Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Off to the Vet School


As previously mentioned, Chili has had some lingering soundness issues since an accident in April. It's perplexing. Some days, she feels great and is developing a lot more push in the trot.

However, I have noticed if I am standing around chatting and ask her to move off again, she can be a little bit of a crab and not move off my leg. After some observation, I realized that she was actually more stiff after moving off than if we keep going the whole ride.

If we go over cavaletti or ground poles, she's more sound.

It's perplexing.

So insurance approved Chili to receive a bone scan, so today's the day. I woke up at 3:15 this morning, abruptly nervous and the whole ordeal. I'm not sure why. She's headed to my local university, but it's a three day ordeal and I obviously am not permitted in the building. It's a lot to surrender control of my horse for three days.

Apparently the first day she will receive meds, tomorrow will be the actual scan, and then Friday she has to urinate out all of the radioactive contrast before we can pick her up.

The theory is that if there are areas of bone remodeling, it should show up brighter on the scan.

Wish her luck and hopefully he get to the bottom of her discomfort.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Saddleseat Style

 I have dabbled in trying a lot of things and pretty much haven't mastered any of it.

One thing I haven't really tried was saddleseat. I have ridden in a cutback saddle a couple of times, including once on my grandmother's horse who took off on me while I was wearing jeans and sneakers. I was twelve so I thought that was pretty cool.

Last week, I went out to a local farm to take some photos of some horses at the request of the trainer. He has a lot of breeds on the property, but I would say he is best known for training Dutch Harness Horses, American Dutch Harness Horses, Hackneys, and Saddlebreds. 

The trainer asked if I wanted to hop on and ride and I said yes of course! My steed was Jeronimo, a very handsome black Dutch Harness Horse stallion with just the right amount of chrome. He was pretty lazy at the trot in the indoor arena, despite having a couple of days off. We went outdoors and once again, he was pretty lazy. I was trying to figure out how to ride a horse whose neck is entirely vertical. I'm pretty sure I was told to shorten the reins and put my hands up approximately 827 times. Apparently I just don't learn that quickly. Probably why I haven't mastered anything yet. ;) 

The trainer was hunting around and finally found a dressage whip he was looking for. It was a pretty remarkable transformation that just by holding the whip, the pretty boy puffed himself up and went into a somewhat respectable big saddleseat type trot. He also magically was able to move off of leg and stopped being in "child's pony" mode. 

Another thing that I had to adapt to besides the long neck, short reins, and his way of going was the encouragement of vocal cues. Whip and a little bit of clucking and he was a fun ride indeed. Quite comfortable to ride, very responsive in a simple snaffle, and a very different, but steady contact in the bridle.

While quite out of my routine normal, it was a very enjoyable experience.

I also enjoyed photographing the handful of horses on the property that evening including a phenomenal roadster Hackney Pony, a couple of girls and their horses they ride there, and a very young, high trotting Dutch Harness Horse foal. 

My cup of joy was certainly full from this adventure. I'm glad I didn't turn down the chance to ride simply because among many of my friends, saddleseat just has the perception of hot, crazy horses and horses that aren't schooled to the leg or bridle. What I found here was pretty much the opposite. A good learning opportunity indeed.

Monday, August 24, 2020

Chili and the Mounting Block

 Sometimes I do things with my horses when there isn't traffic in the arena. Chili isn't a stranger to this type of work, but it has been a while since I've done any particular "liberty" work. I don't really subscribe or follow any trainer's methodology and I've just made it up as I've gone along, so if it looks wonky, it probably is.

But essentially, I try and mount from the taller block every time since it saves significant strain on my bad hip number. The horse needs to line up at the block. I turned it into a game that when she comes over and lines up, she does get a reward. Chili isn't an incredibly food motivated horse, but apparently just enough at times to make this work.

Anyone else do any particular "trick" or "liberty" work with their horses?

Sunday, August 23, 2020



Last week Sunday. Wasn't sure if we would make it to take this photo
A couple weeks ago, I was having a tough time. I left work early on a Friday and went to the barn and just cried. I'm a hospital microbiologist and to be honest, I had reached a point where I felt overwhelmed and so villainized by social media by means of my profession.

I have been fairly isolated since March since my husband and I are essential workers. However, I made the decision that I wanted to support my friend's open show. Chili wasn't up to attending, but she had a couple of horses I could show in hand and under-saddle.

Unfortunately, about halfway through the show, I received a call from my barn that my old grey mare (the original Semi Feral Mare) seemed to have a mild colic and had gone off feed. They had given her probiotics, electrolytes, and banamine and she seemed to be much more comfortable. I made the decision that they were keeping a close eye on her and I was several hours away, so I didn't return home at that moment.

I stopped out that evening and realized there may be something more going on. Unfortunately, she had pretty profuse diarrhea, but no temperature. I called my veterinarian who suggested that if she was eating and drinking to just keep an eye on her and to give her additional electrolytes and biosponge and see how she did.

 Well, the following morning, she seemed bright eyed and alert, but not quite right. Still no temperature. Of course, had to make an emergency vet call on a Sunday. The vet and I puzzled together, but decided to pull an SAA (serum amyloid A). SAA is a test that can be performed stall-side and rapidly rises if there is an infectious or inflammatory process. Normal range is a value of 0-20. Donni's that morning was over 900.

Oh sugar.

The best guess at this point was Potomac Horse Fever.

Despite the lack of fever, the rest of her symptoms seemed to fit. It was a bit of difficult news to take. Donni is 25 and with Cushing's. One of the major symptoms with Potomac Horse Fever (PHF) is laminitis, which often does not respond well to treatment and management.

Together with my veterinary clinic and barn owner, we started a plan. Another boarder had a pair of Softride boots I could borrow, which should help support her feet and hopefully help avoid laminitis.

Daily banamine, probiotics, biosponge, electrolytes, and IV antibiotics. My vets came every day and I had a wonderful barn owner who held her for the veterinarians to give antibiotics and fluids since in my critical job, I absolutely couldn't leave work (especially since I was in the middle of an accreditation inspection).

It really was one of the first times in my life that I surrendered control and decisions of my horses to a team I had to absolutely trust. My veterinary team dutifully called the daily report to me while I was at work and for a while, her SAA kept going up each day. I was pretty distraught and frustrated. What were we looking at?

Another veterinary friend did the biggest service and helped me think through and stay the (expensive) course.

Finally on Thursday, her numbers started to improve. Progress! Last Saturday, we gave her last dose of IV antibiotics and crossed our fingers.

 Hard for me to imagine that two weeks ago that I really didn't know what to think or even do with this sassy miss. It's an expensive lesson in learning some of the subtle signs and symptoms of PHF. Fingers crossed, it is all smooth sailing from here on out in her recovery.

For those seeking more education, please check out AAEP's website on Potomac Horse Fever
I'll do a separate post on the actual organism that causes Potomac Horse Fever.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Adventure with the Lameness Locator

As previously mentioned, Chili had an accident in April. Initially vets had hoped the tincture of time would help with most of the initial contusions and injuries.

Then after radiographs showed no real issues, I put her back into work, which helped some secondary issues that had cropped up after she had been sedentary for a while.

But there was something still not quite right. She was a little bit shorter on the right hind and toe dragging at times. After a bit of schedule rearranging, I booked her in for a secondary lameness evaluation with a veterinarian I have previously worked with and really liked. This veterinarian does primarily lameness work and has some nice equipment to aid in her work, in addition to additional training in complementary modalities like VMST (veterinary chiropractic) and acupuncture.

One piece of technology that this veterinarian utilizes that I was interested in was the Equinosis Q Lameness Locator system, which was created at the University of Missouri and then eventually spread into a format that trained veterinary practitioners could utilize in the field without a treadmill and slowmo cameras.

This system has a poll sensor, a leg sensor, and a croup sensor. The sensor on the leg is a gyroscope and the other two sensors measure X and Y axis in space relative to the start of the stride. The data is streamed to a tablet, run through an algorithm, and converted into a visible graph.

It is meant to be used in conjunction with a thorough lameness exam. The vet had Chili trotted on a straight line, slight serpentines, on the circle, and after flexions.

Being trotted after a flexion

More straight line trotting

Trotting on the circle

The scientific nerd in myself thoroughly enjoyed seeing the data, in addition to have more quantitative evaluation of the lameness. For Chili, she had a hip hike, which correlated with a right hind limb lameness. She did not have additional severity of lameness after stifle and hip flexions on the right hind, which indicates more of a likelihood of a SI pain or higher above the hock pain on the right side.

In the trot photo above, you can also see the right hind lameness as indicated by the toe drag and the broken trot on the circle.

For Chili's case and with her case history, we decided to proceed with several shockwave treatments of the right side of her gluteal muscles/hamstring and see if that improves her lameness. If that doesn't generate improvement, then onto plan B and C.

For those that want to know more about this system, I found this video to be quite helpful!

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Ride On

I haven't had as many rides this week on Chili as I would prefer, but it's now the weekend, so hopefully I'll get a couple squeezed in, despite the weather. It's supposed to be over 90 both days and with high humidity. Joy. ;)

But I am proud of starting to put beginning steps into action. Chili was an absolute dragon the two rides I've had this week. Just being impatient in the cross ties, peeing in the cross ties (what??? a gelding looks at you and you have to pee?), and so forth. She usually stands rock still, so I had a pretty good idea what I was getting into.

Yesterday, I decided to put her in side reins and the surcingle for a few minutes before hopping on. When she's particularly offended, she likes to fling her head and avoid contact and I thought she could work out her feelings in the side reins.

This method seemed to work for the head flinging and contact issues. She still sucked behind my leg and was particularly offended every time I put leg on. Ear pin, suck up, break into canter, ignore me. Mares in heat can sometimes be full of such drama.

But we worked through it. I'm pleased that she finally relaxed through her back and got over respecting my leg. One of the issues with rehabbing after an injury is that a lot of the work that I would normally do like spirals, a lot of lateral work, and change of directions isn't advised, so we have both been learning a heavy dose of patience and just learning that hysterics doesn't mean she gets to evade work.

What is your usual mechanism for when your horse has a temperamental day?

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Symbols and Asterisks--Arabian Horses

From time to time, I get asked about the symbols that often appear next to Arabian and Half-Arabian names. They symbolize one of two things: either importation or award achievements.

The asterisk was used to denote horses imported into the US from other countries. In-utero foals bred in other countries also carried the asterisks. The official use of the asterisk was discontinued by the Arabian Horse Association, however, it is not uncommon to see people still use it to promote that their horse is imported into the US. The asterisks were always used before the horse's name.

*Bask+ was imported from Poland to the US in 1963.

Now onto the achievement awards, which are made up of the plus and slash symbols seen after the names. *Bask+ as seen above, has one plus symbol after the name.

There are six achievement awards:

Legion of Honor
Legion of Merit
Legion of Supreme Merit
Legion of Supreme Honor
Legion of Excellence
Legion of Masters

The awards are given based on points earned from Arabian shows, along with rated non Arabian show events including dressage, driving, eventing, racing, working cow, jumping shows, and many mor.

The way points are earned varies in rated non-Arabian events and it's best to just look at the AHA handbook chapter.

In Arabian shows, the "Class A" shows can be difficult to earn points. For example, winning a 4-7 horse class earns one point. Compare this to winning a regional level class, where regardless of the number of horses entered, 12 points are earned. A national championship gains 30 points.

It is certainly easier to accrue points on the regional and national level.

Back when the achievement award program was created, there were more purebred Arabians than half Arabians and it was easier for purebred Arabians to have competition and to gain points, so the number of points a Half-Arabian needed for an achievement award was set at a lower level.

Awards start at 75 points for purebreds and 60 for half-Arabians.

The other way the awards are broken down are different symbols for horses that earned points from a combination of in-hand and performance points with a minimum of each or just cumulative number of points (ie could be all performance or all in-hand). I'm choosing just to list the purebred number of points below.

Any combination of points:
Legion of Honor: + 75 points
Legion of Supreme Honor: +/ 150 points
Legion of Excellence: +// 300 points

Performance and In-Hand requirements
Legion of Merit: ++ 75 points (minimum 30 in-hand and 30 in performance)
Legion of Supreme Merit: +++ 150 points (minimum 60 in-hand and 60 in performance)
Legion of Masters: ++++ 300 points (minimum 120 in-hand and 120 in performance)

The other thing is that the awards can also be combined, so some horses will have a lot of punctuation!

The one downside of this program is that it is a yearly nomination. There are plenty of excellent Arabian and half-Arabian horses that are not nominated and don't earn achievement awards. The points can be purchased back after the show years for a higher fee if people are interested.

After several years of showing and training on my own, I was stoked that Chili earned enough points for this! The achievement awards become a permanent part of their name and are listed on their registration papers. I love the idea that years from now, someone could look Chili up and know instantly from her name that she achieved success in the show ring.

What they won't know of course, is that it took so much blood, sweat, and tears with her amateur owner-breeder-trainer.

Any questions about Arabian horse symbols?

Thanks for reading such a long post, but I wanted the chance to share an often confusing aspect of Arabian horses that are shared.