Monday, July 31, 2017

Facing heartache, again.

The story of my hunt for answers on Prophecy continued...

I finally got out to see and ride Prophecy on Sunday to do a check-in and see how he was feeling after the trim & CST work.  I arrived to hear he had been playing hard with Marty that morning enjoying the cool weather start.  Initially I thought "uh-oh" as he can tweak his back out there, but was happy to find him feeling really good during grooming with no twitchy spots.  In fact, he was heavily into having his left ear and side of head scratched so I obliged and kept looking for spots to relieve the itch, but that was the "one" we kept going back to (aside from belly area).
We groomed and tacked up slowly doing body checks along the way, adding back his Scoot Boots on the front.  He gladly let me put on his LF, started dancing when I went to do the RF... Wonder what he is telling me there? Doesn't want to balance on left? Or doesn't think he needs it on the right?  I asked him to stand nicely and put it on as it was to see if he could feel better on the rocks and I needed both on.  When saddling I loosened his breast collar a few notches on the shoulder straps to make sure it wasn't causing undue pressure based on the CST findings last week.

We walked out on the rocks and I could see the "Rocks, ouch" look on his face slowly disappear as he realized the fronts were protected. He stood pretty well for mounting and off we went walking behind the empty pasture and then up the driveway to another trail entrance.  I had to hop off to do the gate, and he was good for me getting back on using the fence on his off side (which can be his preferred side many times!).  We had a few discussions over walking down inclines vs trot & rush - that was the only time I saw any head tossing.  He was generally ears forward and happy to be walking along with a few trot spurts that he threw in a few buck threats but then settled into a good pace. I didn't do too much of trotting but it was nice to see him stop pinning his ears and feeling tucked under in the rear immediately. He did ask to canter a few times and didn't try and toss me off with it. He still felt tense, which could be attributed to memory of expected pain, or training issues, or still lingering pain....I can definitely tell he felt better, but still need to check the box on the vet exam to have piece of mind.


Dinner with his BOT pad after our ride Sunday. 

So that is where we are at... Vet exam was today. I had planned to do front hoof X-rays to check sole thickness and SI area, but we didn't go that route...

I was very pleased with Dr. Santos from Blue Ridge - he took time to read the write up of everything I have experienced and tried with Prophecy in last year+ I've had him and discovered along the way. Some things have never changed about him, regardless of what therapy I try, and that is what led me here.  He understands endurance (has some experience with it in Brazil as well) and knows my goal was to get back into it.  Of course we laughed about how wide Prophecy is for an Arab, and his lack of withers, but he was happy to see he has good sized feet to support his structure. Not perfect in conformation overall, but not horrible.

He worked through (with his assistant handling Prophecy so we could talk together while watching Prophecy): walking on gravel and grass; Trot outs on gravel and grass; lunging in the round pen; flexion tests; back testing; hoof testers and finally saddle fit.  He was obviously head-bobbing on the RF, but it would change up on grass vs. gravel and depending on the out/back he'd show off on RH or LH.  Hind was positive, but not as much as I thought it would be...Prophecy's demeanor changed more than anything else, lashing out trying to nip the assistant when he was bothered by the trot out.



Findings: 
-RF is sore.  (we rode in boots yesterday, so it didn't show)
-His leg ligaments/tendons checked out with what he would expect of a working horse and all findings were bi-lateral.
-No heat.
-Soles were softer than he would like to see, but good sized hoof. Some imbalance in the trim on left side
-Not hugely lame or off in any particular flexion test but enough reaction to say something is up (RF was main issue showing up today).
-There is some short striding in the back end.
-Muscle atrophy on the right hamstring.
-His back is very tense, a few trigger spots 'bringing him to his knees' for lack of another term. He is not using the muscles as he should when asked to round up or against a tail pull. He not only got tense, but threatened to bite in many spots.
-The Ghost saddle does not work for him; despite being able to adjust it to match his width and having the ortho-impact inserts on the Matrix pad - because of his other back issues he needs more structured support at this point in time.

Recommendations:
-Put 4 shoes on with leather pads and see if that relieves any of the stiffness and hind-end issues or if it lingers. Could inject hocks to see if it helps.
-Do not ride until I find a draft tree ("Fresian") saddle that has a short foot print small enough for his Arab back.  Do not go for a custom saddle as he will change.
-Lots of ground work to fix his back muscles. It could take 6months or more - this is a long standing issue and may not actually resolve.

And the last thing he discussed with me leaves me with such heartache: 
Consider placing him in another home, as the outcome is very unknown at this time (as far as endurance future). We may solve one issue only to find another (as the story has gone so far)...I could make the changes he recommends and be in the same boat a year from now.

What I expected to hear today: Put shoes on and get him to a trainer to break through the other issues. I was not prepared for the emotional impact of the possibility of the answer he might not be endurance worthy, though I knew I could have gotten a definite "Not" today, I didn't think about a "Maybe."

And then thoughts start spinning...
But how could I move him on?  He is a project horse not only mentally but now physically. I've invested so much time and energy in his well being, and bonding and enjoying that Saga-baby goofy personality.  I need to give it a chance, but for how long?  I said I would give him this summer to figure out if we need a go to a trainer - that may still be the case, but again not something I can do when he's legitimately got a reason for being a pill.  There is such emotion behind that choice and making sure he'd find the right landing spot if so...

I can't keep spending money on saddles...so I guess I sell mine and hope to find something in the same price range in the right tree...until then??  Figure out some type of ground work that doesn't bore him.  Walk trails... I don't know, I'm not good at coming up with ideas there.  Ponying him would be great, but I have just 1 horse.

The first step would be shoes, and starting more ground work while I work to find a saddle. The fact he did not feel off or anything yesterday in boots further supports his need for shoes.  The back muscle rebuilding, this likely means a trip to a TTouch trainer a few hours away to learn how to apply the tapes, etc to help him re-learn to carry himself correctly.  She does take in training and rehab horses, but I doubt that is in the budget.  Turning him out to pasture won't fix this either as best I can tell and isn't my plan.  He has been avoiding pain for so long (even prior to me) that he has a lot to overcome when a saddle is placed on his back.

I want what is best for him. I want what is best for me... Right now I need to figure out what that is.  I'm not ready to give up. I will still take him at the end of Aug to our SET clinic with Dee, maybe I'll have a saddle that works and maybe I won't. I got so much out of just auditing her class I'm sure he and I will still get a lot out of it even if just working on the ground.







Sunday, July 23, 2017

what's next?!

Ever feel completely defeated?
What next?! is all I can say sometimes.

I thought things were going really well for us back in early June - Prophecy was willing and happy, moving nicely without tension or bucking.  Then it fell apart again.  Things have not improved with the hoof growth later in the cycle, so I'm not convinced the trim was the culprit - just the happenstance of timing, or maybe the catalyst?

Something is NQR...and I don't think it is all training related. Don't get me wrong, he IS green and needs more miles and confidence building, but I am also re-questioning if his issues over the right hind for trims is something actually physical (vs. trust), leading us down a path of scheduling a lameness evaluation.

Google is not your friend when you are researching the various possibilities!  I can only hope it is something "simple" like corrective shoeing needed... but the words kissing spine, fibrotic myopathy, stifle or hock arthritis, Degenerative suspensory ligament desmitis (DSLD), various ligament and tendon tears, have come up too.  Things to set your mind spinning...

We have still been riding, but I am not pushing him; pretty much walk only with a few trot spurts when he feels good.  His weight is looking great, his body is just needing more muscle tone, but I can't ask much of him in my opinion till I know he is doing it without pain.  Saturday morning's ride was not one of our better ones.  First half started out pretty well, until I asked him to trot where he normally loves to move out - his answer was ears pinned, tucked under rear end, threatening to buck... He became head tossy again, prancing and bucking on the latter half of our 2.5mile stroll with barn buddies, but we held it together. He also seemed to trip a bit more - going downhill especially.  I lunged him upon our return a few circles and confirmed his was tripping without me on and I couldn't see why, but he had a little head bob.  He is now overdue for a trim at 6weeks due to scheduling changes, and has flared pretty strongly upfront so that could be the reason for tripping  - though that has not been an issue before.

I hope the next two weeks gives us answers between Sandy's visit for CST work on him, farrier, and finally the lameness eval if needed to investigate more if the previous two items don't find a culprit.

Where this will take us next, I don't know.  We will keep on keeping on and find it together.

Ears up leading the way Saturday am
I "published" the above post Sunday, but decided not to share on FB, just with a few close friends to bounce around ideas...So I pulled it back to update with our findings from today/Wednesday between the farrier and Sandy - It just so happened they ended up on the same day, so I took a day off to be fully involved this as my thoughts have been a mess of questions and considerations.

Sandy was first up this morning.  I had her work on him & me this time - my right ankle the mess that it is, and my crummy sleep lately has left me with lots of headaches and some TMJ issues, I could use some relief. Plus if we are trying to overcome his emotional hangups riding, we need to get me straight in that equation too.

Overall Prophecy was in much better shape than Sandy's last/first visit.  Right away she pin-pointed this issue that was causing the buck at the canter - psoas muscle - deep down tweak. It took quite a while to get it released, and just a few other minor spots and then we saged him.  I had heard of doing this to houses, but never tried it, nor heard of it being used on horses!  It worked its magic around his withers, shoulders and girth area, and apparently a few spots related to the breast collar too - so I'll have to check the settings of that.  She did not note anything on his hocks or stifles, so that is at least good news.






I enjoyed my CST work after putting him out in the round pen...my lower back was out and my neck and shoulder tension was strong.  No more TMJ issues and I don't feel locked up on the right hip! I almost fell asleep in my epsom soak this evening...hoping my mind slows down and I can sleep a little easier now.

Next up with the farrier - a new one today.  Despite the huge chip he took out of his front left somewhere Sat afternoon to Monday eve when I found it, and other than being long and flared again up front, he thought he had good growth, no WLD, good concavity, and his soles are sloughing off on their own well.  Prophecy is still ouchy on rocks, so he suggested a hoof hardener for the soles and using boots when we ride.  If I feel he is not improving, we will go to front shoes next time (or sooner if needed).  Prophecy was extremely chill for his trim...except the RH, which Sandy said he would still be a little sore in the rear, but he was definitely better than he had done previously - and if the psoas muscle is an ongoing issue it would explain why he didn't want to have hinds done in general.

Watching Rich work on his back foot 


So, the question still exists, what do I do next?

24hrs rest then see how he feels....so I guess I will try and hop on Thursday night if it isn't storming. I also must make sure to use his scoots so he isn't worried about or feeling the rocks so much. After a nice long talk with a good horsey friend to say out loud all my questions and answers we've gotten so far, I am going to go ahead with his lameness eval on 7/31. I need to make sure there is nothing underlying causing the recurrent SI area pain and RH stiffness. It will give me the piece of mind I need, and hopefully answers, to keep planning on how we move forward.


Friday, July 14, 2017

100 miles

So I realized Prophecy & I hit a milestone while updating our conditioning log...Of the mileage I have tracked while riding, we have hit 100 miles together in a year :)  He actually didn't have a saddle to work with until July 2016 and I don't always track our workouts, so really it is more  🐎

Proof I ride thanks to Jen!


Before leaving for FL I helped Doug lay the first quarter of the deck planks and upon my return we finished another quarter.  Seems to take way longer than we expect it too! 😝 This coming weekend I get to start staining (weather permitting) while Doug & Asher keep moving on installing planks.

Dogs while we worked the first weekend

Even Asher wanted to help screw in planks


1st bit complete

2nd bit
This past Sunday I met Jen & Suzette at the barn to ride again, we did almost 3miles this time wandering about (we had ourselves stuck at 2 on our "normal" path).  The humidity was lower, but the sun still strong and bugs still annoying.  The boys were all very good; Prophecy pretty relaxed and cooperative leading and following (learning he can't be on someone's rump!) and listening to not being allowed to stop and eat all the time. We had one big spook over a baby deer running off, he bolted forward a few steps but quickly came back to a stop and I had him face the woods, to which he let out a nice deep sigh after.  It definitely helped that the other 2 boys barely reacted so he didn't feel he should.   We did a lot of walking, a few trots, and nice hose down after of course.  He is averaging a ~3-3.5 mph walk without dawdling, but still totally out walking the other two!  The Matrix stayed where it needed to since going back to twine.  He was hardly fussy, and we are just coming on 4w post trim so maybe the was the culprit for the attitude change?  More rides to confirm that suspicion needed!

He keeps getting better about saddling :)

This week began our crazy camp schedule for Asher combined with Skyler taking swim lessons for 2 weeks after work, which means I get to the barn at 8pm!  Kind of nice that isn't as brutally hot then at least...

Monday night I went out and had the intent of either riding in the empty pasture or lunging.  I decided when I caught him to do some "dancing" on our way back and it only took one time of him not keeping with me to get it.  It engaged his mind a bit as we made our way back across the field.  As I started to groom my plans changed and I decided to do hands on body work instead.  He really loves his hamstrings worked on and had a few neck and shoulder spots too.  I also went after his back some to see if he was sore at all.  I kept a close eye and avoided being stepped on as he adjusted this time! (see further explanation below).  In following Dee and the SET method I make a very a conscious choice to be aware of his responses/reactions any time we are together.  While he greatly enjoyed the body work, once I moved on to fixing the wind knots in his mane and then looking to do a few braids for the heat, he said he was "done" and did not want the braids.  It was very clear when he barely moved for 45min, and now was backing himself and blocking me from standing in the right spot to braid that he did not want that.  So, instead of forcing a stand still, I let it go.  He helped me put his muzzle back on when got into the field and then went off to graze contently while I visited the rest of the herd for a few scratches.


Skyler working on kicking using a float

She was intent on catching minnows after class

Prophecy wondering why I've stopped Monday night
Unfortunately I can't seem to catch a break on my right foot/ankle.  PT ended officially mid June, just doing it on my own now. I can still feel knots at the base of some calf muscles which is causing heel pain (per the PT) so stretching and massaging a lot.  The ankle itself can still get tender on the ligaments too. Knowing that I might have to run a bit in the airport and that I would be wearing heels at the funeral, I traveled to FL in my brace to give it extra support and rest.  First thing that did me in was opening my parent's freezer drawer and found out there isn't much clearance to the floor, therefore nailing the top of my right foot = bruise and of course in the spot where the brace edge sits too, so there went wearing that!  Next, upon returning home and carrying wood to work on the porch my ankle rolled, the opposite direction of the last sprain in April, no idea why (no hole in the ground).  OK, so when I went riding Sunday I played it safe wearing the brace in case it was weak.  That was all fine and dandy until the 3rd offense, when Prophecy took a huge step over while I was grooming and working on his hamstrings to land right on top of my foot. I was not quick enough to get out of the way and had to shove him off. That smarted!  I guess he came down pretty square on me & now have a bruise that is going along the base of my toes and the arch with some swelling.  I can walk and ride fine, the only pain is in boots as it feels a bit rubbed by them on the top.

Thursday was another late night. Suzette & I poked and prodded at Prophecy as we discussed some of my thoughts on him, and found a concerning reaction to palpation on the inner hamstring of his right hind, on the back side of the stifle. I've had suspicions of something not being right on the hind as the culprit of his bucking under saddle; the saddle fit checks out good and the head tossing pretty much stopped with a bit that has greater tongue relief.   So, I think an exam with a lameness vet is next on our list to make sure his body can handle the demands I will be placing on it for endurance, or if he needs to be an LD horse, or a pleasure horse only. I likely will have him tested (titer count) for Lyme as well to be sure since it is so common now.

We also marveled on how good his weight is looking now... His neck does react to the change in grass so it is something an eye on; he still has some fat pockets, but you can see where ribs are! Not hugely defined, but his body is shaping up nicely again, just needs the long miles to muscle up and get rid of the fat - but first to make sure he is doing it pain free.  After we thoroughly annoyed him, I ended up just lunging him a bit in the open pasture.  A few discussions on NOT eating the grass and he did his work nicely.  I got him into a canter going CW, but not CCW. He sure looked pretty moving, other than the pinned ears. I was hot and sticky after only about 10min out there at 8+ at night so we didn't do much. It was more a mental day and I played with some again dancing - run, stop, back, turn - keep your eyes on me while leading - then back to the pasture he went.  I walked off about 10' when he was just standing and the gate and squatted down to watch the rest of  the herd. He walked up, placed his muzzled nose on me, on my head, into my back, breathed deep and then started grazing right next to me.  A sweet end to the night.

Trying out some new colors from Two Horse Tack - full review to come!
Friday morning I got a blog update from one of the blogs Jaime turned me on to, a few quotes that hit home from Anna Blake.

"If you are looking for a better relationship with horses then listen more. Strive to understand them more for who they are rather than who we want them to be. 

...
Say what you mean and mean what you say. Let the rest go. It’s the opportunity your horse is waiting for. He might need a while to trust it but then he’ll tell you his side of things. It will make perfect sense."



Monday, July 3, 2017

Untitled

This post was started at one point and paused.... it remains untitled because I cannot figure out a good one.  What is fact:  Life is full up and and downs, and the certainty of death one day.
Not an hour of finally being home on the 28th from my trip (below), I learned of my Grandmother's sudden decline in health, and later that day she was moved to hospice care.  Her COPD and Congestive Heart Failure finally taking hold just after her 97th birthday.  On Sunday at 2:28am her fight ended, she is now at peace and with my grandpa.  I'm glad for the good times we had in my younger years, though we drifted apart later, she was still my grandmother...the last grandparent of mine, and therefore the only one to meet Asher (and many pictures of Skyler).  She was a strong determined lady who bounced back from numerous health issues, and as many have experienced, her memory failed her the past few years.  I used to call, but it became difficult to carry on a conversation. I visited last summer and found she did not remember me...It is so hard to on everyone else to watch someone slowly slip away.  

Cherish the good memories always

My dad took this picture of us June 2016. My last with her.


The original start of the post
As is always, things change...while I thought I had the perfect tack combo, I might not... It is a process of elimination and why I keep such detailed notes to figure out "what changed" (if anything) or if it is an attitude/training thing.

I rode last Friday & Saturday (alone) before heading out on my work trip the 25th.  Friday's ride had a fun little 180 while cantering up a hill due to the big leaf/tree pile catching his eye.  We continued on and had a small discussion (waiting him out to move my direction) on continuing to walk down the other hill rather than the shortcut back to the barn.  Saturday was a bolt stint after a deer (I think) spooked him in the bushes on the straight away early in our ride.  I ended up dropping my stirrups and had to hold on tight till he came back under control but I refused to be unseated!  It was really a short issue, but definitely got our hearts pumping! Most of the ride after was fine, with another discussion when asked to head down a trail head instead of towards his buddies, but we got through that (with just waiting him out again) and finished up the ride with little trouble.

Discussion point Friday on the hill

Finished up on Saturday

Getting ready to go Thurs eve


Fast forward past a crazy work trip...really good training class (on ISO 13485:2016 changes if anyone is interested in what I was doing!), but horrible traveling experience.  It ended up taking me an extra 14 hours to get home due to a shutdown and pile up of planes at LaGuardia airport.  Fortunately my corporate travel app was able to find me a hotel that night, but I wound up flying into Richmond and renting a car to get back to Charlottesville the next day. 3 nights of crappy sleep and I slept through the alarm Thursday morning!

Basically he got another round of a week off until my return to the barn the 29th.  I went out with Suzette on Willie and boy was he just 'fussy,' to use her words.  Head fussy (but not the tossing we had before, and more that just bugs); he also attempted, and completed, bucks several times (but never to where I came off).  The last one being going up the hill as we headed back to the barn.  Craziness that I could not find a tack reason for.  So what changed?  The 'fresh'and fussy attitude resurfaced after his last trim, as well as his visit with Sandy ... I'll be watching to see if it improves as he gets further into the trim cycle or not, and I know Sandy plans to return later July too.  The pad placement for that ride was not "perfect".  I noticed into it that the matrix was not perfectly centered in the gullet, my bad for not catching that pre-ride but it wasn't horribly out of place either.  I have trimmed down the Dixie Midnight to better match the saddle pad contour now, I just think it looks "cleaner" too with the matching shape... not a perfect match but pretty good.



I used the weight tape on him after our ride Thurs and it shows ~980lbs, which is down from last Aug's, and probably this spring's, weight of 1015 (Aug was done on an actual scale).  He is looking pretty good, and we keep a close eye on his neck to ensure his crest isn't getting hard or bigger. You still can't see ribs, but the extra fat around the shoulders and tail are disappearing and you don't have too dig too much to find them.

Continue on today's update
So I made my flight arrangements to travel to FL for the funeral. I will unfortunately have to miss the 4th at home with the kids, but we will get to enjoy some celebrating at home Monday night and Tuesday morning before catching a flight mid afternoon.

Before my emotions go awry I grabbed another ride with Suzette & Willie this morning (Monday).  Prophecy came in stiff today, so I spent some extra time on his lower back and hamstrings.  He was flinchy on his left side lower back, not normal for him.  I learned they were all a bit riled up last night, so maybe he took a spill.  We tacked up, but not without him attempting to bite me to which he got a swift reminder about the unacceptability of that action.  I decided to press on, and if he felt off or acted out I would just hand walk to keep him moving and stretched out.  Once mounted he relaxed and perked up.  We kept things mainly to a walk, only a little trotting at the end. He loosened up and was not nearly as "fussy" as the last ride, just a little bit of buck but nothing as big as before.  His back stopped flinching after our ride and he got a nice hose down before turn out.  Hopefully the riding and hill walking helped loosen that tight spot.



I did notice the matrix again not staying nicely pulled up into the center again, so I changed back to bailing twine to keep it in place, where I had been trying a velcro strap to make it easier to pull the saddle and pad apart for cleaning.  Have to see how next ride goes...