Thursday, April 29, 2010

Re-wrapping daily

Apparently someone doesn't know how to take it easy so we are redoing his wrap every day to try and get rid of the swelling once and for all.

The knee (okay, carpus) was doing better until the other day, when it puffed back up. This was possibly due to the wrap slipping down, which may or may not have been precipitated by antics of the cooped-up-Thoroughbred nature.

He doesn't seem sore on it but the vet would like to keep it from becoming chronic.

So the boy remains under wraps at least a little longer.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Bar says he's better, but we re-wrapped anyway

Bar has moved pretty well on his puffy knee nearly the whole time, but this last week he's made it clear that he feels fine, thank you, and would like to go back to work. So much so that the other night, he took himself for a little gallop in the indoor arena. (Sorry, Leslie.) He was acting very calm and mellow, allowing me to throw a jacket over his head repeatedly without even a single head toss, following me around like a puppy.

He was merely lulling me into a false sense of mushy-headed owner-ness.

He went from calmly snuffling dirt to see if it was soft enough for rolling to a full-on gallop. Well, maybe not quite full-on, but close enough. If I were to anthropomorphize a little, he was testing the leg. He did some lovely figure-eights, switched leads again and again, stopped hard in the corners--always favoring the wrapped leg--and of course did some obligatory bucking and farting.

Part of me groaned, knowing he wasn't supposed to be stressing the leg like that; part of me grumbled at my own stupidity; part of me sat back and reveled at his speed, power, and grace. Damn that horse can move.

It didn't last long, thankfully. Soon after it began, he turned and trotted up to me, looking exceedingly happy and proud of himself.

I figured the only thing to do at that point was check the knee then for any strain, and again the next day. I was afraid it would balloon up again and the wrap that was on it would cut off circulation.

The good news is there hasn't been any additional swelling, bones are starting to emerge from the puffiness, and he continues to move well on it. The not-so-good news (especially for him) is that there is still a little swelling so there was more wrapping today.

When Bar and Lena heard the truck and trailer today, they both got very excited. When Katie left with Sammy, they were both very disappointed.

I know how they feel.

The value of a horse

Natalie over at The Retired Racehorse Blog wrote a provocative piece about the value of free horses.

Does getting a horse for free make someone value that horse less? I suppose that is an unfortunate reality in places where the amount a person spends for something not only boosts the value of said "thing," but in some cases, that person's self-image as well. Many of us have met these folks--I always feel sad for them, actually.

Since I am not in the business of selling or showing horses, the value I place on Bar and Lena is based on their profound effect on my life. If I had to get rid of either one--and wasn't forced to do so by some dire and urgent situation--my criteria for selecting a new owner would not be based on dollars, but on where I thought each horse would be happy and healthy. Breeders probably don't always have that option, though I'm sure most try to make sure their horses are well-homed.

On a purely monetary scale, Lena cost more to purchase initially, but Bar has required a little more in ongoing maintenance costs. Do I value her more than Bar? Not really, though we could certainly sell her for more if we chose to. Again, as long as we weren't in an emergency situation, that would not affect choosing a new home for her.

As horse owners, most of us don't want to think of making those choices, but some of us have had to do just that. You can see that in the glut of "free" horses out there right now--including huge numbers of abandoned and rescued horses.

Thinking about what I would do (not obsessing, just thinking) leads me to conclude that I value my "free" (okay $1) Thoroughbred as much as I value our pedigreed and paid for Paint horse. I'd like to think there are lots of people out there like me, but some days I'm just not sure.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Update on the walking wounded

Bar and I are both healing!

I found out today that the bone is in better position now than the day I broke it! Woo! I have one of those nice temporary fiberglass casts (in dark burgundy) and go back in next week for another check. They did stabilize my elbow and open up my fingers so I can even sort of type with two hands, now. This certainly will make blogging a bit less painful.

Bar's knee seems to also be healing, so at least he can hopefully start exercising soon. A stir-crazy Thoroughbred is never a good thing--on the other hand, it is presenting me with new training opportunities.

Speaking of training, Steve has concluded that perhaps Lena Rey needs a little more input as she may have become a bit too large for her saddle.

I think this will be a good thing for all of us, actually. It will force us to be creative and think outside the arena rut--or even the trail rut. Less pointing in a direction and kicking, more thinking and playing.

This could get very interesting.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Shameless plea

Kate over at Saving Argus has an ex-racer in need of a surgery that would turn him into a sound and ride-able horse. He has been trained and shown since his race career ended and the ligaments and tendons around the splint are in good shape.

Surgery is only $2,000 so even a small donation will help.

Click here for Valentino's story and to donate.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Ongoing lessons

My daughter banned me from wrapping my arm in matching pink vet wrap, but here are Bar and me in living color. This whole experience is giving me the opportunity to be creative with my training and explore new Thoroughbred distraction techniques. Meanwhile Steve got to experience exactly why it was I ended up with a broken arm.

I took Bar out for what was supposed to be a leisurely walk to move that knee gently while Steve rode her Royal Spottiness. Bar was not perfect, oh no. Take 1,200 pounds of bouncy Thoroughbred, wrap him up, tell the definition of speed and movement he needs to stop dancing because he's hurt (even if it obviously doesn't hurt him too much), and see what happens with the slightest provocation. Luckily, he did stay out of my bubble, though my right arm feels even more overworked than it did before. Movement is fine, just be sure to dance around me and not into me, thanks. Bar actually did a pretty good job with that, which was a relief.

Lena, on the other hand, was not so well-behaved and Steve found out that perhaps she needs a hair more discipline after all. It was dinner time, so when it became obvious that Steve intended to keep riding instead of allowing chow time, Lena zigged and zagged, then bucked when she had him off-balance and dumped him. He got back on and instructed her in the error of her ways, which is good since I was not able to do that the other day. Lena may be about to figure out how well Steve tolerates bratty, spoiled children. As in not at all--at least not once you cross that crucial line. A line she most definitely crossed.

Leeway is one thing, and I know Steve and are both guilty with out respective horses of allowing a little too much drift. I think we'll both be working on that balance for the near future at least.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Too soon to be bored of this?

I can appreciate that healing takes time and that the itching has just begun, but what will cross my mind the next time (and there will be a next time) I start to fall off is the loss of time.

I need to work with Lena, even just on the ground, to figure out how to better predict her actions. I need to be hand-walking Bar right now to get his knee back in shape--and really just to spend that quiet time with him.

Unfortunately, work is busy (new business unit I'm currently attempting to organize) and I'm so tired at days end from that and from carrying around my broken arm, there isn't much left for the horses. Well, there is some, but not enough to necessarily protect myself from further injury when dealing with bouncy horses.

I've had several offers of help and I may even consider it if I can't find more energy in the next day or so, but I'd prefer to tend my own horses. I'm goofy that way, I know.

So that's what I'll be thinking of the very next time falling off looms--I've just got too much to do and no time for this broken-ness.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Dubious milestone

I have now crossed one more thing off my list of horse-related (and life, actually) experiences--I broke my arm yesterday, mostly because I forgot just how fast Lena Rey can move sideways.

Steve and I had run some errands in Santa Rosa, had lunch, and he dropped me off at the barn to tend horses and ride Lena. The truck was still there from the other day when Katie went out (though she had left the keys on and completely--and I mean two-sets-of-jumper-cables-needed completely--drained the battery) so Steve didn't have to hang around and I could spend all the time I wanted with the horses.

It didn't quite work out that way.

I really wanted to use the English saddle on Lena and work on her long trot, canter circles, and my seat. We were going along really well, and I was even getting some nice side-pass work out of her at the trot. She seems very responsive to the close contact of the English saddle, too.

Lena is very strong and athletic, and can move sideways and spin in a dime. Since I hadn't ridden her in awhile it might have been better to put the Western saddle on her, since I am still working on my seat and balance in the English, but you know what they say about hindsight.

She did a couple of spins I managed to ride through and a sideways I didn't. I slid off her right side, tucked, landed on my right hip (okay, right butt cheek), rolled to my left and must have smacked the ground hard with my forearm.

Lena bounced off to the other end of the arena to eat the grass I had previously denied her. At first, cradling my sore arm against my stomach, I was determined to get back on--which I told her in no uncertain terms. We even made it back to the mounting block before I felt something shift in my forearm--one of the odder sensations I've ever had, thank you very much. Then came the shockiness and nausea and I decided I would have to teach her a lesson another time. She did have the grace to act solicitous at that point, nuzzling me as the cold sweat broke out on my forehead.

My friend Lisa was just getting back in her truck to go home, but helped me untack Lena, take my fancy riding boots off, and hung out until Steve got there to take me to Kaiser. I was not very talkative, since lunch was trying to revisit, but I was sure glad someone was there with me.

Kaiser had me in, x-rayed, and splinted in about 2-1/2 hours, which for a non-life-threatening injury seems pretty good. The staff was great, too.

The x-rays show a pretty clean fracture of the ulna (yes, I'll be getting copies). The orthopedic doctor will be calling after they decide whether to put in a plate (surgery) or just a more substantial cast.

Oh, and I'm supposed to stay off the horses for six weeks. Katie (who is still mad at me for falling off) seems skeptical that I will manage that.

I admit to being vaguely amused by all of this, though I'm sure my amusement will fade as the novelty of my first "real" broken bone wears off. It occurred to me that Bar and I match, though I hope he heals much faster than I do.

And, yes, I typed this whole post with one hand tied. Or splinted anyway.

No pictures, either, until I can engineer a shower of some kind.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Needles and wrapping, oh my!

WARNING: If you are squeamish about needles, this post contains pictures of needles in Bar's knee.

Also, much thanks to Cindy Larson for helping hold Bar so I could take all these photos!

Having watched the football-shaped knee stay, well, football shaped, I gave in and called the vet to come out and take a look. She called it a Hygroma, and stuck a needle in it to drain out the fluid, then applied a topical analgesic (versus trying to get any more 'bute in him), and wrapped up his leg like a Christmas present to try and contain any further swelling.

First the boy got drugs lest my sweet and docile (ha!) horse react to a needle sliding into his puffy knee.

Then came said needle and actually feeling the fluid that came leaking out to test viscosity. Yes, just like oil. More viscous (thicker) would mean joint fluid, which we didn't want to see because it would indicate a more serious injury inside the joint capsule.

The good news is the fluid that came out was just serum, not joint fluid, so the injury is outside the joint capsule. Dr. Leslie pulled quite a bit of fluid out of that knee, syringe after syringe to relieve the pressure. It appears to be a concussion (e.g. he fell on it) injury, versus any kind of strain or twist which would require a lot more lay-up and therapy.

Leslie remembered that Bar objects to taking pain relief orally, and chose to use a topical analgesic called Surpass to help relieve the inflammation. Actually, I'd give him the 'bute if I thought it was the best option, but if an external solution is as effective and requires less trickery, I'm willing to try it.

Then came the wrapping in two stages, lower leg first then over the knee. This will stay on for two days (she says hopefully, looking at the now-cloudy sky), then we'll pull it off and see what we see. If the swelling stays down with the Surpass (2x daily), that will be ideal. If not, the next step is to consider steroid injections, which I really don't want to do.

I am choosing to think positive and vote for quick healing and no steroids. Lena wants to know why Bar is decorated.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

The knee, day four

It wasn't any worse today, but I wouldn't go so far as to say it was a lot better, either. I had given it a bit of an ultimatum--if it didn't look markedly better by today, I'd call the vet. Since it didn't, she'll be here tomorrow.

That probably ensures his knee will be back to normal by the time she gets there, but that's really okay with me.

Katie's first "solo" trail ride

Solo as in sans parental unit, that is, not completely on her own. She and Manna--the owner of Bar's nice twin--went out to Lake Sonoma today. When Katie stopped at my office to grab the camera and I told her I was trying not to worry, she said, "You're having a heart attack on the inside, aren't you?" Um. Yeah, a little bit.

As it turned out, I was actually too busy at work to do much worrying, which is probably a good thing. Everything went really well for them, and they had a great time, too. The horses trailered fine, the trail was in good shape, and many obstacles were conquered. Katie was really proud of Sammy, especially considering it was only her second trail trip ever.

Sammy and Romeo got along much better than Bar and Romeo do, possibly because Sammy is a) female and b) less bossy. Actually, Katie says they work together a lot like Bar and Lena do when we're out--when one gets nervous about something, the other will take the lead.

Now I really want Bar's knee to get better! (It's no worse, at least, and the vet is coming out tomorrow.)

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Knee update

Much to my dismay, the football in Bar's knee really didn't look all that much better tonight. In fact, we now have mild puffiness below the knee. Argh.

In other words, 'bute didn't help much.

More walking, more cold water, and more ice. I also tried an herbal liniment called Sore-No-More recommended by Linda at Horses and Things. Bar liked it way better than Vetrolin--must be the lavender.

I also took his temperature to be sure there wasn't some underlying infection lurking. There doesn't appear to be. His gums are the right color, and his capillary response is fine, too.

I must say, my horse is amazingly patient for a "crazy racehorse." Not patient (or hurt) enough for 'bute, though.

The heat in the knee seems to be centered in the rear of the joint, though all the swelling is in front. No open sores that could mean infection, though there is a minor (and not sensitive) broad, flat, bump on the inside of his cannon bone, about midway between fetlock and knee.

I admit it, I called the vet--mostly to give her a heads-up that she might need to come visit before the weekend. Just in case.

Though besides the over-sized knee, I have to say my horse sure looks good.

Heal, buddy, just heal.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Football injury

As in Bar's knee looks like there is a football inside it! Above is him wondering why I'm squatting down and taking pictures of his legs instead of giving him carrots to make it feel better.

This all started yesterday, as we started walking down to the round pen to get our workout started. I looked down and noticed his left front knee looked a little puffy. "Huh," I said and palpated it (with no reaction), walked him around to see how he moved on it, and then took him right to the wash rack to run cold water over it. I thought about Bute, but he really (really) hates it and since he seemed to be moving okay on it, I left it.

Today, Katie emailed me from the barn (the joys of the iPhone) and said, "What did you do to that poor horse?" She was kidding, but as it turns out, the knee is even more swollen today. Argh.

Do I know what happened? No. Is there any clue? No. Just a big, fat, puffy knee full of fluid and heat. Ever-hopeful, I floated the theory of a bug bite to Peter who had me trot Bar and said that limping definitely indicates it is NOT a bug bite. Drat.

So we walked. Then we ran cold water over it for awhile.

Then we iced it.

And iced it some more when that ice pack got warm.

Meanwhile, Lena wanted to know why Bar was getting all the attention. Please don't let her get any ideas about injuries as a way to get more of the limelight.

If the knee had been smaller than it was yesterday, I would have forgone the Bute, but it wasn't, so I didn't. That horse can pout like nobody's business. "No, I don't want your stinky carrot. It might be MEDICINE!" Hopefully one dose will be enough, because I'll now have to resort to extreme trickery to get it in him next time.

More later, hopefully we'll be down to a tennis injury tomorrow.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Trying new shoes

Horse shoes come in all styles and shapes and what you do with your horse, as well as confirmation considerations, generally dictates what shoes you use. Not knowing enough myself to determine what the horses needed, I've relied on our various farriers to do what they thought best.

Bar and Lena have both had plates--fairly slick bottomed shoes--the whole time we've owned them. I suspect that Lena, being a cutting horse, was shod that way to give her a little slide for cow work. (The photo above is actually three of her original set of shoes. Yes, I saved them.) Bar, of course, had racing plates (aluminum) while he was competing. They are more convex on the bottom to give a horse more grab on the track.

Had we had any lameness issues or confirmation (how a horse is built) corrections to make, that would probably have changed things, but we didn't so I did not obsess about their shoes. Other things, yes, but not that. Aside from keeping them on Bar's feet, I didn't give much thought to what was going on the end of their legs as long as everything seemed to be working.

Then, when Bar was so sore a couple weeks ago, our friend Karen--part-time farrier, and excellent horse masseuse--checked on Bar to be sure he wasn't seriously injured. He wasn't, of course, but she had some suggestions--including switching to a traction shoe for both horses. (A shoe more like the racing shoe in construction.) Her reasoning was based on the riding and work we do, and she thought that the traction shoe would give Bar in particular more confidence in his footing--helping him both mentally and physically.

Karen has been working on horses for over 15 year--including on-and-off-the-track racehorses--and has an exceptional eye for seeing how a horse moves and also what can be done to help get that horse to a more optimal and comfortable "way of going," as they say in horse-speak. Adding the physical understanding of proper trimming and shoeing was a natural extension to her massage practice.

I admit to being a little nervous about offending our farrier, Mike. I like him, and he does great work, so I figured he would have suggested traction shoes to me already had he felt it was warranted. But when he called to confirm our appointment and I asked him what he thought, he actually sounded excited and immediately suggested trying an eventer shoe. It's somewhat like the racing shoe, grooved most of the way around but slick in the back so there could be a little slip in the heel. To say I was relieved would be an understatement, and Steve (who handles all the farrier appointments these days) said Mike was surprised we hadn't asked for them before. Hopefully I can use this experience to convey to Mike that we do value his experience and opinion and--more importantly--are willing to hear it.

Yesterday, I got to watch Bar in action with his new shoes for the first time and could actually see a bit of a difference. He seemed to be coming under himself much better, and to be reaching out more in the front as well. He was frisky, having had a pretty mellow week due to my crazy schedule and more rain, but he settled into a solid canter both directions, as well as a balanced trot--getting into frame easily and nearly automatically.

Was it the shoes? That remains to be seen, but with both Karen and Mike on the same page, it is certainly worth trying.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Happy Birthday to Calabar!

Happy Birthday to Calabar!
Originally uploaded by spottyhorse67

He's ten today and seems strong and healthy and happy, though he tried to give me a tiny colic scare tonight.

It seems to have passed (pun intended) and he seems like his normal
feisty self. He even fussed at Romeo like usual.

Happy birthday, big, brown, snuggly horse!