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



Thursday, November 20, 2014

Barbed Wire

Aka that thing you never want your horse to come in contact with.


Last week I had Lily tied to the fence with her rope halter and I was getting ready to tack her up. I walk up to her, empty-handed, calm and happy, as I had really been looking forward to riding her. We were just going to do a dressagey ride in the paddock.

When I was within 2 feet of her, with her looking right at me, she had an EPIC MELTDOWN. As in head slinging, bucking on the end of the lead rope, flinging her legs every which way in such a manner that I could not get in front of her to release the quick-release knot on the rope. I did try, but that made her frenzy worse. She managed to knock her head on the fence too. I could only step back and watch her helplessly. You'll say that this is why horses should always wear breakaway halters. Well, I had a horse that learned he could pull and break the halter every. single. time. So after that I commonly do tie my horses with rope halters and a quick release knot, though for certain circumstances like trailering, they do wear nylon halters with leather breakaway crowns. I never wander far from a horse tied by a rope halter, and I've never had an issue with being able to get to the quick release knot in an emergency prior to this. 

She finally stopped and stood trembling, and I was able to release her without her losing her mind. I just wanted to sit on the ground and cry. I had no idea why she had just done this. Everyone loves her at this barn. It's just Zoe, Kathy and me, and I have seen Lily around them: she loves them too. A cold front was moving in on that day and the wind was starting to pick up, but we were on the back of the property where nothing was flapping or flying, there had been no odd sounds, no activity on the neighboring farm, nothing happening in the woods. I had ridden her the day before, a light ride to get her warmed up to being under saddle again after her 2-week vacation post Fort Valley 50. She had been a little weird on the ground but fine under saddle.

I untied her and tried doing some basic longing with her but she started tearing around me in terror, refusing to stop. I reeled her in before she could hurt herself.

My levels of upset skyrocketed. I did not know why she was acting this way and did not understand it, but it was a total and absolute regression to the way she used to be before, before I did all of the management changes and the trail riding and the confidence building. She was an emotional wreck and I couldn't understand why. She was not in heat and she has not been hurt by people in years. I've handled and ridden her in awful weather before and it has never been an issue. Heck, we even had a tree fall behind us on the trail a few weeks ago, and she just stood there without exploding while I braced, prepared for her to bolt. She turned her head to look at me, "Are you okay?" and we continued on our way down the trail.

I removed her lead rope and set her free in the paddock to let her run around while I stood in the center. And she relaxed. And then I decided to take her to the back field, the one by the park which is the 2nd largest on the property. I called Lily and she slowed to a walk but continued moving away from me. "Ven aca," I told her. The mare is bilingual. I talk to her in Spanish and most of the new commands I've taught her are in Spanish simply because it is my first language but the basic commands, "Walk", "Trot", "Up" to request the canter, "Easy", "Whoa," "Stand" and "Good girl!" are all in English because it's the language in which she was originally trained and she came to me knowing all of these. It is for her benefit that I've left these commands as is, because we live in a country where English is the first language.

I've used "Ven" to ask her to come to me. But I don't remember using "Ven aca" before. It means "Come here" and is used with more authority. More like "Come here NOW". To my surprise, Lily came to a full and sudden halt, turned and started walking towards me, ears pricked. I was shocked x2. First in that she had responded to a new command with the promptness it entailed and also because she had chosen to come to me at all at my bidding...and with a happy expression. When she is truly upset, there is no getting her to come to you.

She was reactive about me touching her, but she let me lead her by the halter to the back field. There she trotted and cantered at my requests and she gradually started closing the space between her and me until she was trotting and cantering on command in a 40 meter circle around me despite having a full acre to run on. I have not trained her to longe at liberty like that. I can get her to trot and canter from across a field, but the longing at liberty is something that she has chosen to start doing on her own over the last year and a half. Again she came when I called.

I did end up riding her, but we just walked and worked on stretching, relaxation and neck reining for 20 minutes. Nothing more. She was absolutely fine under saddle, just like she had been the day before.

I later talked to Zoe about the whole thing and she said Deja gets like that about static. It is still crazy to me that Lily would be SO reactive about even the possibility of static that she would hurt herself, but I started using Show Sheen under her sheet and blanket after that and wouldn't you know: no more static and no more spastic behaviors from her.

This past weekend Charles was off from work so he came out to ride with me. On Saturday we did a short ride in the park, where we covered 5 miles in 45 minutes. It was Charles's first time riding in the cold, as temps were in the low 40's with wind chills in the 30's. We moved out at a fairly fast pace to stay warm! And also to make it back to the barn before the dusk turned to night. We had so much fun, just trotting and cantering through the trees. There wasn't a soul in the park; we had it all to ourselves.The mares took turns leading and were forward and happy, Lily even pulling on the bit in her eagerness to go faster. It was a really great ride, and I felt like I had finally emerged from the funk that had slowly wrapped itself around me over the last few weeks.

On Sunday we went for another ride. It was slightly warmer at 42 degrees with no wind, and I had been hoping to do a longer ride: either 10 miles or 2 hours, whichever came first. We set out taking every single dead-end loop in the park to up the mileage in a way that would keep us from having to double back on any of the trails. 

There is a somewhat overgrown trail that follows the Hawlings River that looked like it had been cleared. We had never been down this particular trail but had been told of other riders that have used, so we set off to explore. 

The trail was narrow, though, with brush and trees on the right and an old barbed wire fence on the left. I warned Charles to be very careful with the barbed wire. We came to a small, rocky creek crossing where Lily hesitated initially. She crossed with minimal insistence from me but Gracie absolutely did not want to follow Lily through. After several attempts, Charles got off to try to lead her across but she planted her feet like a mule and refused. She was trembling despite his patient insistence and calm reassuring. I didn't like the way this was going though: you had to walk down an incline made up of rocks to then cross the small creek. If Gracie decided to rush forward or jump, the chances of Charles getting hurt were pretty high. There was no real room for him to get out of the way. "Let's call it," I told Charles. "Let's just turn around." To my chagrin, Charles led Gracie through a wide gap in the barbed wire fence. Someone had cut the wire previously; I could see it on the ground as Lily stepped carefully over it. I explained to Charles why he had to be REALLY careful about stepping over barbed wire.

It was an omen. 

This section led into the field at the bottom of the galloping hill that Kathy and I used to take all the time over the winter. We rode around the field and I was wondering why we hadn't ever explored it before. The tiny creek cut through it, creating a deep trench through the center of the field. Charles rode on ahead and I was watching the footing in front of us. Right when I though, "This is a flood plain. This is why I've always instinctively avoided it," and brought Lily to a halt, Gracie sank to her cannon bones in mud that was completely hidden by the grass some 100 feet in front of us. "Get out of there NOW!" I yelled at Charles. He swung Gracie around and we cantered towards the galloping hill, away from the creek. 

We galloped up the hill and walked down the side of it, Charles leading the way. We cantered down the grassy easement that flows out of the park and dead-ends at the gate to a neighboring farm. We turned around like we usually do, and walked back towards the woods.

Walking back up the easement
Instead of heading back towards the main trail, I decided to do the galloping hill backwards. At a walk, of course. That hill is way too steep to go down it at anything faster than a walk.


You can see the trail going up the hill off to Charles's left
I want to point out that I have ridden all over this hill multiple times. There is a trail that winds around the top of it that I had explored more than once over the summer. I have come across hikers, both alone and with dogs, on this hill, and this trail was shown to me by other trail riders at the previous barn. 

I had found the trail that goes around the top of the hill and Charles was riding ahead and to the side of me, some 20 meters away. The trail disappeared in the carpet of leaves and I decided to just turn around and go back to the main trail we always take. Lily suddenly stopped and I felt her wiggle a hind foot. 

"Wait, she's stuck," Charles said. I tried to turn around to see how she'd gotten stuck, assuming it was a branch and I just needed to make her back up. 

And that's when she lifted the hind foot and I saw the barbed wire wrapped around her fetlock. Brand new barbed wire that had been hiding under the leaves. I went to swing off of Lily, but that was the same instant she felt the wire embed itself in her skin and she lost her mind. I had my hands full trying to keep her from leaping forward and causing more damage to her leg. I was also afraid to jump off or throw myself off of her because I had no idea where the wire was and didn't want to get tangled in it myself. She kicked out...and the two strands of wire that were wrapped around her leg sprang out of the leaves, one on each side of Gracie. Who of course spooked and so Charles couldn't come to the rescue either: he had to keep a panicking Gracie within the two strands of wire so she wouldn't get tangled in them too. 

It was like something out of a freaking horror movie. Or War Horse. I had this momentary vision of the four of us ending up tangled in the wire and bleeding out in the woods.

I hated the barbed wire scene in that movie...
Lily finally kicked her leg free and tried to plunge forward but I halted her and dismounted immediately. 

She was holding up her left hind and it was covered in blood. There was blood spurting from a spot right below her hock on the side of her leg, and several splatters of blood all over her white sock that made it impossible to tell if they were from the cut on the side of the leg or if they were cuts themselves. 

Charles was able to get Gracie out from between the two strands of wire and we searched his saddle bags. Which I had emptied for Fort Valley. My saddle bags with all of my first aid stuff were attached to my dressage saddle. Which was back at the barn, 3 miles away. So I had NOTHING to wrap her leg with or doctor the wound. I was beating myself up over this: OF COURSE the one time I really need the contents of my saddle bags is the one time I don't bring them!!

I was furious at myself. I asked Lily to walk and she was able to put weight on the leg. So I led her back down the hill and down the trail, Charles following on Gracie. He said she seemed to have full range of motion on the left hind. I jogged her for a few strides for him to evaluate, and he said she looked fine.

I sent Lily first into the first large creek crossing we encountered so I could wash the blood off of her leg and better assess the damage. She didn't want to put her leg in the icy water but I finally convinced her and she let me clean her up. She had a cut across the front of her leg, right above the fetlock, the spot under her hock that had stopped bleeding, some more cuts on the inside of the pastern, and a 1" diameter section behind her heel where she had sliced off the skin in a neat triangle. This of course was the most painful spot of all but thankfully it wasn't a spot that was coming into direct contact with the ground. We breathed a sigh of relief that there didn't seem to be anything that immediately required medical attention and continued on our way. Not like we could have done anything if there had been a matter of urgency, but it was good to know regardless. 

About halfway home, I took Lily down into the Hawlings River, where the water is closer to knee height, and sent her into the icy running water to let the river wash her wounds and also do a very cold soaking. I had her stand there for about 5 minutes and we then continued on our way. Note to self: teach all future horses to send. I can't tell you how many times this particular skill of Lily's has proven to be monumentally useful. 

Once back at the barn, Charles untacked Gracie while I gave Lily a dose of bute and then a dose of oral ace: I was going to have to try to clip the leg and I knew she was not going to be happy about it. I untacked her, washed the leg well with soap and cold hosed it for 10 minutes, then let her eat her dinner mash while waiting for the acepromazine to kick in.

The cut across the front of her leg after I had cleaned her up. The blood further down on her pastern was from some scrapes from the barbed wire but they ended up being just that: scrapes. I really hate how much fuzzy winter coats will hide on legs.
It actually doesn't look bad in this photo and you can't see the triangle of missing skin, but you get an idea of the cut's location. It continued to bleed sporadically.
She let me more or less clip the areas where I had seen blood on the leg and it looked like everything was indeed superficial, even the cut below her hock that had bled the most after the accident. I was worried about the back of the leg above the sock because there had been some spots of blood there and she didn't want me to clip it. She's never liked me clipping the back of that leg since one of her bad fungal infections in FL, and I don't blame her. I just wasn't 100% sure that there wasn't anything else going on there. I was also worried about the cut on her heel because it appeared to have a small fissure across the center of it which I figured couldn't be deep but I had no real way of knowing without looking at it closely and it was the one part of her leg that she really did not want me to touch. I let the leg dry off and then squirted all of the cuts with Betadine. And gooped some Furazone over the raw triangle at the back of her heel to try to protect it. It was in a bad spot for bandaging or booting, especially with the weather we were supposed to have: we were expecting rain overnight and all of the next day. The weather was happy to oblige the forecast: it started sleeting while we were getting ready to leave. Lily went out with the other mares. In this fashion she would move around more, but I knew she was going to swell up overnight. Because cuts on horse legs.

I just didn't know how much it would be.

It was solid rain all morning the next day; I didn't get out to the barn until after 2:00 pm when it finally died down somewhat. Kathy had been texting me to let me know that the leg, while fine that morning, had been progressively becoming more swollen over the course of the day and Lily seemed to be getting ouchier on it.

The leg was indeed a tree trunk when I got to the barn. Lily had been standing in the run-in most of the day to stay dry and warm, and that had not helped the situation.

Left leg, the one with the sock. Somehow swollen legs always look better in photos than in real life. But the leg was literally round; no tendon/bone definition at all from the hock down.
Lily was toe-touching lame on it. I figured it was from all the swelling but you know: barbed wire. She would not let me touch the leg and there was something about her general disposition that didn't seem quite right. The vet was supposed to come out Friday anyway for shots and it would save me an exam fee if I waited. But it was Monday and I had to work the next three days and I wasn't sure that this was going to get better with just bute and cold hosing, especially with the time constraints that come with working 12 hour shifts. I squatted on the ground to look at the leg better and everything in me said, "Call the vet."

So I did. I spoke with my vet's receptionist, who is awesome, and explained what had happened including the progression of swelling and lameness. She asked if she could put me on hold and she called my vet directly. When she came back on the line, she asked if my vet could come out that same afternoon. It would be an emergency exam because it would end up being after hours: my vet was booked for the day, which I expected, but they didn't want to wait another day to come out. The emergency exam with Dr. H is only $20 more than the regular exam fee. I said yes.

I had about an hour and a half to kill, so I cold-hosed the leg, gave Lily 1 gram of bute because it just hurt to watch her trying to move around, and brought her into the barn for a bit to escape the rain while eating hay. She was blanketed and not wet, but it meant I could sit out of the rain for a while too. And I cried because lately I can't seem to do anything right by her. I was afraid there was something else going on as a result of the barbed wire, something that I couldn't see that would result in her retirement. All of this because of one trail ride.

My vet and her new associate showed up at exactly the time they had said they would arrive. They were able to inspect the leg closely and had the same concerns as I had about the cut on Lily's heel, but they were able to confirm that it was indeed superficial. While waiting, I had thought I should check Lily's temperature but my thermometer was in the car on the other side of the property and I had not wanted to go out walking in the rain to get it. I knew the vet would get a temperature anyway as part of the physical exam. Lily had a fever of 103.

She was started on SMZ right away. I gave her the first dose while the vet while still there. She also had a tetanus booster. The leg was too painful for the ice boot so I cold hosed her one more time.

I put Lily in the run-in shed paddock and closed Gracie off in the paddock next door with what we call the "shitty shed". In this manner, Lily could have all of the larger main run-in to herself and she could also have as much hay as she wanted without Gracie trying to steal it from her. She only ate half of her mash but she had been eating hay so I wasn't terribly concerned that. I was just concerned about everything else: the massive swelling, the pain, and the rapid onset of the fever.

She had 48 hours to get better. We would have to switch antibiotics if she didn't. I personally did not want to do the injectable antibiotics again, as that had been an awful ordeal. So I was really hoping the SMZ would work.

Kathy texted me the next day, Tuesday, while at work to let me know that Lily was moving around well. She was out with the other 3 mares and they had been allowed to go out into the huge front field for a few hours. When I got to the barn in the evening, Lily was super bright and the leg did indeed look better: the swelling had "sunken" to her fetlock but she was moving around SO much better. I gave her her evening dose of bute (Kathy had given her her pm antibiotic dose) and a warm mash (wind chills were in the single digits. WTF MD weather??!) while she wore her ice boot. Her temperature was down to 100. PHEW!!! The antibiotic was working.

Before icing
Lily's leg on Wednesday looked even better. I had gone out to the barn before work to give her her bute dose and ice the leg (she hates the bute syringes and she won't eat the medicine in her food, so I was trying to keep her from getting syringe-shy with Kathy by giving her some of the bute doses myself.) I set down everything in the barn and got Lily out from the field. It was in the 30's but it felt really nice in the sun. Both of my mares were wearing double layers. I was fine with Lily keeping her sheet over her midweight, as she is clipped, but I decided to remove Gracie's sheet before doing anything with Lily. Gracie was being an absolute brat about it and took off before I could get the leg straps on the BRAND NEW sheet undone. (Note to self: no other horse is Lily. Lily would have gotten the message and waited for me to remove the sheet after the second request to stand. Lily is perfect. If horse is trying to run away while removing blanket, just tie the horse up and THEN do it safely.) She took off towards the bottom paddock and for whatever reason assumed that the gate to the big field was open. She slammed into that gate full-force without stopping and fell. It's kind of a wonder she didn't break anything...she got up and took off running around the paddock, sheet hanging from one hind leg now as she flew around at full speed, upsetting both Queenie and Deja. I didn't want her tearing through the gate to the upper paddock because of all of the rocks there (I REALLY didn't want her ripping that sheet to shreds, though it's a Schneiders so I guess it would have been replaced...) but instead of closing the gate to keep her in the bottom paddock, I stood at the entrance and yelled and waved my hands as she turned towards the gate from the far corner of the field. I was thinking she would either slow down enough for me to catch her or come to an absolute stop. There was PLENTY of room for her to do so. Deja and Queenie turned away from me like a normal horse would do. But what did my idiot beast do? She looked me right in the eye and barreled over me as if I wasn't there.

I sat up from the ground covered in blood. My head stung and my nose felt bruised and I'm thinking, "GODDAMN IT SHE FUCKING BROKE MY NOSE." I touched my nose and there was some blood but it didn't match the volume of blood I could feel around my neck and face. The world spun and reeled. There were black spots at the edge of my vision and I was extremely confused, "Where is the blood coming from?" Zoe suddenly appeared out of nowhere. "Are you okay??!!" she asked. "I think so," I said, "I just don't know where this blood is coming from." "You have a cut on the back of your head," she said. "You need to go to the emergency room!'

I don't really remember walking from the field to the gate to Kathy's yard but I somehow made it through and called Charles as Kathy materialized to take me to the hospital. Charles was at home; he got the details of what had happened and called his hospital to let them know I was coming and what to expect.

It was an awful drive. Once sitting I was aware of how crazily the world was spinning around me, and closing my eyes did not make the feeling better. Poor Kathy. She was a superstar.

Charles walked through the hospital doors less than a minute after we had walked into the lobby. He took me straight to the back triage room where immediately there were a nurse, a PA and a tech to get my story, examine me, and wash the cut on the back of my head. They were all friends of Charles's so there was a lot of joking around. It was nice to get to meet everyone and I was laughing right along with them, but I would have preferred to meet them under normal social circumstances!  My back was palpated and a basic neuro exam was done to make sure my brain was working normally. Everything was fine, and Charles was able to be present for EVERYTHING. I was sent to CT and the report came back normal. So I was diagnosed with a minor concussion. My head was numbed with lidocaine and the 3" cut on the back of my skull was sutured closed. 14 stitches. And then I went home. 3 hours total for everything and everyone was just wonderful. Compassionate, professional, empathetic. I was giggling over stuff Charles was saying while the cut was being lidocained and the PA stopped for a second because she thought I was crying in pain! I told her she was doing a fantastic job and to continue. There are huge perks to having family work in hospitals.

Oh, and my nose is fine. All the blood was from a scrape on my nostril. Not sure how that happened. And I'm really lucky Bitch Mare didn't step on me. All the trauma was from falling backwards and hitting my head on the rocks.

Note to self: wear helmet ALL THE TIME with horses, not just riding. Pony Club is onto something.

The world is still spinning this morning. I hope this is both the first and the last concussion ever. I don't even want to think about what a more serious concussion would feel like. It's pretty awful anyway. This is the first time I've actually been sent to the ER by a horse and it was my third visit to the ER ever in my life.

Gracie will get a neuro exam (because this is maybe the 8th time I've seen her fall while running in the pasture since moving to Kathy's) and based on what happens, the options are:
- lots and lots and lots of groundwork if everything is normal. We have been doing a lot of groundwork these past few weeks and the mare is much better if she is paying attention to you, but I really, really HATE that her default mode is to not respect people's personal space
- if everything is normal and her lack of respect for personal space continues despite groundwork, she will be sold or returned to her previous owner
- if she has untreatable neuro disease or something else that is not treatable, she will either be retired or euthanised depending on what it is

I know my dear reader is probably shocked that I jumped from barbed wire to concussion to possible euthanasia and your head is probably spinning like mine is while you're reading. But I assure you I am in my right mind. What happened is this: I thought, "This horse has sent both Charles and I into the ER in less than 5 months. What will happen next?" And my brain zeroed in on the falling. She falls every time she runs in the pasture. Every time. Even when she's just playing and goofing around. It's always at the canter/gallop, and it happens regardless of footing. Even when the footing has been dry. My fear is: if she falls every time she is running without a rider, what happens if she bolts while ridden on trail? She could cripple or kill Charles or me if she falls on the trail while running.

I hate thinking like this and I've never had to make that sort of call personally on a horse. Actually, I've never seen a horse die. So it's not a decision I make lightly. But this was a really big second strike and the only way this horse gets another chance is if she is neurologically normal.

Yup, I should just stick with cats.

November, you can be over now. Kthxbye.

53 comments:

  1. Oh my god Saiph! You've had a hell of a time lately!! Geesh! Take care of yourself...concussions are not to be messed with (even minor ones)!!! So.many.hugs.

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  2. I absolutely suck at coming up with things to say in crappy situations, but it sounds like you could use about a case of your drink of choice! First, I have heard about other horses with issues related to static, but I am truly impressed by Zoe's diagnosis because that wouldn't be the first thing that would have come to my mind. So kudos to her and I'm glad you got that mystery figured out. Second, the barbed wire thing. As far as I'm concerned, all barbed wire should be eliminated from the world. It's yet another example of the shit humans inflict on animals. Growing up and living in the Midwest, I saw so many barbed wire horse injuries and most of them ended badly. Even if you have wire cutters with you, the horse is usually too hysterical to get to in time and the result is a permanently lame horse or euthanasia. It sounds like Lily will be OK and that is not typical, so worth celebrating. And I know that you are beating yourself up about getting her in trouble, but I think your work with her gave you the ability to keep the situation from getting worse and that may have saved her life! Third, about Gracie...Getting a concussion sucks. Getting knocked down by your out-of-control horse sucks. Gracie running around with the damn blanket and hitting the gate and falling sucks. And you know your horses better than anyone, but from the outside, it sounds like a freak accident rather than a neurological event. I don't know if you read Joe Camp's blog or books but one of his mustang mares had a foal and when the foal was about 3 months old, he spooked and ran head-first into a telephone pole in his paddock and died almost instantly. There was no sign of neurological problems in the foal, he just spooked and ran into something. (My aunt actually did something similar when she was walking her dog and while no one would argue that she's completely normal, it was again a case of just reacting to something and forgetting about a giant obstacle.) Anyway, my point is that maybe Gracie just reacted so strongly because of the blanket so her sense of flight edged out her sense of the world around her. Nimo is generally not a complete lunatic but he's had some moments where I just got the hell out of his way until rational thought returned because I could tell he wasn't thinking about anything except getting out of the situation. I hope your head feels better, I hope Lily's leg heals quickly, and I especially hope Gracie is OK:)

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    1. Oh I know they can kill themselves being total idiots. The thing with the fall is that this was not the first time. It is maybe the 8th time she has fallen while running around, regardless of footing. Even when she's just running around at play with the other three. The others continue running and Gracie wipes out. She's not tripping and falling on the forehand since addressing the ringbone, but she's still falling: her hind legs are sliding out from underneath her and each time she crashes to the ground on her side, flat. Doesn't catch herself. Doesn't try to. And the thing is, she doesn't learn: I keep waiting to see if next time she won't fall. But she does. :( A rider can positively affect her balance and control her gait but...what if she bolts? What if she is faced with a situation that will potentially inhibit her ability to pay attention under saddle? The potential that she might fall while trying to run away as a result of excitement or a potential threat increases the danger tenfold. So I don't know. We'll find out tomorrow. :(

      I agree: static was not the first thing that came to mind when Lily was freaking out. Zoe is brilliant. I'm still relieved that this was all Lily ended up with as a result of the barbed wire. It really should just be banned.

      Thank you for your comment Gail and for the healing thoughts!

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    2. A boarder friend of mine uses a bent coat hanger that she rubs under her horse's blanket before taking it off for the static

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    3. Oh! That's a new one ColbyJazzmus! I will definitely try it.

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  3. Oh my god! I. Glad everyone is for the most part okay. I hope your head feels better soon, Lily's leg heals quickly, and everything checks out with Gracie. Keep your head up girl. And many, many hugs to you

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  4. Yikes! What a mess! I hope all you ladies are feeling better in no time, and that you get good news about Gracie!

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    1. Thank you Carly! I just want to be on the other side of this already.

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  5. Welcome to the concussion-by-horse club! Sorry, no party favors. All you get is some recall issues, maybe a sprinkling of new migraines, and a great story to tell. What I want to know: did you have to get part of your head shaved in order to suture?

    So, top to bottom. I'm sure you know this from being in veterinary medicine, but rubbing with dryer sheets also works in case you forget the Show Sheen. I used to recommend it to those animals who were reactive during thunderstorms, because it neutralizes the static electricity in their coats.

    The barb wire incident blows. Sounds like you handled it very well! I probably would have freaked out and ended up like the horse in War Horse.

    It sucks about Gracie. I hope that it's just.. something simple. It's hard to make decisions like that and it's hard to look past a horse causing physical injury. I hope there's some easy resolution there.

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    1. I told them repeatedly they could shave: my hair is long and I need a haircut in the near future anyway, so it would have been evened out quickly. But they insisted on not shaving, which I was surprised about. They did cut some of the longer hair. You can see the suture knots sticking out at the back of my head but that's it.

      Yup, have heard the dryer sheet recommendation. I just forget to buy them for the house...But good reminder.

      Thanks Beka! I hope so too...

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  6. ....I think I sent you all of my comment via text messages. lol #socialmediaprobz

    Continued positive thoughts and hugs. The majickal silver package will make it all right again. Majickal juju is contained within. Promiz.

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    1. Your comment made me burst out laughing Liz. :D I will look forward to the Majickal Silver Package!!

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  7. I'm sorry things have been so tough lately Saiph. You and both your girls will be in my prayers.

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  8. Wow, what a post. First off, I'm glad you're okay and Lily is okay! Second, I agree that human safety is priority- hopefully whatever is going on with Gracie can be corrected with groundwork sessions...A charging horse is probably my worse nightmare ):

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    1. For whatever reason, getting run over by a charging horse was not in the realm of possibility for me...I know it happens, but I guess all the horses I've ever worked with would turn away when asked, even when in a blind panic. Especially my own.

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  9. Sometimes horses react to things we can't sense. I am really sensitive to static electricity - it makes me really uncomfortable. J can smell it when the static gets high. We've, at some point, accidentally managed to shock each other, T and most of our animals. This morning I reached out to pet Skittle's cute little face (as T says) and the static discharge was strong enough that she jerked back and looked at me like I had just beat her. Perhaps Lily was reacting to the smell and sense of static on you. And blanketing will make it worse. It just might have been too overwhelming at that moment, and not a reflection of her backsliding. (Even Ashke has movements where he acts out and I have to remember to not take it personally. Sometimes it really isn't about me, but about what is going on with him. Interactions with T are the same way.)

    I think the fact that you were able to contain and control Lily during the barbed wire incident further proves the point that she truly trusts you. I think, had it been Ashke, he would have killed us both. He is completely irrational when it comes to things wrapped around his hind legs. You both were really lucky that it wasn't more serious, and although she did swell up the next day, she could have done that with any abrasion. It is a great lesson for me, though, to make sure I am carrying my first aid kit with me on all rides. And wire cutters. I had a yearling filly tangle with a barbed wire fence in rural Idaho in the early 70's when vet care was not as readily available as it is in a city. It damned near killed her. She was on pasture board and tangled with the fence during a thunderstorm. The owner of the pasture called me three days later to tell me to come check on her (she was 45 miles away). All I had for treatment was cold hosing and bag balm. She should have been stitched but it was too late by the time I found out. She healed up okay, but carried the scars on her chest for the rest of her life. I think you are very blessed to have come away from a potential life threatening experience (with both horses) with minimal damage.

    Gracie is beginning to scare me. I felt uneasy after she ran C's knee into the tree, since it seemed like a deliberate act to me, especially since he tried to move her to the outside of that turn. But to have her deliberately run over the top of you . . . that might be excusable in a horses that is terrified (think wild mustangs penned for the first time) but is completely unexcusable in a horse that has no fear of humans. Most horses, by their very nature, will not willingly run over a person. Even race horses running in a bunch will try to avoid a fallen jockey if at all possible. And you are right, this is the second time Gracie has deliberately (in my opinion) made a move to seriously hurt the humans in her world. Combined with the fact that she crowds Kathy and refuses to grant any space to any of her care givers is grounds for concern. Combined with her inability to keep her feet in their proper place under her, and I think you are correct to be concerned.

    Is she showing signs of Lyme or EPM? I assume those are the most common neuro issues in your area. It's a hard decision to make, but if she is neuro on top of her willingness to harm her people, I think I would take the same steps.

    I know this sucks. November can't end quick enough.

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    1. I agree with your thoughts on static. Once I resolved the issue, she has been fine. She's always been bothered by it, but never to this extent. But winter came down so suddenly she didn't really get a chance to get eased into the concept of static like she has before.

      Astarte was funny when we first moved up here. We would get staticky days maybe 3 times in the winter in South FL, on the rare chance it dropped into the 50's, but once up here it was a constant for our first few months here since we moved at the end of October. She would get SO offended at us! She would back off and scold us. Poor thing. She's gotten used to it now. But not Lily.

      With the barbed wire, I was expecting swelling, especially since horses always swell when it comes to cuts on their legs of any sort. Lily has had mystery cuts on her legs that swelled dramatically before, but the difference was that she would let me touch and inspect them. Only the cut itself would be painful in those instances. This time around, she wouldn't let me touch the swollen leg and she was barely putting any weight on it. She was walking like a horse with a broken leg. The most significant difference between cellulitis and just regular inflammation is that cellulitis makes the skin hurt. It is an infection of the layers of the skin that if not attended to, can become a recurrent or chronic problem and can be very expensive to treat. This is a great article on cellulitis: http://www.thehorse.com/articles/33551/cellulitis-treatment-and-prevention-in-horses and of course it has a photo of a very severe case, but it gives the reader an idea of how bad it can get. The fever Lily had confirmed that the decision to call the vet out had been the correct one.

      With Gracie, the getting too close to trees is rider error, as much as I hate to say it. She doesn't scrape herself against the trees, but the rider really has to watch out. It doesn't help that some of our trails in the park are very narrow and literally wind themselves around trees. Charles later said that he really had been too timid with his commands with Gracie. You know how some riders are in the beginning: they are afraid they will somehow hurt the horse. He learned to be much firmer in his requests and to not only watch out for the horse but for himself. I personally have had no problems with Gracie getting too close to trees but I'm constantly setting my horse up for obstacles down the trail the moment I see them in the distance. I ride Lily in the same manner. And this is also why I had not realized that this could be a serious issue with Gracie while Charles was riding her: I just had not experienced it before. So I don't think it's something she does deliberately. I have met asshats that tried to scrape me off on roofs or arena walls and THAT really is no fun!

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    2. One of the things about riding her though is that you just never know what horse you are going to get. She will invariably be sleeping while you are grooming and tacking her up because she enjoys the human contact. But you don't know if you're going to have a fire-breathing dragon or a steady ride until your butt is in the saddle. She lacks SO much mileage for her age, and it is one thing I have problems with mentally with her: yes, she is 8 years old. But she has the maturity, both on the ground and under saddle, of a 4-year-old. She has been trending more towards the "steady ride" alternative, but there are still weeks where no matter how hard she is worked, she will start out a spitfire. And warming up a spitfire is hard when said spitfire is arthritic and is supposed to get a long SLOW warm-up to prevent tripping.

      The stuff on the ground really does worry me. One thing I discovered about her while trying to clip her 2 weekends ago (something I did not write about) was that if she is intimidated enough, she will strike out. Which makes her exponentially even more dangerous. I had not seen that side of her until I turned the clippers on. So that is just another testimony of how not respectful of people she is to her core. After we figure out the physical problem, I might need to talk to trainer Bob about her if I do choose to keep her. Zoe still trains with him and he had mentioned Gracie's lack of respect for personal space. He had fixed it...but then the mare sat untouched in the field for 8 months until I walked into the picture. So all that work was undone. She returned to her default, which was not helped when the caregivers and some of the boarders at the other barn would, day after day, allow her to crowd them AND GIVE HER TREATS on top of it! GRRRRRRR!! Talk about rewarding bad behavior!

      I will say that she has gotten MUCH better about not crowding Kathy and Zoe at mealtimes. She will walk herself to the run-in shed and wait patiently to be tied. She then has to back up several steps and wait for permission to eat before she is allowed her meals and we have all kept this up consistently. But it's not translating into other areas with her. Which is yet another thing about her that worries me.

      No signs of Lyme or EPM that I know of, but I've only had her for 7 months. The falling could be a sign of either, and you are right: both diseases are very common in this area and I have thought of both.

      Yup, November can't end quick enough. :(

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  10. oh my! I was catching up on the last blog and commiserating with you on the early darkness. Then I was worried about Lily freaking out, but then I was so happy you and Charles had a good ride. Then barbed wire (so glad she is improving. We have a lot of hidden wire too. Your wire being brand-new looking sounds suspicious, could it have been put there?) Then Gracie, sigh, I'm sorry, what a dilemma. First I'm glad you're ok,. I have seen a good, calm horse be out-of-it's mind terrified at a blanket around it's legs in pasture, but it could be more too as you indicated. What a terrible roller coaster! And crappy cold weather too. The end of November is near, the light will return soon enough (I keep telling myself that too) and I hope things improve.

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    1. Thank you irish horse.

      I'm literally on a countdown to the solstice! :/

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  11. Oh, Saiph, so sorry to read about all of this happening. Sending you hugs. Lots and lots of hugs.

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  12. I don't even know where to begin!! I have begun to notice that Shy jumps at static, too.
    And barbed wire is very scary! glad to read that Lily is healing up.
    And you! Holy shit! You have been through so much lately! Happy to hear your husband was able to be with you through that whole ordeal. Rest and heal up!

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    1. Yup, I can see any sensitive horse being particularly offended by static. Winter came so quickly and so early that I think they just haven't had a chance to sort of get used to the static that comes with it.

      Thanks Allison! The old rule used to be to avoid sleeping after a concussion but Charles was saying that this has changed: new studies indicate that trying to stay awake tires the brain out even more. Sleep really has helped. Still dizzy today but it is SO much better than yesterday morning...can at least function.

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  13. Omg you have a lot going on. If you ever need to vent shoot me an email! I don't think I could take all that.

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    1. Thank you Lauren! I'll let you know how today goes.

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  14. And here I thought I was having a bad week. I'm so glad that everyone is in one piece and on the mend!

    As for Gracie, you know what's best either way; some horses are just dangerous to be around. That being said, she ran into you and the fence within a few minutes of each other - it is possible that something's going on with her sight?

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    1. Oops, I meant the gate, not the fence.

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    2. Melissa, you made a great connection that I had not seen...both Liz and Karen had asked about Gracie's eyesight because of her running into the gate. But I hadn't considered the thought that maybe she didn't see me well either...so I will definitely be bringing this up to the vet today as well!

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    3. Good luck. Hoping for the best for you guys.

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  15. Whoa.... this post is like every horse owner's nightmares all rolled into one week. Yikes!! I'm so glad everyone is okay with relatively minor injuries. All of that must have been so terrifying. I can't even imagine how stressed and anxious you must feel. I have you all in my thoughts and prayers and I really, really hope it is good news with Gracie too. *hugs*

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    1. Thank you for the thoughts and prayers, achieve. <3

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  16. oh dear Saiph, I'm so sorry all this happened to you: (

    I have a pet peeve - not just that barbed wire is ubiquitous here (hate it forever), but when people put horses in there and run a strip of electric wire to "protect the horses from the barbed wire." Unacceptable!

    I can't believe Gracie trampled you. I had no idea she had "respect" issues. I worry about my horse doing this - just last week she was galloping straight for me and when I raised my arms she refused to alter course. I started clapping my hands as loud as I could and that worked just in time, she jumped off the path down the hill. I couldn't believe how close she came, and after your story.....

    I have a question because I always stress about injuries at joint areas - how did the vets confirm it was superficial? Is there a way to do this without probing?

    I always get shocked when I remove the polarfleece cooler from my horse - I so wish dryer sheets existed in Germany...or Showsheen for less than 20E.

    I think it's cool you got to meet Charles' friends and not be all alone in an ER. And I'm glad someone was there to help you when you were injured.

    I'll be praying for you too.

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    1. I boarded briefly at a facility in FL that did the barbed wire + electric wire thing! I hate that barbed wire is so cheap. It will continue to be a prime fencing option until something else costs less, I think.

      Yeah, Gracie has some respect issues. There are days when I feel like I am constantly pushing her away from me. She absolutely does NOT get to be in my personal space bubble unless *I* close the distance. She has gotten better about this with ground work, but the main issue is that she has to be paying attention...otherwise she "forgets". She is honestly a horse that would benefit from the type of training board where she is worked with every.single.day. for an extended period of time. Which is not something that I can do for her. Her previous owner paid for training board but she was only being worked with once or twice a week, and then she sat in a field for 8 months receiving treats every time she crowded the BO or boarders who walked into the field before I walked into the picture. Even back then, she knew better than to try to crowd me as I was the only person that would shoo her away. It had taken quite a bit of effort to do so in the beginning but by the time I signed her bill of sale, she had gotten MUCH better about it. It's just been a process every time something different happens: her default really is to crowd people. She is literally an "in-your-pocket" horse...she would crawl into your pocket if she could fit! -_- Some people find this cute but I find it annoying.

      If we can find a curable physical explanation for her falling, she will be worked by me on the ground at least 5 days a week.

      I had been able to get good looks at most of the cuts the previous day when nothing hurt too badly. Since they had not scabbed over yet, I could see that they weren't deep, and by the time the vet came out they had scabbed over nicely and evenly. No pockets of pus and Lily allowed the cuts themselves to be touched. The swelling on the leg was generalized and painful, indicating an infection of the skin from the barbed wire cuts. The cut on the back of her heel, the one that we had been concerned about being deeper, still looked fresh thanks to all of the rain we had had. Lily would not let the vets probe it, but they squirted it with iodine to see how it behaved in the small fissure of the cut, and that's how they determined that it was superficial. If there had been more swelling over any one cut or if Lily had not allowed them to touch any specific cut (she did let them touch the specific cuts except for the one on the back of the heel), she would have been drugged and a more thorough examination done: they would have done a local block of the area where the cut in question was located and probed if necessary. Then again, Lily was tremendously lucky in that each of the cuts happened above or below a joint: the one on the front of the leg ended up being right above the fetlock joint, the one at her hock was right below the hock joint. The abrasions around her pastern were just abrasions: no real cuts there. She was very, very, very lucky! So if any of the cuts had been directly over a joint, I think they might have sedated and done local blocks anyway just to be safe, or recommended x-rays.

      Really? No dryer sheets in Germany? Germans are so odd...

      Thank you for the prayers, Lytha.

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    2. The reason dryer sheets don't exist in Germany = virtually nobody has a dryer. It's considered a massive waste of resources, an Earth-killing-device. So, all my towels are crispy and painful and all my underwear, equally crispy, stand up on their own. Germany prides itself on being the world's most eco-friendly country. I'm an American who only gets soft towels/underwear when I visit home. And the supposedly I am the problem, I'm a "super-consumer".

      PS I just sent you an email that is not so frivilous in nature.: )

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  17. Yikes, yikes, and yikes. You've had a rough go of it lately!
    I wish I had something more helpful, but really, just thinking of you and hoping everyone feels better soon, and that you get some good answers. Hugs.

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  18. Dag Saiph! I leave you alone for five minutes lol...

    I think I can relate to how you're feeling. Exactly a year ago I was getting surgery to put my shattered arm back together after a ridiculous stall incident.

    Every horse can or will at some point do something unexpected due to random crap that is out of anyone's control - no matter how much horse experience / training the handler has, and no matter how much they trust or love their horses. It is really just a matter of time. What some call confidence, occasionally strikes me as blind faith lol.

    I hope you and your ponies heal up quick. (((hugs)))

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    1. I totally see what you mean about confidence vs blind faith now. Thank you Calm, Forward, Straight! *hugs back*

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  19. Holy shit, Saiph!!! I cried repeatedly reading this entry. Everything about this is completely terrifying. I think you need to hibernate or something :( I'm glad I read this several days after the fact, knowing full well that you're alive and the horses are relatively ok, because I probably would have been hysterical otherwise. What an ordeal. Every bit of it :(

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    1. Hibernating sounds like a fantastic idea right about now. :(
      I forgot to include it on my update post, but Lily is doing really well thankfully. The vet was thrilled with her progress and she is 100% sound!

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  20. Holy crap is right! I am so sorry this has been a horriable month! I hope your head feels better soon, I think I remember from my concussion in high school that it took a couple days to stop spinning and then a couple more to feel normal. I also hope the cut heals well for you, I'm glad you didn't get a buzz cut!

    I also hope Lily heals up quickly, sounds like the antibiotics are just what she needed and since the cuts aren't deep she should be back in action soon!

    As for Gracie, I get it. You have to put human safety as the #1 priority. It's not a option! Sometimes the best thing to do it put them down. I am a firm beleiver that putting a horse down is not a mean or bad thing. It actually can be the kindest option, but thats because I know what some people would do to a horse like her, and it's not giving her a fair chance and full exam! I give you props for talking about this issue on your blog, so many people shy away from talking about putting a horse down for anything but physical suffering.

    Good luck and I hope these last few days of November treat you well and you have no more crap throwen at you!!!

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    1. Thank you Becky. I know if we had lived in a different area and had been different people, Gracie could have ended up shot. Not getting diagnostics that we need to scrounge to have done as it is. Given that a week later I still haven't fully recovered my sense of balance, I'm forcing myself to go to work because I don't get extended paid leave, and I don't know when I'll be able to ride again... I'm still debating what the hell to do with her. I realize that she is a horse and she was behaving like a horse, but I just can't shake the image of her arching her neck and looking right at me with a mischievous look in her eye before she barreled into me. I can't shake that, while she was upset about the sheet, she was not terrified. I have seen her run in fear before, and she was not afraid. And I can't shake the thought that if it had been Zoe or Kathy and not me, she could have killed them. And when I get to that thought, I feel like this horse needs to move on. Either to another owner or the next life.

      I don't know.

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  21. HOLY CRAP. I'm so sorry. What an absolute maelstrom of awful. Wow. I hope things start to ease up on you - I'll be thinking of you all.

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  22. I've been missing from blog land for a few weeks and missed this post. I was reading your most current one and figured I should click back until I found the rest of the story. I'm so sorry you are dealing with this right now:( Concussions suck, no way around it, I have had a handful over the years and I swear school has gotten progressively more difficult and it really pissed me off. I have finally tried to come to terms with it and look for new ways for me to learn and remember. I guess this isn't totally uplifting, but I just want to pass on info I wished someone had told me. Be willing to process differently, I have to remind myself that different isn't bad. My thoughts are with you as you heal and work with the vet for diagnosis, horses are certainly not for the faint of heart, I have every faith that you will make it through this.

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