Wednesday, October 24, 2018


Hey lookie! Penn is sound! And feels better!

I got him new SMBs- professionals choice ventech elites in charcoal!

Just ignore basically everything else about the video, except his soundness. We're rusty and out of shape, and he wants to go way more forward than he's allowed to right now.

Monday, October 15, 2018


As GP Trainer commented on my Instagram post about this... "For the love of Pete, get it together horse!"

Last week PA finally decided it was time for fall/winter. And it decided that "OMG I'M LATE BETTER DO IT RIGHT NOW." And our temps went from 80s to 40s/50s overnight. Not kidding. Wednesday last week, the high was 81 at 2:10pm. It was still warm and super muggy when I rode Penn that evening. The high on Thursday was 71, and it happened at 2:53am. The morning was muggy and awful, and by afternoon it was windy, frigid and downright cold at around 55 degrees. Just under 30 degrees in 24 hours. That same night, severe thunderstorms came through the area, forcing Penn to stay in since he doesn't have shelter and sometimes the storms upset him. When I put him away Wednesday, he was ANGRY.

When I went to get him from the dry lot Thursday evening? He was sick.

"I don't feel good."

He was just standing out there, hanging his head, butt to the wind. He called to me when I approached the paddock, but then went right back to hanging his head. He called again when I got to the gate, then resumed hanging. I called for him, but he didn't even glance my way. I walked over to get him and he nickered a little but went back to hanging. I pulled off his fly mask and his eyes were just glazed and dead. I ran my hands over all of him while he was still in the field- nothing. No bug bites, no swelling, no hot spots.

I called the barn owner, hoping that he was being naughty at some point during the day and they aced him to keep him quiet... I didn't get a hold of someone right away, so I went to bring him in to take his temp. And he wouldn't move. I had to drag the poor horse back to the barn. He was puffing, looked exhausted, and was having muscle tremors standing in the barn. I left him in the aisle (hell it would be a good sign if he got up the energy to run away!), pulled out a thermometer and got to business- he had a fever of 102.2 and looked like absolute misery. I had a minor crying meltdown- this poor horse is having a terrible year and now he has a fever. And of course, in my head, he's dying.

Such a sad creature.
Note the untouched hay in the background.

After getting back some emotional control, I called the emergency vet line next. They connected me with the on call vet, who was out 30 min later. While we waited, I took him back to his stall and basically plopped him right on top of his water bucket. He was like "Oh water... that's icky. Oh wait, maybe I'm thirsty." He tried to lap it up like a dog, made icky faces, then settled in to take a good drink. He did that a couple times and by the time the vet showed up, he had drank about an inch and a half of a normal water bucket.

Looking sedated. Only he's not.
Poor guy. 😔

I took his temp again while the vet went over every inch of him- 102.8 a half hour ish after I took it the first time. His other vitals were good, but he had decreased gut sounds. We weren't too worried about colic, not with the fever, and the decreased gut sounds were logical since he hadn't eaten much since the night before. He didn't want his breakfast (normal) and was still angry in the morning from being in alone (normal). What wasn't normal was him not touching his hay in the dry lot. It was still as pristine as it was when they dropped it for him that morning.

Barn owner reviewed his turnout and stall hay for freshness, mold, and any possible weeds and found nothing amiss. We checked out his Alfalox (which I had given him A LOT of the night before), and it also smelled and looked just fine. I was concerned it had molded, since I open a bale of it and it takes a month or so to go through it all.

He had no swelling, no cellulitis, no bug bites, no digital pulse, no abscesses brewing... nothing. The vet settled on anaplasmosis because there just wasn't any outward evidence of injury. It's a tick borne disease that causes high fevers quickly. Penn had a similar diagnosis last winter, except his legs swelled badly. When I went through the basic list of illnesses, my brain crossed it off because he only had a fever and the symptoms of a fever. There didn't appear to be any fresh tick bites, but OK since tick diseases do funny things.

He got IV banamine first, and after about 10 minutes he perked up considerably. Enough that he went to his hay net and was like, "Ooo, nommies!"

Sorry, didn't realize this was blurry when I took it!

Next she drew a lot of blood- enough for a CBC, blood chemistry, anaplasmosis test, and some extra if things were wonky. She would run the CBC that night, if it came back with anything unexpected, she'd run the blood chemistry, and we'd hold the anaplasmosis test for if he wasn't getting better. It has to be shipped to Cornell, but we wouldn't have results for it on Friday or over the weekend, so we opted to hold it since I would spend about $150 on that. If he wasn't making enough progress, we'd send it and do other tests.

Finally, he got IV oxytetracycline. This needs to be followed up with 2 weeks of doxy, which he's currently still getting.

The last instruction was to take his temp AM and PM to make sure it didn't spike again.

I sat with him for a while Thursday evening to make sure he stayed interested in his hay. Barn Owner put her mobile security camera in his stall so she could watch him from her house during the night. When I left him about 3 hours after originally finding him, his temp was down to 101.8.

I got a text from the barn owner the next morning; he ate a lot of his hay, all of his dinner from the night before, and was interested in people again! He also pooped like normal, wahoo! Horse people are so funny about poop. He was a bit upset at having to stay in, but I was glad to hear about that very normal response. His temp was 101.4. Apparently that's in the "normal" range for horses... except he's usually 99.2-99.5, so that was still 2 degrees higher than normal for him.

The weekend carried on in an excercise of "OMG is he ok" "what is his temp" and "is he still eating".

This stall is not nearly walked enough.
He didn't feel better yet. 

So what exactly caused this episode of "Scare the Shit Out of Your Mother?" Weather maybe? Angry horse? Ticks? All of the above? I have no idea.

So as of this writing, Penn is back to normal. When I checked on him Sunday morning, he was back to his usual shenanigans. I stopped on my way to his paddock to talk to someone, but apparently I took too long. He had come up to the gate and was displeased, so he started pacing... then attacked a barn cat that was walking on the fence. He pranced up to it, then spun and double barrel kicked at it. Don't worry! The cat was never in any real danger.

I took him for a short ride since he was well enough for those shenanigans and he felt fantastic. Oh the perks of doxycycline! It seems to have taken care of his lingering hoof inflammation.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed that he stays on the up. Come on Penn, haven't you ever heard that it's ok to be boring sometimes?

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Better News?

I was extremely anxious coming up to Penn's next vet check... hence you got the sad and sappy "Still Here" post. I'm trying not to get my hopes up about him healing properly and completely, so I have a ton of back up plans in my head for him. "If he's completely fine or can at least do ABC, he'll stay with me for a while yet. If he can't, but can do DEF, there's plan B. If he's not even able to do XYZ, there's plan C..." Yadda yadda yadda.

This snoot is mine though! Never for sale or given away.

Penn was reset Wednesday last week (2 days before we went to the vet), and I noticed his LF fetlock had a big bump right smack on the outside as I was waiting for the farrier to get his special shoes forged and hammered. WTF horse? Of course I didn't get a picture of it.

Farrier also tried out a new shoe that's a bit bigger and will allow the heels to be set back even further, which the vet wanted when I emailed her pics of his last reset. The shoe also doesn't have a flat surface- the entire bottom that touches the ground is beveled. That is, except where the medial flange of the RF is still pounded wide for support. The new shoes also allowed that to be a bit wider.

Mega pad and shoe.

Friday morning, I pulled Penn out of his stall. The left front had blown up.

Ok, so maybe that's not "blown up", but on a leg that has been tight throughout all of this, it counts as blown up.

I sighed and thought, "At least he's going to the vet today." Wrapped him up in no bows and off we went!

We had a very uneventful drive this time: no K turns with the trailer in driveways due to closed roads, no new chips in the windshield.

Since I was a bit early, I decided to try pulling off his bell boots so the associate vets wouldn't have to... I managed to mangle my thumb in between the boot and his shoe and gave myself a nice blood blister. I decided to just let them pull them off... they're much more experienced with that kind of thing. Turns out they couldn't get them off either. I held his leg, they pulled and the shoes are simply too big for the bell boot to come off over them. Facepalm. I love these bell boots, they're tough and they're big enough to cover that massive set back shoe. I'll have to be smart about pulling them off when he has his shoes reset in show season, but for now, they can stay on.

The first thing Dr Cricket did was check out the LF. The swelling had subsided to practically nothing after being wrapped for 6 hours, and he didn't react to any palpation, so she didn't think there was much to worry about there. She figured he probably banged it on something and to keep an eye on it.

Penn was jogged on the straight line, on a circle on a hard surface, flexed and jogged on the straight line, then went back to jog on a circle on an arena surface.


"Hi, if you're going to just stand there and text on your phone, I need snuggles."

He's still lame.


He's sound on the arena surface.

The findings were as follows:
  • <1/5 on the LF on hard surfaces tracking left
  • 1/5 on the RF on hard surfaces tracking right
  • Sound both directions on arena surfaces
  • LF lower flexion unremarkable
  • RF lower flexion mild/moderate
  • LH upper flexion mild
  • RH upper flexion mild/moderate
So what does that mean?
  • He is doing much better than before- while it is mildly concerning the LF is showing lameness now, the RF has improved considerably so we're on the right track. He has bi-lateral lameness in the fronts (this article is excellent at defining it and symptoms). The RF used to be visible both directions, now it is only visible to the right.
  • He is serviceably sound.
  • He will probably need hock injections soon.
  • He needs more time and very slow reintroduction to work.
The only diagnostic left that Dr Cricket can do is an MRI. She didn't feel it was necessary at this point. She thought more time would give us a better indicator of what's to come for Penn. I'm going to talk to his insurance company to see how much of that they'll cover, so that it is an option when we go back in a few weeks.

So what's causing all this general lameness? Well the answer isn't great. She thinks the tendon has healed sufficiently on the right front, so it's no longer an issue. However, his general foot and leg conformation is working against him. He also wants to stand close up front and walk like a cat with one foot directly in front of the other. Basically, it's how he's put together. That's a super shitty answer, but one I can get behind. Normally a horse like this would have been weeded out in the PPE process and not gone on to the career he's had.

The left front leg is completely rotated out, while the right front turns a bit more from the knee down.
As crooked as his fronts look in this pic... they are straighter than they were. Trust me.
So what's next? Well, it's not all gloom and doom. He's allowed to start trotting again! We're going to start an ultra conservative trotting program:
  • Total walk time can increase from 20 min to 25 min. Walk for at least 10 minutes before trotting. All trot needs to be split equally between both directions, and have walk breaks in between trot sets.
  • Week 1: 2 minutes of trot.
  • Week 2: 5 minutes of trot.
  • Week 3: 7 minutes of trot, done in sets of no more than 2-2.5 minutes each.
  • Week 4: 10 minutes of trot, done in sets of 2-5 minutes each.
His next appointment will depend on when his insurance runs out- I have 90 days after his policy period end to make further claims. I need to find out the exact details on that, and how much more coverage I can expect, then I'll make a recheck appointment for a week before that date so that I can be sure an MRI won't break the bank if his soundness has gotten worse. He's still going to go back, but I'd like to have at least one more visit be in that 90 day coverage period.

I did ask about equioxx for him- Dr Cricket didn't think we were there yet. She thought there's still some improvement he can make without it. She generally prescribes it for horses that they can't seem to get that last bit of lameness handled. So that's in my head and on the back burner for later maybe.

Despite such a small amount of trot, it's very exciting! I trotted him Sunday, and he felt heavy on the right shoulder both directions (worse to the right) and I had trouble getting his balance shifted in the one minute trot sets. I had to settle for keeping him longitudinally balanced to keep him off his forehand.

I also wanted to note: I did try these CBD pellets for Penn's general well being. They were the only pelleted version I could find, period. I found a single powder too, but it was slightly more expensive and Penn hates powder. I wanted to make sure I could measure it out for the barn staff, and liquid just wouldn't cut it since it would have to be eyeballed or drops counted. The pellets have no detectable THC (obviously I have to take their word for it), which was important because Penn didn't need to be "high" and it had to be safe for me and the barn staff to handle in passing.

I found researching it extremely difficult because there's a lot of anecdotal evidence and not a whole lot of science (free the hemp plant! for science! because you know if it wasn't hemp, it would already have science). Most places said start with a low dose, give it time, and see if you achieved the results you wanted, then increase as needed.

Penn got one scoop in the morning and one scoop in the evening for 1 month (75mg per day) to start.

General Health: 75mg CBD twice daily has been effective for most average sized horses. Two scoops of pellets contains 75mg CBD. 
Chronic Pain: 100 to 200 mg/day
Anxiety: 50 to 80 mg/day

Pre-CBD Penn: I put up with a lot of his touchiness because he's mine and I love him lots. But by week 10 of our 17 weeks of walking, I wanted to kill him. He would stand in the cross ties and scream for me if I walked around the corner. He was excessively attached, looking for comfort ALL THE TIME when I was near him. He was standing very tall all the time too. He started nipping at horses as they walked past his stall, enough that he needed to have his stall bars closed entirely, no more hanging his head out. He had an excess of energy that was amplifying his needy personality and barn insecurities. I didn't have many riding issues with him, that's when he was on his best behavior. He got a little spooky as time went on, but nothing too far from normal. He was running every chance he got in his tiny turnout.

Post-CBD Penn: He had a day of diarrhea (still solid and turd shaped, but a hair looser than normal). Within a couple days he was back to his old mellow self. He could tolerate being in the cross ties. I could walk away and not worry about him freaking out. He was back to relaxing and taking naps. His eye was just softer. He slowly started to stall walk less, and then eat more since he wasn't spending half his day walking. He didn't scream the minute he heard my footsteps in the barn. He was the same steady guy to ride. He still moved around a bit more than he should have, but it wasn't as bad as before.

After that first month, I upped him to 75mg (two scoops) in the morning and 37.5mg (one scoop) in the evening, hoping to hit that chronic pain threshold. I don't have a verdict on that because a couple days into it, I pulled him off it entirely so it would absolutely be out of his system for his vet check (I allowed 5 days). He went back to stall walking almost immediately during those 5 days.

At a minimum, Penn will stay on it until he goes back to a normal routine. Maybe he'll stay on a low dose to keep his stall walking to a minimum. We'll just have to see!