"And, when you want something, the entire Universe conspires in helping you to achieve it." -The Alchemist, by Paulo Coehlo

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Ice, Soak, Rest, Repeat

Yesterday I was at the barn to check on Lily, and even before pulling her out of her stall, I saw it: the whole outside of her right front leg, from fetlock to knee, was puffy and swollen. I thought this was odd, but since she also has a giant, infected sore from her bell boots on that same pastern, I figured maybe it was inflammation from the sore that had crept up the leg from being on stall rest.

I clipped the lunge line on and took her into the indoor, where I had her walk in both directions for a good 10 minutes. I then asked her to do lots of walk-trot transitions on the lunge, just to get her blood pumping. If it was just a little inflammation from the sore, it should go down with movement.

After 20 minutes, there was no change in the leg. She had a slight head bob that was barely noticeable-mostly when she was doing a down transition if she rushed into it. I asked her to canter a half circle in each direction, then more walk-trot. No change in her lameness, but after another 10 minutes of mostly trotting, the swelling had not decreased. It had not gotten worse, but I still couldn't see the tendons on the outside of that leg, and honestly, if it had been swelling from her sore, I would have expected her pastern to be swollen too-it wasn't. The leg was really hot. She flinched a little initially when I palpated the tendons on the leg, but of course with all that swelling, palpation would be uncomfortable regardless.

Telling the alarm bells in my head to shut up, I took Lily out of the arena. Sally had arrived and just finished soaking Jezebel's foot when I was done in the indoor, so we took the mares out and hand grazed them for over an hour while we talked. The girls enjoyed the socializing. Afterwards we put them together in the indoor, since everyone had pretty much left for the day, and let them wander around.

Jez has the pink halter with pink fuzzies, Lily is the one on the right.

"Do you have treats for us?" If Lily didn't have the white on her face, they would totally look like twins. They are probably related through Lily's TB bloodlines. Same white coronet and white pastern in front, opposite white socks in the back.

 I eventually brought Lily back in to soak her hoof in the wash stall, and for good measure, decided to ice the leg as well while we were at it. Just because I didn't like all of that swelling. I wanted to see what would happen.

Being a fidgety brat! I had to re-fill the soaking boot twice...
30 minutes later, I removed her soaking boot and continued icing for a little more while talking with Sally and Heather, who had arrived and was grooming Nate in the wash stall next to Lily.

After about 5 more minutes, I took Lily to the cross ties in front of her stall, and removed the ice boot. It revealed a nice tight leg, with two 1" diameter bumps right above her fetlock, on the outside of her leg, right over her tendons. I almost sat down and cried. This wasn't just the bruise bothering her.

You can clearly see the bumps-the light was shining on them!

I called BQ and told them what I'd discovered. She immediately came down the stairs with John, her significant other and the barn owner (he is also a very knowledgeable horseman). I showed them what was going on with Lily's leg, and they both felt the lumps. Both of them thought this was a windpuff, but given the acute presentation and the fact that it was only on the outside of a front leg, they both agreed that it would have been caused by a strain. We decided to keep her on stall rest, ice the leg twice more tonight (BQ would take care of this), and apply Surpass and wrap the leg later that night (BQ would also do this).

Today when I arrived at the barn, Lily was pacing and fidgeting in her stall. Her legs were still wrapped. I removed the bandages, and discovered a nice smooth, tight leg. We walked in the outdoor arena for about 15 minutes, and I was happy to see that the leg didn't re-fill.

You can barely see the bump.
I pulled out the ice boot and placed it on her leg while I hand-grazed her for the next half hour. She was, for the most part, a good girl, except she was obsessed with the horses in the field and kept trying to turn around to look at them. Eventually she settled and enjoyed eating grass.

After that, I put her in the wash stall to soak her hoof, and removed the ice boot. Sally arrived as I was finishing soaking, and we let the girls wander around together in the indoor again. This time, however, they were more about getting in trouble and trotting around, so we ended up taking them out. With BQ's permission, I temporarily put Lily in one of the giant stalls by the indoor, next to Murmur, one of the horses who's been laid up for the past 6 months due to double soft tissue injuries on the same leg. In the presence of another horse, Lily remained calm in the stall, and dug into the hay. I put the ice boot back on and went to find Sally and Heather.

They were in the outdoor, and Heather was talking about setting up a jump course. When the arena was dragged on Friday, all of the jumps had been removed, so we had a clean canvas to work with. Heather had some really cool ideas, and I added more to her ideas. We then got to work setting up jumps. We had a really good time, and this was the end result:

The same jump combination set up for the last 6 months in the outdoor. A bounce, and 2 single fences. We decided to change it up.

We used most of the standards and most of the poles available. It took the 3 of us an hour or so to get it finished. We deliberately used the wing standards, and made some interesting combinations (like the cross rail with the log underneath and the oxer with the hanging tires) that would be a good desensitizing experience for the horses, and also difficult to re-arrange by yourself!

The oxer was one of my favorites. About 2'3" at the most, but  set  about 2' wide, and made wider by the hanging tires. Heather set the inflatable snake up on the standard on purpose, to make it even scarier.

The X. You could jump these 5 fences in several different combinations-there are at least 6 possible bending lines here, and it can also be ridden in straight lines as an X. I LOVED this setup. It was Heather's idea, and I tweaked it a little so it could be even more versatile.

Trot poles, set up as cavaletti. This was what I was talking about  at the clinic

We had fun setting up those jumps. I hadn't done that in a long time! The striding and organization of the jumps was made to be challenging. This is a classical, challenging jumper course that demands a good amount of athleticism from both horse and rider. It almost made me want to get back into a jumping.

I let Lily's leg rest while we put up the course, and then iced it again while Sally and I sat down to watch Heather jump. Nate made the course look easy as pie. Heather trotted him in to most of the fences, but cantered between lines, then brought Nate back to a trot after the combinations. He used to be a monumental fence rusher. Not anymore!

Afterwards, I wrapped Lily's front legs again, applying Surpass once more to the spot above her fetlock where the bumps were yesterday. We'll see how it looks tomorrow.


  1. I hope Lily gets better soon!

    I think we need to give old ladies a break, I know a several older women who don't have the best form but can still enjoy some modicum of jumping on their safe older horses. Our bodies take a beating and when we get older that catches up with us. One woman at our barn had a Stroke, she was paralyzed on one side of her body, but she regained mobility and can walk, and ride, she has an appropriate and safe mount. She'll never have text book perfect equitation and she'll never get that right heel down as much as you or I, but she's safe. Also my trainer would never let her do anything dangerous and I don't know the other trainer you are talking about so there is that too.

  2. No, that came out completely wrong; I just re-read it and edited it. These ladies are hard-core. Really. One of them has a herniated disk and she rides two horses every day. EVERY day. I can only hope I'm still as dedicated as them when I'm their age.

    I'm criticizing the trainer. This is all about the trainer. All of her students are older, and while most of them ride in dressage saddles, this trainer has them with their stirrups hiked up to their chins. It has to hurt. It would hurt me! Part of the reason why I don't jump anymore is because it makes my knees, hip and back hurt. I'm only 33. I can't imagine what these women go through with each ride with the position this trainer puts them in. She does not watch out for them. If I were the trainer, I would be preparing them a lot more, taking my time with them a lot more, making sure their position is strong, before putting them over fences. One of them rides a horse who is in his late twenties who is lame from a previous broken pelvis-the horse. The vet said this horse should not be jumped anymore. Yet here this trainer is, putting him over fences. Not the rider's fault-she trusts her trainer and assumes that she knows best. But a good trainer doesn't do that.

    It's not so much a matter of rider limitation here-ALL of these students have the same riding style. ALL of them, even the younger riders that are in their 40's and fit. It's not their fault-the TRAINER is telling them to ride like that! We've heard her instructions.

    I rode jumpers and took jumper lessons for 17 years, with many different trainers, with different styles, and with different students of all ages. A good trainer doesn't cookie-cutter their method. A good trainer prepares a student (and the horse!) before putting them over fences. I had to ride for months without stirrups before I was ever allowed to go over a crossrail. Why? So I would have a strong, secure leg. Of course you can't do this with older riders, but you can at least have them work on transitions, on a little two-point at the walk and trot, do circles (she doesn't even have them do figures in their lessons! They ride straight lines! I swear), etc. There is a whole gamut of exercises you can do to prepare a rider to go over fences, to make them stronger so it is safe for them. This is what I'm talking about. I guess it did sound like I was poking at the ladies. I'm not-that was the position that this trainer is placing them in: I'm criticizing the trainer 100%. What we don't understand is why these women keep training with this trainer-she does not have an amazing resume, she is not well-known in this area, she hogs the arenas at all hours (our barn is not a lesson barn-lessons do not have priority, and it is written as such in the barn rules), and her students don't improve. Some of them have been with this trainer for years, and their form is exactly the same as in the beginning. Yes, it might be a rider limitation, but like I said-all of them, regardless of age bracket, have the same riding style, imposed by this trainer. Everyone at our barn who doesn't take lessons with this trainer, including our other senior boarders, says the same thing: they don't understand why this group of students thinks this trainer is the be-all and end-all. (90% of this barn is made up of retired female riders; about 8 of them take lessons with this trainer, day in and day out.)

    All of this was about the trainer.

    1. Ah ok! Yes I do get what you are saying. I agree that no matter how old and whatever limitations you have that you can become a better rider even if its only slightly better and definitely not all trainers are equal!

    2. Totally! It would be nice if we had a h/j trainer as good as yours at our barn! :) Too bad our barns are on opposite coasts.