there and sit in it!

 I know this has gotten rather long, and extremely picture heavy, but here's some more pictures!

Eye high by the end of July?
The spaghetti squash continues to be rebellious and has started growing a squash 5' in the air.
The yellow squash is doing well and producing lots of squash, the carrots are still growing, and I planted another row of carrots in the empty space... they haven't grown yet.
The zucchini was trimmed back a little, yet there's still a lot of it. The spaghetti squash is making a run for it. The beans are just trying not to be covered by zucchini!
The wiggly pink flamingo has been overtaken by radishes.

We've had a bunch of yellow squash, zucchini, and string beans from the garden so far. It's been so much fun growing and picking my own vegetables. Sure, it would have been cheaper to just buy them, but this is so fun! I'm also really happy with how pretty the garden ended up. I was worried about it being in the front yard, and the neighbors being unhappy with this huge thing in the yard. I shouldn't have been worried, the neighbors think it looks great.

As we built the frame for the fence, we also hatched a plan to make it a greenhouse in the winter. We'll have to add a peaked roof over it (because it snows here), and a way to vent it, but it should stay fairly warm wrapped up in plastic. The mushroom manure will heat as it decomposes, and the garden will get sun for majority of the day.

Hey, we were happy when we started the project, and were still happy at the end of it!
We were trying to recreate the painting, American Gothic, but in selfie mode and with shovels, haha.

And no worries everyone, we'll get back to Penn soon!