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

Saturday, November 29, 2014

A Lot

And also kind of nothing, I guess, because we're still in sort of the same holding pattern.

Dr. H came out again yesterday Friday to do part II of Gracie's neuro exam, since I was feeling well enough to be able to longe her.

I had her waiting with her surcingle, longing bridle with snaffle bit, and a halter on over the bridle, when Dr. H pulled up to the barn. She had me work her at the trot and canter in both directions with her head free and Gracie obliged with some really nice work. I haven't longed her in weeks and she was being snappy with the voice commands, arching her neck and working in a controlled manner. I told Dr. H that Gracie was showing off for her.

 Kathy has said that the mare has been almost timid in her manner with people ever since she trampled me, like she knows. Kathy admitted she was probably wanting to read this into her, but I can't deny it. Again, I don't know the thought processes of these animals but there are some individuals that really do seem to dwell on things. Gracie has been almost shy around me, tentative. I'm not giving her the benefit of the doubt though. I have worked around stallions and for the indefinite future, I will behave around her as if she was as unpredictable as a stallion. Don't get me wrong: the mare has improved TREMENDOUSLY in her ground manners with people even before the incident, especially now that she is in a setting where EVERYONE demands respect: that consistency has been one of the best things that could happen to her. But I'll never trust her 100% again. I probably shouldn't have to begin with, but I think all of us think, "It's my horse. She'll never do anything to hurt me." Wrong. It's not that they'll do anything to deliberately hurt us; most of them won't. But they are still 1,000+ lb prey animals and accidents happen.

Anywho. The exam.

So Gracie trotted, cantered and walked on command with her head free, then we placed the side reins as low on the surcingle as possible but on a looser setting to encourage the mare to stretch down. She didn't really stretch down; she continued working the way she normally does but didn't place a foot wrong. So we then played with tightening one side rein at  time and working her in both directions, so she got to trot overbent to the inside and counterbent to the outside of the circle. Gracie was uncomfortable with being counterbent but not in a neurological way, just in an "I'm not really used to this" sort of way. But she obeyed my request anyway. Dr. H also had me work her with both reins at the tightest setting so that she was hyperflexed and...nada. Perfectly normal movement in her hind end.

Unable to trigger a problem, we set her free in the paddock in front of the barn, the one where she has fallen the most while running at liberty. I will note that most of the grass in that paddock has died off with the freezes we've been having and it had snowed the day before, which was now melting...so the paddock was ESPECIALLY slippery and muddy on this day.

Gracie moved out sans side reins and I used the longe whip to request that she canter. She cantered about, head up and tail flagged in the same fashion she does when goofing off. I asked her to speed up as she ran around the perimeter of the paddock and she did, but being careful to slow down in the corners, something which she has never done before. We reversed direction and she did the same thing. Dr. H asked that she change directions a couple of times and...nothing. She gave a couple of tiny slips with the inside hind leg, but caught herself each time. Not even close to falling.

Well then.

Dr. H had me walk her away and toward her while I had Gracie move in serpentines with her head up in the air. She then wanted to see her do tight circles with her head in the air.

Nothing. Gracie's slight neurological abnormality is that she swings her hind legs out slightly more than the average horse, but this could also simply be just the way she moves.

We discussed further diagnostics and I asked for neck x-rays, since in part I of the exam Dr. H had found a thickening of Gracie's neck muscles even with C-2 + muscle tremors when pressed.

So this is what it looks like when taking equine neck radiographs in a clinical setting. The white and teal machine is the x-ray machine; the plate is located in that white square on the opposite side of the horse's neck.  Since my vet has a portable unit, she held the machine between her hands and I held the plate on the other side.
Photo from Woodside Equine Clinic
For this Gracie had to be sedated because you don't want them trying to move around while trying to get films and some horses get nervous with the machinery close to their heads. After a dose of Dormosedan IV, Gracie was hanging her head taking a nap so we proceeded with the rads. I held the plate on one side of her neck (wearing full protective lead gear fyi) while Dr. H stood on the opposite side and pointed the machine at her neck, even with where I was holding the plate. It took a few attempts, but we soon had some satisfactory films.


NOTHING. Completely normal vertebrae. No bone spurs, no spondylosis, no major impingement of the spinal cord, no signs of arthritis at all. Or rather, nothing blatantly obvious on radiographs taken in the field, which are admittedly not the most precise/detailed, but it's what I can barely afford and it's better than blind speculation.

The next step will be EPM titers, but I won't do that until later. When I can afford it. Because veterinary and human hospital bills.

My vet and I had a long conversation about neuro horses vs clumsy horses. My vet doesn't feel quite comfortable assertively saying, "Yes, she's safe to ride," even despite everything we've ruled out, but she did admit that she has seen horses FAR clumsier than Gracie. Case in point: OTTBs just off the track. She recommended doing lots of longing over ground poles, grids and cavaletti at various gaits; using the back half of a Pessoa-type rigging system to get her to step up more under herself; lots of hill work, which is easy thanks to the hill in the back field; some flexibility exercises, like carrot stretches; and myofascial release, which she demonstrated on Gracie's neck.

Kind of like this. Photo from here
At her suggestion, I'll be tweaking her supplementation again, especially how much vitamin E she's getting. And we'll see. She'll either get worse with the agility conditioning or she'll get better and stronger. If she falls again during this type of work, I am to notify Dr. H. If she gets better, I can make the decision to ride her again.

Dr. H also had a very good point that I had not thought of: this is the most Gracie has moved in over a year. At the previous barn, the footing in the mare field was so muddy and rutted half the time that the horses didn't move around much. They just walked and grazed but they didn't run because they all knew it wasn't safe to do so. I actually had never really seen Gracie gallop around at liberty until the day I released her in another field for Kathy to take photos of her. (See photo in sidebar on the right.) In the winter they just stood at the round bales and ate round the clock; in spring and summer, she wore her grazing muzzle during the day, which resulting in her pouting in the run-in shed the entire time she was wearing it. She didn't walk around at all until the evening when the muzzle was removed. Dr. H said that it is possible that she was simply adjusting to being able to move around more, to being able to actually gallop, and having to learn to rate herself and be careful depending on the footing because she had not had the need to do so for over a year. This was a brilliant point that I had not thought of. On the other hand, she said, the stress of moving can trigger EPM symptoms in a horse that has it, even a mild case of it, so it still isn't a bad idea to test for it. We did pull the blood for the test right then and there and Dr. H will freeze the serum so we can send it out in a couple of weeks after the current vet bill is paid off.

I feel a little bit better about this horse, though there is a part of me that goes, "What if she has something that would show up on a myelogram?" That is the proper way of diagnosing neuro issues: contrast dye is injected into the spinal canal, which makes it light up on x-ray, allowing you to clearly see any narrowing or impingement.

Myelogram of a horse's cervical vertebrae. The arrow is pointing at an impingement of the spinal canal. This horse was diagnosed with Wobbler's Syndrome. Photo from here.
There is the problem of money and there is also the thing that the mare is not neurological enough to warrant the big diagnostics anyway. I keep having to think about Rhythm again, who refused to build up muscle in his hind end, who didn't track up even after 8 months of dressage work, who felt extremely unbalanced around circles and corners. Gracie doesn't feel like him at all, and I can't deny that despite all of this, she has improved tremendously in her way of moving: she didn't use to track up at all when trotting on the longe when I first started working with her 7 months ago. She overtracks now, and that's what my vet got to see when I worked her for her. This has been a consistent improvement, too.

In conclusion: when it comes down to it, she only has the slightest offness that could be nothing at all

For now though, the neurological person is not working with the possibly neurological horse.

I haven't read a blog post yet where someone talks about what it feels like to have a concussion so I'm going to talk about it. It's been interesting in the sense that I had never experienced anything like this before and some people have said that the way mine has manifested is unusual. I don't know if it has to do with the fact that I hit the back right side of my head and not dead center in the back or the front, but the main symptom has been vertigo and resulting motion sickness. (I don't often go internet sleuthing for more info on stuff that is wrong with me if I already saw a doctor because I'll just end up finding stuff to worry about more.)

For the first week, I felt like I was smashed drunk all the time. This would be great if this was a sensation I enjoyed, but I really, really hate it. I have been drunk all of one time in my life and that was enough. So this was kind of a cruel punishment. It would be worse in the morning when I woke up because I'd invariably forget and sit up too quickly in bed and the world would spin crazily around me. The feeling would improve around mid-morning then linger. Real improvements would be felt at the end of the day, only to start all over again the next morning. The difference would be that the severity of symptoms would be slightly decreased with each passing day or they would plateau earlier in the day than the day prior. It has been a very slow progress. If I get very tired, I will feel more dizzy. If I rest it gets better, which is good at least.

Walking outdoors has been...interesting. Forward movement in the beginning made it feel like I was moving forward very slowly but the entire world was coming at me way too fast, and I'd have to think very hard about keeping my balance. I'm far better now while walking, but I still get this sensation if I try to run faster than a slow jog. At a jog it just feels like the world is shaking in counterpoint to my movement, which is more tolerable. And nope, I'm not going out for jogs: I'll just jog a few steps once a day to see how my brain is feeling, to note the improvements.

I will tell you that if you are concussed and you have Transition lenses on your glasses, you may want to go to a non-Transition lens pair or contacts in the meantime because the darkness of your lenses in bright sunlight against the brightness around your glasses can make your symptoms worse. You'd get the same effect if you have small sunglasses. If the sun bothers you, go with larger sunglasses so you have less glittery brightness shining through around them.

I was told that bright light itself and moving lights at night would be confusing or make me feel ill, but neither has been the case. If I'm not wearing the Transitions I'm fine in the sun, and bright lights at night whether moving, flashing or at a standstill, have not been a problem whatsoever.

In the beginning, I couldn't even avert my eyes sideways, down or up: this would make me nauseous. Two days in, I could look down while walking and to the left and the right, especially if I was sitting down, but I could not tilt my head sideways to the right nor look straight up. Most things were more comfortable to the left than to the right, so for a while there I was joking that I was like a poorly trained horse: I was preferring everything on the left! I couldn't lie down on my right side either: my world spun if I did and would not stop. It was so incredibly awful that if I made the mistake of turning over while sleeping, the instant rapid dizziness would wake me up and force me back onto my left side. After 10 days, I can finally lie on my right side again with minimal dizziness, and tilting my head back to look up is not a problem anymore. However, bending down to tie my shoes is still somewhat challenging: I do get moderately dizzy and it's better if I can sit down to do it or lean against a wall.

I have had a few minor sort of tension headaches that start at the back of my skull, below where the injury is, but they have been mild enough to be quite tolerable, enough to where I haven't felt the need to take NSAIDs until Charles asks me how I feel, I'll mention it, and he'll pass me the ibuprofen.

Head trauma does mess up your brain even if you didn't have a brain bleed or a skull fracture. Your brain still gets banged around. I normally have this laser focus for getting things done throughout the day and one of the things that allows me to do my job well is my ability to multi-task. I can think about many things at once and do many things at once and do them all well and in a timely manner. In my normal state, every once in a while I will stutter when thinking because my brain is going so fast that my mouth can't keep up with it.

Well, not so much at the moment. I'll be thinking about something and I will have a second where I can't actually say it out loud. I draw a blank. It's not because I'm thinking too fast; now it's more like there's this tiny lag in the connection between my brain and my mouth. I'll also have disjointed thoughts, where for example I think about going home and the house that comes to mind is the townhouse in Coconut Creek where we lived last while in FL. And then I think, "Wait, we don't live there anymore. Wait...where DO we live?" And there will be this instant where I can't visualize our current apartment. And there have been a lot more moments where I walk into a room and forget what I was going to do and I just can't remember what it was. I'll walk out of the room and remember 10 minutes later, instead of remembering while still standing in the room like I normally would. And I get easily distracted. I went with Charles to Trader Joe's five days after my accident so we could do grocery shopping for Thanksgiving together.

It took AN HOUR. And not because I love Trader Joe's, which I do. No, because of this:

Normally my shopping pattern is like the man's, because I honestly hate shopping, even if it's Trader Joe's. On this one day at Trader Joe's however, my shopping pattern was like the woman's. And it was unendingly frustrating: I'd tell Charles to get one thing while I got another, and then I would go down the correct aisle to get what I wanted...and then I'd get sidetracked by something else that caught my eye and think of another thing that maybe we could use, then I'd end up on a different aisle entirely...and then I'd remember what I wanted in the first aisle that I never got. So I'd leave the new thing I'd thought of and backtrack, get the first thing, then remember there was another thing I'd just thought of...repeat. I was simply unable to just focus. By the end, I was mentally exhausted. It was funny on one level, but on another it freaked me out because I am not like that. Charles was like, "Welcome to my world!" My response, "I don't know how people with ADD function!"
My short term memory is also a little off: I'll forget something I've already said and repeat myself, or will mix up the details of something someone texted me, or something I read in an e-mail. Little things that are normal for some people and things that tend to happen more as we get older, but it's not normal for me. This and the dizziness have been my #1 complaints.

These instances are slowly becoming more infrequent, thankfully, and yes: this is all completely normal for this type of head injury. As long as there is an improvement, it's all good. And I think that as long as I can recognize what is going on, recognize that this is not normal and still remember what my normal felt like and know that it's all coming back slowly...well, I think that's a good thing. It was nice to be able to walk into the grocery store today and get what I needed and get back out, though I still did forget two things despite having the list in my hand. Which upset me until I remembered that this is something that is more my normal.

So I am better but the thought of waiting for weeks to be 100% normal again is kind of daunting. I know I'm very lucky and I'm happy to be alive and getting better, but at the same time I'm an impatient patient, and when you have something wrong with you that affects all of your life so completely in a way that you just can't forget for a second what happened, it doesn't take long for you to feel like you've been trying to heal for forever. And you become afraid of something like this happening to you again, of being placed in this position of eternal waiting to heal again. I'm impatient to get better because I have all of these little fears creeping up on me: the fear of riding, the fear of getting injured again while working with a horse on the ground, the fear of being trampled, the fear of having so much fear that it will take over. I officially have a fear of running horses at the moment, which I hope will fade with time once I don't feel so vulnerable anymore. I stood flat against the fence the other day when letting the mares out into the front field, with this irrational fear that one of them would come tearing up to me and slam against me, even though I was nowhere near where they were headed and more than safely out of the way a good acre away. It's the kind of stuff you'll think when you don't understand an animal's behavior, "But what if they do this?" and it felt so out of character to have it pop up in my brain in response to horses of all things.  On a separate occasion, when I was leading Gracie from the field for her second recheck, I got this overwhelming sense of panic because I could not get her to lead next to me; she kept walking behind me. At a very reasonable distance, over 6' away, but I could not handle having her walking behind me. I ended up walking backwards across the field while leading her so I could keep my eyes on her at all times.

For the first time in my life, I can understand the irrational fear of horses that my grandmother had, so irrational that she would burst into tears at the sound of galloping hooves. I never understood it.

I can tell you now that I know exactly what that feels like. And I can tell you that I can't wait for things to be normal again so I can think again like a rational horse person. A more cautious one, but a rational one.

If I look at it from another angle, I can totally understand the irrational behavior that some horses present when they hurt somewhere in their bodies or are not quite right. The horses that give big spooks or act out over things that didn't use to bother them, because they feel vulnerable and are more afraid of being eaten. Like Rhythm. I understood it before, but I can actually see things from that perspective now.

Gracie will be worked with to try to make her better and Lily will be ridden again, but neither will happen until I'm feeling as close to 100% better as possible. Lily is sound after her barbed wire wounds have healed. She finished her antibiotics and has been enjoying her time being a horse in the field.

This too shall pass.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Neuro Exam Results


Because that's how it always is when you have to make big decisions with a horse.

So. Dr. H came out on Friday with her associate. Charles dropped me off at the barn and I sat during the exam because any sudden movements still make my head spin.

My vet did the full neurological workup and found some very minor abnormalities with Gracie's left hind, which is the leg that slips underneath her when she falls. My vet tried EVERYTHING...even walking Gracie with a blindfold, and the mare always knew where her feet were. She even took advantage of the hill in the back pasture. For an explanation on what an equine neuro exam entails, go here. My vet went through every one of the steps explained in that article. For a great video on what an equine neuro exam looks like go here. Dr. DiPaolo compares normal vs neurologic responses in horses in that video.

The one somewhat noticeable abnormality that Dr. H could find were bilateral knots in Gracie's neck at C-2 (second cervical vertebra). When pressed, she had small muscle tremors as if the area was sore, but there were no theatrics from the mare, so she's not in terrible pain. Dr. H said this could be from arthritis, an old injury, or just an incidental finding. If it is something, it is most likely arthritis and the worst case scenario is that it is causing a sort of secondary mild Wobbler's syndrome.

Gracie also had somewhat limited range of motion to the left when it came to getting her to turn her head in that direction. This is something I had noticed prior, but she is so awful about treats that I have been reluctant to teach her carrot stretches to remedy this.

Her muscling over her body is otherwise completely normal and symmetrical, and the doctor said that the small neuro abnormalities that she was seeing could totally be Gracie's normal. She also said that while it is alarming that the mare has fallen so often in the last two months, she has indeed met horses that were tremendous klutzes and just had no sense of self-preservation. She was stunned when I told her that after each fall, Gracie simply gets up and continues to run, but she said she has met other horses that were idiots like that.

Gracie's pupils were dilated and Dr. H did a complete ophthalmic exam in the darkness of Deja's stall with all of the barn windows and doors closed. Apparently Rocky Mountain Horses tend to have some weird congenital eye abnormalities, which I didn't know, not really having been a fan of this breed prior (I still think horses should not be bred for color. The eye abnormalities are more common in individuals with the more typical dark chocolate coat and flaxen mane and tail that this breed is known for.) Which made me really glad I had decided to have her eyes checked! Of course her eyes were completely normal except for a random vessel at the back of her left eye. Dr. H is going to call an ophthalmologist friend of hers to double-check but she said that due to the way the vessel looked, it was highly likely it was nothing.

If you ever go for a Rocky Mountain or Kentucky Mountain horse of this color, DO have the eyes checked as part of your pre-purchase exam! This is the color that has been linked to congenital eye abnormalities known as ASD or anterior segment dysgenesis. You can read about the study here. For an explanation in layman's terms, go here
What next? Well, Dr. H wants to do a moving exam with Gracie on the longe in a surcingle with side reins so we can see how she moves with her head set in different positions. Since I'm dizzy with sudden movements, it was decided unanimously that it was probably not a good idea for me to have a horse go in circles around me. My vet is nice enough that she will split the farm call between this visit and the next, when we do the exam with the mare wearing the surcingle.

Based on what happens with that, there will be two options: neck x-rays, which my vet can do in the field, and/or sending out EPM titers. Apparently EPM is not that common in my part of MD but it can have such vague symptoms that it is not a bad idea to rule it out anyway.

And if we can't find anything wrong, then I'm not sure what next. She is not getting a bone scan nor a myelogram nor any other kind of 'gram or scan that requires a visit to the specialty equine hospital because she is not insured and we don't have that kind of money. And if only people with that kind of money had horses, most people would not have horses. Sorrynotsorry. I'm simply trying to find out if she has something diagnosable within reason that is fixable within reason. If it is fixable within reason, it will be fixed. Hopefully, it is something that can be fixed.

November's 10 Questions

Thanks L. Williams! :D

1. Have you ever owned a horse?
Yup. 8 so far. See my October's 10 Questions for who they are.

2. What is your favorite aspect of your discipline?
a) The welfare of the horse comes first. Vet checks before the start of the event, spread out throughout the event itself, and at the end of the event. You can cross the finish line first but you don't even get to complete if your horse doesn't look like he could go out and do another multiple-mile loop. The horse comes first.
b) All types of breeds and all types of riders in any type of tack are encouraged to try it. Endurance is the discipline that welcomes all other disciplines. Not every horse can really do it and not every rider cares to ride for that many hours, but I think it is so awesome that there is one discipline out there that tries to encompass all the others. And it's actually good for your horse if you DO do another sport with him for cross training, like hunter paces, dressage, judged trail rides, reining, jumpers, etc.

Endurance rider and horse tackling the Tevis ride's famous Cougar Rock.
Photo from here.
Can you guess why cross training would give your horse an advantage in this discipline?
3. What pet peeves do you have concerning your discipline?
The ubiquitous answer to every endurance question imaginable: "It depends." The problem is that it really does depend: on the rider, the climate, the horse, the horse's breed, what the horse is fed, horse's management, horse's conditioning, the region, the terrain, the pace, the experience level of horse and rider, etc, etc, etc....
I do wish there was more information for specific regions. Like the subject of conditioning and electrolyting in a dry climate vs a humid climate: some of the most solid sources of information out there are written by riders in the West Coast who don't have to deal with high humidity like East Coast riders do. Electrolyte needs of horses and how said horses are conditioned are going to be pretty different, if not radically different in some cases, simply because of the differences in climate. I just wish this was noted more and I wish there were more resources for East Coast riders written by East Coast riders. If you know of any, please note sources in the comments!

Typical Northeast scenery.
Photo by Danielle Hunter of the Buckingham State Forest in VA
From Endurance 101 Facebook page, the album "Northeast Region - Between the Ears"
West Coast riding. See what I mean?
Photo by Teresa Straub of Folsom Lake in CA
From Endurance 101 Facebook page, the album "West Region - Between the Ears"
4. Do you do barn chores?
Yes, I currently help out at the barn with feeding, picking manure from the fields, watering, etc. 

5. What is your least favorite barn chore?
Right now it's scrubbing water buckets and troughs when it's 30 degrees outside. 

6. What do you consider the worst vice in a horse?
Under saddle: rearing, hands down. However, gymnast horses that can do a combination of bucking/twisting/bolting are also a no-go.
On the ground: horses that don't respect personal space. Treat hounds. HATE this sort of behavior.
In the barn: cribbing. I want to take all cribbers and turn them out 24/7 on acres and acres and acres of property. :/

7. What saddle brand is your favorite?
I have to say Carly's answer is the best and I am stealing it: "Anything that I can afford and fits both me and my horse." 

8. Do you ride with a quarter sheet in the winter?
I have, but I bought the wrong size and it was a PITA to make work with the Alta Escuela, which is my saddle of choice for winter riding especially. I really want a Cashel Rump Warmer. Love that it can be rolled up from the saddle once the horse is warmed up. There is a waterproof version too.

Cashel Rump Warmer

9. Does your horse wear boots? What kind?
I use open fronts and fetlock boots on new/rocky trails. I've used SMBs when I've been concerned about mud. And since they're not specifying type of boots here, my horse also wears hoof boots! :D I have Renegades, Vipers and Easyboot Gloves. Hoof boot type used will be determined by terrain. Example: I prefer the Gloves if it's going to be muddy.

Lily's Renegades

Lily's Vipers

Lily's Gloves (after a very muddy ride. Case in point)
10. Full seat or knee patch breeches?
I love full seats. I like some Kerrits and Stickyseats because the seats aren't stiff and bulky. But full seats are expensive, so I usually end up riding in knee patch tights. Tights usually have a thinner material than breeches, which is much more comfortable when you're spending hours and hours in the saddle.

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.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Zombie Kitteh Update

Life with a tripod cat continues to be interesting. We brought Zombie home on the assumption that he would eventually learn to ambulate as close to a four-legged cat as possible. I have met a variety of tripod cats in practice, some of them later-life amputees who have adapted to life without a leg without missing a beat. So you would think that a cat whose leg was amputated as a kitten would have it even easier, right? Not necessarily.

Watching him move around, even from the time he was a very small kitten shortly after his amputation + death (for those of you who missed Zombie's story, go here. There is a very real reason why his name is Zombie!) and well before he was ours, one of my concerns was how normal his remaining hind leg would be as he grew up. He had this tendency to bow out the leg so that his stifle was completely perpendicular to his body while hunching and twisting his back. I couldn't imagine that to be comfortable. He was still doing this when we brought him home at 4 months of age. I watched him and worried about him developing into a sort of three-legged Quasimodo cat as a result of assuming these awkward positions while his body was still growing.

I figured we would deal with it if that happened but in the meantime I started to do little things to try to straighten him out. A sort of physical therapy if you will.

I don't think I would have adopted him if we had not had another young cat for him to play with because I believe it has been vital in his development. The only time when his back was straight was when he was in full flight running around the house with Aengus. He might be missing a leg, but even in the beginning he was FAST! He could actually outrun four-legged Aengus! We gradually let them interact longer and longer to allow Zombie to build up strength, until they were together all the time. Playtime occurred in the morning when Charles and I woke up ("They're awake! BREAKFAST TIME! YAAAAAY!!!"), in the late afternoon around dusk, and later in the evening close to midnight (because of our work schedules, Charles and I tend to be up later than most even on our days off.) Play involved chasing in a sort of game of tag, and some rambunctious wrestling where the two would grapple at each other and kick one another's heads with their feet. Initially I supervised these wrestling matches, fearful they would turn into fights, and I sometimes scolded Aengus if he got too carried away...but Zombie would always go jump on Aengus begging for more. So I started just letting them do what they wanted. (Boys I tell you. Even kitty boys...For example, Zombie has an unending fascination with the toilet bowl which has meant that since his arrival in the house, we keep the toilet lid DOWN at all times. The toilet gets cleaned regularly but still...Only a boy cat!) Aengus would win at wrestling because 4 legs, but Zombie would win at tag.

Do you think cats are weird? Oh boy, you have no idea! Cats love what we call the butt pat or spanking. Examples:

Check out what she does every time her owner stops the pats!

It gets even better:

Owner is using foam paddles. They make a lot of noise but he is not spanking this cat hard. And NO, you certainly cannot train a cat to like anything. This kitty genuinely loves this!

I have yet to meet a cat that didn't like this kind of patting. One of the ways I introduce myself to cats in the hospital is by letting them sniff my hands, then I scratch their ears and chins, and if they are receptive to being loved on, I'll lightly pat them over their rump right in front of their tails or around their hips. A relaxed kitty will slowly straighten their hind legs until they are on their tippy toes. Some cats like it so much that they get overstimulated to the point of gently nipping you. Yes, cats will nip you with affection. Yes, cats are weird!

Back to my own cats. Astarte loves butt pats so much that she will do a little dance with her hind feet. It's hilarious.

She doesn't do her tippy-toe dance with her hind feet in this video, but you get the idea.

When Aengus was a kitten, he didn't quite know what to make of it when I started patting his rump. I'd pat him simultaneously while patting Astarte and he'd get this confused expression, "Ummmm...I think I like this?" Then he'd look over at her who was obviously enjoying it and he'd relax, "Okay, I think I like this." He'll raise his rump so high that he'll eventually just topple over.

Zombie liked it but would fall over because of his missing leg. So I would just place a hand under his nub and pat his rump. Result? He'd straighten his back and lift his tail. I showed Charles and we started doing this several times a day, whenever we thought about it.

And he started surprising us. By eating like a normal cat:

And being able to climb on things:

Just because the toilet lid is down doesn't mean that his endless fascination with the toilet has ceased...
But we were still impressed that he was able to climb up there!
And being able to pounce on things:

Cats walk and trot as their default gaits:

But they can also run or basically canter/gallop:

The difference between a galloping cat and a horse is that cats have these crazy elastic spines that allow them to WAAY overtrack. Definitely would not want to ride a cat!
Same phase of gallop in a horse.
To trot, an animal needs to have diagonal pairs of legs, right? So obviously since Zombie did NOT have diagonal pairs of legs, he would gallop/canter around the house on his three legs. Or rather gallumph.

Last week, he trotted up to me for breakfast. I have no idea how and I was not able to catch it on video with my phone. But he trotted.

On three legs.

He is also now able to jump up with his one hind leg:

And he is also able to stand for his rump pats with no assistance. Of which I have no video because cats.

So I think our original assumptions ended up being correct. :)

His neuter occurred last week at about 6-7 months of age. We (vets, foster mom and I) had all agreed that it was best to wait as long as possible for his neuter. The vets and his foster mom wanted him to weigh more than 6 lbs before his neuter and I personally wanted him to get full advantage of all of that testosterone to make him as strong as possible. I think it worked: he went into his neuter weighing 8 lbs of rippling muscle.

I was trying really hard not to stress about it since Zombie had already died under anesthesia once. But he did not die during his neuter and he came back home to us alive and well. Not a zombie x2 cat. ;)

I caught him licking his surgical site once so he had to wear the Cone of Shame for 24 hours.
He was fine without it after that.
He adores Charles.
And our adoption application was approved! He is officially ours!

Yes, he knows his name!
This is one of the big reasons why I enjoy having cats so much: all three of ours talk back!

Because one Zombie-cat talking video isn't enough... :)

Friday, November 14, 2014

14 Hours of Night

Embiggen to see what I'm talking about.
From www.timeanddate.com
In the aftermath of everything that happened at Fort Valley, I honestly have not felt like riding, nor writing, nor drawing nor any of the things that normally makes me happy. I H.A.T.E. this time change and would move to Arizona simply because they do NOT have this over there. I hate the shorter days and the night that comes at 4:30 pm. Maybe it's dumb, but I get tremendous anxiety driving on the back country roads from the barn at night because you never know when deer might run into the middle of the road in front of you (a real hazard at this time of the year in this area). Plus Marylanders are NOT good drivers when you add darkness to rush hour. It also doesn't help that the current barn is not well-lit at night at all, so you can never see any farther in front of you than your cell phone flashlight or your headlamp. Those of you that have arenas, indoor or outdoor, with lights in the wintertime: count your lucky stars.

One last wheelbarrow of poop picked from the fields before the light disappears.
On my days off, I wake up feeling like I'm in a constant rush against the eventual early setting of the sun. A rush that seems futile, and I feel like giving up halfway through the day because in my mind I will never have time to do all the things I need/want to do before darkness comes. The early arrival of winter is not helping. While I like winter, the bitter cold we are experiencing in this area is unusually early.

A few things have happened with the horses that I should probably write about, but I honestly don't want to. I don't want to write about what has happened or how I feel about it or how I intend to solve the problems. I just...don't.

I apologize for the downer post, but it's my blog and that's how I feel at the moment about everything. I am upping my vitamin D in case this is a bout of seasonal affective disorder. In the meantime, the blog might have some filler posts of blog hops, questionnaires, and photos.

On a brighter note, have some photos from the past few weeks that I haven't had the chance to put in the blog.

The mares see something...
hopefully not dead people.
Lily is the one without a grazing muzzle.
Astarte keeping me company while farm sitting at the barn last weekend.
This would be one of the reasons why I can't take him out in public... ;)
Gorgeous color!
This tree is now naked.
Charles and I rode, and took pics of one another taking pics of one another. :)

Me on Lily, same day.

Awkward photo of me putting the rope halter on Gracie. I just like this photo.

I have never been loved by a cat quite the way this one loves me.

"I loff you!"

Gah the cuteness! I love you too Aengus

There is a painting called Flaming June by Sir Frederick Leighton.
This is Flaming October.
All of these trees are also naked now.

Zombie waiting to be picked up by his former foster mom so he could get neutered at the shelter.
The evening after his neuter. Foster mom brought him back to work for me. He was still sleepy from the drugs and all he wanted was foooooooood and looooooove.
Zombie is happy to be back home.