Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Not the news we wanted

It's hard to write this post.

When Bobby got diagnosed with the Big N Word last fall, he was so immediately more comfortable with corrective shoeing that his having navicular took a good long time to set in, and it never really felt like a final thing.

This spring when his feet grew too uncomfortable to hold up to more than an occasional jump on good footing, a sinking feeling started. When he started to get sore flatting in our deeply cushioned indoor, I steeled myself for trying to eek out one last season. Farrier assured me there were more shoeing options we could try, and Vet was willing to move on to coffin joint injections. You can't heal navicular, but you can slow down its effects and you can make the horse more comfortable.

The vet called me Monday morning with preliminary results from Bobby's biopsy samples of Fungus Leg. "Your horse has Sarcoidosis. It's an incredibly rare cancer, and I need you to come down and pick up new meds for him."

I'd heard of sarcoids of course. Little nubbins of usually benign cancer usually found in horses' ears. I didn't think much of it. No one wants to hear their horse has cancer, but I was flustered with dealing with the bank fucking up our first car payment and annoyed I had to drive the forty five minutes to the vet's office.

fungus leg looking really good yesterday.
i'll do a full progression post still at some point.

I met Vet when I got there and showed her the latest round of pictures of his leg. Nope, no fever. Yes, still eating everything great. I handed the receptionist my credit card while Vet pulled out a thin stack of papers. "I'm going to give you all the reading material I have on this because I think you need to prepare yourself."

Sarcoidosis is rare. It presents in less than 1% of horses. They don't know how horses get it. They don't know how best to treat it. There's no one breed, age, or gender that's more likely to get it than another. They can't give you a solid prognosis because it reacts differently in every single case.

Best case scenario is if it's localized to his leg, but even then the treatment is nothing more than throwing steroids at him for months or years--steroids that might affect his already compromised feet. He could go into remission, he could spontaneously heal completely, or he could go downhill and have to be euthanized.

Worst case scenario is that it's generalized and spreads to his organs. There's nothing to be done then. We could nurse him along on steroids and still have to euthanize him.

They're running more tests because they found cells that point to the latter in half the samples.

The good news, or at least the hope I'm clinging to, is that his weight looks fantastic and his temp has stayed steady. He looks incredible everywhere above the knee.

does not look like a sick horse

The bad news--more bad news--is that amidst all this his feet are spiraling downward quickly. Farrier was out to put him back in his aluminium wedges this morning because of the soreness he was showing before his leg exploded and the vet came out.

Overall he was being very shifty while in the aisle like he couldn't get comfortable anywhere. He usually parks himself in the middle and naps, but he kept stepping over to me and leaning his head against me while shifting his feet one after the other.

For the past couple days he's occasionally been resting his LF on his toe instead of putting full weight on it. Farrier said that the outside of it looks great, but we know the inside is a mess. The wedges lift the heel up, but they also run the risk of crushing them so we don't know if we're helping him with those or not because he's uncomfortable everywhere. It's hard to tell where the pain is originating from.

The RF foot is in dangerous territory. It might tip us over the edge before the cancer ever gets a chance to. Because of the prolonged swelling in that leg--a result of vasculitis--it's been impeding the circulation to the hoof. Along the coronet band it's been slowly bulging. Farrier has been keeping an eye on it every time she's been out without even telling me because she didn't want to freak me out. It's to the point now where a crack has split from the top down. He's in danger of the foot going bone cold and losing the hoof capsule, or getting burning hot and foundering.

we love farrier because she's liberal with the cookies

I don't know what to do, how to feel. Until the final results come in it's basically a waiting game to see how long I have until I have to put my horse down.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Vet Findings

In short: the vet found nothing conclusive but a new injury in the opposite leg.

can't stay out of trouble to save his life.

It's kind of become a running joke that every time I call Vet out to look at Bobby's RF, he is without fail off in the LF instead. Since his entire RF from his knee down is covered in a flesh eating fungus (definitely not showing you guys pictures until it's further along in healing because right now it looks like he needs a full limb transplant, and I quite literally threw up a little yesterday cleaning it) I at least had undeniable evidence this time around that I know which leg my horse is crippled in.

However, while Vet was down there picking and poking at the RF, she looked over at the left leg and asked if the fungus had spread. Uhhhhh, no, don't even suggest that! Further prodding revealed the scabby patch was just mud over a cut--a large, incredibly swollen, painful to the touch cut he didn't have when I'd turned him out five hours earlier.

She switched legs and started investigating further, finally finishing with, "I'm having trouble telling if that's soft tissue damage along the splint bone I'm feeling."

STOP TOUCHING MY HORSE AND GIVING ME MORE PROBLEMS RIGHT THIS SECOND.

I quickly reminded her that Bobby has old, set splints in all four legs and she agreed that she might be hitting that instead, and since the swelling was so bad it was hard to tell. Three days of Bute twice a day was prescribed for that before we moved back to Fungus Leg. Fortunately, as of this morning, the swelling has finally fully subsided and it looks like nothing more than a plain old cut that's healing up really well.

"i don't care if there are other horses in the barn
that need attention, give me cookies now!"

As far as Fungus Leg, she didn't know what was going on with it. She took a skin scraping (waiting for her to call me back today with those results), and biopsied three different spots to send off to Cornell. I should have those results back by the end of the week. She left me with a tub of Vetosan which is nothing more exciting than ChlorHex lotion since everything else is burning his skin and until we know what exactly we're dealing with we don't want to put anything else on it.

He also went back on SMZs--a larger dose this time--less to stave off whatever is going on with his leg and more to keep cellulitis at bay since she still wants him turned out, but his skin keeps splitting open.

Not an aggressive approach, but it's getting results. BM and Farrier both looked at it today for the first time since last Wednesday (BM was at a multi-day show) and were appalled with how it looks. I was actually pretty happy. It spent the weekend blowing pus everywhere. I peeled off all the hair along his cannon bone and got most off his pastern, but underneath is healthy looking skin already trying to grow some peach fuzz. With the pus gone as of this morning, the swelling is almost completely down as well.

It still looks horrendous. Clearly there's something very not right going on inside the leg. Until results come back so that we know exactly what we can throw at it without making it worse, it's just a waiting game. I'm keeping it clean, keeping him on the antibiotics, and making sure no fever pops up.

Fingers crossed progress moves forward at lightning speed so we won't have to miss another show. I already don't know how much time I have left to compete this horse with how his feet are. I'd hate to have to throw away our last season ever because of skin crud.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

JKLOLOMGWTF

Everything was mostly roses for my last post. Good lesson, good things to work on, horse is feeling relaxed and ready to take on the show season. He had Friday off, and then went back to work over the weekend.

never go to emma for bonnet bling support. she'll be like, "you can do it!" and
you'll be like, "bitch, if i stab myself in the face with this needle one more time
i will come and find you and cut you."

But lurking in the background of every day Bobby life has been Fungus Leg. It could have its own instagram if it wouldn't make everyone vomit to see its face. Even Farrier calls it by name when checking in to see how Bobby's feeties are doing (Fine, by the way.). Fungus Leg has been seen by the vet twice already this year. We've done SMZs, we've done prescription shampoos, Desitin, antifungal creams, leave this on, take this off, scrub it twice, don't scrub it all...you name it, it's been tried.

The shampoo helped a lot initially. It stopped the balding on the cannon bone and ankle, but it didn't really clear up the scabs. The Desitin seemed to help with that, and we're mostly scab free around the pastern and ankle. So far, everything below the knee seems to be moving forward. Slowly, slowly forward, but healing.

The knee? It. Is. Fucking. Disgusting.

couldn't leave his stall until more candy was inserted 

The main problem seems to be that the leg is reacting to the fungus by swelling overnight when he's in his stall. It causes the skin over the joint to stretch and then crack open so nothing is getting a chance to heal because, you know, his knee is an integral part to him moving. I thought I was on to something when I went back at night to wrap his leg to keep any build up from happening. Relieve the pressure of a fat knee on the skin and everything will have a chance to knit shut for good. That worked for about three days before the swelling was like, "Can't settle in the lower leg? I'll just move up to the forearm and settle directly on the knee." That being the complete opposite of what I was aiming for obvi.

Through this all Bobby hasn't acted lame due to the fungus side affects. Occasionally he'll walk a little stiff until he's moved around enough to knock the fill out--movement being the only surefire way to kill the swelling, but then of course the knee is moving and cracking open all the scabs trying to heal. Damned if you do, damned if you don't.

you can kind of see the offending knee here.

This weekend, though, he kind of lost his shit.

multiple times. 

I got off both days feeling completely defeated and like the worst rider on the planet. He's been going so well and been so relaxed in his work that to have him revert back to last year Bobby, who was too tense to ask anything of and we basically just tried to survive every movement, made me feel like the biggest failure ever. We'd taken approximately ten thousand steps backwards and I felt for sure I'd undone all of BM's work with us.

After having a serious pout on Sunday, I came in Monday with a plan. I shortened my stirrups a hole since in the pictures I could see that I was using them to brace against him the second he started tensing up which obviously helps nothing. We had a long, long walk warm up since his leg was fatter than normal, and then we moved on to the trot.


Only he didn't want to trot. He wanted to canter. His answer to everything was canter. And if I shut him down, he got furious and threw a fit. Coming off a weekend where I already felt like a shit rider, I gave up. I got into half seat and let him rip around the ring while I quietly cried and ignored him until he finally settled down--a solid fifteen to twenty minutes later--and trotted on his own. Then I had to get off and cool him down since he was drenched in sweat and blowing, and I felt even shittier.

And shittier still when I saw that his knee now looked like raw meat. I immediately got on the phone with the vet and scheduled an appointment, and then shoved Bute down his throat as a last ditch effort to combat the overnight swelling.

He's not getting ridden until the vet comes out. He's still not lame, but I can't even bring myself to do more than glance at his leg to make sure it's not about to fall off without hating myself and hating him a little.

He goes out in a huge field with a rowdy gelding that he plays with all day. He shouldn't have this crazy amount of excess energy he needs to burn off. I got him his wedges back to make his feet comfortable again. I ditched the jumping so he wouldn't be sore. I'm in a good program with an incredible trainer that's making me ride him fairly and correctly. If he feels even remotely lame, he doesn't get worked.

CAN YOU NOT THROW ME A FUCKING BONE HERE AND JUST MAKE MY LIFE EASIER, BOBBY?!

it can trot around like a second level horse when not flinging itself around.

All that is to say that Sunday's show looks like it might not be happening. Unless the vet can work some magic and make this knee look presentable enough to go out into public--and obviously get Bobby feeling more comfortable with it since I can't imagine it feels great in its current state--I'm going to have to scratch him. We're already going to be missing two of the shows that qualify for year end awards for various reasons, so I'm being a selfish child and being exceptionally bummed out about the prospect of having to miss this one, too, and potentially not getting to enough shows to yet again to qualify for giant ribbons.

Please stop costing me money, Bobby. Or at least be nice to me while you're doing it.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Go Time

Could alternately be titled: Oh, shit. My horse is trained beyond my capabilities.

BM didn't waste time in this morning's lesson. She put us quickly through w/t/c and lateral work at the stretchy trot (which seemed exceptionally difficult in my brain, but wasn't all that bad), and then told me to pick a test for us to work on. Obviously it wasn't the warm up I'll be using at shows, and Bobby wasn't quite ready to jump right into a test, but show season starts next weekend and it's time to start dissecting what parts of the test need the most attention instead of encompassing all the things.

And really? Bobby was so chill for his abbreviated warm up and just went about his business doing what was asked that there wasn't any big picture stuff to work on. No worries though. We gave BM plenty of nitty gritty things to put on the list.

i have no new pony pictures, so enjoy these shots of lake ontario consuming the shoreline

I picked 2-2 because even though it's been over a year since I've ridden a First test I feel like we can scoot through 1-2 with few enough issues to notch those scores needed towards our Bronze without too much effort and then be done with it forever. Dressage judges love to throw points at Bobby, though they do have to mark him down heavily when he's flinging himself violently across the ring on two legs.

Not that he's ever done that.

More than once per show.

Probably.

Anyway, I like 2-3 a lot and don't have any problems with it that I wouldn't have at 2-2 where the counter canter work feels a little turn and burn for my giant moose horse. 2-2 it was.

the water is usually a good 15' from the top of the pier
not nearly level with it.

I'd warned BM ahead of time that Bobby's been breaking to the canter in the medium trot and since I hadn't gotten around to schooling them yet (since it involves one tap on the butt with a dressage whip and then forty minutes of convincing him I didn't just beat him before he's like, "Oh, okay, let's just do a medium trot then. What's the big deal?" You tell me, bro. You tell me.), he basically just ran through the first one and we carried on ignoring it for the moment.

The SI was all over the place, but the serpentine at X was easy and he shifted over the travers just fine. His turn on the haunches have gotten so much bettter. Now that he's fucking relaxed, he doesn't tighten his back up and can actually step around without being like, "Sorry, I'm a fucking support beam that is immovable. Let me just lurch around like a cement llama." He went right down for the free walk though BM told me we can still be better. For Bobby, it's already miles ahead of where he was last year.

We kind of fell apart at the canter. I tried gunning him into the medium with my legs since our indoor isn't quite the size of a standard ring unless you really stuff yourself into the corners, and the canter movements tumble over the top of each other in this test. Bobby was not okay with that and lost his shit a little bit, but after having a quick walk with a pat to mentally regroup, he went back to work without losing his shit for all eternity.

puppies were not impressed there's nowhere to romp around anymore

After a quick chat about what needed to be addressed, we schooled the SI a bit. The problem is that Bobby has gotten so bendy and so supple that I'm overriding him. He's a sensitive dude already, but now he's light and like goo to ride so where before I had to bully him around a little bit, instead I have to scale my aids way back and trust that he's going to do it. I kept asking for too much bend and too much angle at the SI. What would have produced an acceptable SI last year is now one step away from him folding himself in half. It's a big adjustment for me, but BM pointed out that I'm already adjusting with every single to each new massive bound forward he's taking. Baby steps for me, giant hurdling steps for Bobby.

The test and the work on the SI was the warm up Bobby needed, and when we came down the centerline for the second time he was raring to go. For the medium BM told me to let it build (something I've also been told by judges, damn it). He's got the energy coming from behind in the collected trot, the medium is just letting it open up into a bigger stride. I don't need to goose him with my legs, I just need to lighten my seat and let him move up and out into my hands.

Better with the SI this time. The medium canter was slow but relaxed. There was a difference in length, but definitely needs more. I can play around with this on my own. He picked up the wrong lead on the first simple change at B because I didn't bend him back to the right.

coming for your houses. also no worries, ny. it's cool to be 40* in may. 

The theme was that I need to manage less, ride more...while riding with less aids. It's all going to come from the seat now with legs only going on for steering and lateral work. He's carrying himself so well and so easily that the power and lightness is there. Now comes the fine tuning, and I so need to work my lady balls off to keep up with him.

I'm starting to get excited for this season. If he can stay relaxed and I can force my brain to stay focused, we might actually have an entire season where Bobby doesn't leave the ring. #highstandards #wehavethem

As far as feeties go, he got his wedge pads put on yesterday with the promise that Farrier would have his aluminium wedges in when he gets done next. Farrier seemed kind of guarded about if he's even going to be able to do real trail rides anymore, but rallied with, "If these don't work, we'll find something else!" Right. Stay positive. (Quietly vomits a little.) At least Bobby seems to have accepted this as his new life. I thought for sure he was going to turn into a rabid monster when jumping was taken out away, but so far so good.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Is he or isn't he

Another weekend down, another roller coaster of lame horse emotions. Sweet baby Jesus, please just be sound, or be lame and ready to be retired. Obviously please choose the former option.

emergency sunday text to farrier: plz come fix my horse. again. he's lame. again.

We had a great lesson on Thursday where BM helped us put the canter back on track--literally the track instead of fishtailing all over--but more on that in a second. He had Friday and Saturday off because Rolex, and then I got on him Sunday afternoon. He felt fine at the walk, but as soon as he stepped into the trot he immediately felt not right.

I let him keep going for a few minutes, playing around with the loosening exercise we'd worked on Thursday to see if he'd work out of it as Farrier and BM both think there's a chance he could just be body sore.

He's not. I mean, he might have some aches and pains here and there from being a hard working mother fucker, but he's not lame in one front leg or the other because his ass needs a stretch. He continued to be lame, and when I started to pick him up and put him on a shorter rein, he started head bobbing. I quit there and sent a text to Farrier that he needs wedges put back on. She'll be out Wednesday to do that, and he'll start a new supplement that day as well. Feel how you will about supplements. If I don't see them working, they get pulled. If I see a change, I'm a believer.

looks like a sherman tank thanks to cocosoya and tri amino.
looks like ten different horses because shitty conformation. 

I feel like a crazy person. Okay, no, I don't feel like that. I feel like people think I'm a crazy person because he'll be sound a week straight, and then he'll be off, but not so off that it's really noticeable unless you're me whose been riding this horse since his very first time under saddle and can tell when he's feeling uncomfortable and where it's coming from. I know when he's out behind, I know when he's just stiff, and I know when he's giving me the same feeling he gave me last year when I spent $1k+ on x-rays and outside diagnostics and fancy fucking shoes to make him sound again.

In short: JUST LET ME BE THAT CRAZY OWNER THAT WANTS TO SHOVE MONEY AT YOU TO MAKE MY HORSE FEEL BETTER.

sirens and horses walking past make ears up a breeze

So. Anyway. Let's talk lesson.

Starting from the trot, BM had me, as always, with my reins almost to the buckle. She's big on letting the horse take the stretch as far down as he can without any restriction. So that there's no one second of resistance before I can react and let out more rein, I have to work with the longest reins on the planet. This is exceptionally hard for someone like me who lives off of being grabby and micromanaging, but I'm getting there. It's making me ride off my seat and leg way more, and it's making me put an outside rein half halt through that leaves a lasting impression since it's so fucking awkward to finagle my body parts into position to ask for it.

Our trot work was spent on one exercise to get him loosened up and working with a good bend since I'd asked that we really tackle the canter work. She had me leg yield Bobby over to the inside track focusing less on how much he stepped over--it could be an inch as long as he shifted his back--and more on keeping him straight in his neck and head. Then I had to catch him with my inside leg and as we came into the corner shift him into a deep inside bend for the short side.

LOOK AT MY LOOPY INSIDE REIN.
LOOK AT IT.

It was both easy and hard. He was better to the right, to the left he started off wanting to jet off once he hit my inside leg so we kept missing the bend in the corners because I had to half halt him to bring him back instead. We got it though, and he was certainly feeling free and bendy by the time we struck off into the left lead canter.

The left is the better direction at the canter, but it's still not great especially since he likes to ride the change train that direction. He's getting to that point that green horses reach: Where he thinks he has the answer to everything but he doesn't actually know anything. Only instead of being green to the world, he's green to the beginnings of all the upper of the lower level tricks. "Flying changes? I can do those, so easy. Half pass? Why didn't you just say so? Oh, you didn't say so? Here it is anyway."

BM right away pointed out that he likes to park his right shoulder out making it sit a good two inches lower at the canter. He's bending, but he's not lifting the outside shoulder which is the cause of why he feels so crazy weird--stiff as a board, and yet loosey gooseying all over the place.

That carries over to the right lead as well--different shoulder, but same problem.

She put us on a circle to the right--we were able to get it fixed going straight to the left--and told me to think of riding a pirouette canter. I was like, "LOL, who the fuck do you think we are, BM?" But the idea was that the inside rein is the open door, the outside rein is the closed door, and the hind end really has to sit and push to give the shoulders the room to move up and out of the way. Since we're obviously nowhere near ready to ride a fucking canter pirouette, it was channeling that canter for a few strides and then letting him open up and go forward for several strides and then right back in again.

I had to work hard on remembering to push him over with my outside thigh instead of pulling him in with my inside rein ("Don't do inside rein! If you ever want to really fix this, stop touching your inside rein!"), and sitting on my inside seat bone to get the bend.

proof my horse can dink around with no inside rein yanking.
ughhhhh, trainers being right is the worst. 

Through this all, every break we gave him he went right down into a deep stretch. We're working so hard lately that he's learning to take his stretch breaks very seriously when he gets them. I hope this carries over to our tests as well as free walk has always sucked for him.

This morning he was sound. Of course he was. I did the same warm up from our lesson and had great results. He remembered how to horse at the canter, and then we rode through 2-2. I'm doing 2-2 and 2-3 in two weeks so I figured I'd better remember how the tests went.

Very happily he stayed in the counter canter! I probably overrode the bend to hold it, but oh well. We also had to throw in a little canter half pass to scoot over to E quick enough once, but no change once we hit the wall! He was cool, calm, and not at all offended by my legs being on him to ask for the change of bend on the little loopy circle things at X between SI and travers.

PLEASE BE THIS NORMAL (SOUND) HORSE AT SHOWS, BOBBY!!!!