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

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Pictures Are Worth 1,000 Words

We had a really busy weekend at work and by Monday my back was bothering me quite a bit. On Sunday it seemed like every large, unruly dog and his brother had eaten something they shouldn't, and all of them needed x-rays. Every single one of them was naughty on the x-ray table, and even though I know how to lift with proper technique (abs and legs), sometimes it is inevitable to use your back when you have an 80 lb wiggling and kicking patient that you're trying to pin down on a table that is wider than your upper body is long, while reaching over with a foot to hit the pedal that will take the view. If you work in veterinary medicine, you will know that that pedal will always, 100% of the time, manage to be out of reach of your foot no matter where you are standing!

A brief description of how radiographs are taken in veterinary medicine, since most of you will not know:
We use a human radiology table. Same size and dimension. Most veterinary hospitals nowadays are equipped with digital x-ray capabilities, which is a godsend. This means that a computer with a special digital radiology program is attached to the machine. I've done the old-school method of having to manually process the films, and it is a pain in the ass, especially when after 20 minutes of developing, you realize you need to re-take the view, either because the animal moved or the contrast is poor! With digital, you place the patient on the table and there is a special plate underneath the table top that captures the image. You have a pedal that you can hit with your foot (or put on the table and press with your hand) that will take the shot. This pedal is often tricky-you have to press it first to get the rotor of the machine whirring (this sound with the accompanying vibration will make the patient jump almost 95% of the time!) and then you really step down to take the shot, at which time the machine will beep and you know it was taken. Then you look over at your computer screen, which is always set right next to the x-ray machine, and you will see your radiograph.

Bottle cap in a dog's intestines. From the Animal Emergency Clinic of Rockford website. Aren't digital radiographs beautiful? 

That's the easy part. The difficult part is manipulating the patient into cooperation so they can hold still long enough for you to take that view. For abdominal and chest radiographs (the most common views), the patient is first placed in lateral recumbency (lying on their side, right side down), and stretched out comfortably to allow the best possible view of their organs (you don't crank on their legs. Ouch! Plus old dogs tend to have arthritic elbows and hips). If we're taking chest rads, the doctors often want a left lateral view as well, so we have to carefully flip the patient to the other side to get it. Then the best part (NOT!) is the VD shot (ventral/dorsal) which refers to a shot taken through the ventrum (underside) of the patient. This involves placing the patient belly-up on a V-trough (a V-shaped tray made of foam and covered in soft plastic, very much like a school gym mat, that allows for easy cleaning), and held with front legs extended over their heads, and hind legs extended back. This is often terrifying for patients-per their body language, it's like you are forcing them into submission. We are very gentle with them, and we take it slow, and we don't hyper-extend their limbs, and most of the time we can get them to settle by talking baby talk to them and petting their heads or their chests until the second we have to take the shot. This is the part, however, where techs often get hurt with strained backs and popped discs while trying to flip a huge struggling dog onto his back, and it is also the view most likely to cause the patient, whether cat or dog, to try to bite. Sunday was one of these days-every single patient struggled, and I'm fairly short (5'4") and light (125-130 lbs) so an 80 lb intact boxer is certainly going to have an advantage (testosterone gives boys superpowers, I swear!).

Techs restraining a Corgi in lateral recumbency for an abdominal view. Note the correct use of protective equipment. This makes it extra-cumbersome to restrain patients, but it is a must! Photo from the Spanish Trail Pet Clinic website.

Overall, however, I'm always surprised at how much patients DO cooperate, as all I ever think about when I walk into that radiology room is an alien abduction. I can't imagine myself cooperating at ALL if I were placed on a whirring, vibrating table by creatures who don't speak my language, and then made to lie with all of my most vulnerable parts exposed. I would be a VERY BAD patient!

"Now hold still while we shine this-here radioactive light on you so we can observe your innards better!"
Uh, yeah - F that!

Oh, and orthopedic shots? Those are a whole other ball game, and they sometimes involve some crazy contorting of the patient just so you can get a leg straight in the view. For these, heavy sedation is often used, unless it is a very cooperative or very sick patient.

So if your vet recommends sedation for your pet during radiographs, or you're going to a clinic where every patient is sedated for radiographs (some hospitals do this) please don't argue about the cost. You are doing the hospital staff a favor, but most of all, you are helping your pet in a scenario that can be very stressful!

Thus, on Monday my back was sore from having to twist with patients-my middle back on the left side, wrapping around to the left side of my rib cage. My scarred hip, of course, was super-tight too, so it was all related. I was exhausted as well, but I figured I'd see how the two girls were doing, as I was scheduled to ride Jezebel again.

I went to get Jezebel in the field. The whole herd was at the very back of the field, so it was a long, long hike to get to her. She waited for me to come to her, and came willingly, so we made our way down to the chute.

The chute was very, very slimy and deep-my feet were sinking ankle deep in sucking mud. I was trying to pick the best way through so that neither Jezebel nor I would  get hurt or twist an ankle, or God forbid wrench my back further, and slipping and sliding in the process, when I heard a big snort and a horse came up behind Jezebel. I looked back and stopped, assuming that this was the start of a stampede. But no, it was a single gelding whom I'd never really paid attention to before, who had decided that right NOW he had to come attempt to mount Jezebel! I had heard about one gelding in particular doing this, but I never would have dreamed he'd attempt it while a person was trying to lead a mare away! I had no idea how Jezebel was going to react, and afraid of getting trampled or kicked between the two horses, I tried to shoo him away. He was not leaving Jezebel alone, and kept circling around us like a shark and trying to come up behind her. I was terrified of getting hurt or the mare getting hurt, between the mud and the gelding and trying to not slip and fall. I ended up having to hit him several times with Jezebel's lead rope and yelling at him to get him to go away; I was in a panic. It took me over 15 minutes just to get through the chute during this struggle. He finally gave up and trotted away. I haven't been that scared around a horse in a long, long time. 

Once in the barn, I put Jezebel on the cross ties and proceeded to groom her. While brushing the mud off her legs, I noticed a bleeding cut on the inside of her left hind fetlock. It was fresh-the trickle of blood from the cut had just dried but was still bright red. I put her in the wash stall and hosed off all 4 legs, noticing that she lifted the left hind when the water touched it. Back on the cross ties with clean legs, I checked it again. It was skin deep, going through all the layers of skin, but very small, about 1/2" in diameter. She didn't flinch when I touched it, and there was no swelling yet, but I noticed her resting the foot. I texted Sally to let her know what had happened, and we decided I'd try getting on and playing it by ear. 

Jezebel was sound at the walk, but felt off at the trot, and did not try to zoom around. She actually seemed reluctant to break into a trot, for once. Concerned, I hopped off and put her on the lunge. There was a slight bob to the right, but it was so slight that I was second-guessing myself. I wasn't sure what to do, so I called Sally. She was around the corner. Once she arrived, I lunged Jezebel again, and she saw what I was talking about, which made me feel better-I'm not crazy & imagining lamenesses. We agreed to give Jez the day off. She was in RAGING heat, too-she would stop and squirt if she so much as smelled a boy!

I fetched Lily from the field and tacked her up. She was pretty wound up when I got on, enough so that I decided to get off and lunge her for a bit. Charles had shown up around then, and he took all of these photos. 

She was really distracted right off the bat

Circling in shoulder-in

Shoulder-in down the long side of the arena

Trotting on a loose rein, trying to get her to lengthen, as her trot was really short and choppy.

I gave up, dismounted, and lunged her for about 10 minutes to let her  release all of that excess energy.

Then we played around with groundwork. The previous night we had been practicing yielding at the trot, and Lily had just started to get the idea. We attempted it some more here.  

Here she was doing more of a shoulder-in, and I was trying to re-align her body while keeping the contact light. 

I think it's cool how in almost every photo our legs match! 
Nailing the yield at the trot 

And again. 

And again! 

And one more time! 
Success!  Walking towards the camera, and  our legs still match!
Back in the saddle-a much calmer mare!

I decided to just have fun. So since Lily was feeling peppy, we cantered a lot and had a blast, despite my sore back.

Not sure why I was sticking my tongue out in this one. Can't do that while riding!


Love the light in this photo 
Cooling out.

And that was our Monday. :)

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

When Is a Horse Tax Deductible?

When you move her 1,100 miles!! YES, WE GOT A TAX DEDUCTION FOR LILY! Hahahaha...

If you have a work-related move that is more than 50 miles, you can claim any expenses invested in moving your pets! Isn't that awesome?

This is the first time ever that Charles has said, "So what was this you were saying about having 2 horses?" *lol*

Monday, February 25, 2013

Is It Spring Yet?

Okay...today on February 25, 2013, I am declaring that I CAN'T WAIT FOR SPRING!!

This is what the big field at the barn looks like in spring! :) Taken from my barn's website. 

I think I've done well, considering we hail from a hot tropical climate and it's my first Northeast winter. Everyone says we tend to average out more snow in February than we did this year, but the same people have also said that winters usually don't get so cold as early as it did this year. So in my opinion, this is totally manageable. It is 28 degrees out right now, 20 with the wind chill. It better really get up to 49 degrees like Accuweather says, cuz I'm wearing one less layer today! I'm not so tired of the cold (I'm still fine with it being in the 40's and 50's) I'm just tired of the layers! And of the mud. Definitely tired of that-this is why I'd rather it snow than rain: it freezes the mud! The only thing I miss from FL (other than my friends down there, of course) are the sandy trails in the parks.

Meanwhile, it is going to be 85 degrees in South Florida today. When it's hot all year round, and you don't even get a small break from it, it makes for some really hot angry people come summer. I predict an upswing of crazies down there this year.

Um, yeah, I'll take the 28 degree weather in February, thanks.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Munchausen by Proxy

Last Wednesday I rode both of the girls in the indoor because the outdoor was frozen like concrete. It was SUPER dusty inside, despite the open doors at the ends of the arena. So dusty, in fact, that when I got home it looked like I'd used white mascara on my lashes from all the arena dust accumulated on them!

Jezebel had a bad, BAD case of the zooms. I think she is starting to see me as "that lady that asks me to canter!!!" as every time I shifted my weight, she grabbed the bit and sped up! Circling would bring her back. I laughed at her antics, and eventually did ask her to canter. But her balance isn't the best yet, and like I've said before, this is a fairly small indoor, so her little unbalanced self was having a hard time with the turns. She was also having a really hard time with that left lead. We finally got it right, but subsequent attempts at repeating our success were met with incorrect leads where Jez proceeded to swap in front but not in the back, and there were even some tiny squeals and pinned ears, to my surprise when I insisted. Sally did confirm that she is in raging heat, however, so I'm going to attribute the attitude to that. She was great otherwise! Rounding up and softening in the space of a circle, and staying that way down one long side of the arena at a time. Sally was there to watch, and she was very happy. We trotted A LOT, and when Jezebel had finally settled and had stopped trying to zoom around at a mach 3 trot, I handed her over to her mom, who hopped on for a short ride. The little mare was a good girl-happy and relaxed! Gotta love those OTTBs. :)

Lily was a good girl too, and I was sitting way straighter & more balanced than the previous day, because all of our issues had vanished.  We had a good session but I cut it short at 30 minutes because I -could- -not- -STAND- the dust anymore.

On Thursday, Heather, Sally and I were going to attempt a trail ride. Heather had had some major dental work done on Wednesday, and initially didn't feel good Thursday morning, but ended up coming after all. Sally had made plans to meet us, but got stuck at work. So it ended up being Heather and Nate, and Lily and me.

The ride started out with a small freak-out from both horses. There is a small puddle right at the trailhead, and Lily, who was first, decided she wasn't too sure about it (never mind that she crossed it Wednesday just FINE!), so Heather went with Nate first. Nate took a look at it, then, after some hesitation and protest, decided to jump over it. He leaped as if he were going over a water complex at a Grand Prix stadium competition, and landed with a sliding stop! Lily flung herself around excitedly after seeing that, but I reminded her that we're not playing monkey see, monkey do, and she pranced over the puddle without a problem.

Both horses stayed prancey as we continued up the trail. We tried letting Lily lead, which helped her settle, but made Nate become more worked up, so Heather went ahead on him. We continued on towards the "new" trail that Lily and I have taken twice before, and made it to the first bridge. I dismounted to lead Lily across (I didn't want her getting Nate even more worried with her balking), and she came with me without a problem. Heather dismounted to lead Nate, too, but he refused by all means to cross the bridge. She tried for a good 10 minutes, but he was not having it. He hated the mud in front of the bridge a hell of a lot more than Lily ever has! I suggested to Heather we take the back route, across the main bridge, and I remounted and we headed that way. Heather decided she'd get back on Nate after we'd crossed the bridge.

Lily balked a bit at the idea of crossing (this is our first time crossing that bridge under saddle going away from home), but with some coaxing she went over. I gave her lots of pats, and we waited on the other side. I  was in no hurry, but Lily didn't understand why I was making her stand still, so I let her turn and fidget as long as she wasn't escalating in her restlessness. Heidi struggled with Nate to no avail. We tried having Lily cross the bridge and getting Nate up close behind her so he'd follow, and this almost worked, but then Nate was back to dancing by the bridge. I had Lily wait, standing ON the bridge, to see if this would encourage him to try again. After a few minutes waiting, Lily decided that she'd waited long enough, and very slowly and politely backed herself all the way off the bridge, back to Nate's side! I had to laugh-I didn't ask her to do that AT ALL, but she did it so well that I decided to not argue with her...plus I'm not in favor of arguing with a 1,000 lb animal while on a bridge 4 feet above running water. I made her cross the bridge all the way back to the other side, and we waited again. Heather was able to get Nate on the bridge backwards! He finally stood on it with all 4 feet, then he stepped off of his own accord. This was a big success, and we agreed it was a good idea to end it there, on a good note. Heather re-mounted and we headed home.

Nate was SUPER worked up on our return trip, LEAPING over a fallen tree, and doing a canter piaffe at the "T" where the trail turns back towards the barn before attempting to launch himself down the trail at full gallop. Heather did a beautiful job of controlling her thundering boy. However, Lily thought this was a fantastic idea, "Oh if he can gallop home, so can I!" and she tried bounding forward, but I checked her, and she ended up pogo-sticking up and down in the same spot, head up. Both horses pranced the rest of the way to the barn, and we took them down to the arena.

This is the part where Lily got really weird.

I know she is in heat right now, and she had quickly developed a crush on handsome Nate. She was doing a very, very "up" trot in the arena, and getting so riled up that I was able to ask her to do circles in haunches-in and shoulder-in. (Those are best done when she's in Miss Zoomy Kahbloomy mode (there! I used it, Liz! *lol*)) We cantered a circle in each direction, but she was literally trying to launch into outer space, so after working through that, I immediately brought her back down to a trot.

Sally arrived around that time, and I stopped by the arena fence to talk to her.

Lily actually stood quietly on a loose rein while Sally and I talked, even cocking a hind leg. But then all of a sudden, she jerked her head up. It was almost as if something had stung her on her nose, but of course there were no bugs out because it was 31 degrees.

We went back to work, and she surprised me by being super wound up again. The violent head jerking continued, and I initially thought she was being bratty because she was trying to go fast and I wasn't letting her. However, I did not have a death grip on the reins, and she was doing it even when going in a straight line. Last year when we had issues with the Spanish bit, she was tossing her head only when I asked for lateral work, and at the time she would toss and/or shake her head until the pressure was released. Today was different in that each time it would be a single head jerk. She wasn't doing it constantly, just occasionally, but it was a violent head toss each time it happened. She'd even grunt sometimes when she did it. I started to get annoyed, and tried working her through it, even allowing her to extend the trot on a longer rein to see if going long and low would help. When she jerked her head again despite the loose rein, I decided to stop, have her back up (she did not complain about that), and got off. I checked the entire bridle and bit, trying to see if there was anything twisted or out of place, but everything was where it should be. The curb chain on the pelham was as loose as I always make it, on the very last link (I let it hang a good inch and a half under her chin-you have to really crank back for it to really do anything; she hates curb chain action.) I could find nothing wrong with the bridle, and she did not react when I squeezed her jaw and nose. Befuddled, I walked her into the barn, got her rope halter and lunge line, and walked her back out to the arena. I removed her reins, placed the rope halter on, and let her do as she wished on the lunge. She took off at a mad gallop, bucking and crow-hopping, and I let her get it out of her system. I did notice that a few times she still jerked her head mid-run, though not as violently as when I was riding, and each time she ran faster afterwards. We switched directions, and she went all wild woman again in the opposite direction. The flaps of the saddle were blowing back in the wind from how fast she was going, and this made her tuck her tail and gallop faster, but eventually she settled into a nice snappy trot.

At this point I asked her to halt and come to me. I had to reel her in a bit to get her to slow down, but then she would halt and come on her own, with no pressure from the halter. She came to me with ears pricked, appearing calm and happy, but as she got closer, she suddenly jerked her head up. I had not moved a muscle, had put NO pressure on that lunge line, and while it had been windy all afternoon, there was barely a breeze blowing at the time. What frightened me was the change in the look of her eyes when she did that-she was clearly saying, "Help!" I checked her whole head again, and squeezed her nose again under the halter noseband, and nothing.

I sent her out at a trot in the opposite direction. She was much calmer, but every once in awhile she'd still jerk her head, though not as violently.

At this point, she was breathing rather hard, so I replaced the reins, on the snaffle rings of the pelham this time, and got on just to walk her out on a loose rein. She still jerked her head a couple of times and I tried circling her to see if I could figure out WHAT was bothering her. It almost seemed like it was triggered when the light from the setting sun hit the left side of her face, but I couldn't figure out the exact angle. The gentle breeze was blowing her fuzzy forelock back, and it was tickling her ears, so I thought maybe it was that? Of course the wind had been progressively dying down and I couldn't establish a direct relationship between the breeze and her ears.

I gave up and dismounted, making sure it didn't happen immediately following a head toss.

I was especially bothered when I removed the bridle and she rubbed her nose vigorously on her front leg. This is a new thing with her that has started over the last 2 weeks. Granted, some horses do this all the time, especially when they're sweaty, but she has never done this before and I had taken note. She has not been sweaty when she's done this.

Lily happily stuck her nose in her regular halter when I held it in front of her, and gave a deep sigh when I loosened her girth. I poked and prodded every inch of her on both sides: muzzle, jaw, teeth from the outside, feeling for lumps and bumps and looking for some sort of reaction. I put pressure on her nose, under her chin, on her poll (all of the places where the pelham puts pressure), stuck my fingers in her mouth and looked at her teeth, tongue and gums; put pressure over her forehead in case she's clenching her jaw. Nothing-she was closing her eyes as if it all felt really good. Her neck was fine; I put pressure all along her spine, on the areas that the saddle panels touch, under her girth, and I even put pressure on her belly to see if she has an ulcer brewing. Nothing. Lily either had her ears were pricked and she was paying attention to something in the distance during all of this, or she was quietly licking and chewing with a sleepy expression in her eyes. I threw her cooler on and took her into the wash stall to rinse off her legs and feet and inspect her legs for anything. Of course nothing was wrong with her legs either.

I've read about head shaking syndrome. And I looked it up as soon as I got home, and freaked myself out, as everything Lily had been doing was a sign, down to the nose rubbing. I talked to BQ about it, and I'm going to schedule her dental floating for March-she is overdue, and Cody needs to be done. This way we can start ruling things out if this problem continues. 

I'm still hoping this was just a fluke, and she was just being a weirdo due to being in heat, and that I'm just being a worrywart...

Tuesday, February 19, 2013


Tuesday Trails was cancelled today due to nasty horrible wet weather, which sucked because Tina and I were going to be joined by Heather and Nate, and Ana and Jazzy. Boooo rain!

Ana walked Jazzy and left, Heather played with Nate on the lunge and did groundwork with him, Tina rode Houdan, and I initially took Lily into the indoor for some groundwork.

Charles will tell you that I'm a worrywart. I'm always worrying about one thing or another. It's not always high-tension worrying, but there's usually something that I'm fretting about to some degree at the back of my mind, whether it's family, friends, finances, work, the cars or the animals. The problem I have with worrying about my pets, especially the horses, is that if there is something I think is off about them, I will automatically distance myself emotionally from them. It's a defense mechanism, but it is not fair to the pet.

So I realized yesterday that I had been doing that with Lily, that it had been awhile since I'd taken the time to really love on her and just spend time with her. I honestly didn't really feel like riding, so I groomed her, put her rope halter on, and took her into the indoor.

I'm not going to give details, but while watching another rider, I was reminded of why I personally dislike German-style dressage.

I mean, why on earth would you choose to do this:

This is considered "correct" dressage work. But note how the horse often goes/is pulled into hyperflexion and the switching of the tail. The rider pumps her upper body, and sometimes yanks on the reins. To me, there is nothing graceful or beautiful about this, yet it is what we see in the dressage competition arena today-what is considered German-style or "modern" dressage, and what the judges give awards to.

if you can do this:

This is Nuno Oliveira, one of the great classical dressage masters. Look at this horse-he is in a correct frame, with his poll at the highest point and completely relaxed while he does more and more complex movements (including a series of levades and cantering backwards!!!) This is what lightness in riding is all about. Look at Nuno-he barely moves while his horse becomes more and more collected, never losing impulsion. Oh, and the reins? There is slack, and they are held in only one hand. I really don't get it-in the light of the natural horsemanship and barefoot movements, and this era where it's supposed to be about the well-being of the horse, why does no one practice this method anymore?

I could go on and on about this, but the point is that I just don't understand the principle of German style dressage, and it is what turned me off about dressage competition. The rider in the arena today was a prime example of German style dressage.

I didn't get to do much groundwork-wise, because there was just too much going on, but Lily was UBER responsive with everything we did: lateral movements, walking, trotting, stopping and backing up when I did, disengaging hindquarters or shoulders if I only pointed a finger at the body part. It was very cool. But I couldn't get lost in what we were doing for fear of being run over by some horse or another.

I took her back out and tacked up.

After warming up at the walk while waiting for some of the other riders to finish, I asked Lily to move up into a trot. She wanted to move out more today, so I allowed her to, and after a series of baby leg yields, I asked her to go into a canter, left lead first. She picked up the right lead instead, I checked her to bring her to bring her back into a trot, and she seemed to become tangled up for a moment. I just knew it was me-she is the 3rd horse in a week that has trouble with the left lead. We walked, then trotted some more, then I asked her for the left lead canter again, making sure this time that my weight was shifted onto the inside seatbone, and my hip and shoulder were angled to the outside. She picked up the left lead without a problem. However, then I was having a terrible time keeping her going at the canter. I don't know if it's because of the 10-10-10 exercises we'd been doing prior, but she was practically spluttering into a trot before we finished a whole loop around the arena. We tried again in the opposite direction, and it was only slightly better. Our shoulder-ins and haunches-in were also somewhat of a struggle-instead of staying on the track, she was drifting into the center of the arena when asking for these movements, and she was having difficulty with anything to the left. We practiced trotting on a longer rein to stretch, then coming back up into a more collected frame. As the session progressed, she became worse and worse about staying by the rail, especially going to the left. I couldn't figure it out. I kept checking my weight to make sure it wasn't because I was sitting crooked, yet every time I fixed my seat, it made no difference. It actually almost made it worse. If we went down to a walk and tried to stay on the rail, Lily would start zig-zagging all over the place...she was relaxed while she was doing it, so it wasn't her being difficult, and when I argued with her, "No, I want you over here!", she tossed her head: "But you're telling me you want to be HERE!", so I let her be. I knew it had to be me, one way or another, I just couldn't put a finger on what I was doing wrong.

We finished with a single circle at the canter in each direction, then walked around the arena to cool down, and I took these pics:

In front of one of the arena mirrors. For whatever reason, she used to get worried about this mirror.

The other mirror in the opposite corner. She did NOT want to hold still here. You can  kind of see her turning her head to nudge my right foot, "Mom, this is BORING! Let's move!!"

She finally stopped wiggling.
When I dismounted, I got my answer. Today when I woke up, my left hip was literally being a pain (I have a ton of scar tissue there from having a horse flip over backwards on top of me and cracking it). When this happens, all of the muscles become tight and pull my entire back out of alignment. So I was having some mild pain halfway up my back on the left side. I knew what it was, and knew that movement makes it better, so I continued with my day. But when this happens, it tends to affect my riding imperceptibly, and today was no different. When my feet touched the ground after dismounting, a sharp shooting pain flew down my left hip all the way down to the back of my knee. I don't know wtf I was doing while riding, but it sure was the cause of Lily's case of sideways, and it had been enough to get my sciatic nerve worked up!

While untacking and grooming her, the pain subsided and eventually disappeared. I took Lily back into the now-empty indoor to pick up her poop (one of BQ's dogs will only go in the indoor, so she walks them there because of that, but all 3 dogs love to eat horse poo, so she asks everyone to please clean up after their horses.) I set Lily free, and she followed me around without a lead rope, perfectly happy to stay with me. She never once tried to wander off, so after I was done picking up the poop, I just stood with her, petting her and scratching her withers.

I tell you, thanks to her astounding sensitivity and the fact that I listen when she reacts to the little stupid things I do, this mare has taught me more about dressage and body mechanics than any other horse I have ever owned or ridden!

Thank you, Lily.


I rode Jezebel yesterday again, and we had a pretty good session!

She started out very distracted and with a case of the zooms at the trot, but only when we were rounding the corners at the back of the outdoor arena. She would brace somewhat against the bit, and start trotting really fast. I'd turn her head to the inside to get the bit back, and have her circle. This would effectively bring her attention back to me. Within the space of the circle, she would relax and soften. Jez is starting to get the hang of the canter cue-not so much fast trotting to make the transition, and her canter felt much more organized-more up, not so strung out and flat. Her steering at the canter already feels better-previously it felt like taking turns on a motorcycle, inward tilt and all! She is very willing to make a down transition to a walk from a canter, as I let her stretch. We worked on the stretch itself: Jez will stick her neck straight out at the walk, but I widened my hands and put gentle pressure on the reins, encouraging her to stretch doooowwn. Every time she even hinted at responding, I lightened the pressure. She's not bringing her nose all the way to the ground like Lily does, but she's getting the hint. We also did lots and lots of transitions-walk-halt-trot-walk-halt-walk-trot-halt. By the end she was stopping as soon as I pinched with my knees and said "Whoa"...as long as I had her attention. I didn't even attempt bringing her to a halt while she was trying to zoom, as I knew it would have been a lost cause. Sally had mentioned Jezebel can get distracted when she's in heat, and I certainly think she's showing the signs.

After all of this, we just did some more work at the trot, and the little mare surprised me by coming onto the big and softening in the bridle. I looked at our shadow, and she had assumed the ideal Training Level frame:

Not Jezebel, but this is the frame she was assuming.
I mean, she's a 5 year old OTTB. I was expecting a change like that to take much longer! I made sure to tell Sally later what a nice mare she has. As luck would have it, she arrived just as I was untacking Jezebel. We talked about her for a long time, and then Sally got on and rode for a bit. Jez continued to be a good girl-she has a great work ethic!

Afterwards, I fetched my own silly girl from the field and tacked up. I have ordered a new lightweight blanket for her-her sheet + cooler combo is not working for turnout and has rubbed her shoulders bare! The sheet doesn't have shoulder gussets-it is a 600 denier Weatherbeeta Genero that I got for her last year while we were in FL so she could go out at night during the winter even if it was supposed to rain.

Yes, Lily's is in this same funkadelic print (it's called Geocities), which would make her super-visible when she's out in the field. Except the entire sheet is 100% covered in mud within 5 seconds of her being turned out...

It was not intended for extended turnout, or I would have gotten something with shoulder gussets from the start. I also didn't think she'd be wearing the sheet+stable blanket combo most of the time here, or I would have gotten something lighter than 200g fill (her midweight). Apparently my mare runs hot. The new blanket is the Tuffrider Thermo-lined Turnout Blanket. I love the Thermo Manager line, and probably would have never even considered it had it not been for my stint at the tack shop in Tampa-the store owner used to rave about the Thermo Manager, and her daughter (my trainer) had these for her horses. So of course I got one as soon as I needed one-the stable blanket/cooler I'm always talking about is a Thermo Manager, and has done a great job on 3 different horses for the last 3 winters, some of which did go down into the low 30s in South FL. The barn I boarded at down there was NOT built to retain heat and would be colder inside than outside in the winter. Lily stayed warm wearing only this at night, and looked sharp to boot in this. The fabric repels shavings and sawdust. If any get on the blanket, just brush it and they fall off. It's SO easy to clean too-just throw it in the washer, and then put it on a low heat cycle in the dryer. It comes out as good as new! If you want to read more about the awesomeness of the Thermo Manager Stable Blanket, go here.

Lily was fairly "up" when I got on. She's probably going into heat too-she was very sensitive and prancy, so we trotted around until she settled (she was particularly inclined to going sideways vs forwards!) then I asked her to canter. She picked up the canter snappily, and we went twice around the arena on the left lead...and then she gave a big scoot sideways as we cantered past the gate, and I snatched at the reins before she could get her head down, instantly bringing her down to a trot. It was so quick and so smooth that Sally and Heather, Nate's mom, who were standing right by the gate with their horses, didn't even notice. We trotted on, did some more circles (Lily was all for shoulder-in circles again...) then changed directions and picked up the canter again. Normal, very collected canter. Really nice! More trot, then more cantering in both directions, and Lily did fine. After that I let her stretch and walk, then stopped by the fence to talk to Sally, BQ, and Jackie, who lives in the upstairs apartment in the barn and also helps take care of the horses. Lily had sidled up to the fence so that her left side was almost touching it, so I decided to do something wild (lol)..I dismounted from the right. I went about it really slow and she gave me tense ears, but did okay. She took a step back when I landed, but that was it. We'll have to practice that more.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Detective Work

Lily is officially back, but after freezing my butt off during a ride at a walk in sleet (my first experience with sleet!) on Wednesday, last Thursday I just didn't really feel like riding. So we went for a long walk in the woods to negotiate obstacles.  I took a bunch of crappy cell phone pics, but just so you guys can see what the latest trail we've been exploring looks like:

Practicing ditches again on the previous trail. You can kind of see how deep it's gotten after having water run through it with the recent rains and melted snow.

Jumping across the little ditch. Same ditch as above, but see how  marked  it is now-it used to just be a slope down and up. She refused to walk through it-check out that goofy face as she jumps across! *lol*

The Big Ditch, which still has a little stream running through it. There was a lot of hesitation here, but she eventually crossed and stopped caring about getting her feet wet. She is so silly about mud-she'd rather jump off a steep (and potentially slippery!) bank than walk through some squelching mud! We worked on that this day.

The new trail. This is the part where Lily was super-hesitant to go forward last time I rode her here by myself.  That little track straight ahead was even muddier this time!

Question mark ears. "But it's MUDDY!!!" 

More question mark ears. She was super-looky during this part. At least she wasn't slipping and sliding so much without my weight on her back.

MUD! It appeared nowhere near as squishy as it really was.

The once-crooked bridge. It has been fixed!

This was funny, actually: I stood on the far side of the bridge, messing with the phone to get these shots, and she  just kept crossing back and forth, back and forth, all by herself, without any cue from me. She just assumed that since we weren't continuing on our way, I must want her to practice a lot...*lol*

She tried to trot across this time, but one of her hooves slipped (she was fine), and she didn't try that  again.

"I'm getting bored with this, Mom..." Why yes, you are. Maybe I won't have to dismount next time we come through here?

The trail through the woods. We trotted through this part last time, and we jogged through it this time. The ground was dry and hard.

Rock Creek in the late afternoon light.

The very small creek crossing. She went in, and for the first time ever, stood in the water and checked it out.

She even drank from the creek!

Deer tracks in the mud on the way back.

We jogged up the road-I wanted to check her soundness on pavement, and she passed. She was staring longingly back at the trailhead (the part that leads back to the barn...) when we paused at the top to rest.

We walked and jogged. It was supposedly in the high 40's-low 50's, but I was sweating under my fleece shirt, which is unheard of for me at this temperature range. I think my body has re-set itself temperature-wise, which means that summer is sure to be hell...

It was, thankfully, a busy weekend at work. We had hit a dry spell in the ER, which causes all of us adrenaline junkies to tear our hair out trying to find ways to stay busy, and I personally was starting to worry, as in FL slow season = cut hours. Thankfully, it has been picking up the last 2 weekends.

We've been getting some rather weird and very interesting cases, including a dog that had somehow impaled himself with a stick during a romp in the woods, and a blue cat (his mucous membranes were navy blue). This cat was beyond cyanotic when he arrived, and yes, he was alive, but yes, he was in dire respiratory distress! I have never seen gums that color ever before on an animal, dead or alive. Yes, they turn a faint purple, sometimes even a gray color, when oxygen isn't getting to their tissues. But this was out of this world. And his blood was chocolate brown, an event that most commonly happens with Tylenol (acetaminophen) ingestion in cats. It's called methemoglobinemia (try saying that one out loud several times in a row...I sure can't!). I can give you the medical explanation, but basically what happens is that the blood loses its ability to transport oxygen, so basically, the cat dies from hypoxia (lack of oxygen). There was no Tylenol in this kitty's house, and he had not been exposed to any of the other toxins that can cause this, so with the cat more stable in an oxygen cage set at something insane, like 90% oxygen (any lower, and he would turn navy blue again and start panting and vocalizing), the doctors called Poison Control and explained the symptoms so they could find a cause. As it turns out, the cat had been exposed to benzocaine, which also causes methemoglobinemia. You can find benzocaine in some topical anesthetics and throat lozenges, like Cepacol. So people, keep these things away from your pets, especially your cats!

I'm happy to report that after 24 hours with supportive care, kitty was alive and doing fantastic-his blood was back to a bright red color, his gums and tongue were pink again, and he was tired of having all of us that had admitted him stopping by his cage to lift his lip to look at his now very normal mouth in fascination. His was probably one of the coolest cases I've seen so far in my 5 years of ER/critical care experience. The best part is that he lived!

If you work emergency and critical care, you will already know that emergencies come in sets. On some days, it seems we're running a special on broken toenails, vomiting and diarrhea. On others, we'll be having a run of hemoabdomens and bloats, and on still others, it seems like everything that comes in the door never gets to go back out-they either die, are euthanized because the pet is so sick, or are brought in to be euthanized to begin with. Those are the worst days-the days where everything dies.

Luckily, we had none of that this weekend. Our theme this time was CSI Vets: we got to do a lot detective work!

If you're squeamish or have a weak stomach, carry on and don't read the following caption.

And for those of you who are not so squeamish: we were playing jigsaw puzzle with a  rag.  That a dog had shredded and eaten part of. Which we proceeded to make her vomit back up (thanks to apomorphine the Wonder Vomit-Inducing Drug) and then had to attempt to piece together, to make sure we had all of the pieces. As it turns out, all of the pieces were there. Otherwise, this dog might have been whisked off to surgery-cloth is one of the 8 billion things that can cause a dangerous obstruction in your dog's digestive tract.
If your dog eats things that it shouldn't, please call the vet's office before attempting to induce vomiting at home. Some things are caustic or have sharp edges, and can burn or lacerate the esophagus on the way back up if vomiting is induced (esophagus with any kind of hole in it = death). Contrary to what many general practitioners say, peroxide is NOT safe to use! It can actually make your pet much sicker if he doesn't vomit, especially considering vomiting will happen less than 50% of the time when peroxide is used.  Call your local veterinary ER, and if your pet ate a toxic substance, call the ASPCA Poison Control helpline at (888) 426-4435 on your way to the hospital. What will they do at the ER? If your pet has ingested an object or substance where it is safe to induce vomiting, an injection of a drug called apomorphine will be given. It is a quick, painless shot (the dose is tiny!) that is given IV, and it works within less than a minute! Your dog will vomit 2 or 3 times in quick succession, and this is *usually* enough to empty their stomach. The effect of the drug passes quickly-within 15 minutes they are usually feeling fine. If any signs of nausea linger, some vets will follow up with a dose of another medication to settle their stomach, such as Cerenia or Anzemet. If your pet ate a very toxic substance and/or it happened several hours before you discovered it (ex: vomiting was induced, and the substance was already digested), hospitalization on IV fluids with oral doses of activated charcoal to neutralize the toxins will be recommended. If your pet ate a large or sharp object, your pet will have to go to surgery to remove the object. We actually had 2 different dogs from 2 different households that, on the same day, came in for having eaten tennis balls! Both had to go to surgery. See what I mean about themes?

No, we were not being lazy-we were doing research! A kitten was brought in because he had been vomiting occasionally  and his mom discovered that he'd gotten into the garbage and eaten part of a dried-up flower bouquet. She brought in a baggie with samples of the flower he had eaten. None of us were experts on plants, but we had an idea what this flower looked like when it was fresh-we just didn't know its name! So an intense internet search for photos of  "popular flower bouquet" ensued! Within 10 minutes, we had found photos of the flower we suspected (Yes, we're that good!), showed the client, the client confirmed the flower, and we were able to look up whether it is toxic in cats. As it turns out, it is not toxic-it just causes mild stomach upset. So kitty was sent home on meds to help settle his GI system.
Which flower was it? This one.

And this brings me to the text message I got while at work:

From Alex: "Did you change farriers?"

"No, I'm still using P."
Thinking that this was a particularly odd question for a Sunday morning, I asked, "Why?" as an afterthought.

As it turns out, another farrier had arrived at the barn yesterday morning, taken Lily out of her stall, and started working on her feet! He confused her with another horse! My knee-jerk reaction was, "Oh my God! Did he put SHOES on her??!!!"

Thankfully, Alex had caught all this at the moment it was happening, and when it took me awhile to answer back, he'd asked the farrier why was he working on Lily, and this is when it was discovered that he thought she was a different mare. Thankfully also, the guy only does barefoot trims, so no attempts at hoof nailing occurred. My concern, then, was, "What if this guy is trained in the Strasser method?!!" (I've heard of a lot more trimmers using this method incorrectly, than of those using it appropriately.) So of course, I had visions of a crippled mare haunting me for the rest of the day. I called BQ to ask if there was any way this could be avoided in the future. She was absolutely steaming over the situation, as she knows how hard and long I've worked to get Lily's feet up to par again, and she was dumbfounded over the fact that this farrier had confused Lily with the TWH pony that he normally trims! She had already sent the farrier an e-mail requesting that he describe exactly what he'd done with Lily's hooves and had CC'd me on it.

I got to the barn that evening after work, after picking up Charles at home, and did some more detective work, thoroughly checking Lily's hooves. I confirmed that all the farrier had done was round off her right front (which needed it, anyway). She was moving fine, and her soles were untouched (my other concern.) In checking her dry feet (last week was super muddy, and every day I went to check on her, I was fetching her from the field, so her hooves were wet and filthy), I discovered that she has actually developed a toe callus (See PG2 #4)!! This is a good thing! :D

I lunged her a bit in the indoor and then set her free and let her trot and canter around, and she seemed fine. The head bob is completely gone. I still think there is something not quite right that everyone has missed-she is alternately resting both hinds more frequently, her right hind more than the left, on some days more than others. I can't find anything wrong, however. I had Charles trot her in a straight line away from me so I could watch her hips going up and down, but I saw no abnormality, no hitch in her gait. My trimmer had hoof tested her hinds at my request the day we were waiting for the vet to confirm the abscess, and Lily was fine. Maybe I'm just being paranoid? I hope so. I've resorted to continue applying Durasole to her hinds, and packing her feet with Magic Cushion. I'm also a little worried that she seems to still be losing weight, despite the increased hay and increased hay stretcher. I'm about to start adding rice bran to her grain, which will up my grain bill and I was trying to avoid, but if her weight doesn't start to change by next week, I'm going to have to. I can bring her girth a full hole higher on each side, after a year and a half of always being on the same hole, and I can see a faint hint of her ribs when she is naked on the lunge.

Hopefully it's just some weight loss from the cold. We shall see.