You'd think I'd be excited to be close to the end of this damn rehab. The closer it gets, the more anxious I get about just getting it over with.
|I want this shirt|
Lily is in heat. She started last week after her boyfriend got moved into the stall across the way from her, since he is an anxious, weaving OTTB who hates being in a stall, and is now on stall rest due to a hind limb tendon injury. He now has company, since Lily AND her neighbor are both on stall rest, too. The OTTB has settled in a lot better and quicker than any of us expected, just having friends close by.
Hello Crazy Overly Sensitive MareFace. I don't even want to ride her anymore when she gets into this mindframe, because it takes every ounce of mental strength and patience in me to refrain from overreacting to her ridiculousness. All training and desensitizing goes out the window when she is in heat. She even ceases to remember who I am and the fact that I have never abused her in the 2 years I've owned her. She'll roll her eyes at me the entire time I'm working with her, no matter how slowly and carefully I move around her. For an entire week. Once a month.
When she's like this, I can totally understand how she got into trouble with the cowboy trainer.
We had 3 rides last week. We went on the trails twice. The first time, we did our 3 trot sets in the 30 minute time frame; the second ride we spent mostly walking because it was cool and despite being medicated, she was overly looky and skittish. She actually spooked at a clump of grass...in a meadow...then gave a head-up buck where all 4 feet left the ground. Fun. So the day after that we rode in the arena, adding the fourth trot set as scheduled by my vet. She was cranky and uncooperative, and she spooked at a rake that had been propped on the corner of the arena for the last two weeks. That she has seen and been completely nonchalant about, for the past two weeks.
In terms of rehab, for these next two weeks I had two options: either add the 4th trot set, or do 3 trot sets and start cantering lines + turnout. If I added the 4th trot set, I'd be adding cantering lines two weeks later, and THEN starting turnout.
Over the weekend, we did the same rehab routine on the lunge, and I chose to not use ace because I was running low and was waiting for the next bottle to arrive. Plus I hate medicating her all the time to do active stuff with her outside of her stall.
Of course, since she is in heat she was spooking at people walking by the outside gate of the indoor arena. She tried to break into a gallop and get away several times for no reason whatsoever, as the horses had already been fed and turned out. If I ignored her antics she'd settle. Somewhat.
On Sunday, however, ignoring her was not working, and after her 3rd attempt at getting away from me and trying to run away backwards when I asked her to stop, I MADE her back up until she reached the corner of the arena. She settled down after that.
*Must work with her on this backing-up-away-from-me-in-fear BS. I am SO DONE WITH THIS BEHAVIOR!* When she can be treated like a normal horse again. *sigh*
It is another thing that she only does when she is in heat.
On Monday, I touched up her feet and we just hand walked. Afterwards I was trying to clip her right hind fetlock and the back of her cannon bone. She has a minor fungal infection going on there that I've been treating for the last 5 days, but the leg continues to stock up and I wanted to remove the hair that's in the way so the medications can reach the infection and we can get it cleared up once and for all. This is not the first time I do something of this sort. It is not the first time I clip her legs. She has had full body clips before; I've clipped her legs a million times for scenarios like this (she often gets fungal infections on her hinds, no matter how clean her environment is), and just when I wanted to clean up her appearance. She was clipped by Dr. R for her ultrasounds without major problems or requiring sedation.
It was quiet in the barn. It had been a couple of hours since the horses had been fed and turned out for the night, and the OTTB and Lily's neighbor, who both adore her, were quietly munching on their hay in their stalls. Charles was with me, and he was just hanging out at the moment while I finished up my chores.
I go to clip her right hind, reaching around her left hind so I could access the inside of the right hind with more ease (another thing I have done a million times before), and almost got nailed in the face by her left hind. She has NEVER offered to kick me before and it is COMPLETELY UNACCEPTABLE. She got smacked hard in the butt for that. I tried 3 more times from different angles: once from the right side, once with Charles neck twitching her, and once with him holding the left hind up. Not working. So she received 4 mls of ace. Waited half an hour for it to take effect, and once she was falling asleep on the cross ties, tried again. Still kicking. Once I added a nose twitch, held by Jackie, I was able to gently clip the affected leg without threats of bodily injury. Ridiculous. Absolutely ridiculous. Afterwards I treated the leg without major complaints from her.
Jackie often picks Lily's stall at late-night check. She has been doing this for the past 4 months. Lily knows her and loves her, to the point where I sometimes get a little jealous. :) This doesn't keep my mare from going into a full panic when Jackie enters her stall to pick her stall at night while Lily is in heat. She did this last month, and did it again this weekend. She only does this when she is in heat. Another thing? Last month, during the time that Lily was in heat, Dr. R was at the barn to finish summer shots. She always takes the horses' temperatures when she's vaccinating. She went to take Lily's temperature (something that both myself and her have done several times before, without the slightest problem), and Lily tried to kick her.
It is good to know that others see and recognize my mare's extreme behaviors at this time of the month. Most people don't see it, as she is fine when you approach her, and will nuzzle you and be as sweet as ever when she is in her stall and you're on the other side of the door. This changes when you go to actually do stuff with her. Like groom her. Or lunge her. Or ride her. I've had people who have only interacted with her on a petting basis tell me that they don't see what I'm talking about. I really do wish I was imagining it, that it was something minor. I have a high tolerance for inappropriate behaviors in horses, as long as I can correct them and the horse learns. I have no control over hormonal behaviors. I can correct some of her reactions (like the backing up issue that needs to be addressed; it is escalating and it is a dangerous bad habit, even if it only happens once a month), but it's all just going to happen again in 3 weeks when she goes into heat again. It's like effing Groundhog Day, for an entire week, once a month. I'm starting to get concerned because her extreme behaviors while in heat are starting to worsen. She used to barely show signs of being in heat when I first got her, and it was something that you could ride through easily. I would never have purchased her if I'd known she'd get this bad. The skittishness in her stall is a new and unprovoked behavior that has happened exclusively during the last 3 heat cycles. The rest of the time she has been fine with both Jackie, the vet, and me working with her in her stall.
She's getting this week off. I refuse to ride her in this frame of mind. Since we could have started turnout anyway, and she needs to be reintroduced to grass regardless, we're going to start turning her out for two hours at a time max in the grassy square pen. Medicated, of course.
I had the repro talk with my vet. I actually asked about spaying Lily. This sounds extreme and sudden, but it was something that I had been reading about and considering for the last year, given Lily's slowly worsening PMS. If it was something that had more advantages than drawbacks, we would find a way to eventually do it. However, I wanted to hear my vet's thoughts on the matter: I respect her opinion, plus she is young and worked at her university's large animal hospital and at a busy equine specialty hospital prior to moving to MD.
She did not have good views on spaying. She said of course it should be done for medical problems, like granulosa-theca tumors, but overall she had not seen the best results when spaying healthy, bitchy mares. She knew of one sporthorse mare that had been spayed due to her horrendous attitude. The spay changed nothing. The other drawback is that some spayed mares will actually cycle continuously. As you may or may not know (I knew this part), when you "spay" a mare, you only remove her ovaries, unlike small animal spays where you remove both the ovaries and uterus. The possible perk of removing the ovaries is that you remove the source of the signal that tells the body to go into heat. The drawback is that you also remove the source of the signal that tells the body when to stop going into heat. And since the spayed mare still has a uterus, she can just start a literally never-ending heat cycle.
Spayed mares are actually popular in big breeding programs to stimulate stallions, because they are always in heat but are unable to get pregnant.
Umm, yeah, ditch any possible consideration of that plan!
So we discussed the other two big methods: the marble and Regumate. My vet said that the marble rarely works; if I wanted to try it, of course we could, but the success rate was very low. She explained the procedure, saying that nowadays you do a Caslick to keep the marble in, as one of the drawbacks of the technique is that the mare will often lose her marble. (Lol!)
Caslicks are popular in racing TB mares due to windsucking (I personally don't understand this, and think the entire concept behind this procedure is a little barbaric and bordering on the edge of superstition. I don't understand why this is still such a common procedure), but are not common in other breeds.
Lily is a TB cross, with no tattoo, but she has a Caslick. She came with it, and my assumption was always that (hopefully) it had been performed for a reason, Ex: poor anatomy, recurrent infections (both of which I highly doubt, but whatever.) I told Dr. R about it. This made us wonder about the possibility of someone already having tried placing a marble in her...and it obviously not working.
So that left us with Regumate.
The first drawback of Regumate is that it is expensive. $271 on Smartpak for a bottle of the stuff, and they have the best price on it + free shipping. BUT, that's almost a 4-month supply. That's actually not much more than what I'm spending on Lily's ExStress calming supplement when you split that into a per month cost. (I've tried raspberry leaf. I've tried whopping doses of it. It made no difference whatsoever.)
The second drawback is that it is hormones. I had concerns about the side effects of having her on the stuff continuously for the rest of her life, but Dr. R said that one advantage of living here in the north is that you can give them a break during the winter, since mares don't cycle during the cold months. Plus most people that use the drug for behavior modification do use it forever because it is so effective.
I talked to a couple of people who have had their mares on Regumate long-term. Two of them had mares that were dangerous to ride when they were in heat. One would get so body sore that you couldn't even touch her. Both mares have completely mellowed out and are much more consistent in their temperament. The others to whom I've talked to also only have good things to say about Regumate.
In conclusion: I think we'll be trying it. I was going to wait until next spring, but I think I may start her on it sooner. I'm done with the monthly crazies. It's exhausting to deal with. We use hormonal contraceptives ourselves and continue with our lives, often with less issues as a result. After the talk with my vet, I have no qualms about doing the same with Lily.
On Tuesday, I gave Lily her ace, groomed and tacked up Ramsey, and once the ace had kicked in, put Lily out in the round (square) pen that we use as a small hospital paddock when a horse has to be on restricted movement.
She was out there for a little over an hour while I rode and afterwards bathed Ramsey. I checked on her often as I was untacking and hosing him off. She was walking around in the round pen, covered in dust from rolling, but she had not torn up the ground, which meant she had not been running around acting like a lunatic (I aced her to prevent this).
I brought her in once Ramsey was put away. She was sweaty and itchy, and the flies were driving her crazy despite a prior liberal application of fly spray. I gave her a long shampoo bath. Despite it being hot out, the water from the hose was cold, and she relaxed under the stream, taking a nap while being bathed. The fungal infection was so much better thanks to having clipped the leg prior to treating it the day before.
On weeks like this, I wish I had just waited and gotten a gelding.