Posts tagged: health


So, once again, bad blogger. A lot’s happened since my last update…

First, I rode in a clinic with David DeWispelaere in April. I really enjoyed it, and intended for a long time to write about it — but less than a week after the clinic, Poe came out of the pasture lame. NOT HAPPY. I’d taken him out back for walking and trotting hill work on Tuesday and had a really nice jumping lesson on Wednesday. He felt a bit sluggish by the end of the lesson, so he got Thursday off. Then Friday, lame. LAME. I called my friend Lennie, who happens to be one of the most knowledgeable horsepeople I know, and she graciously came out to the barn to watch him jog. It was definitely left hind (my eye for lameness is terrible, but this was pronounced enough even I could see it). He didn’t seem to want to place the foot, so Lennie felt it was an abscess brewing, and best thing for it would be chuck him back out in the field and wait.

The next Wednesday he was still about the same, maybe a touch better than that first day. The vet was coming out to float his teeth anyhow, so I called ahead to ask that he watch Poe jog, throw the hoof testers on him, etc before doing his teeth. The vet kindly squeezed it in. He saw the same left hind lameness, but couldn’t find any reactivity with the hoof testers, no heat, no swelling, no difference in pulse between the legs. He didn’t have time for further diagnostics and couldn’t tell anything based on what he’d seen. So I set up an appointment the following Monday (soonest I could get someone), and put him on a couple days of bute.

Monday the second vet watched him jog on and off the lunge, did the hoof testers, and did some flexions. Poe was a total brat about flexing his left stifle. He wasn’t fantastic about his right either, but worse for the left. No real heat or swelling, and no difference in the jog before and after the flexion, but he also wasn’t able to hold it all that long. Inconclusive. We were set to do nerve blocks next, but Poe was a bit fried and refused to have the twitch put on, and reacted rather violently to the vet’s attempt to get the needle in without the twitch, so we scrapped that. He is usually an easy horse to handle so the whole exam was a bit disheartening. Much moreso because we were no closer to an answer than we’d been last week. The vet advised I give it another couple of days, and set another appointment if there was no change, possibly bring him in for x-rays.

By Wednesday there was no difference. I don’t have a truck and trailer, so hauling him up to the clinic was not a great option. A third vet was able to schedule to see him on Saturday. He’s the one who usually handles emergencies so they don’t schedule him, but I was very flexible about when I could see him so he worked me in. He repeated everything we’d done Monday, with a bit better success on the flexions, since Poe was feeling more cooperative. Same result: he flexed fine. Back in the barn the vet pulled out the hoof testers — and voila! Tenderness in the left hind. It was the first time Poe had reacted to them, but there was a definite, repeatable reaction. Probably a stone bruise. And a huge, huge relief. The vet had also brought out the thermography camera, so he had a look at both of Poe’s back legs with that. Really cool little device — and also a relief to see no difference in heat between the legs. The vet felt there was a small amount of swelling in the left stifle, but nothing super alarming.

He prescribed a 3-week course of bute (2gm twice a day for three doses, then 2gm once a day for 10 days, then 1gm once a day for 10 days), and said I should ride him. Nothing super strenuous, stick to large figures, no jumping — but he felt the bute would address any inflammation, and that moving would help him strengthen/loosen whatever he’d tweaked, and things would either improve and be fine or get worse so we might have a clue what else was going on. We discussed other options too — injecting the stifle, taking him in for x-rays — but we both felt this was the best next step. So, after over 2 weeks out of the saddle, I got to climb on the pony-face again! It was a fantastic feeling just to walk and trot him around the arena.

That was mid-May. I honestly feel like we’ve still been getting back into work since then, which is kind of pathetic since it’s been 2 months and he wasn’t out of work that long. I feel like he’s had good days and bad days, though. He’s consistently more comfortable on the footing in the indoor, but sometimes he feels pretty great in the outdoor too. We went back to jumping a month ago. We haven’t done a lot, but he is SO so excited and happy every time we do.

I’m still freaked out that my horse is secretly broken, though. Every tiny bobble and misstep scares me. I’m terrified I’m doing wrong by him somehow, that I will ruin him. So, I’m trying to take things in baby steps. Baby baby steps. I’ve launched Operation: Super-Stifle! and am walking him up and down the hills out back at least once a week. It’s something we can do even in this insane heatwave. (A couple weeks ago we had a heat advisory all week, with temps around 100 and insane humidity — so that was a week of a lot of baths and zero riding, which hasn’t helped the feeling that we’re woefully unprepared for anything right now.) This Sunday we’re going cross-country schooling at Steepleview. I’m prepared to quit the minute he starts feeling tired. I’m also using it to gauge whether or not to sign up for their recognized show over Labor Day weekend. Some moments I feel like it would be the most fun thing ever and we just have to go do it — and other moments I remember how showing leaves me wanting to vomit the entire week beforehand, and pretty much every moment during it that we aren’t running cross-country. Still, if I never show the nerves will never get better.

To that end I did a little ride-a-test schooling thing a few weeks ago at my barn. You could pick any test, ride it once for the judge, get feedback and a mini-lesson about how to improve that test immediately, then ride it again. I had the best score ever, and while I was tense I did not entirely lose my mind when we hit the ring, so it was an improvement. It helps that the judge was Jodi, who I used to train with. And she had some awesome advice for us, and some really concrete specific thing we should be working on. Namely: shoulder-fore at the canter, especially on the right lead. Do not let him trick me into hold his head up with the inside rein to that direction. Use the long walls instead of circles until he’s more balanced. We have not been doing this enough — I know it will help us enormously, and need to start busting it out now that the weather’s broken.

Okay, this was a really rambling catch-all, but I think I hit all the highlights of the last couple months. Oh! Except the saddle! I bought a dressage saddle. Update for another time.

Poe walk, July 2012

More 2011 Wrap-Up

Obviously I’ve fallen way behind again. Let’s pretend I wrote about all kinds of things promptly:

The eye recheck: The vet came out the day after my last post; he stained Poe’s eye again, and found the ulcer totally healed, yay! There was a small cloudy spot left, so we moved on to a round of steroids to take care of any of it that was inflammation-related vs scar tissue. Poe will probably always have a small scar there, but it’s just behind and above his pupil, so the vet said it shouldn’t impair his vision whatsoever, and cleared him fully for jumping. Big relief!

Foxhunting: I played hooky from work on a Wednesday morning, and we spent the whole hunt in first field. I was pretty honored (and, I’ll admit, a little freaked out) to be invited there immediately, sitting on my still-pretty-green five-year-old who’s only hunted once before, a whole year ago. When I was introduced, the Hunt Master lavished me with some pretty high praise about my previous horse (who I sold 2 years ago to one of the hunt members). He is a pretty awesome little dude and it makes me unbelievably happy to see him doing so well with his new owner. Anyway, I was a little worried being in first field the entire hunt would be too much mentally for Poe-face, and that our brakes would fail or he would just come apart at the seams — but he was a rockstar. He didn’t stand at checks and the brakes could use work, but I was super proud of him. He was enthusiastic and brave, quick on his feet, and kept his attention glued on the hounds — he figured out fast where all the action was! By the time we got back to the stable he was like a toddler high on sugar and several hours past naptime. Definitely made me grateful that I don’t have to deal with toddlers all the time, and that most of them aren’t 1200 pounds.

The Hunter Pace: We hunted on a Wednesday and the Pace was the following Sunday. I turned him out in the arena once in between to see how he was feeling after hunting (answer: great!), but otherwise left him alone to be a horsey and process all the excitement. When he saw the trailer outside on Sunday, he literally started shaking he was so excited. Lovely. We wound up having quite the adventure getting there. The gathering place for the event is a beautiful private farm in Medina; a front turn-out field serves as trailer parking. Unfortunately, there is a pretty significant swale/dip between the road and the main part of the field. While driving through the gate, over this swale, the trailer (a bumper pull) bounced off the hitch. Just popped straight off. Terrifying! Luckily we were going quite slowly, and surrounded by handy horse people. We unloaded the ponies; we tied Rascal to the fence (such a good boy) and I walked Poe up and down the patch of grass between the fence and the road. He walked and ate and walked and and stared all around while Lennie and a couple other people got the trailer jacked up and put back on the hitch. Thankfully nothing was damaged! A bit shaken, we finally got parked, signed in, and got our ponies ready.

The ride was a blast. Each team (usually a pair, though some teams are bigger) is sent out with a map, and is supposed to ride the marked course as close to the optimum hunting time as possible. This optimum time is a secret until everyone is done — the course is ridden before the event by one of the hunt members to set the pace, and the team closest to that time wins. Last year we took home the trophy, and the year before were in 2nd place by mere moments. This year they added some new jumps and ran the course back to front. Poe was awesome! He was very happy to be out, and we even took the lead over some nice-sized brush fences when his fearless leader Rascal balked at them (he was raring to go, Rascal be damned!). That was probably my favorite part of the day: once we got over the third fence, I felt him totally get it; he hunted for the next fence and dragged me there. Awesomest feeling! We clocked along and came in about the same time as we had last year, even though the course was a little longer. When we went to check our time, however, I got a bit of a disapproving look and a warning that they had slowed things down quite a bit this year. Needless to say we went home empty-handed! I thought it a bit strange that they wouldn’t have told people about slowing things down before sending them out on course — but, honestly, we had such a blast I don’t think we would have gone slower if we had known!

Since then: Poe got a little well-deserved time off, then we returned to lessons and dressage work. I had some really nice rides on him, and my trainer had an awesome school with him, but he was feeling just a little funky to me — stiffer than usual. Then I had a ride where felt downright weird, and I panicked a little and made Lennie come out to give her expert opinion. She felt he wasn’t lame, but a bit sore in the hind end, so I hunted up a masseuse for him. She found some really tight areas, but told me to absolutely continue his current level of work, and that the massage should help him loosen up. AND (best part) she said he had one of the best backs of any horse she works on — not sore at all! Since then I’ve had a handful of rides. He definitely feels better, though he’s still taking a while to warm up and start really bending. Last night’s ride was a total disaster — the arena footing is in the middle of an overhaul, so it was really uneven and strange, and he was distracted and belligerent the whole ride, and I was all frustrated, and it was just a horrible combination. I have a lesson tonight that I’m hoping will be MUCH better!

Goals: One awesome take-away from last night came from eavesdropping on another woman’s lesson. At the end her instructor had her drop her stirrups and practice posting. We all had a chat about the importance of stirrupless work, and I have known forever that I would benefit a lot from it. So, I’m going to really make it happen this winter. I want my head back in the game for the 2012 season, and that starts with getting my body in the game. No excuses!


I’ve been really lax about posting, I know. Just not a ton going on. It’s finally spring (YAY) — which means riding outside, but also a lot of mud. And rain. And mud.

I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned this before, but this past winter I started giving Poe a treat every time I get him from his paddock. He can be kind of mouthy, and definitely would like to be in your pocket all the time, so I keep pretty strict about when I feed him — which for a long time was only after he was done working. But then I started thinking it would be pretty awesome if he came to meet me at the gate on really cold days. He already did sometimes, because he’s just a friendly, curious guy — but I thought I could improve on that. So I started bringing him a little something. And it has turned into an absolute blessing now that his paddock is a mud pit. Sometimes he thinks about it for a little while before trekking over, but (knock on wood) he comes to me pretty consistently. Good pony!

The back field and both outdoor arenas have mostly been too wet for riding the last couple weeks, so we’ve been doing road work. It’s tough because neither of us wants to be inside right now, but I also worry a lot about his feet and the gravel road. He took a nasty chunk out of one of his back hooves last fall, and while he’s never been off on it he does still have a hairline crack that runs all the way up to the top of the hoof, and another hairline crack in a front hoof, and he’s chipping a little up front. I know standing around in the mud all day is not helping, so mostly we walk up and down the dirt road, mixed in with some trotting and a little cantering. The walking has become boring. Still, I know the harder surface and hill work is good for him. Not so sure about the cantering (though it IS good for his mental health — he was so, so, so happy on Monday after I let him gallop up the hill).

So, I mentioned that Poe can be kind of a mouthy guy. I’ve always discouraged this; I was taught that you never ever let a horse mouth at you. But last night I was grooming him and he turned and started nuzzling at me (which he always does), and I steeled myself and let him. I have to admit it was hard at first: I kept expecting him to put his teeth on me. Not out of malice, but because our skin is a lot more delicate than horses’ and he just wouldn’t know better. But he didn’t. He just lipped at my shoulder in the most gentle, sweet way while I scratched his chest and neck. It was that kind of bonding moment that makes your inner thirteen-year-old die of happiness, and it made me a little sad that I hadn’t trusted him a lot sooner.

Just a quick post about my lesson last night, so that I might remember longer than five minutes all the things we worked on. We started with some work over four ground poles, at the walk and the trot, encouraging him to be steady and soft in the contact. He was a really good boy — that makes two really nice flat sessions this week, yay Poe. Afterwards we worked on leg yielding, then his canter. We had a LOT of trouble to the left — he was really sluggish and did NOT want to be round at all — but he was pretty great to the right, and we quit on that note.

Things for me to really remember and work on: holding my hands higher, with straight wrists! I have a very bad case of puppy paws, and have gotten into the habit of holding my hands lower than I should, and particularly dropping my inside hand toward my thigh when trying to get him to bend. I also need to concentrate on sitting very square in the leg yields, and stop trying to help him so much with my pelvis/seatbones and thigh. I’ve also been concentrating really hard on being soft and quiet my own self, even when he is not, and it seems to be working well.

He was a big sluggish overall last night, which in itself isn’t totally unusual — sometimes he’s just like that, especially at home. But he was also eating his grain super slowly, and didn’t finish it after our ride, so I’m concerned about that. I asked the staff to keep an eye on how he eats today. He had good gut sounds on both sides and otherwise seemed okay… I tried to check his teeth but almost lost a finger, so I’m going to leave that to the professionals — he’s scheduled for his second round of vaccinations soon. Maybe he just bit his tongue or the inside of his mouth or something today? Or ate too much snow and mud trying to get at the first inklings of grass? Or has decided he doesn’t like his supplements any more? I don’t know. Horses.

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