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We Are Flying Solo

May 13, 2012

Full Stop

It was madness on Friday.  Dashing 100 miles from our last field site of the day home, changing bags, changing trucks, only to dash again to the farm and pick up Encore and wind our way up into the Blue Ridge of Virginia.  We made it to our friend's farm around 9:00 pm, I tucked Encore in in his pasture, then passed out shortly after.

I played video and pole girl Saturday morning; it was interesting to watch the lessons I taped.  The first, especially was tackling the same problems I was having and I laughed as she finished, "I think you just got my lesson!"

We had a quick lunch with David and I was excited to saddle up Encore and show off how far he'd come.  We started our typical Warm Up Circle of Death, but as soon as we got to the canter work, I knew something was wrong.  Encore was falling out hard behind and kept doing a strange hop step with his hind feet on his left lead.  David watched carefully and said, "I don't remember this horse doing this before."

"No," I said, "he's been uneven but this is the worst it's been."

He put us through a low bounce gynmanstic.  After we did it for the fifth or sixth time, I knew he was concerned.  We never work through a gymnastic line that many times.  We tried a couple of small courses, but every jump was odd.  I stopped and said, "David, I can't see anything, it doesn't feel right, I feel as if I've suddenly forgotten how to ride, there's nothing there?"

"That's because there is nothing there, you have no canter," he responded.  My heart sunk.  "You know," he said, "I had a whole plan for this horse today but as soon as I saw the canter issues, I had to throw it all out the window."

It was like a knife to the heart but I knew he was right.  And I couldn't say it was a total surprise either.  I'd been watching Encore for a few months, not sure if it was strength issue or something else, as horses are often uneven behind until they get stronger.  But as the work got harder, the issue became more pronounced.  Our dressage trainer noticed his left hind didn't flex as well as the right and even Dr. Brian asked if he'd ever had stifle issues.  David was just the one who came right out and said, "You have a mechanical problem."

"I've just been really hoping he just needed to be stronger," I pleaded.  "I've been gun-shy since the Solo Incident."

"I completely understand that," he said, "but there is nothing to be gained by being an ostrich.  Go do your diagnostics, pinpoint the problem, then you can fix it and move on with the myriad of treatment options available today."

I was disappointed, yet at the same time, very grateful for his direct assessment and the recommendations he offered.  It gave me a concrete game plan to step forward and address the issue and his eye gave me credibility to take to the diagnostic center.

Sorry, mom.  But I wanted to make sure the insurance was worth it!
My money is on the left stifle and I am hoping it is something simple.  I've known several other horses with similar issues and a simple stifle injection or something similar had them back on track.  Well, I am really hoping it is nothing, but anyone who's been in horses long enough knows they are horses:  it is not if but WHEN you be looking sorrowfully at your lame partner.  It doesn't matter what breed or type -- they are all walking suicide machines (except for Shetland ponies, but I believe evil sustains them).

On the plus side, he is not out of riding commission, so we can still work on things and do fun rides, but we cannot step forward in training until we resolve this and he is able to even up behind.  At the very least, our spring eventing season was done anyway, my summer work schedule is picking up, and we had no horse trial plans until the fall.  So I suppose if any timing is ever right, this one is.

Tomorrow morning, I shall consult the Batphone and we shall see what there is to be seen.  This, indeed, is why I insisted on insurance for the first year!


  1. Sorry to hear this and wish it wasn't true. Thank goodness for insurance!

  2. Thanks. And no, SP it hasn't affected his cuteness at all. Also I deeply appreciate having yet another source of stress added to my life. I wonder what it's like to be lucky?

  3. I hope you find an easy fix to Mr. Encore's issue. It really sucks, I am sorry.

  4. Oh, I am so sorry to hear this. I hope everything is ok.

  5. Thank you for good wishes! I am twitching waiting for Monday morning to come so I can call my vets and get on it!

  6. Sending good vibes for a simple problem with an easy fix. And just to contradict your conviction about evil Shetlands, when I was a kid the doctor down the road had a grey Shetland named Smokey who was the sweetest little guy ever. Of course, I only gave him treats and scratches, so maybe that's why, LOL.

  7. Oh no! Praying for an easy fix!!!

  8. Oh, crap.

    Well, unfortunately that *is* life with horses, as you well know. But it sounds like it's something minor & Encore will be back in full training licketty-split.

    Hoping for an easily-resolved stifle issue -- luckily, those are pretty straightforward and easy to fix. I know you have to keep a horse with stifle issues in very regular work, do a lot of hind-end strengthening exercises, and not give them a lot of time off, but with you guys that should not be a problem!

    I'm sure Dr. Bob will wave his magic wand over Encore and make him all better. :-)

  9. You are right, Frizz, that kind of is the definition of our training.

  10. I think you really have to appreciate that he was feeling funky and not being naughty. When Archie is not 100%, he likes to let me know by trying to put his hind ankles above his head or doing this weird, angry giraffe dance of death: head straight up, eyes rolling, while he prances stiffly.
    I'll cross my fingers that it's an easy fix!

  11. Having just been through stifle fun myself, I can say that stifle injections are awesome. And also, that strengthening work helps LOTS. Fingers crossed that Dr. Bob finds something minor and easily addressed!

  12. Definitely Beka, I thought he was being naughty at first, but then I could tell he was really struggling.

    jenj, have already consulted the Batphone and we are bypassing and going straight to the head diagnostic sports medicine guru at NCSU. Since he has insurance, I'm not taking the shotgun approach this time.

  13. DARN!!!!! Sending you both Jingles!

  14. Hope the good docs get Encore straightened out asap. Good attitude you have, and well done with the insurance! :)

  15. Hooray insurance! Best wishes to you guys.

  16. Thank you! While I'd hate to have hauled to Dr. Wonder Ortho and spent a bunch of money to be told he just needs a stifle injection.....I'd love to be told he just needs a stifle injection!

  17. Oh No! He will be fine and you will continue on your fab journey together!!!!!

  18. I hope he heard you say that, Nina!