A Blog in Decline?

It’s been obviously quiet around here recently, and for good reason.

My days for the last month have been overwhelmed with work- and while that in and of itself is not newsworthy, it’s recently reached a fervor that keeps any little blog ideas from spawning in my mind. I honestly didn’t realize how much my subconscious focused on the blog throughout the day until even the remote recesses of my brain got geared towards the day to day responsibilities of running a creative team.

This is your brain on stress and horses.

Secondly, there’s just not so much going on in the world of Jack. He’s bored, I’m bored, we’re bored. His second injection is today, but we’re basically operating on a no-news-is-good-news sort of mentality. It doesn’t make for the most riveting blog content.

Same, Blue, same.

And last but not least is that one awful truth for every animal owner- vet bills are expensive, yo. So I’m using every little bit of downtime I have after work to hustle. I’m doing some continuing education for my photography, have completed 2(3) model calls, and am trying to work the grind as much as possible to claw myself out from underneath those ever increasing credit card bills.

This is definitely not all to say that I’m taking a hiatus, or stopping the blog by any means. Simply put, I think I’ve got to trickle back the blog expectations over the next month to once a week. I’m bummed to say that, since the blog really is a source of joy for me, in my conversations with readers. But I’ll be back after I get back in the saddle and hope you all will be around when that happens.

THE PLAN

Hallelujah hallelujah, we have a plan!

Backtracking a little though- we did our joint-specific nerve blocks on Thursday, and they revealed that our issues are primarily in the coffin joint area. This is apparently better than having issues in the fetlock, since the fetlock can be a bit of a complicated joint to rehab. Though a little troublesome to get to, the coffin is slightly more straightforward.

Jack also got his pour-in pads, and based on lunging he already looked better before and after his new kicks.

So, the golden boy’s immediate future looks like:

Next 3-4 Weeks
We will be injecting IRAP into both coffins (the other for good measure) every 5-7 days. The first injection is today, and there will be at least 2 more injections. Jack will stay in his small rehab paddock during turnout to minimize concussion on his feet and allow the bone bruising to heal.

Month 2
We start tack walking! And then building up to W/T/C on very soft footing to limit concussion still. Jack will graduate to a larger paddock if all goes well. For his next shoeing, Jack will move into aluminum shoes, which being lighter should make any fetlock joint nonsense a bit happier. Since these shoes are also deeper he will get even thicker pour-in pads, which is very helpful as his feet are so flat/not concave.

After that
From there, we will see what happens. At this point I’m loathe to really truly make plans. But I’m hopeful.

 

A little more good news

This week’s MRI was a wealth of information and, albeit rather expensively obtained, it was well worth the 4-hour-each-way trek to learn more about what’s going on in that left fore.

It turns out that the collateral ligament isn’t actually of prime focus. The main observations, as described to me in laymen’s terms, are this:

  • Significant bone bruising on the medial side (which explains him being worse going right)
  • Arthritic changes in both coffin and fetlock joint

So, really, we are not looking at soft tissue as the primary cause of Jack’s lameness. There was some discussion around mild aggravation to the DDFT, but not enough to think that it was related to the overall lameness we are seeing. Which is good!

Tryon Equine Hospital (And standing MRI)

Our next steps are thus:

  • Do balance x-rays and pour-in pads for shoes (today)
  • Make plan for IRAP injections (blood draw today)
  • Do joint-specific blocks to determine how much coffin vs fetlock joint are causing lameness (today)
  • Keep Jack on stall/rehab-paddock rest to limit concussion on feet (in progress)
  • Take baseline x-rays of coffin/fetlock for future reference

Once we determine which joint is more at play in his lameness (or both, who knows), we can make a more exacting plan in regards to time off, and/or when to work our way back into work. Hopefully more on this tomorrow, if all goes well!

MRI update and a semblance of a plan

At the time of writing this, I only have limited details on Jack. Having received the findings report just minutes ago, I am still waiting to discuss with a human that can translate the “vet speak” into something a laymen like myself can understand.

A little bit of good news, though:

Jack did not have to get an additional MRI this morning. This is good- that means the original images taken were clear and he doesn’t get the stress of being re-sedated and entering the MRI box.

I have a horse to ride, this summer at least. A sweet (and flashy) draft cross that I can hopefully bring along and have fun with, and stay in the saddle for a few more months.

A plan to find Jack a more appropriate facility for rehabbing him has been discussed and approved with the barn manager.

I hope to have more news tomorrow as I translate the findings. Tomorrow or Thursday- stay tuned!

Jack’s Bowen Therapy Experience

The other night, I sought out a Bowen practitioner who was in the area to work on Jack. I had seen how it made visible changes in a friend’s horse (even during the session), and was advised that in his pre-MRI state that it was a good time to have Jack checked out.

For those unfamiliar with Bowen (as I was myself), here’s how Horse & Hound describes it:

Equine Bowen Therapy (EBT), a less well-known alternative therapy, is a light, soft tissue manipulative technique. Practitioners say it promotes healing and pain relief by:

  • addressing the whole nervous system
  • releasing muscle spasm
  • relieving congested kidneys
  • stimulating the lymphatic system.

Does this belt make me look fat?

How it works

 

  • Practitioners use fingers and thumbs on precise points on the body.
  • They apply a rolling action which affects the muscles, ligaments and tendons.
  • During the treatment there are two-minute intervals when the horse is left to rest.
  • There is no manipulation or adjustment of hard tissue.
  • A treatment will take approximately 45 minutes.
  • Two or three treatments, usually at weekly intervals, may be required to achieve lasting relief.

 

 

Jack’s session, which albeit also was a little interrupted by working in feedback on the other client there at the barn, lasted almost 4 hours. But we had a lot of findings as a result of this head-to-toe treatment, including:

  • Not using adductor muscles near stifle on inside right hind, which may be related to a strain up the leg near the groin
  • An old injury to the sternum which has some scar tissue around it
  • Fluid and angriness on ribs 14/15
  • Knots in Longissimus Dorsi in base of neck and on lower back
    • making him very guarded/blocked over his trapezius muscles

The hope is that correcting many of these things, we can create a horse who is less likely to compensate for his current injury (LF) by abusing the rest of his body. A hopefully more comfortable horse, with a looser body, will heal faster. And I’m all for that.

 

Collateral damage

I have some answers, but not all. But what I do know right now is that our season is a total washout.

After using what many say is the best radiologist on the east coast to ultrasound Jack’s pastern, my vet called me with the opinion. The main abnormality that could be found had to do with the collateral ligament near the coffin joint. It appears that the inside of that ligament is enlarged, but unfortunately because of its location (partially in the foot) it is a difficult place to ultrasound.

So, our next step is to go to Tryon Equine Hospital, which is the closest facility to have a standing equine MRI. The MRI will give us so much more information around what is going on in Jack’s left fore, and allow us to come up with a more specific rehab plan based on the images.

Some of you may recall that Tryon is where Foster had his surgery, and I admit there is a strong sense of deja vu that I hope is mere coincidence for Jack. For now, I’ve been told to expect 10-12 months of rehabbing Jack but with the expectation to return to his job as an eventer and sporthorse.

Our MRI is July 2nd and 3rd (for follow-up images) and I will certainly keep everyone in the loop as we go on this unexpected journey. Stay tuned.

In Limbo

If you follow my BGD page on facebook, you may have seen a rather vague but slightly depressing post this week. And this would be the follow up explanation as far as I know for the moment.

Jack has been NQR for a couple weeks, but nothing so alarming that we should call the vet. Until it got alarming enough to call the vet. And the vet confirmed that I’d likely be drowning my sorrows in the barn’s boxed wine that afternoon. Which I may or may not have done. (I did.)

And then the next day I got him all dressed up to take photos

As soon as the foot block proved negative I knew we were in trouble. We were able to improve his gait about 70% with the pastern block, and so that is where we will be doing exploratory ultrasound on Thursday to look for what is likely a soft tissue injury.

Until then, Jack has been resting, and we created a small rehab paddock that he could enjoy with as minimal risks to himself as possible. I was told to hope for a period of about 2-4 months out of work, but much of that will be confirmed Friday after my vet(s) assess the ultrasound images.

Unfortunately that’s all I have to go on right now. I’m also trying to devise ways of staying in the saddle while Jack is in rehab, but that is a similar work in progress.

Stay tuned and please think of my golden boy as we wait for results.

 

Photography Friday: White Background Portraits

There’s a bit of a new craze in the Equine photography world- and that’s a twist on the ‘traditional’ black background portraits- white backgrounds. Now these are nothing new in terms of portraiture, in fact I’ve been a long time fan of Sharon Montrose‘s studio portraits of wildlife and baby animals (seriously- so cute!). But your average equine photographer doesn’t have a studio backdrop large enough to support a subject as large as a horse. And a lot of us, like myself, use only natural light. So while the concept of the white background is similar, a much different technical approach is used.

In some ways, shooting white background images allows for a lot more flexibility than black background. Whereas in a typical shoot I am constantly searching for soft/diffused light or shade, for these images wide open light is best. I allow myself to slightly overexpose the image, and try and fill the frame with sky behind my subject. This generally makes for a very bright, if not white, background, and then edits in post-processing ‘clip the whites’ in the rest of the background- and voila! White background.
I’m still experimenting with poses (I really love the above one, creating depth within the subject sitting on a completely flat background) and how to look at different colors of horses against the white background.

What do you guys think? Are you into this new trend? Prefer black background? Or not a fan of white/black background at all, and prefer natural-environment/outdoor portraits?

Product Review: Ecovet Fly Spray

Every summer, I squirm when it comes to choosing a fly spray. The thought of coating my horse, and by proximity, myself, in a cloud of chemicals is not something I would regularly opt into. But Jack is the biggest princess when it comes to flies, and so riding with fly spray is an absolute must.

With this in mind, I try to choose more “natural” type fly sprays (though let’s be serious, there’s probably always some degree of chemical nature) as much as possible. So when my local Dover peeps told me about the updated Ecovet fly spray, I decided to give it a shot.

First of all, it’s worth mentioning that Ecovet is meant to act differently than your typical fly spray. Here’s the description straight from their website:

Insects choose a “victim” via a complex interaction between visual and chemical cues. Some animals (and people) are more attractive to pests than others. In our equine friends, coat color, level of activity, carbon dioxide output and odors secreted by the horse all play a role. The normal output of chemical smells acts like a signal to the insect’s guidance system to help it find and attack its potential food source.

Research has shown that certain fatty acids act as insect attractants, while others are repellents. Ecovet uses a proprietary mixture of naturally occurring fatty acids that confuses and overwhelms the insect’s normal directional ability, so the insect is unable to locate your horse as its next victim. It’s like having a GPS system that is shouting confusing and conflicting directions at you … until you finally give up.

So what’s the verdict?

The Good
Overall, this product does seem to work. Inside the barn and indoor, where flies are less but still exist, we have nary a bother after applying the Ecovet. I do tend to only apply this fly spray to Jack’s legs and under belly, and typically we are able to get through an entire ride indoors without being bugged (har, har) at all.

Less of this, thank goodness.

Outside in the fields on our conditioning days, where the flies are quite bad, I would also say the Ecovet is compelling enough to keep most flies as bay. However, the caveat is that I cannot get away with just spraying his legs and belly- outdoor days for us mean a whole body application. And though I still find myself swatting away the occasional fly, overall I would compare this with other effective fly sprays.

The Bad
Holy shit, the smell. I was told in the store that apparently this stuff used to smell like old man’s cologne in the worst possible way, and now they have come up with a new scent. (PS the bottle even says, rather proudly, ‘New Scent!’). So I can’t speak for the old smell, but I sure as hell can comment on the new. It’s as if Dove soap had the potency of fresh Wasabi, and formed a lingering cloud that you willingly walked into every time you sprayed it. Like Ecovet not only confuses bugs, but it also has a nose-identifying ingredient, where it immediately makes a beeline to and takes up residence, causing a sneezing frenzy in any creature unfortunate enough to be in the vicinity. The sneezing fits are quite violent, actually, and I’ve learned the hard way not to be holding a beverage in my other hand while spraying.

Actual video of Jack during application

The instructions say to apply Ecovet in a well ventilated area, and we learned within one application to take this very, very seriously. Our routine has been to walk outside to a grazing area, quickly spray Ecovet with much haste, and scurry away to an upwind location as fast as possible. Looking into this further, I did find one “helpful” tidbit on the Ecovet site:

Why did Ecovet make me and my horse sneeze?
The fatty acids in Ecovet, when delivered in spray form, do react with a small number of horses and people. Most describe it as a “sticking” sensation that does go away.

Uh, yeah- sticking. Does go away? sure- after you have expelled the entire contents of your nose. Unfortunately once, our barn manager was walking through the aisle as I sprayed outside, and a cross breeze carried the cloud directly into her. Let’s just say after many four letter words being expelled, it’s certain that the “small number of horses and people” is not limited to a sample size of Jack and I.

Overall
In general, I’d say Ecovet is probably worth the extra bucks if a more “green” insect repellent is your thing, and especially if you don’t have the sneezing reaction that some people experience. For our sanity and our sinuses, I’m going to give a few other fly sprays a try before considering coming back to Ecovet, but I can’t say the stuff doesn’t work!

Let’s Discuss: Your trainer’s mantra

Though lessons have been… less than consistent over the last 2 months, I still try to make my rides worthwhile and keep my trainers’ voices in my head as much as possible. In particular, there are several often heard phrases that I tell myself over and over, with hopes of eventually never having to hear them again.

From my dressage trainer, these generally include:

Don’t show him what not to do, instead show him what to do!

Get him reaching from the base of his neck!

Engage your core / Think about landing in the same place in the saddle every time

And from my eventing trainer, it’s often:

Shoulders away from the fence!

No leaning over the fence (with my hips/shoulders/head/secret hopes and wishes)

Keep him straight!

and very very often…

What was that?!

or…

What happened there?!

and even more commonly…

Why don’t you just try that again.

What are the mantras your trainer uses with you? What phrases live in your head when you aren’t in a training session? And what are the words that you are basically ready to tattoo on your arm so you don’t forget?