Monday, July 13, 2020

Thornridge CT @ T

Happy Monday, everyone!! This weekend Charlie and I finally finally got to complete an actual two-phase CT at training level!! Sure, it was just a very small local schooling thing haha... BUT! In my book, it totally counts to have to sign up at a level, show up that day, and do the things (ideally while not dying)!

Previously, we've done a handful of 3'3 jumper rounds, plus a few fix-a-test events for the dressage portion. But our actual fledgling attempts at any sort of multi-phase event have not exactly been fruitful lol (*ahem* falling in the N/T division at Full Moon Farm's Aloha trials... entering a schooling HT at T this past spring only to have it cancelled bc of covid...).

basically champions <3 <3 <3 just don't ask how many riders were actually in the class LOL....
Obviously, coronavirus has really turned my whole plans for the year upside down -- and honestly made me rethink some of my goals altogether. So at this point, in this year 2020, I'm trying to make all my decisions at a little bit more of a "gut" level, if that makes sense.

In other words, when I hear about any sort of upcoming outing, event, or adventure, I try to figure out if I feel kinda "meh" about it, or if I have a full blown "Hell Yes!" feeling.

our crew! L to R is Charlie, Punky, Austin and Royal!!
This CT was 100% in the "Hell Yes!" category haha, for me and for a few barn mates too. So obviously we made a little party out of it!

You might remember I went to an event at this farm last summer soon after falling off at Full Moon. At that point, tho, we just did a couple jumper rounds and skipped out on the dressage test altogether. Bc I figured, eh. I already knew our dressage is shitty, and at that moment it felt more important to focus on show jumping.

warm up in the lovely dream magic footing of the indoor
This time, tho, we were ready to put the pieces together. Like.... Not necessarily bc our dressage is any better (hint: it isn't LOL), but bc I was so much less stressed out about it all and felt like I could mentally juggle a little better.

Charlie, for his sake, was extremely good in the dressage. This horse, he probably thought he was showing up for the Grand Prix. No joke. In warm up he was alllllll business -- nice and forward, soft on the contact, steering and transitioning and generally being a Very Good Boy.

test in the absolutely gorgeous outdoor
He carried that feeling right on into the test itself too. We put together what felt like a very reasonable test. Everything happened just about where it was supposed to, with just a few little blips.

I straight up forgot about the whole lengthening part of our first canter circle, Charlie jigged a little in anticipation in our medium walk, and somehow my second canter-trot transition caught me a littttttttle off guard lol.

Otherwise, tho, it was a pretty accurate reflection of where we're at on the flat. The 10m half turns were fine for us (meaning: the judge didn't think the horse was lame lol), our first canter-trot transition I thought was pretty nice, the stretchy circle felt good to me even if it didn't look like much, and I was actually quite pleased with the horse's effort at a lengthened trot (below!).

d'awwww Charles!! sure, the judge's comment was "more reach" but i still appreciate how far he's come!!
Some real talk tho: It wouldn't be totally accurate to say I've given up on dressage with Charlie but.... Well, I've definitely changed my attitude about it. For my level of skills as a dressage rider, and Charlie's typical way of going, it just really does not come easy and is also honestly not that enjoyable.

Or at least, it wasn't before I kinda shifted how I thought about it.

omg guys i actually have a video of our dressage test! 
believe it or not, i haven't seen a filmed test of us since OCTOBER 2018

For a while, it felt like my slightly ham-handed attempts at getting Charlie more dressage-y were actually counterproductive to my real goals: jumping.

Bc the thing is, the horse is a LOT to get put together, but he'll fake it if you let him poke around behind the leg. But poking around behind the leg is 1,000% not at all EVER where I want to be with this animal especially while we're trying to jump bigger things.

So in my head, I've kinda broken down the flatwork into components as they relate to jumping specifically -- rather than how they relate to any particular dressage levels or tests. Things like: adjustability in the gait, balance in turns, promptness in transitions, reliability in the connection.

the test scored a 36.9% / 63.1%
Maybe that sounds like... dumb, or "duh" or whatever. Or misguided or a cop out... I honestly don't really care. Because I'm just so happy with the feeling I'm getting right now from Charlie, both on the flat and over fences. We'll keep trying for more and better, but for now I'm pretty happy with the way he goes.

Naturally tho, lol, not a whole many dressage judges agree with my assessment haha, and that's ok too. Our score was 6% points off the leader -- in a class of two. Oh well!

I certainly wasn't gonna sit around feeling sorry for ourselves, bc we had the jomping to do!! AND, I'm continuing the trend from last spring with finally bringing coaching to our warm up ring.

lol if you ignore the flying rail it's a lovely shot of charles!!
And honestly it really is helpful. I tend to be pretty economical in the warm up, not really jumping much more than I think I have to...

But also when things start to get a little rough -- like let's say Charlie is getting strong and running, or we're having a couple bad jumps in a row -- I start feeling like, "shit I'm already fucking this up, might as well just get into the ring right away before it gets any worse!"

homeboy was very careful after our first few oopsies haha
Luckily, tho, with a coach there (who could also set fences for me -- major bonus) we were able to break the pattern. First few jumps were great, as they often are, then we had a couple decidedly not great jumps.

But -- and I know this will shock you -- we worked through it and fixed the issue, then went into the ring lol. Crazy stuff, guys haha....

jumped the SHIT out of this oxer!
And the round itself?? Honestly? It was fine haha. Not our greatest, but also pretty reasonable. The poles are all PVC which means they fall pretty easily, so I didn't exactly expect to go clear. Which... we definitely did not.

First rail at the first fence was definitely my fault too -- it was a bending line and you'll see in the video I tried to turn him too early (maybe was worried he'd try to lock onto the wrong fence?) and caused his hind end to drop too soon.

Second rail at the second fence (whoops) I think was just a lazy accident. Nbd tho.

ugh i wish the higher quality camcorder i bought for this exact reason actually, ya know, worked..... sigh
After that, tho, Charlie actually grew a little bit of a conscience and started jumping much higher and more carefully!! Good boy!!

We did the next two related lines pretty reasonably, tho the last line got a little tight after losing some balance at an end jump. To be honest, tho, I was super impressed with how hard Charlie tried even when we got so close to the last. Probably should have put a little more bend in that line, but it worked out.

hang in there, buddy, we're almost done!
Of everything about it, honestly I'm happiest about how more or less relaxed I was. Case in point: as we're making the turn after fence 2 to the first related line, I had the presence of mind to notice my videographer friend had the camera oriented the wrong way and asked him to fix it as we cantered on by to the next jump LOL.

Which... ok, admittedly that's pretty silly. But dammit! I get so few videos of us these days, and have especially few of us jumping at this height. So... Ya know. #priorities lol

video of our round!!

Obviously the rails were sorta a bummer, even tho I expected them. Turns out tho, while the other rider in the T division had a rail too, she still would have had it in the bag even if we'd gone clear. Bc.... yeeaahhh dressage lol.

all the happy bay boys after the ride! hilariously, none of these horses are herd mates, but they've been in lessons and trailers together for so many years they're all good friends haha
Mostly I was just happy to have done it. And felt almost like we were getting away with murder by being totally finished before 9:30am, omg.

Obviously we had to stick around to cheer on the rest of our group through their classes too -- and I'm happy to report that everyone did really really well! Everyone did nicely in the dressage and had pretty excellent jumping! A couple rails here and there, but again it's to be expected with PVC poles.

lol the best thing about a brontosaurus neck is that you can reach across the entire width of a trailer to get dat cookie!
It also felt really good to go through the whole competition procedure for the first time since last fall. All the bathing and packing, having a group set up at the trailer, remembering how to deal with my horse's studs.... And letting the horses remember the whole atmosphere and rhythm too.

Here's hoping we'll get a few more chances before whatever 2020 wants to throw at us next!

Saturday, July 11, 2020

why running backwards is so dangerous

There are literally countless behavioral issues common in horses, ranging from annoying but benign to.... really fucking dangerous.

Running backwards is.... one of these things. Horses just don't really "run" backwards in nature. Like, obviously they can physically back up (otherwise how else would they get off most trailers?!). And sure -- you'll see them kick it into reverse if they need to get away from a threatening herd mate or whatever in turnout.

charlie lives in a bank barn - a structure built into a hillside. this means the ground slopes away from the building such that one end of the barn is nearly subterranean and the opposite end is above ground
But running backwards? That's frequently a conditioned response. Probably not conditioned on purpose, but ya know... Horses don't always learn the exact lessons we think we're teaching. Racehorses in particular often end up with a backwards type response to pressure -- maybe from how they're trained or made to go into the starting gates? Some natural horsemanship methods deploy the backwards run too.

The issue, tho, is that a horse who has learned to relieve pressure by going backwards might also revert to that response when he becomes worried under saddle. And according to Horse Talk NZ, "this is the most dangerous thing that any horse can do."
"When a horse panics and runs backwards, he stops thinking altogether and you have absolutely no control. A horse running backwards like this can easily roll over backwards and it’s usually on top of the rider."
Which.... fucking happened to a friend and her horse at my farm this week. For really no apparent reason whatsoever.

charlie likes grazing on the embankment at the above ground side
The friend simply got on the horse from the mounting block, like any other day, but the mare was kinda in a little bit of a fuss and started going backwards. But.... she ended up backing up onto a grassy embankment and then flipped the fuck over off the edge of said embankment.

Thank god the rider was thrown clear tho bc..... it honestly wasn't exactly obvious at first where she had landed. From where I stood in the doorway, I didn't see the fall but did see the initial backing and then the horse struggling in a seizure on the ground -- belly and legs facing me, with rider nowhere to be seen. I can't even imagine what would have happened if the rider was trapped under that horse...

Because guys. Horses are just straight up not physically designed to flip over backwards. Their heads are like giant heavy weights at the end of the long tether of their neck. And when the mass of the falling body slams that weight into the ground.... the results are catastrophic.

horse backed suddenly away from mounting block onto that grassy embankment behind charlie, before falling backwards off the slope onto the driveway
This poor mare.... It all happened so fast.

She was immediately in a seizure. Eyes jerking and unseeing, jaw clenched, legs striking out, and the entire body wracked with spasms, the horse's head striking the ground again and again. Some blood from the nose, but no visible hemorrhage.

She'd be able to lay quietly for a little while, during which periods we could get the tack off and cover her poor eyes with a towel.... But when she'd spasm again she was essentially a giant 1,100lb wrecking ball. She had no control of her body and absolutely zero awareness of any people or objects around her -- at one point going through a fence like it was matchsticks.

Basically all anyone could do while waiting for the vet was keep the people safe, and administer a sedative to the horse (after checking with the vet on which specific drugs were approved for seizures).

such such fragile creatures
And ya know, that was it. The wait for the vet was interminable. And this poor rider, who had only just started leasing this horse, was entirely helpless. Like.... what on earth could she have done differently?

Obviously that's the hardest question to face after any tragic or freak accident. What could I have done differently? There's just no satisfying answer to that question, unfortunately. In the case of the above accident, I don't think there even IS an answer. In that moment, the rider was absolutely powerless, and nearly herself a casualty.

Could something have been done earlier? Honestly, I don't know. I didn't know the mare, and it was a new partnership for the rider (who, it should be noted, is extremely capable). I have no idea of any of the history.

But I *have* known a couple horses over the years who had a penchant for running backwards... And honestly, thinking through some specific events makes me realize just how lucky I've been to not see this outcome previously.

So idk. Not entirely sure why I'm sharing this story here, tbh. It's not even really my story to tell. Except... Ya know, horses are really fucking dangerous. And it turns out that even 'normal' behavioral issues can spiral out of control really really quickly. So my hope is that.... knowledge is our best protection against complacency.

Especially if you have a horse that reverts to running backwards when worried or under stress, it's worth googling around and searching the forums to learn how others address the behavior. Or better yet, talk about it with the trusted people in your circle -- trainers, vets, friends, etc.

Mostly tho, just paying attention and being aware is so critical. If you can figure out what triggers that type of backward response -- you can either try to stop it before it starts, redirect it, or at the very least avoid getting swept up in an uncontrollably dangerous situation.

Friday, July 10, 2020

signal v. noise

One of my biggest struggles with Charlie is keeping up with him as he adapts and evolves. Sure, he's a very consistent, predictable and reliable horse -- but he's also sensitive and learns quickly.

I sometimes get so caught up with "planning" and "expectations" that I end up riding yesterday's horse instead of Charlie's today. Does that make any sense? 

check out this beautiful shot from charlie's super groom!
Anyway. Wayyy back in February 2017, just a few months after Charlie came home to me, I wrote an entire litany on all the small adjustments and modifications, the incremental changes we were making in Charlie's training. Including everything from tack and equipment adjustments to what external tools I use as a rider.

Obviously a lot has changed since then, but most relevant to this post is the point about when and why I choose to carry a crop or whip, or wear spurs.

my elegant beastie <3 <3 <3
For a while with Charlie, I carried a dressage whip and wore spurs for every single ride. But.... Over time, began to believe we had become over-reliant on those tools and that Charlie was actually deadening to them.

So I nixed them, or would do one or the other. Riiiiight up until our disastrous second attempt at Novice, where Charlie had a completely uncharacteristic performance at Plantation. He was stuck behind my leg and stopping at fences, and I reeeeeeally could have used more backup.

three months without lessons left some bloat in the budget. hellloooooo fancy new ecogold saddle pad!!
Basically since then, I've taken the approach of always always carrying all my tools with me in competition. And usually in lessons too. I figure, in a lesson the trainer will let me know if I'm using the whip or spur like a crutch. Plus, we're typically pushing ourselves hardest in lessons so I want to be sure to have all my power when called for - esp if it means avoiding a sticky or unpleasant moment.

Then, in just every day schooling, I typically ride "unarmed" so to speak. No whip, crop or spurs. And ya know, this has been pretty much fine for a long while now.

ah horses. so humbling.
went from congratulating myself for beating the rain to literally eating dirt in the snap of a finger... was still finding sand in my ears for days wtf....
Lately tho.... Charlie's reminding me that... Ya know.... All my philosophizing and conceptualization and rationalization of how I approach riding doesn't really mean jack shit to Charlie if he's not on the same page haha.

Like a couple weeks ago when we were soooo sluggish omg in our dressage school... I kept pleading with him to please maybe consider picking himself up, but he just could. not. And as we were cantering and stumbling along, I finally growled out 'ugh Charlie, buddy, c'mon!'

Which... well.... He certainly did, by basically stumbling into an unstoppable avalanche at the canter, in what must have looked like his best "wheelbarrow" impression haha. The hind end was still cantering, but the front end was just... Idk, it was basically a simultaneous horse + rider face plant, let's be real. Massively unpleasant, so much sand everywhere omg. Charlie had sand up his nose and a skinned knee, and well... you can see from the above what I looked like. Ugh. So so so unnecessary, tho!

charlie 100% prefers spectating vs actually having to derpsage himself
I hate that sometimes it takes such a big mistake like that for me to remember that it's really not ok to just plod around, ya know? And with any horse but especially Charlie, the more clear I can be in expectations, the better. Spending an entire ride nudging and nagging, begging and pleading for more zip is.... not particularly effective haha.

So our next ride or two included either carrying a whip, wearing spurs, or both. And guess what? The horse has actually been fantastic. Goooooo figure haha.

And actually, that's kinda the other big revelation in adjusting and modifying my approach to riding and training Charlie. Since coming back from quarantine, this horse has been.... straight up phenomenal. Like, obvi set aside the face plant and his unfortunate bout of anaplasmosis, bc ignoring all that it's hard to think of a comparable period of just straight up goodness.

oooooh charlie got to meet trainer K's new bebe!! he's such a weirdo about small beings and creatures haha, but it's cute. every time she made any noises he'd stare intently, probably wishing he could shove his big squishy nose right into the stroller to snuffle all over her lol....
Our first few jumping sessions back from quarantine have all been pretty wonderful -- and obviously we had a grand old time at the hunter pace a couple weeks ago. Compared to this time last year, Charlie feels like an entirely different horse. Sound, happy, relaxed and willingly forward (again just ignore the face plant incident LOL).

And this impression was only strengthened after finally having our first jump lesson since March!!! Heck yes!!!

triple across the diagonal was a 1 to 1 grid
recommended to begin the exercise off L lead for the sake of symmetry
While I've been pretty pleased with our efforts muddling along outside of lessons.... The timing just felt right. Not least because we have a little low key schooling CT this weekend (wish us luck lol...). I figured it might be nice to run through a couple grids to tune everything up, ya know?

Which, obviously trainer K was happy to oblige. And Charlie, bless him, is such a pro at grids. After only a very few repeats with building the grid up, I honestly felt pretty satisfied about things. Actually tho, trainer K surprised me by suggesting we add in a little bit of course work as a finishing touch.

To do so, she set the above fences all up to 3'3 (except the first two grid elements), and sent us on our way. And like, I haven't jumped a course at T height since.... uh, March lol. But Charlie.... he's just on fire right now, absolutely slaying.

pictured: flashback to our doctor-themed hunter pace a couple weeks ago
It's honestly amazing to me what this horse feels like when he feels good. He wants to jump the fences. He likes it when they're big. And it's easy for him.

Charlie has an excellent eye and is educated enough now to know how to adjust himself to the fence. It's such a great feeling. Like I watched trainer K set the fences and kinda gulped a little like ugh, really tho?? Except, the horse just goes, ya know?

Like even when we jumped into that bending 3 stride line from a faaaairly open distance haha and Charlie had NO CLUE that there was a second element lol omg, once he saw the second fence he just half halted himself, jumped it cleanly, then landed perfectly organized for the rollback turn to the triple.

this is my preferred method for conditioning!
It probably helps that I'm continuing to practice some of the softening in my hands to the fence that Martin preached to us about. And, as a slight point of pride, we didn't have a single jump in the lesson (even through the hairy bending line!) where I got left behind or did my weird pearl-clutching over the fences.

But really.... Honestly I think it just boils down to Charlie straight up feeling good in his body. Esp compared to last year. Which... is interesting to me. Bc it's not like he's had any recent work done either -- his last injections were eight months ago (after which we did a course of adequan).

So what's the big difference? Honestly? I think it's the time off from the quarantine period, plus his current conditioning program. Or, uh, ahem, the lack thereof. Because you see.... with his feet in such rough shape, I've been avoiding any unnecessary pounding. No trot or canter sets, and no lengthy rides just for the sake of length.

strolling the farm is nice too ;)
We've been doing all our purposeful schooling (either on the flat or over fences) in short intense bursts a la Doug Payne's "stringent criteria," and otherwise just hacking out and having fun. And the horse feels amazing for it. Which has me rethinking my entire approach to conditioning him.

Previously, knowing that Charlie has a history of quitting (like at Plantation), my idea had been to over condition him. Make Charlie so fit that even if things get rough, he'd have enough in reserve to carry us through.

Maybe that was a fine idea, maybe it wasn't. All I know is.... the ground was hard as shit for basically all of last summer and frankly I now suspect that he was dealing with persistent low grade soreness and inflammation because of it.

Meanwhile, the horse has been back in full work for 8 weeks now -- equivalent to the amount of time off during quarantine. With the only major difference in his work load revolving around babying his feet. And he feels fantastic. So....... Ya know. There's some important food for thought in there lol.

In an ideal world, I want Charlie to be happy and comfortable and set up for success in his work. Bc dammit, in this year 2020, all that really matters is that we can have fun and enjoy ourselves in the moment, right? So. For now, I'm taking my cues from Chuck lol. We'll see what happens!

Monday, July 6, 2020

Volunteering #CovidStyle

Hope everyone had a good weekend!! Esp if it involved some fireworks :D

My plans got a little shuffled around, but worked out alright enough. Originally I had planned to check out the FEI cross country at MDHT's first big event of the year.... but sadly, no spectators allowed. Womp.

So instead, I got my horse show fix by volunteering in the show jumping warm up ring for the I / P / M / T classes.

This was my first time volunteering since the coronavirus pandemic fandango, so I figured it might be worth running through how things are different right now.

one of the check-in stations along the driveway. sorry for the glare off my windshield!
Perhaps most importantly -- there's a lot more paperwork. I guess it's a liability / insurance thing, but really any venue looking to hold any sort of event right now has gotta cross every 't' and dot every 'i.'

At Loch Moy, this involved a few "checkpoints" along the driveway into the venue.

this wristband makes me feel like horse shows are the new night clubs LOL
At the first checkpoint, they take your temperature and hand you a wrisband + some forms to sign. At the second checkpoint, those forms are collected as in the earlier picture.

Hilariously, this volunteer just aimed a giant fishing net toward my car window for me to place the forms, which were then immediately dumped into a large bin.

guys this hand washing station was LEGIT!
From there, tho, everything proceeded basically as normal, with just a few small distinctions -- like these super sweet hand washing stations!!

And obviously, everyone had masks and was very sensitive about not encroaching in personal space. Each horse was allowed I think one additional "help" person (meaning, riders who had multiple horses could have multiple helpers), but otherwise there were no spectators.

there might be a global pandemic going on, but pros still gotta pro!!
Which... Let's be real, there aren't really all that many spectators at your typical national horse trial anyway. Unless it's the Kentucky 5*, or just a verrry few FEI events (like the 4*-L formerly held at Fair Hill, or Jersey Fresh and Plantation's big events), eventing in the US really just doesn't seem to draw much of a crowd.

Especially when compared to similar events in the UK and Europe, where whole families seem to come out to spend the day picnicking in the park watching horse sports. Idk, it always just kinda amazes me tho LOL!

and gosh i just love watching the warm up ring.
nbd, just Liz Halliday Sharp and Allison Springer jumping in sync...
Anyway, tho, back to the point. Loch Moy is always super organized anyway, so it's no surprise that they have individual plastic tubs for each volunteer stand -- whether that's the dressage, SJ or XC warm ups, in gates, start box, etc., materials for scribes, judges, timers, you name it.

Everything is pre-sorted into labeled lidded tubs. Clipboard, order of go, radio, pens, markers, and a few other extra odds and ends just in case. Each volunteer station also gets an umbrella and stand, chairs, and a cooler packed with various beverages.

could see most of the show jump ring from my station!
As far as I'm concerned, tho, so long as I have a clipboard and order of go, I'm happy.

Personally, my favorite volunteer positions are in the warm up rings. Ideally for jumping, but really any warm up ring is fine. It's always such an interesting energy and atmosphere -- everyone is so focused in anticipation of what's to come, ya know?

Plus, personally I enjoy watching the riding that happens in warm up rings, too. Seeing how people prepare, and all that. How the pros might be doing it differently than the amateurs. Or how riders at the higher levels do things differently from me.

For instance, the typical SJ warm up ring has a crossrail, vertical and oxer jump. I've mostly done N and below, and at those heights, you don't need a whole heckuva lot of build up. Like, Charlie is absolutely fine warming up for jumping with his second fence being at 3'. And actually, the one time we did T, I just went for the at-height fences right away too.

could spy on the vet box too!
But actually, riders at the higher levels spent a lot more time adjusting fences in the warm up (generally with the assistance of a trainer or working student). Starting lower then building up. Some asked for different configurations of placing poles and/or ground lines. And most seemed to want to end on first a big square oxer then one last trip over a high vertical.

Interesting food for thought haha.

guys, this visor mask shield thingy is a game changer --- my sun glasses even fit under it!!!
Honestly, tho, there isn't always a ton of time for concentrating on watching when you're checking in riders and funneling horses to the in gate.

My method for approaching the warm up ring madness is basically to impose my order on the chaos haha. I've got the list and the ride times, and generally want to stick to that list as closely as possible within reason.

It's worth checking with the judge about that, tho, since most optimally prefer to keep a horse in the ring at all times. If that means taking horses slightly out of order, so be it. Considering there are usually pros with multiple horses per division, you gotta be flexible anyway to keep them moving so that they can get all the horses done in time.

Generally, riders seem happiest when they know what to expect re: timing. Common questions to the steward might be about whether the ring is running ahead or behind, and how many horses are in front of any particular rider. So long as you can answer those questions, most riders don't mind if you deviate from the order of go.

lol and even glitter nail polish can't fix the horrors of the #HorseShowTan (hint: is actually dirt LOL)
Overall, it was interesting how little the whole scene has changed with respect to Covid. Aside from the masks and extra consciousness about social distancing, the show went on as normal.

Like, even tho it was an intensely hot day, we had very few scratches. Honestly everyone just seemed happy to be out at all. Which ya know, me too, haha...

It was good to get out into that environment again -- esp in a way that felt safe with realistic risk mitigation. Esp since this event finally pushed me over the 100hr threshold for volunteering at USEA recognized events (not counting the many many more hours spent at local schooling or non-USEA stuff in recent years). Which is kinda cool lol.

Would be cooler if USEA recognized stuff like that lol... Rewards programs attainable by mere mortals like myself with day jobs. Like... WTF USEA, do you realize your lowest national recognition level starts at 500 hours -- the equivalent of working full time for 4 months???

Oh well. It's still nice to hit 100, even if it's a meaningless number haha. And nicer still to be out at a show! Who knows what will happen this fall, but I'm hopeful about getting a chance to get Charlie out at least once or twice if possible too!

Saturday, July 4, 2020

happy independence day!

Hope you're all having a wonderful weekend -- esp everyone in the US celebrating July 4th!!

be like Charlie and make good choices!


Stay safe, y'all <3

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

called it: my horse's big fever

There is a LOT that I don't know about horses. A lot a lot a lot. Because, ya know, at the end of the day, I'm mostly learning through experiences. But.... there's more to learn about horses than can be realistically experienced in any one single lifetime, right?

Actually -- that's probably my favorite thing about this blogging community:: everyone sharing all the small details of their own horsey experiences. By following along with so many other horse people online, I've been able to sorta vicariously live through certain situations that otherwise might remain unfamiliar to me.

remember this pic from a week and a half ago?
Ticks, tho.... Lol, they are definitely not unfamiliar to me. Haha. Hahaha. Yea... esp in this part of the world, we get a LOT of them. I've been pulling ticks off horses for as long as I've been grooming horses, and pulling them off myself for even longer.

And actually, at least in Maryland, any time a horse doesn't seem quite right - maybe he's not totally sound, or is behaving a little funny, or just something you can't quite put your finger on - testing for Lyme is almost always in the Top 5 diagnostic boxes to check off the list.

but really tho, what would we do without google, eh?

Since I've owned Charlie, he's been tested for Lyme at least twice -- but possibly three times. Always a very low titer, tho.  But meanwhile, in recent years, it seems like other tick borne illnesses have become more prevalent.

obligatory screenshot from the inevitable barn mgr text convo, with yet another variation of creative spelling lol

Particularly: Anaplasmosis. I swear, at least half a dozen times in the last two years - both in real life and in blogland - every time a horse pops up with a big fever, lethargy, and maybe one or more swollen legs, that's what it's been.

And idk.... There was something about that welt on Charlie's shoulder from the first picture. I've pulled a LOT of ticks off this horse. And we all know he's a fragile delicate hothouse flower.

sad freshly hosed off horse
But that big round swelling.... Idk, I've just never seen anything quite like that. Which is probably why I immediately started googling about that particular type of tick (Lonestar). And figured, based on what I was seeing, that.... Yep, wouldn't be surprised if Charlie busted out a big fever in a week or two.

Which, naturally, Charlie dutifully obliged exactly 9 days later, haha.

sad drying but still-very-clammy horse. homeboy was HOT to the touch :(
The poor guy, he really felt pretty crummy too :(

He's such a good patient, tho, such an open book. This is definitely a horse who fully expects humans to solve his problems and therefore is actually surprisingly communicative when he doesn't feel good.

yup, is a very sad charles.... look at his poor sweaty forehead and eye lids :( :( :(
He skipped his dinner, tho accepted a treat from the feeder, and explained to her that actually he was really quite feverish. 105*F to be precise, a number so high the barn mgr immediately tested again with a second thermometer. Then, obvi, administered banamine and initiated an after-hours call with the vet.

I was actually already on my way out after work at this point, so I could give him a second hose down and graze him in the shade while we waited for the vet.

and a Mikey cat, obvi, to interject some cuteness!
All signs did indeed point to tick-borne illness, tho I guess the clinical presentation is pretty similar for a broad range of particular ailments - from anaplasmosis to Potomac fever. Luckily tho, the banamine had already started working and Charlie's temp was down below 102*F.

So the vet pulled some blood, then administered a whopping 60cc IV of diluted oxytetracycline - a broad spectrum antibiotic.

 charlie was well enough on day 2 to "help" his super-groom paint the window frames lol <3
I guess you pull the blood first prior to treatment in case you need to look at liver or kidney function down the line, and/or if you decide to run a blood panel to test for the specific illness. The panel is really only necessary if the horse doesn't improve in the next 12ish hours, unless you just want to be extra careful.

also feeling well enough to tease his friend elephant while grazing lol
Lucky for Charles, he was allowed to spend the night out in the field with his friends --- definitely much more pleasant than the stuffy barn. And came in the next morning with a lower fever around 101. Much better, sir.

pictured: one f*ing GIANT syringe of (diluted) oxytetracycline
The treatment continues with banamine as needed for a day or two, and two more days of those mega IV oxytetracycline doses. The vets apparently prefer to administer this themselves, since I guess it can be pretty nasty if any gets outside of the vein. And since there's so much of it omg 60 fucking ccs..... yea, it takes a professional's touch haha.

dear lord... apparently the vet has seen this drug literally knock a horse out before?!
After that, the horse switches to roughly one week of doxy, an oral antibiotic, to complete the treatment. And... theoretically, is all better after a couple days.

We did opt to run the blood panel anyway just to rule out anything more serious, even with Charlie seeming better. I'm not expecting any surprises there, tho, based on how well Charlie's already responded.

doxy powder, and banamine just to have on hand since i had to use a barn mate's stock. barn mgr recommended the injectable formula since it can be IV and oral
And meanwhile, I'm gonna add a pro-biotic to his supplement baggies just to counteract his getting walloped by all the antibiotics. Gotta keep those gut flora happy, right? And actually, if he were a horse with a more sensitive stomach or had any serious history with ulcers, I'd probably add even more gastric support - like U7 or something.

But as it is, he'll probably be fine. And a nice bonus side effect of the doxy is that it also has some pretty excellent anti inflammatory properties haha. So who knows, maybe Charlie will come out of this feeling even better than before!

pairs well with doxy!
So ya know. Even without having the blood panel results back yet, we're feeling fairly confident in Charlie's recovery. As with so much in life, the simplest solution is usually the correct one. After that nasty tick bite, from a tick notorious for carrying anaplasmosis, it almost felt inevitable that, yup, Charlie would get sick.

Fortunately tho it seems like a fairly straightforward thing. Every horse I've known who has had it recovered without issue. Definitely a shitty couple days for the pony but.... Well. It could be worse I guess!