Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,And sorry I could not travel bothAnd be one traveler, long I stoodAnd looked down one as far as I couldTo where it bent in the undergrowth;
Here’s the big one! Move up to Training! Increase strength in haunches through cavaletti work (2-3x/week) Walk-Canter-Walk transitions Lead changes
Completing a Second Level dressage test with a score over 63% -new- Participate in at least one dressage clinic
Oh how much can change in a week.
After my long 20 minute walk warmup last Thursday, I picked up the trot and immediately alarm bells went off in my head. I hopped off and threw him on the lunge and saw this:
And my heart sank. I put him up in his stall with lots of scratches and good boy’s and called the vet.
Two days later we poured over him, palpating, assessing, flexing, talking. On the lunge he looked just the same, and when he couldn’t pick up the left lead after three different attempts, we had a discussion.
My vet looked me in the eye, and said she had to be unsentimental about his prognosis.
She knew my goals of Training level CT’s/Eventing, and bar that, of 2nd and 3rd level dressage. And she said he would never do what I wanted him to do.
For clarification, I asked- you mean he’ll never jump again?
“Sorry Britt, I don’t think so.”
And what about 2nd/3rd level dressage?
“Not without an obscene amount of maintenance.”
It turns out my almost-9 year old has a slew of issues. Beyond the front fetlock chip and subsequent arthritis, he also has mild neck arthritis, probable arthritis in his hind left fetlock, slight hock arthritis and now stifle issues that are in turn aggravating his SI area. In order to maintain him at the level of dressage competition I was aiming for, I would have to inject all of those areas. Which beyond being financially impossible to keep up, isn’t fair to him.
We’ve got a couple things to try first. He’s on 10 days of Previcox, and we’ll see if this anti-inflammatory can make him comfortable enough to stay in work. If not, we’ll look into Adequan and similar products, and consider injecting at least the stifle. If he can be made comfortable enough to be worked, and build up the muscle required to support his weak areas (the muscle loss from stall rest, etc likely being what has made these issues so obvious), then we’ll be in a better place. We could at least “putz around” as my vet said, trail riding and doing really basic ring work. But he has to be comfortable first.
As to our future, I am still trying to figure things out. I have a lot of questions. And luckily, Foster is not without fans. I’m hopeful that I can find a solution that works for both of us.
2016. Not the year of redemption after all.
If you’ve been reading this for any amount of time, you’ve probably realized that I really like answers. Having a NQR issue without resolution is like a carrot on a string, and drives me bonkers. Oh yeah, and you’ve probably also notice that I may or may not be
a crazy passionate horsewoman Type A. It’s a lost cause.
So when the farrier came out, put the hoof testers on Foster and got nothing, I was frankly pretty disappointed. I really wanted just one little flinch that would indicate the sore spot and then we could fix it and get on our merry way. Instead, we had a very long conversation about next steps. Between farrier and vet (thank you for working together, I love you forever), these are:
- Continue with normal plan for hind feet – rocker shoes, short toe, packed with magic cushion every other cycle
- Change front feet- bring breakover point back with shorter toe and half-round shoes
- Add leather pads and magic cushion temporarily to front feet to alleviate any soreness
- Get a chiropractor out
- After his session, begin trotting again
- Wait 2 weeks and re-evaluate
I’ll be working with a new chiropractor that the vet recommends, because at this point I feel like I’m still forming my A team and I want everyone to communicate well- so she can fill the chiropractor in regarding all the nonsense of the last several months before coming.
So anyways. I suppose we’ll be just walking for a little while longer, instead of cantering as we were supposed to do this week. Chiropractor to the rescue?
Let me repeat that.
Over the weekend, at the end of my ride, which included a little lateral work and a couple trot poles, I thought Foster felt a little off. Not lame per se, but just not 100%. Call it intuition.
So I gave him the next day off, and Monday went out to put him on the lunge and get some video to send to my vet.
Verdict? Slightly off right-hind.
Thankfully, the thought is that he is due to be shod, and as such, those toes are a little long and his heels are a little low, which is causing a bit of ouchiness. Not much else has changed in his routine (pasture size, etc, remained same, just added a tish more trot into our work), so it seems like natural hoof growth could be to blame.
The farrier comes on Thursday, and so until then I’m giving him a few days off.
So, here’s hoping that my pony is feeling better by the weekend. Please.
Last week Foster had his OsPhos injection, which is a newish alternative to Tildren. The drug has the same effect as medicine given to treat Osteoporosis in humans, and therefore should help with Foster’s bone remodeling issues.
Because the drug can cause some stomach cramping and colic-like symptoms (and sometimes colic itself), we sedated Foster prior to giving him the injection so in theory, he wouldn’t be as upset by any cramping or icky feelings. Then the injection itself was a simple intramuscular in the neck, which both Foster and I were pleased about, given that he’s gotten unsurprisingly wary of the vet handling his heavily-poked fetlock. This also means that the OsPhos will benefit any and all areas of the body and not just the fetlock joint for the year to 18 months that it remains active.
I sat and watched Foster for an hour, monitoring him for any signs of discomfort or colic, but he seemed pretty normal besides the glazed look in his eye. His neck got a little swollen at the injection site for a couple days after (if you saw how much fluid went into it you wouldn’t be surprised!) but he wasn’t tender to the touch, and it soon went down. He got several days off to recover while I stuffed myself on turkey and brussel sprouts.
After reviewing his progress, the vet also gave me the thumbs up to start increasing the workload. We could jump to a whole minute of trotting at a time, and in two weeks start introducing canter. We’ll gradually increase the amount of time trotting and cantering (canter starting at 20-30 seconds).
Overall he’s continued to be the best of boys, and he’s definitely regaining his balance and some strength, but 20 seconds of trotting kind of limits what we could do- just think- we’ll be much more productive now with an extra 40 seconds!
This being the latest in ho-hum updates that still get me pretty excited, because, hey, it’s rehab… we trotted last night!
I still wanted to limit our ride to 20 minutes, but added in roughly 15-20 seconds of trot at the 10, 15, and 20 minute mark. I say roughly because it’s really hard to time yourself for that long (er, short) or count in your head when pretty much the only thing running through my brain is “Squeeeeeeeeee trotttting!!!!“. We’ll pretend like Foster was thinking the same thing, though in all seriousness I do think he enjoyed doing something a little different!
Foster has been an absolute star the last week, and adding trot to the mix was no different. While the first attempt was unbalanced and wonky feeling, attempts 2 and 3 were lovely, regular, and homeboy stretched down into the contact like he hadn’t missed a beat. The pony got a lot of praise and pats and I don’t think you could wipe the smile off my face.
In other developments, his outdoor “space” has finally been enlarged. Since being turned out a month ago, his “paddock” has been only slightly larger than his stall. Thanks to the constant rain and some technical difficulties, it stayed that way until yesterday, and I’m told that homeboy was well behaved and did not abuse his new digs in any way.
All in all, this has been a great week for us. We definitely have a lot to be thankful for!
This morning Foster had his third IRAP injection, luckily the vet said that because his leg is looking better than ever, we can opt to skip the last IRAP injection and instead save the last few vials for a later time. As much as I love my vet, I think Foster and I both will be glad to miss her for a while- poor homeboy has started getting a bit wide-eyed when she pats his neck, knowing that the pointy objects are coming.
So for now we continue on the arduous process of building back up the work, getting coordination and fitness back slowly until his weak and wobbly body can once again be the powerhouse it was.
Thus, our schedule looks like this:
- 10/29 Walk for 10 minutes, adding 5 minutes each week
- 11/12 Introduce trot, for 15-20 seconds at a time taking 5-10 minute walk breaks, building up slowly
- 11/26 Ideally be able to trot 1 minute with 5 minute walk breaks
- Beginning of December: maybe canter
So you can see, getting back to full work, which I’m defining as our leave-off point of 2nd/3rd level dressage and 3’3″ fences, is a long way away.
A long way away.
These posts are going to get boring really fast if all I do is tell you about our walks, but still it feels worth mentioning that my horse was able to be ridden without chemical assistance his third time out! I’m not sure if that will continue to be the case, but it feels pretty good nonetheless.
At Foster’s last vet appointment for IRAP injection number 2, we took him for a spin down the barn aisle and homeboy is sound- even though this was expected it’s so nice to see visual confirmation that going through all this was the right choice. He’s gotten permission for his outside turnout space (currently the size of a stall) to be slowly enlarged as well. Slowly, slowly we are edging back towards normalcy.
Otherwise life in the house on the hill has been a bit busy, and we are this close to wrapping up our major house project! I have been dying to share with you the results- hopefully next week! I’ve been trying to squeeze in as many photoshoots as possible while the weather is nice, and between that and work being a little crazy, well, if something is going to suffer it’s likely to be the blog!
Hopefully more exciting content coming, but for now, happy Tuesday!
Last week I visited the glorious land of California for a creative professional conference, and while I thought traveling alone would lead to some much needed gym time and blog post writing, it ended up that I pretended I was way cooler than I actually am and spent that time out on the town.
So, sorry for the radio silence. I do want to share some of my LA experiences, but that’s for another post!
For now, I want to share a certain spotted pony update.
Foster received his first of 3-4 IRAP injections on Friday. IRAP is a process that includes taking blood from the horse, and using a centrifuge, spinning it down to plasma that is rich with a protein suited to reducing inflammation common to degenerative joint disease, and then re-injecting that plasma back into the affected joint.
In order to avoid the drama that came with our HA injection, Foster was thoroughly knocked out for the procedure. Homeboy was pretty much zombified, and I’m not sure that he even felt his legs, much less the actual injection. So while he came to, the vet and I chatted about a recovery plan.
Before our appointment I had been allowed to build him up to 15 minutes of hand walking, followed by icing and as much grazing as possible. Unfortunately with my sudden trip, I only got him up to 10 minutes, and so worried about setting him back in his plan.
Luckily that appears not to be the case. Assuming the ground will dry out a bit, I am pleased to report that in the next couple days Foster will start a limited turnout routine(!). His mini-paddock will only be about the size of two stalls combined, but at least he will be outside with grass and a bit more space to move around. And then shortly after, I get to climb aboard for tack-walking, starting at 5 minutes and building.
Even though this situation will likely last another month, I can’t tell you how relieved I am to feel like the end is in sight. The last two months (yes two months- can you believe it) have just flown by, but nonetheless I know Foster and I will both be relieved to start returning to normalcy and activity soon!
I’ve been very, very lucky with Foster through this recovery process. The first 6 weeks were good to us, with mild weather and a quiet mind we have been happily handgrazing for 30-45 minutes just outside his stall without drama. Hell, I even started bringing my kindle with me so I could read while grazing him so that I wouldn’t get bored. Then last Wednesday Foster got to walk for the first time, 3 whole victory laps around the covered arena before returning to his stall to be iced and grazed. It was likewise pretty uneventful.
So when this article on the perils of rehabbing came out on HorseNation last Thursday, at first I admit I scoffed, being blessed with a quiet horse who has been nothing but a gentleman for over a month of stall rest. And then I checked myself, touched wood, and felt like I’d just jinxed myself.
Turns out I had just jinxed myself.
That night I went out to the barn, prepared to repeat our somewhat boring routine of walk-ice-graze, but the atmosphere was different. There was a sort of electricity in the air that foretold a storm coming, children visiting, dogs walking about, and horses being worked under the covered arena. I just reached the end of the barn aisle before I was rewarded with spook number one. Then inside the covered, Foster puffed up like a stud whenever we would near the gate to the paddocks (no, you are not going out there yet) and we had a couple more episodes of spook/spinning before his 5 minutes were up and he was returned to his stall. Each time I was able to give him a firm “no” and he instantly ceased his antics, it seemed that try as he might to be good, his excitement just got the better of him.
Saturday was somewhat a repeat of these hijinx, and I debated whether the time had come to start using sedatives. But Sunday came and it was slightly warmer, and without a soul in sight I decided to give him one more chance to be good before pulling out the ace.
And what do you know, he was back to being the perfect gent.
So lessons learned- while (I think) my horse truly is a gentleman, getting back to work (or doing anything besides standing) is still pretty new and thrilling to him, and I need to be smart about reading the conditions before taking him out. While I’d prefer not to get in the habit of acing him before walking, or riding, or whatever, I’ll do anything to keep us both whole so we can finish out our recovery as safely as possible.
And of course I was reminded of the humility of horses, and never to judge, since you could always be next.