Monday, August 27, 2018

Oil change

After the excitement of our show, it was jarring to have the vet out to visit.  He just had an amazing outing, why does he need a lameness exam?  Because I shouldn't need to throw the kitchen sink at him to complete our canter work.

 Canter work what?

So I went out to the barn on Friday.  I had the day off from work so I went with lots of time to kill and gave Theo a massive grooming session.  He was in heaven while I spent an hour with the curry comb and tail brush.  By the time the vet showed up, he was sound asleep.

My current vet is not in any way a sport horse vet.  His clientele is almost completely pleasure horses and lesson programs.  He has some horses that compete at shows, but it's low level stuff.  When a horse is looking off and he suggests an expensive solution, he's usually shot down.  He is very aware of the price tag on things.  He's also been doing this a long time.  When he showed up, I was all prepped for blocking, images, trotting off, hours worth of examination and injections.  I've done this sort of thing with sport horse specialists and its a very expensive ordeal.

Instead he showed up with an x-ray machine, took four images of each hock, and went back to his truck to develop and compare.  He brought his laptop back up along with the supplies for joint injections.  He took me on a quick tour of Theo's hocks.  We've got remodeling on both sides, the start of fusing in some spots and some rough surfaces but nothing unexpected in a 14 year old.  No lesions, no weirdness, just remodeling.  Rather than going through a lot of fussing, he suggested we just inject his hocks to manage what we're seeing and come back for the stifles in three weeks after we see how he goes with his hocks done.  Clearly the hocks need some love before he does a lot of collection work, so let's just do it and see how he feels.

I wasn't ready for quick and simple.  I was ready for blocking and trotting and agonizing.  Instead it was 'we thought he had arthritis, I see arthritis, we treat the arthritis'.  And he wants to do the stifles separate because then we know which injection has the most impact for our future treatments.  Stifles are hard to x ray and Theo has rather large thighs.  The vet estimates we'd see about 60% of the joint which means a clean x ray can mean absolutely nothing.  If the hock injections aren't enough, he'll come back and do the stifles.  No big deal and no more x rays needed.

Well.  Okay then.

Pony took a little nap and the vet did his hocks, quick and easy.

Theo is a total lightweight, btw.  He got 0.9 mL of tranq when the recommendation for his weight is 1.2.  I had to hold his head and Trainer A took his tail when it was time to move him to a stall to sober up.  He didn't move a muscle for the injections and the synovial fluid was in very good condition when he was injected.  He was moved into a stall and stayed there for three days.  I'm going to get an itemized list of what he destroyed so I can just replace it all.

Unhappy pony is unhappy

And lets all keep in mind, Theo is not at all lame.  He's maybe a 1 on the lameness scale on a bad day, meaning most of the time you can't see it or feel anything.  This is strictly proactive to ensure he's completely comfortable before harder work.  Which my vet had to remind me of several times.  A Enter Spooking recently wrote about how she hovered over her vet and kept asking if there was anything that should be done during an exam of her horse.  I was just as bad if not worse.  My vet had to shoo me away from the x rays at one point.  If I could liquidate my paycheck and shoot it into his joints, I would.  I asked if the vet wanted to inject the hocks, stifles and SI all at once just to be safe.  He stared at me like I'd grown another head.

I don't think his other clients are like me.

Tonight he comes out of his three days of stall rest and handwalking.  Thank goodness!  Then it's back to work to see what difference this made.  In three weeks we'll decide if the stifles also need to be done.  I'm expecting it will be a yes, but we'll see.  I'm okay with taking it slow, he's done for 2018.  We can take our time and make sure that he's completely comfortable.

And the best news?  $550 was my bill.  I used to pay $350 per hock, more if the ultrasound machine came out or we needed new x rays.  I could get used to this more frugal approach.

Adventures with Theo

And now for all the stuff that happened at the championships while outside the show ring.
* Theo is now the 'random' bit check horse wherever he goes.  I got 'randomly' selected for bit check on both of my tests since my horse will stand in an over crowded warm up with his bridle off and not move a foot.  It also doesn't bother the rider.  This means Theo is now learning to follow a steward out after his test.  He tucks in behind them or right at their shoulder, looking for cookies or pats.  Funny thing, all stewards have pats and ear rubs for him.  He got so many ear rubs.  Random small children were rubbing his ears.  He didn't want to go in for his second test because he was getting so much love in the warm up.
* Theo, when bored, drags his nose along the bars like a prisoner banging a metal cup against the jail cell bars.  He doesn't drag his teeth up the bars anymore, it's not aggression, he just wants out.  I was trying to talk to someone and they kept looking behind me with a perplexed expression.  Theo was dragging his nose back and forth, top lip bouncing away.  I gave in and took him for yet another hand walk.  He looked so pathetic.
* After I was done showing and while I was trying to get Theo's stall stripped, I changed into my jeans and hung up my show pants on my stall.  I loaded up my cart and hauled my stuff to my trailer.  Once I got there, I realized I had forgotten my truck key in the pocket of my show pants.  Turn around, walk all the way back.  Where are my pants?  I'm looking everywhere in the stabling area, no sign of my pants.  My horse is staring at me and all of a sudden it dawns on me.  I pull open his stall door and find my pants in a sawdust covered, soggy heap.  My beloved jackass had sucked them up between the bars like spaghetti and worked all of the treats out of the pocket.  There were some tense moments while I tracked down everything else that had been in my pockets, including my truck key.  I found my key safe and sound, but I still think he ate a dollar bill.  Still not sure how he got all of the treats out of my pocket without tearing them.  My poor pants.
* After loading Theo in the trailer, I went to open his windows.  The window on the escape door was a little sticky so I had to give it a hard push to get it moving.  It got loose, slammed open, and shattered into a million little pieces that rained down on me and the driveway.

Just . . . what?  Seriously, what?

So I'm down a window and need to figure out how to get it replaced.  My best guess is that there was a small rock or gap in the rubber around the outside and it shattered the tempered glass.  I swear Theo was laughing at me while I stood there in shock.  I've never even heard of that happening!
* I got my big, beautiful ribbon and headed back to my stall.  I was on Cloud 9, giggly and kind of bouncy.  I wanted a picture of my horse with his ribbon, so I pulled him out, put his ribbon on his halter, and pulled out my phone.  At this point, I realized I was going to have trouble.  A random rider immediately spotted my problem, dismounted, ground tied her paint, and came over to play photographer.

I was so delighted.  I rarely get pictures of us together since I'm usually the photographer.  Of course my horse was a total mooch and I'm laughing in all of the photos because he was trying to mug me and eat his ribbon.  Once the riders figured out that I was showing completely on my own, many went out of their way to help.  Holding my horse when I forgot my whip, inviting me to dinner so I didn't have to eat alone, lending me a wheelbarrow so I didn't have to go get mine, lots of little things to help me survive my away show.  I really don't like showing solo, but they made it much easier.  After some online interactions I wasn't feeling welcome at western dressage as a primarily standard dressage rider, but as usual, real people are much nicer than the online trolls.
* I got Theo fitted for a DP Vario 1300.  The saddle fitter/dealer brought the saddle back to the stabling area so I could see it on him.  I didn't take a picture because I really didn't want a reminder of how beautiful it was on him, but take my word on it.  Gorgeous.
That saddle but with a bunch more tooling and some gorgeous antiqued hardware.  I led Theo out and I swear the saddle dealer almost forgot her saddle.  Turns out she had Cheval Canadien horses herself and immediately recognized Theo's face.  These Canadian horses have to be everywhere, I find owners at every show that think Theo is one of them!  She invited me to an Expo in Connecticut, might have to follow up on that.  The saddle will wait until I see what my vet bill is on Friday, but I'm planning on the upgrade over the off season to something with a tree that will cope with collected work better.

* People think Theo is a western trained horse in warm up.  I do most of my warm up on the buckle, encouraging him to stretch and be chill.  I was riding one handed for part of my warm up because, well, when in Rome.  Someone actually asked if he was a QH.  Then I shortened my reins and got him ready to go in.  Presto, instant dressage horse.  Neck lifts, booty engages, and he looks like something else entirely.  Someone suggested I try him in ranch pleasure since he'd do just as well there as he does in western dressage.  Hm . . .
* I brought Theo home and he rolled like crazy before snorting and bucking down his field to mess with his neighbor.  I went out with the hubby to celebrate.

We each have our way of celebrating a job well done.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Winner winner chicken dinner

Theo's called Expect the Unexpected for a reason.  I never know what he's going to do when I head into the ring.  Leading up to this show, a lot of people were excited for us.  He'd won his last four tests in a row and done no worse than second all season in western dressage.  Those odds are not bad, especially when it's all the same people going to the championship.  But I didn't want to get excited because naughty Theo could easily show.

He came off the trailer like a nuclear bomb on Tuesday.  Snorting, prancing, much carrying on.  I seriously considered lunging him until I remembered I didn't pack and lunging gear.  Whoops.  So into the saddle I went to go get him used to the spooky indoor ring and wear down some of that excess energy.  45 minutes later, good Theo was back and strolling around the indoor with loops in his reins, totally chill.

His reward for his good behavior?  A bath.  He was not pleased.

We walked around the property until the bugs drove him back into his stall.  I tucked him in with enough hay for the entire row of horses, gave him a kiss, and took off.  The morning found him with zero hay left and a bored pony wanting to know why he was still in prison.  More handwalking for the pony, this time in the indoor warm up due to passing thunderstorms.  My first test was at 9am so I hopped on at 8:15.  Early, yes, but he was starting to drag his nose along the bars in frustration in his stall.  Better to chill in warm up and let him spectate.  Our test was at 9am right on the money. I walked him into the show ring on looped reins and he settled in without batting an eyelash.

We got a 68% for the test and won the class.  We got dinged for a 'labored' left lead canter and Theo was a bit distracted by the food truck setting up outside.  I can't complain about a 68% in any way, so Theo went back to hand walking and eating everything in sight while we waited for our second test.  I swapped to my rowels since there's a lot more canter in Level 1 Test 4 and I didn't want anymore 'labored' comments.

I liked our second test better.  He was more up in front of my leg and it all felt more confident.  It's a tougher test so we ended up with a 66%.  Still won our class, but I know we can get a few more points.  I got dinged on accuracy for this one since some of my circles wobbled and our leg yield to X included Theo overshooting X and not noticing me trying to send him back the other way.

The average of 67% got us the Level 1 Adult Amateur champion ribbon.

Theo and I aren't usually the pair to get a big ribbon.  I've been middle of the pack (or lower) since before I started riding Fiona.  Theo is used to getting participation trophies on his good days.  For us to get a real, honest to goodness champion ribbon is blowing my mind.  Yes, the division was small, but it's a new discipline and damn it all, we were the best today.  I'm not going to let myself make this into anything other than a total win.

I may have teared up when I got my ribbon.  Just a bit.

Our whirlwind 2018 season has come to an end.  My western saddle is coming home so that I can clean it and put it up for sale.  I found the most amazing, perfect saddle at the show so I need to sell my current one and fund the upgrade.  It's all dressage gear for awhile as I eyeball doing Second at a schooling show or two this fall to set my goals for the winter.

Someone asked me if I was going to Worlds.  I laughed and said no way. And they said 'oh, then next year, right?'.  Crap.  Now I'm thinking about it.  Oklahoma isn't that far away, right?

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Really, Theo?!

There are days where you wonder why you own horses.

After four days off due to the pink eye epidemic (which he avoided completely and has come to an end), I snuck off to the barn on Sunday to see my pony.  He doesn't do well with time off and I always get twitchy when my horse isn't coming in at least once a day for a check over. 

The house across the street was having a wedding and had these four foot tall helium balloons of a bride and groom tied to their mailbox.  Theo was having NONE of it.  I was able to bribe him half way up his field, but no closer.  I did notice he was moving a bit funny up front.  Hard to tell with him spooking and carrying on, but his front right seemed short.

I finally gave up and brought him down to the lower gate of his field.  As soon as he stepped on the driveway, I could hear that we had a problem.  Ting ting ting thud.  I stopped off at the hose to wash off his feet and legs.  Sure enough, front right was gone and he was noticeably sore on it.  He also had a bleeding sore on the opposite ankle.  Really, Theo?!

He was sore enough to stumble when I turned him on the forehand in the aisle.  He was right down on his sole with the amount of hoof he pulled off.

1.5 weeks before our 'big' show and he is head bobbing lame.  Of course he is!  And this is exactly how we started the abscess wars back when I started leasing him.  That took him out of the picture for a bit more than a month.  He's so touchy about his feet, I could already see myself emailing the secretary to scratch.

But a couple things have changed since the abscess wars.  Most importantly, I own the dang horse.  As soon as I saw him take an ouchie step while on rubber mats, I put him in a stall with extra bedding and hay.  No field with rocks for this pony.

I didn't wrap or pack since there was no sign of bruising.  And with our 100% humidity as of late, no pack was going to stay on.  I texted my farrier at 4pm on Sunday and he was there 9am on Monday to fix the mess.

My farrier is some sort of sorcerer.

No resin or fill or anything, just careful filing and very careful placement of nails.  Theo was noticeably more comfortable as soon as his shoe was on, but he was still a bit off.  Talked to the farrier and he was confident that it was just residual soreness, not anything acute.  He was standing square by the end of the shoeing session and trotted off about 75% sound, so I sent him back out to his field so he'd quit destroying the stall.

Tuesday Trainer A lunged him since he'd had a week off and it's the time of year when he starts to become a problem.  He was about 85% sound, comfortable to work in the indoor but slightly guarding the right front.

Last night I went out to visit.  I trotted him off on the black top and could hear a slight difference in the right front but he was happy to move out and threatening to drag me down the road.  I threw his western gear on and worked him in the indoor for about 25 minutes.  He was totally sound on the arena footing, so I'm calling him 95% sound.  You can pick it up when he's on the road, but very happy to work on soft footing.  Worked without spurs and still had some nice reach.

I got a text this morning that a certain dork was doing his best stud impersonation in his field.  Temps are dropping and clearly he's feeling good, so I might lunge before I ride tonight.  I'm hoping today or tomorrow he'll be 100% and I can start to push a bit as we get ready for our next outing.  I'm going to be very careful until we depart on Tuesday.  I'd rather end our season with a bang than a whimper.

Hoping the bang isn't him unloading me due to the weather suddenly short circuiting his brain.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018


Got one of those fun barn texts today.  Apparently, we've had an outbreak of contagious conjunctivitis in the barn, specifically in the school horse field but it's jumped to at least one horse that's not in that field.  Joy.

At least my roses look good this year

Theo's field is on the other side of the property and because he's a serious jerk, he has no physical contact with any school horses.  He plays halter tag with another boarder horse that is not affected or allowed near the nicely behaved ponies that kids get to handle.  He also has his tack on a different level of the barn and doesn't go in the lower level where the school horse stuff is.  He's not affected and not considered to be at risk.  Having a jackass for a horse has it's benefits.

To keep things from spreading further, prevent it from hopping species, and make the process of bleaching everything in the barn more possible, all lessons have been cancelled until Saturday.  No horses can go off property and no horses can visit.  I've been asked point blank to take a couple days off to help keep the foot traffic down at the barn.


So that means I don't have a schooling show this weekend since our vet told us to not go to any weekend shows.  Minor problem for me, big problem for one of the eventers that had a show in Vermont this weekend.  It also means Theo is getting an unscheduled three day break and that his lameness exam part two is being rescheduled.

His lyme counts have not changed, so we're moving on to x-rays and injections/blocking.  My checkbook is not at all happy.

He's lucky he's cute

So I guess I'll be taking this extra time off to focus on my half marathon training.  I've been slacking on that due to ridiculous humid, hot weather.  I'm supposed to do a 9 mile run this weekend.  I can't say I'm really looking forward to it.

Running does make me much more sympathetic to my athletic partner.  I now know just how tough it can be to get moving in the warm up, what it feels like to have a joint not want to play one day, or how much it sucks when you can't get enough oxygen into your body.  I took a goofy step and had a knee twinge on a recent run and while limping and cussing, really made myself think about how that would feel for my pony.  Yeah, I'm really looking forward to getting the xrays and injections done for him.  I want him to feel amazing because running with any kind of pain SUCKS.

Soon enough we'll get to work on that project.  First we take a little unscheduled break.