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We Are Flying Solo

February 10, 2011

Dr. Bob To The Rescue, Chapter 37

Yes, we went to visit our good friend again today as Solo showed no improvement when asked to engage his hind end after a week and a half of taking it easy following his chiropractic adjustment. My instincts screamed at me that there was something else holding him back.

I gave Dr. Bob my observations of the week: locked left jaw with heavy leaning, inability to lift the back or engage the hind end, inability to balance on the rear quarters, strong resistance to bending to the left, muscle twitching on the right side of the body when stretched. From a horse, who though sometimes opinionated, does NOT have belligerent in his character. There was much poking, prodding, and Solo giving me pathetic faces of dismay.

Dr. Bob is nothing if not thorough; he always starts at the nose and works back. And he immediately discovers Solo has gingivitis! His gums are inflamed around some of his teeth and bleed when rubbed. I insist that he has not been eating gummy bears and neither will I take up flossing his teeth for him. Also, he has had no problems eating hay or grain and dives readily into both.

His neck and back have held their alignment well but it is quickly apparent as Dr. Bob runs practiced fingers over his midback and hindquarters that there is a great deal of soreness there. Then he palpates Solo's belly midline and my horse twitches and kicks a hindleg at his stomach (which I have noticed has become rather potbellied of late). To finish, we draw blood for a panel and grab a nice fresh turd for a fecal.

Today's verdict: my instincts are not wrong.  There are four big ligaments that attach the pelvis to the spine (see the turquoise spot on top of the horse's butt at left).  These are very very sore, so they each get injected with a muscle relaxer.  Solo does not particularly enjoy this process.

The belly can have several explanations. (1) Sand in the gut (although it's a bit far forward for that apparently). (2) Ulcer. (3) Something else. However, after checking on the fecal, we discover that poor Solo is *choke* full of worms. WTF????? Valley Vet, I have been paying for your yearly wormer premium pack and following the directions and now my horse is a wormball??? Me not happy. At all.  Guess that potbelly is not a hay belly. 

There are a variety of reasons a pasture can become loaded with worms and that a horse can subsequently adopt said worms. Our pastures are Bermuda grass, kept mowed short for weed and tick control (ticks are HORRID here) and dragged once or twice a week. Of course, the shorter your grass is, the more densely packed the worms are on the blade. And the more you drag when the weather is warm, the more worms are spread around. But if you don't drag, you have poop hell and the flies dance a dance of joy, unless you follow your horse around with a pitchfork and a bucket. And the longer you let your grass grow, the more ticks and weeds you get. Seems to me we have a near-impossible situation, but BO is in charge of pasture management, so that is something beyond my control. And obviously what we do works at least some of the time -- of four horses who got a fecal last fall, all were clean except one who just had a few scattered worms (he is an old guy).

So. Solo gets the weekend off anyway, as I will be gone. I jammed a tube of moxidectin in his mouth when I brought him back to the farm, horrified that my horse is parasite-ridden despite my attempts at perfect wormer application.. Starting next week, I will start rehab work (volume II) and see if we get some more improvement this time. I'll have blood results tomorrow, so that may give me some more information as well. I suspect the gum issues may be related to the parasite load, but that I am not sure of yet.

We also got a new (improved!) worming schedule. *drumroll* For agressive parasite control, worm every six weeks with:

Winter: (1) Panacur/Safeguard (fenbendazole)
            (2) Quest/Quest Plus (moxidectin; Quest Plus
                 [moxidectin/praziquantel blend] is currently not
                 available but company swears they will start
                 making it again soon)

Spring: (1) Zimectrin Gold/Equimax
                 (see generic ivermectrin warning here)
            (2) Quest/Quest Plus

Summer:  (1) Panacur/Safeguard
                (2) Guess what?  Quest/Quest Plus

Fall:  (1) Strongid (pyrantel pamoate)
        (2) You know it, Quest/Quest Plus

In addition, make sure you worm for tapeworms at least 2x per year (praziquantel does this).

If Solo is still showing signs of issues after we clean this mess up, then we will try feeding psyllium for a week and/or treating for ulcers.  I am hoping that will not be an issue...  I will never know what he did to himself.  Most likely, he slipped in the pasture and just slammed his hips playing.  But what I beg/plead/gasp/hope/want now is for him to get better!!

February 7, 2011

One Day At A Time, One Day At A Time

I am having to make this my mantra. Because if I go any further ahead of myself than one day, I start flipping myself out and have to refer myself back to the previous post.

Yesterday was a bright 56 degrees and the sun warmed everyone's cold and grumpy spirits. I got to give Solo a bath to work out the ground-in winter dirt that brushes just seem to move around. There are even patches of grass beginning to peak out from the bare pasture soil. We are well overdue for some soul renewal!

P was out giving lifeshighway a lesson, so I begged her to watch Solo canter in each direction and tell me what she saw, since she is used to watching him go and has a good eye. She reported that he looked pretty decent and did not display anything other than his normal slight stiffness on his stiff side. Which means I need to stop obsessing and just ride the damn horse.

She also confirmed that we are doing the right thing by taking it slow. Even though it drives me nuts to sit on the horse and not ask for much. If you don't give the rehab its due time, the problems can haunt you for years down the road and THAT is the one thing that keeps my impatience in check.

P has dealt with this in the past as well. Her Dutch mare was a bit uneven behind and had to be ridden in shoulder-fore for 3 YEARS before it went away. Which on one hand makes your eyes bug out, but on the other hand, tells me that no, my horse is not oddly crippled, he just needs time strength-building and we'll get back closer to good.  I need to forget about what is happening a month from now, two months from now, and focus on today.

Just ride the damn horse and stop flipping yourself out, just ride the damn horse...

February 4, 2011

The Demands We Make On Ourselves

Operation Solo Rehab is on Day 3. It's hard to not ask him to be round and bendy; it takes me forcing myself to just get up off his back, give him his head and just let him trot and canter around per Dr. Bob's orders. I put the jumping saddle on last night so I would be less tempted to sit there. God knows my two point needs work anyway.

He feels ok. I still think there is something going on in his left hind. But he's ALWAYS been uneven in that leg. Maybe he always will and I just need to accept it and move on. He's not lame, it's just a little weaker and more resistant there. It is very subtle, I can't even see it from the ground, but I can feel it at certain times.

Which brings me to my current subject of thoughtful contemplation: patience. It's something I pretty much suck at with people, but have an abundance of with animals. And it's something we as horse people are constantly challenged by, as I am recently reminded by several other bloggers who are struggling with issues, as we all have at one time or another.

Part of me says, well, I took Solo to vet, vet went pop, pop, pop, Solo should now be fixed and fine so let's get on with it already! But, as we all know, it doesn't work that way. I am telling myself over and over, you have to give the body time. Time to heal, time to strengthen, time to adjust.

It is so hard for me to do this: I have a goal (which is rare for me, I'm generally all about the day-to-day journey), I have a plan. I am ready to take steps forward to that goal. So when I am derailed in the plan, I beat myself up. You messed up, I tell myself, you mismanaged, you were too slow, you made the wrong decision, now you are off track.

This, of course, is not really fair. I don't let my friends do this to themselves, however, I expect myself to be superhuman. Something which I don't think is all that uncommon among the ranks of independent horsewomen (and men, although I think just due to our natures, us girls tend to be a bit more blame-y on ourselves. We get emotional, I can own it). So this is a lecture to my brain.

Training is the same way. I've talked before about how horse training is NOT a linear process. We must be patient and allow that there are going to be bad days, there are going to be mistakes, and there are going to be backtracks. But instead of beating ourselves over the head when this happens, we instead should welcome the opportunity to fill in training holes and to really focus on what our horse is telling us. Because I have found that I often learn the most about myself and my horse when working on these holes and as we fill them in and tamp down the metaphorical dirt, the pleasure of the more complete horse you get out of it is measurable.

Now can I live up to all of this? HA! Not bloody likely! But I aspire to it. On rare occasions, I pull it off. More often, I sit my frustrated self down and give myself a stern talking-to while prying my clenched teeth apart with a drill bit. I should probably just print "BE PATIENT" on a huge piece of posterboard and tape it to Solo's stall door.

David told me recently in a jumping lesson, "Allow the jump time to develop; the greater the quality of the jump, the longer it will take to develop and occur and it's ok to just wait for it to happen. Rushing it will only cause it to fall apart." I think it's a good analogy to extrapolate to any other situation you can imagine: allow things time to develop, time to happen, and allow yourself time to process, learn, and adapt. When we rush things or when we fail at being patient with ourselves, it all just falls apart and we end up in the corner, punching ourselves and muttering angrily (ok, maybe that last is just me).

Let's all remind ourselves to take a deep breath and cut ourselves a little slack. It's good to be driven and it's good to be accountable. But let's give the process time to happen and be ok with however long that time is, whether it be healing or learning or strengthening. And maybe when we catch each other falling into the self-flagellation trap, we can offer a helping hand of encouragement -- or at least a damn stiff drink.

February 2, 2011

Solo Deepens His Relationship With Dr. Bob

I kick myself for not thinking of the chiropractic thing earlier.

I unloaded Solo at Dr. Bob's clinic (having already given all my money to my own body-fixers and various other bill collectors, I decided to save myself a farm call charge, since the clinic's only about 15 minutes away) and peeled off his shipping boots. Dr. Bob looked like he'd had a rough day, his hands were all cut up, and he was uncharacteristically quiet so I hoped that we could quickly find the root of Solo's problems and provide him with a "happy" case of the day. I told him I had ascertained thus far that the problem was somewhere behind his nose -- beyond that I had given up in exasperation.

He started at Solo's nose and began to work his hands over accupuncture points and joint spaces, looking for tightness, soreness, and reactivity. What I saw was my horse twitching and jumping at practically every touch (except his feet - yay feet!). By the time he reached the tail, my well-developed sense of guilt had slapped me in the face.

"So is there any spot where he ISN'T sore?" I asked desperately?

"Sure, lots of them, don't worry!"

*sigh* Well, ok, maybe I am not a complete failure of a horse caretaker then.

Dr. Bob retrieved his booster step and went to work coaxing all the wayward bits back into place. There were two rotated cervical vertebrae at the poll, another at the base of his neck. L-3 and -4 (lumbar vertebrae) were rotated as well, as were his withers, and several S-I (sacral) vertebrae were elevated out of place. The shoulders needed a good stretch and pop and Solo was quite happy to lean back and help out. We also added another shot of Winstrol to help tighten and rebuild some lost muscle tone to try convince things not to pop back out.

"So, he's all fixed now, right?" I was only half-kidding.

"Of course -- go ride him!" Dr. Bob seemed to have brightened a bit, so it gave me reason for encouragement.

The plan: Bute for 3 days as a balm for sore muscles. Do only conditioning rides for 7 days, trot and canter in a loose outline, avoiding collection or too much bending. Then work back into a normal schedule and see what happens.

Please be fixed, please be fixed, please be fixed...

February 1, 2011

Nunn Finer = Excellence In Service

About a month or two ago, I ordered a pair of Nunn Finer dressage leathers. They were 3/4" unlined leathers. Stirrup leathers aren't cheap these days so you can imagine my dismay when they started cracking in about a month. I am not usually one for returning things, but this time, I was planning on making an exception. I also posted a comment on the Chronicle of the Horse (COTH) forums about my problem.

Well, would you believe that not 24 hours later, a Nunn Finer rep emailed me and offered to replace the leathers for me! Now THAT, my friends, is how service should work.

I came home today and waiting on my front porch were a beautiful pair of black leathers (I went for the nylon-lined version this time) that I can't wait to put on my saddle!

Thank you, Nunn Finer, for your totally awesome service, for standing behind your products, and to John Nunn for your ever-generous support of eventing!