Sunday, September 30, 2012

Neverending Problems

In addition to Pangea's neverending hoof issues, hock arthritis, old stifle trauma, probable sidebone and ringbone, and skin issues, we can now add one more problem to the list: the possible onset of shivers.

 If you are unfamiliar with shivers, there is a good writeup here on what it is exactly, but in short shivers is basically a neuromuscular condition that is characterized by trembling of the tail while held erect, trembling of the thigh muscles and a flexed and trembling hind limb. It can happen to one or both legs (usually both), and the degree to which the tail is involved (and legs, actually) varies from horse to horse, and from day to day. It shows up most often when picking up the hind legs, turning in tight circles, or backing - the horse may appear to get "stuck" with one hind leg jerked very high and trembling. The onset is usually gradual, and most often is progressive. The cause of the disease is unknown, and there is no treatment. Some horses get along with it just fine for years and years, some deteriorate to the point of euthanasia rapidly. Nobody can predict what is going to happen in the individual.

 In P's case, as in many early-onset cases, she has been gradually having a harder and harder time picking up her hind legs for me. Trimming her hind feet used to be easy - she was dramatic at first about picking them up, but would relax into it quickly and I could trim away. I thought that was just her particular flair. Now, she is finding it increasingly difficult to pick her hind legs up, equally on both sides, and jerks them as high as she can into the air whenever I touch them to pick them up - if she can pick them up at all. Sometimes, she'll completely lose her balance and have to snatch the foot back to keep from falling. She also has started to have an increasingly hard time backing up. Somedays, she can't do it at all. Other days, like today, she showed no symptoms or problems when in reverse. She also occasionally lifts a hind leg high into the air and holds it there... I had thought it was a sign of discomfort in her hind end from being creaky and stiff. Now, I'm pretty sure she really is showing the early signs for shivers.

It came to a head yesterday when I went to medicate the scratches on one of her hind legs. I had thought at first that she was being dramatic about her treatment - always jerking her legs up high whenever I'd clean them and apply ointment - but now that they are almost gone, I would expect her reaction to be far less. Yesterday, she caught me completely by surprise with how fast and how high she jerked her leg upwards and outward, and I just didn't get out of her way fast enough. She caught me directly in the cheekbone and eye with her hoof, and HARD. If you'd never been struck directly in the face with a hoof, there is no possible way to describe that sort of pain... and I didn't even get seriously hurt!

 Once the room stopped spinning and I could open my eye again, the gears in my head started spinning. She didn't kick me in the face on purpose.... so what the heck happened? I started thinking back to all the times she has been dramatic recently with her hind end, and at some point it hit me that she is showing all the classic early signs for shivers. Great... add that to her laundry list of problems!

 I am pretty sick today, due to the fact that I've been doing an awful lot of standing around in the cold rain, but I managed to get a very poor-quality video of some of her symptoms today. She wasn't showing much at all today - I think that she is much more relaxed in her body the day after she goes to the AquaTread, so it makes sense that she would be loser in her hind end today. Most of what you can see is on her right hind, where you'll notice her lose her balance and have to grab the leg back from me to keep from falling. Note that I am NOT holding that leg up there - I am merely asking for the hind leg and touching it while she holds it up that high herself. She didn't show many symptoms on the left hind, but she usually shows them equally. She backed with no issues today - backing often causes her to get stuck and frustrated - but you can see some dramatic steps when she turns in tight circles. She is crossing over properly for the most part on the tight circles (inability to cross hind legs while turning tightly can be indicative of other neuro problems, so thankfully she passes that test with no issues!). Her symptoms were very, very mild today, but you can get a vague idea of what is going on.


I'm going to schedule a vet appointment for next week to see if I can get a better idea of what is going on. She is already on a very low-carb low-sugar diet with lots of added fat, which can be helpful for these kinds of cases, but I am also looking in to adding Vitamin E to her diet, something which anecdotally is said to usually help shivers horses. It's just one thing after another, isn't it?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Real World, and RENEGADES!

Is YOUR horse this awesome when the farrier comes around? Mine stands immobile without so much as a halter on, and will pose for pictures on the stand like some sort of extremely tall Misty of Chincoteague. She'll stay that way for an entire trim, fronts and hinds.

Mom. Why you do this.
Now, onto something completely different. When I first started writing the Eventing-A-Gogo blog almost four years ago, I had just moved to a magical situation which revolved around Gogo 24 hours a day. I breathed, ate, slept, worked, and functioned solely for Gogo and what we were working for, and had nothing to distract me from my drive. We even lived together, only a doorway and a short walk down an aisle apart. I woke up every day with a center to spin around: her, and her only. Part of my compensatory package included lessons, so I usually rode her during the day, and even on the days that I didn't have lessons, I was allowed to ride at some point during the day most of the time. The entire barn rooted for us at shows, and were all collectively involved in the process, even chipping in for clinics and travel money. Gogo was my primary focus, and everything revolved around her. With Pangea, things are different. I am in a completely different situation now, and it isn't easy. Working two jobs, going to school full time, having a Future Hubs who I only get to see for a few hours after work every day (we don't share a day off, so any time we have together is small and precious), and boarding her at a small facility without a lighted arena makes it very hard to ride on the days when I leave my house before the sun comes up and come home long after the sun has gone down. It isn't exactly possible to ride in complete darkness... even our barn doesn't have lights! This is how I made grains last night:


Patron saves the day, as usual. I HAVE considered turning my headlights on the arena and riding in their light.... but somehow it doesn't seem like that would end well. What I am really waiting for is a spot to open up at WD, a nearby private eventing facility with an enormous full XC course, several arenas (including two properly sized dressage arena, one standard and one short court, a stadium arena with a full set of jumps, and a 300'x150' covered arena with lights and synthetic footing), and a galloping lane with mile markers. It is only two miles away from where P lives now, and I am next on the waiting list for monthly access. All I have to do when my spot opens up is pay a monthly fee, and then I have access to the gated facility whenever I want, as many times a week as I want. The lighted arena will DEFINITELY come in handy as winter closes in on us. I LOVE the barn I am at now, by the way. It is tiny - just the owner's horses and my horse - but it is peaceful, out of the way, and drama-free. Oh, and cheap. Did I mention cheap? Did I mention I can do whatever, whenever I want? Feed whatever I want, however I want? Love it. AND it is only two miles from WD. AND only three miles from my house.
 Along with the vanishing daylight hours, north Texas seems to be finally cooling down a bit. The horses are all starting to grow their winter coats already (!!!), but temps are still in the 80's and 90's.... which makes for some toasty ponies. P's horrible bleached coat is finally shedding out, but she is still sweating every day, leaving me to find this on her pretty much every single afternoon:


Well, we can't have that if we want to ever grow in a decent coat... she'll bleach her winter coat out too! I figured out that a large part of the problem revolves around the bugs - she spends so much of her day stomping, swishing, and walking around in order to try and shake them off of her that she lathers up first thing in the morning and stays sweaty all day. The weather has cooled down enough that I felt it was time to try and break this magical thing out again:


Obviously, from the look on her face, she was not amused. She hates clothes... HATES them! However, she seems to hate the bugs an awful lot more than the clothes, so we seem to have reached an agreement to wear them without completely shredding them. Nothing I've put on her has lasted more than a week, so the fact that this actually has lasted almost TWO now with only a few tears is nothing short of magical. The flymask is also still half-alive:


But I did have to cut the ears off of it, seeing as they were completely in tatters. The rest of the mask is starting to look pretty poor now, but it is still hanging on for the most part. I quite imagine it won't be long before it receives a ceremonial burial in the garbage bin though... no mask can stand up to her wrath for long.  
In terms of her soundness, her hind end looks amazing as of late - I've never seen or felt her move so freely behind right from the get-go of every ride and workout. It is now her front end that we have to worry about, and with all the wet-dry cycles we've had as of late, her front feet are suffering. She was casted for a little while, but the material was a different brand from my usual preferred and it didn't take long for them to fail. When the casts came off, she was still very footsore. It has taken me a very, very long time to figure out WHY exactly she cannot seem to grow any sort of solar depth at the toe, but it finally dawned on me a few weeks ago, and I've been stumped as to trying to figure out an answer to it. Have you ever noticed the way she always stands? I'll give you a montage and see if you can pick it up before I give it away:


Despite tons of bodywork, chiro adjustments, aqua therapy, a well-balanced and low NSC diet, and good trims... she is just plain camped under in the front. It's not uncommon in horses with short, upright pasterns like she has... but I was kind of hoping that it would go away with regular workups. It appears that isn't going to be the case, and if you look at the collage you will spot a picture with a date on it from an old sale ad of hers from 2005. Yep, I guess she's just camped under and always has been... and there you are. The problem with this? A horse constantly standing with her weight distributed unevenly over the front of her foot will be constantly applying unnatural pressures to that area. It is hard to grow a nice, thick sole underneath an area that is constantly being crushed. I don't have any recent radiographs of her front feet, but given the state of things visually I would expect to see quite a lot of bony changes going on here - ringbone, sidebone, and possible remodeling of the coffin bone (but let's hope not). Radiographs would also, obviously, show extremely thin sole at the toe, and more than adequate sole at the heel. Just like with Gogo's club foot, if you put weight on your toe and unweight your heel... your heel is going to grow like crazy! Her feet have come SO far in the seven months that I have had her, and the new hoof hasn't yet hit the ground, so there is still some hope left that she might grow a thicker sole once we reach that point. I'm not holding out for any miracles at this point though... standing like this for 16 years will do plenty of damage. It explains why she is so willing to land heel-first for the most part, and can still be so ouchy on hard ground at the toe but doesn't take that typical ouchy-toe stance like you would see in a founder case. You would expect that a horse that is sore at the toe would not want to stand on her toes ALL the time, but she does. She's just built that way, unfortunately, and it creates a perpetual cycle of soreness every time the ground softens up and hardens quickly again after a good rain. Postural issues have a disturbing effect on the body's wellness and soundness, and as much as I'd like to think that so many of these things can be resolved through bodywork, some of them just can't, especially not after 16 years and body remodeling because of it. This rehab is obviously going to continue to be exceedingly tricky. Casting has worked exceptionally well in the past for her during these times of wet-try, but it has come to the point where I decided to just bite the bullet and get some boots for her. Despite my obvious barefoot loyalties, I really just don't like boots very much. They are bulky, they change breakover, they add weight to the foot and change the horse's stride length, they twist, they fall off, they break, they rotate. They are a right pain in the fanny. Despite all of that, I still want something that doesn't have to be worn 24/7, something that can be modified and changed should I want to alter something. Thus, enter the Renegades:


I took a chance with these seeing as P doesn't *quite* have the perfect hoof shape for them. They favor a completely picture-perfect hoof, and she obviously doesn't have that yet. I sized up a bit in order to accommodate for a pad, and made some modifications:


And here's the semi-finished product - it needed some more fine-tuning at this point, but you get the general idea:


After that, it was time for a test-drive! First clip is of her mincing over our somewhat hard and crunchy arena (it gets that way after the wet-dry cycle runs through), second clip is of the Renegades. Night and day.


They need more fine-tuning - the first test-drive was yesterday during a dressage school, and they both spun.  Today I got some thinner pads - perhaps the Comfort Pads were too thick - and will try that tomorrow. I might also use a little Vetwrap ingenuity to see if I can create a better bond... we'll see.

On an unrelated note, I had the amazing experience of being able to see my favorite band live in concert last week, and it was heaven and a half. If you ever get to go see these guys, do it. You won't regret it. Most amazing show of my life. 

Tomorrow, P swims and goes out on a small conditioning ride with the Renegades (to see how they'll stay with the new modifications), and then we road with the hounds on Saturday. We just found out that the opening meet is on Thanksgiving weekend, which isn't all that far away... time to get down to business!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


Reposted from the Eventing-A-Gogo blog from last year: 9/11, a Tribute

Never forget.

In exactly one month, Gogo will have been gone for an entire year.

Monday, September 3, 2012


I think I have truly been underestimating my horse.

When I got Pangea, I assumed she'd be up to some light work, some easy trails and low-level dressage, and maybe hunting if she could stay sound enough for it. She's had it very easy all summer thanks to her difficulty acclimating to our extreme heat (and I can't blame her there!), and I haven't really felt as though I've been able to put a real base of fitness on her. She has literally just not worked enough. Now that September is here, praise mighty Mother Nature and her changing ways, we are experiencing a bit of a break from the heat. Or well, we WERE... it is supposed to be 102 today. Barf!

Anyway, now that the weather is hopefully not going to be murderously hot anymore, I've been starting to put a light leg back up on Pangea. I wasn't holding out for much, to be honest - a bit of hunting was all I was really hoping for - but whatever hoodoo magic I've been trying to do for her comfort level seems to really have helped. She is currently casted with packing (which has done wonders for her through this latest wet-dry cycle), is partway through a course of Acetyl D, has had a few massages, and is getting Traumeel tabs daily, just to see what would happen. Something about this seems to be working - she is going into our rides completely sans slow-hitchy warmup, and has energy and power to spare. She usually starts out feeling a bit like a tin soldier, but not anymore. Something is working, and working well. With that big question mark squared away for now, I can start really focusing on fitness and training, and figure out exactly what my plans are with her.

On Saturday, I finally had the chance to go roading with the local hunt. In this part of the (extremely hot) country, we road in the summertime at the kennels, cub in the late fall, and hunt from November to April. It has been too hot thus far in the summer to take her out with them, so I waited until now to do it. Of course, it ended up being another 100 degree day... blarf. Will summer ever end?? Not to be daunted, I swam her on Friday, bathed her all up.... and then watched her melt into a giant, rolling, filthy sweatball as the heat of the day caught up to her. So much for that. I had to get up early early on Saturday to give her a second bathe because it was entierly pointless to try and keep her clean. She lives to be disgusting... it is her sole mission in life to get as sweaty, bleachy, and filthy as possible, every single day. Why I even bother to clean her at all is beyond me, it is pointless!

After her bath and cleaning early in the morning, we rolled out at around 8pm, arriving right at 8:30 at the kennel property. She unloaded fine, ate some hay, hung around, was completely unfazed by the hounds... but LOST IT when a second trailer pulled in to unload their horses. You'd think she had never seen horses before in her whole life, ever. She completely insane! (Turns out she's in heat.... so there you are!) Thankfully, the pawing and screaming fits quickly passed, and she settled back in to munching her hay. Once mounted, I hung around with the other riders in the shade until the first pack of hounds was brought out, then waited anxiously to see what her reaction to a group of running, bouncing, baying hounds would be.

And... it was nothing. She didn't care. At all.

The hounds know not to come up and stiff the horses, but the presence of a new horse was a bit much for some of them, and they had to check her out. She didn't care, and didn't so much as even swish her tail as they sniffed all around her heels. (They were of course given a quick reprimand and backed off, but it was good to see that things like that don't bother her one bit.) They popped out from the brush, they crashed around making noise, they cam running past several times, and still she didn't care. What a good girl!

The best part of the whole ride started between pack walks. While the group of girls was being put up and the group of boys was being rounded up, the riders all went up to the jump field and popped over a few fences. I hadn't jumped Pangea once in the seven months that I've owned her - not ONCE - so I hesitated a bit, not sure if I really wanted to join in. What if jumping made her sore, or what if she was completely nuts? I had no idea what she would do, or if she'd even be able to hold up to jumping at all. But she's been doing so well and feeling so good, and there was a crossrail right in the middle of the field calling my name, so I figured what the heck, let's give it a try.

First attempt, at the trot? Deer jumping bounceflail with me bouncing out of my irons in awkward confusion. Okay... let's try that again. Take two, at the canter... a beautiful, quiet, rhythmic jump. Sweet! A few more times produced the same. Double sweet! Back out in the woods, where there were a series of small, scary stone walls and other assorted jumps? Jumped them all, no hesitations. She did everything with enthusiasm and energy to spare. She was a MACHINE.

I've been missing out. And I've been underestimating her abilities. AND I've underestimated her soundness as well - on Sunday morning, we had a pretty hard dressage school, and she felt absolutely wonderful. She has no stiffness, soreness, or anything to note. If anything, she felt better than ever.

Holy moley. Do I possibly have a candidate for an event horse after all?

I think I haven't given this mare a chance to prove herself, simply because the memory of Gogo has been blocking any sort of forward progress towards showing again. What I want and crave in a show horse is Gogo, period. She was my perfect eventing counterpart... she had it all. She was flashy, stunning in the dressage, effortless in stadium, bold and catty on XC. She was quick and smart and surefooted, and despite her opinionated ways, when we were on fire we ALWAYS won. I loved that partnership, loved the connection we had. I was so proud of her, and I loved to show her off. She was - and still is - my perfect match, despite being gone. Her memory is still vibrant and alive and painful, and I can't take down the bar that I have set for myself and my standards. It has been impossible to consider anything other than her as the ultimate partner, and I have avoided anything that might challenge that idea.

I think this all boils down to the fact that no one will ever be Gogo, and that is hard to disassociate from, simply because I have put her on a perfect pedestal and unfairly compare everything to her. I've not even considered showing Pangea at all simply because I didn't think she was fancy or catty enough to win on a national level, like Gogo did. If I want to be honest with myself, if I am going to show at recognized shows, I want to win them. They are expensive and time consuming, and I don't want to do it unless I stand a good chance at winning. It makes me sound like a horrible snob, and maybe I am. But I'm not the kind of person who wants to buy a fancy made horse just to win ribbons, and I'm not the kind of person who is power hungry enough to do anything just to win. (Clearly I would have bought another fancy pants horse had I really wanted one!) I want a talented animal that I bring along myself from a humble beginning that becomes the perfect partner over time, one that I can mold and create and build up a relationship with as the years and levels go by. I guess it still basically boils down to the fact that I want Gogo. I want Gogo and nothing will ever compare to her perfection in my mind. I can't let it go.

But that doesn't mean I should automatically write Pangea off as a potential show horse. Sure, she's not flashy, but she is consistent in everything that she does - something that Gogo NEVER was. Why couldn't Pangea show locally? Why couldn't we give it a try? If she keeps surprising me like she has been, who knows? Maybe there is more to her abilities than I ever imagined, and I just have to take the time to really believe in her and cultivate that to its true potential. And I haven't. I have loved this mare and not really believed in her at the same time. Her only real flaw, when I peel away the layers, is that she is not Gogo. And what kind of a flaw is that? I could, by extension, say that Gogo's only flaw was that she was not Pangea. It is nonsensical, and I am ready to throw that logic in the trash.

It has felt very good to really sit down and think about all of this. Building a relationship with a new horse is a journey, especially when one has exceedingly painful equine baggage from the past. I'm still not right, even though it has been nearly a year since I lost Gogo. I don't ever think I will be right. But that doesn't mean I should let other opportunities pass me by, simply because they are not Gogo. And from this point on, I intend not to.

By the way, I had the cut the tattered ears from the new (meaning 2 week old) flymask, but it is still alive...