Sunday, November 20, 2016

10 Questions for November

 It's always nice that L from Viva Carlos features some serious blog-content when you literally have nothing to blog about. This 10 Questions has really piqued my interest, just because the questions are quite diverse and can really open up into some good, solid discussion.

This bloghop brought back so many memories :)

If you haven't already taken part in 10 Questions for November, get on it!

1.  How old is the youngest/greenest horse you have ever ridden?

I think the youngest horse I rode was 5. He was not very broke, but was a good honest horse that never put a foot wrong, which made it fun and easy!

2.  How old is the oldest horse that you have ridden?

I'm pretty sure I exclusively ride old horses - a few of my old lease horses were aged 19-23. I also pop onto Suzie every once in a while for a short walk and she is turning 24 in May.

But the oldest horse would have to be a 31 year old Arab x named Smokey. To be fair, I didn't do much other than a 5min hack around the backyard though.

The cutest old horse ever (other than Suzie).
3.  Where you scared of horses when you first started riding?

No. I loved going fast and once I knew how to canter, that's all I wanted to do.

4.  Would you say you are more of a nervous or confident rider?

This is a tough one to answer. I think I'm a mix of both - I start out nervous on a horse I don't know, but once I am able to read that horse and form a bond/partnership, I trust them more and thus, have more confidence in my riding abilities and their reactions.

There wasn't much to fear with this guy.

5.  Biggest pet peeve about non-horse people around horses?

There are a few, actually. Here are some, in non-chronological order:
  • That because I own horses, I must be rich.
  • They do not understand that these big animals can kill you. It reminds me of that time I had a woman with a baby-stroller walk right up Suzie's ass during the tail end of a Canada Day parade.
  • They don't understand that these animals cost a lot of time, money, and effort. ("What do you mean your horse needs it's teeth done?" "Horses have chiropractors?" "Can't it just eat grass clippings?")

6.  A time you've been scared for you life (horse related).

When Suzie reared during a trail ride and I fell off. It was more of a shock than anything, and I certainly wasn't in a place where I would have gotten severely hurt.

In regards to fearing for my own horse's lives I would have to say the time Suzie colicked, and the time that Spud got away from me during a trail ride (I was ponying him) and ran out into the highway and was nearly struck by oncoming traffic.

7.  Have you ever fallen off at a show?  What happened?

Note to self, do up girth next time.
8.  What's a breed of horse that you have never ridden but would like to try?

Marwari - just so I could stare at their ears all day.
But more realistically? Probably a Cob or Welsh-type.

9.  Describe the worst behaved horse you have ever ridden.

In truth, the horse that was the worst behaved was really only that way because he just needed more wet saddle pads. Geronimo, if nothing else, was a testament to what hard work and dedication can do.  I will always cherish the time I spent working with him. He was the most difficult, but by far the most rewarding.

There is more info in this post about him.

I left out the rearing and emergency stop pictures. Those
are in the other blog post about him that I linked to above.

We even did the Jumpy stuff.

10.  Describe the most frustrating ride you have ever had.

Probably the first time I rode Cheyenne and he had no brakes or steering and he literally ran me into a tree. I remember getting a face-full of pine-needles. Super pleasant.

Or one of the many rides during the time Suzie had her trail-riding issues. She would literally back up and not stop no matter what I did - she would run into trees, down ditches, etc, and she also would threaten to rear.

Thanks, L!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

TRM BlogHop - Before and After

I haven't done a bloghop in a good long while, and since daylight is becoming more and more elusive, I figured other bloggers would be spending more time penned up indoors like I am and looking for a way to release that energy.

Fear not, I come bearing gifts of the bloghop kind!

Most people I know of got their horses from good, honest sellers, so this isn't a rescue type before/after deal (although, if you horse is a rescue case, go ahead and share!). More like a before and after of their training progress, personality changes, or even of them growing up!

I have shared tons of before and after Spud media, so #sorrynotsorry for the additional photo dump that is about to occur.

We will start with some Before and After's of Suzie's conformation:

March 2013 - after about a week of having her home.
June 2016 - retired and looking pretty snazzy for
23 years old!

And when we did the riding stuff:

Our first ride in March 2013.

Reining clinic in the Summer of 2015.

Doing the Jumpy Thing in March 2014.

And then going into the Hunter ring August 2015 like nbd.

Attempting Reining in 2014.

Reining at the end of 2015.

Can't forget the little man Spud and his amazing change:

That time he actually looked like a potato.
September 2014.

This Spring, 2016.

And of course, the changes in his driving training:

From Green Pony + Green Owner, September 2014.

To respectable citizens in August 2016.

Plus, his sweet harness upgrade:

Because everyone starts somewhere... right?
November 2014

He isn't so sore on the eyes now.
August 2016.

So let's see the pic spamming! Bloggers, you know what to do!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Product Review: Comfy Fit Harness

While I realize not many of my bloggers are drivers; I hope to convert you all that this review will be helpful to those who may find themselves stumped on what kind of harness to purchase, or the additions that come with the Comfy Fit line.

I have owned my Comfy Fit "Carefree" harness for just over a year now, and have used it in all types of weather and conditions.

For those who may be unaware, the Comfy Fit harness is actually not leather! It is made up of synthetic material (biothane), which most readers will associate with endurance-tack. Fear not, as my harness has been mistaken 9/10 as real leather. It doesn't look plastic and it certainly does not look cheap.

Plus, the best part about being synthetic? It doesn't take hours and hours to clean. Just a bit of soap, a cloth and the hose gets it squeaky clean. In fact, prior to our first show in August, I hosed it down at the wash-racks!

The harness itself is super low-maintenance - there is no fear of anything stretching from being exposed to rain or just from regular wear; horses can step on the harness without it becoming indented or scratched (ask me how I know), and after being out in muddy conditions all you have to do is hose it off!

In an effort to ensure I cover all aspects of the harness, I decided to go through each piece separately to highlight every personalized option and some of the cool features.

Super cool bonnets are also a necessity.

You will notice that the bridle cheekpieces and such are expertly tucked away by multiple keepers to prevent them from getting hung up on cart shafts. The noseband is padded along it's entirety with a very spongy material.

Blinders are easily manipulated - I have noticed that I need to widen them up from time to time, especially if they have been in the harness bag for a while and/or moved around while in the bag. I went with rounded blinders, but drivers can opt for square blinders if they so choose.

The reins are actually very comfortable. I didn't know if I would like the feel of biothane reins, but I actually don't mind them at all. There are quite a few rein options to choose from; colored biothane, super grippy biothane, webbed, and even real leather.

Breast-collar/ Saddles

This horse is wearing a deluxe breast collar, wherein there is
more room for the windpipe and it is more ergonomically
friendly for horses with thick/short necks.
Miniature horses tend to be difficult to fit in their chest for the breast-collar, as their necks are short and often tie lower. The straight breast-collars, in some cases, rest on their airways and make it uncomfortable to pull a carriage.

As you can see, Spud's breastcollar has a slight
U shape to it. Certainly not as pronounced as the horse above.

It doesn't stop there, though, as the saddles are completely padded and ergonomical to fit a horse's back. The previous harness I had had a very unshapely saddle which distributed uneven pressure along Spud's back.

In addition to the ergonomically friendly saddle, drivers can easily upgrade the standard tug loops for quick release tugs. I personally love this little upgrade (which did not cost me anything extra), for the simplicity of attaching a marathon shaft, or getting a cart off of a horse quick.

You can see how the saddle just molds to him, and the quick release
tugs - lift up and the tug will automatically release the shaft
of the cart entirely.


The breeching itself is pretty standard - I find it fits quite well around the horse and the amount of hole punches the entire harness already comes with really gives you the ability to give your horse a customized fit. The crupper is no different than the noseband - it is very soft and squishy.

I have booty shots a plenty.

Overall - for the price, this harness is a fantastic buy. It definitely is a step up from the cheapie leather harnesses littering eBay, but it isn't enough to break the bank like a show harness would. It is very much an "all around" harness in the sense that you can enter just about anything with it and still be within the show rules.

I love the fact I can go out and get it dirty, have Spud step on it, accidentally drop it in a puddle, and forget about it in my tack room during the wet months and it doesn't show age, mold, mildew, or scratches.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Dear Santa, I'd Really Like...

Ah, shit.
Christmas is just over 5 weeks away, guys, and I am literally so excited for the holidays. The festivities, colors, smells... all of them are just so comforting and inviting. The whole consumer-happy holiday brings me joy and I pride myself in picking out really awesome gifts and watching those who matter most to me open them up and enjoy them.

I tend to not give a lot of thought about myself or what I want, but I figure I'd join the masses and start an early list for Santa, just in case I still make it into the Nice List this year! And I tried to be realistic for this, just because I know Santa probably won't build my barn for me.

Oster Clippers
I have been using my little dog's clippers for the last two years to clip Spud, sooo... yeah. It's time to get some real clippers to shave my pony.

Turquoise Blazer
Because oh my god, I've been dreaming of one to complete our driving outfit. It is unfortunate that I can't seem to find the right shade, amount of buttons, or otherwise. Sigh.






And lastly, perhaps Santa will have another little surprise for me in June.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

A Day for Answers

I hardly slept Sunday night; between my inability to breathe through my nose and the anxiety weighing down my chest over what potential answers I may receive from the Vets, I tossed and turned for a good chunk of the evening.

Before giving you guys a recap of the visit, I wanted to disclose what sparked off inside of me to get all of this information on the table and why now I pushed for that information.

Basically, it all added up to the fact that I was tired of playing a guessing game. I was tired of the tentative answers I had received during the initial vet visit this Spring. I don't discount what the Traveling Vet said or what we concluded - but it was never "for sure". I was tired of not knowing if my little home remedies would even make a fucking difference. I wanted to see clear, concise, scientific data that showed me exactly where Suzie was and what I would have to do to make things easier. Of course, it is easier said than done to just pop over to the vets, especially if they are near your barn. For me, organizing a simple trip to the vet involved a rigorous amount of preparations, pre-planning, and a lot more $$$ (think hotels, restaurants, lay-over, gas, etc).

She was happy to see me on Monday morning.

I am willing to admit that I should have followed through with additional diagnostics and the like when Suzie was first "diagnosed". However, please keep in mind that I did the very best I could with the resources I had available, as well as the current funds I had in place.

Anyways, onto the real content of the post!

We arrived at the Vet clinic just before our appointment time - which is a relief since we got a little bit lost along the way! The receptionist was wonderful and after filling out a few forms, I walked around back to unload Suzie and wait for them to open the large garage doors which led into the equine examination room. At this point, the Boyfriend unhitched the trailer and headed off into town to toodle around the home-building supply stores (boys are weird in that they find scouring the hardware store fun).

Suzie was bright and alert. I assume we were near an industrial part of town, as there were a lot of loud noises and the high winds seemed to amplify that. She snorted as we walked in circles and meandered around the parking lot. After about 10 minutes, the Vet popped open the back door and we slipped inside to begin the consultation.

The first forty minutes were largely conversational - I went back through Suzie's entire history and tried to give a detailed recount of her medical history. The Traveling Vets were supposed to send Suzie's entire file to this clinic, but I guess the clinic's internet was down for the better portion of the weekend and the Vet hadn't been able to review the files, so I did what I could from memory. I'm pretty sure I apologized several times due to the fact my mind was super muddled and dazed from being sick and the large quantities of drugs I was taking (sorrymrsvet).

The main basis of the appointment was palliative care, with emphasis on the knee and caudal heel pain (navicular) diagnosis. And once a good chunk of Suzie's history was brought to light, I also shared another issue that had given me some worry.

When Suzie had been kinesio taped by my friend back in October, I noticed she had very uncharacteristic bowel movements - they were very loose and cow-ploppy. At first, I merrily assumed that she had given herself some stomach upset from the hauling (she sometimes will "worry poop" once or twice at a venue if she hasn't been hauled in a while). I had started her on Metamucil and beet pulp, and about a week or so later, the skies cleared and there was no more ploppy poos.

I won't gross you guys out with the actual
pictures of her butt, but this gives you a general idea.
I celebrated until I ran out to the barn the next morning - Suzie's entire back-end was slimy, as if she had literally pooped down her legs. I washed her up and for the next few days, waited to see if there were any changes. After three days, there was no indication that anything should be wrong; no feed change, poops were still normal, still drinking/eating normal, no weight fluctuation, no weather changes, temperature was normal, bright/alert... literally nothing had changed except for this persistent slimy back end that I was now cleaning every second day. In an attempt to figure out what the hell was going on, I dosed her with kaopectate and probiotics for a week.

Still nothing. Solid poops with an occasional less formed pile (but no diarrhea!).

Fast forward to a few days later when I took my nephew for a pony ride and Suzie passed gas while tied to the barn and poo water literally surged out of her! I apologize for the next haunting visual, but it was the wettest, slimiest fart I have ever seen or heard.

That's a Mare Glare if I ever saw one.
I spent the evening googling and trying to figure out what the heck this all means... I had never encountered a horse that had solid poops but slimy/wet farts before. And as most googling unveils, there were 100s of remedies to try, but none of them really seemed worth it without some clear direction from the vet. And since I was headed to the vet in under a week, I opted to wait for the appointment to see what we could find (if anything). 

So while the Vet mulled over the case of Wet Bottomed Suzie, we began a more thorough examination of her knee and hooves.

I could probably write an entire novel of information I received, but I'll try to break it down into something simple and more legible. Of course, this isn't word for word stuff and some of it is subject to error due to the fact I was high off of flu meds.

The Vet was realistic with me and spoke candidly and openly about Suzie and what her personal thoughts of my mare were. She was exceptionally happy that Suzie is in picture health - she has fabulous weight to her, bright/alert, and is in good spirits. Furthering her exam, she found no temperature, breathing issues, or heart issues.

In beginning the lameness exam, hoof testers gave no indication of heel pain, however the Vet noted Suzie's overall foot structure and conformation makes her a prime candidate for heel pain/navicular. Some may remember she had a verrrry strong reaction to the hoof testers in the Traveling Vet's appointment. I was pretty surprised given the fact Suzie didn't even react, but the Vet basically said that even though Suzie didn't react, it didn't mean that she didn't have navicular. (Sidenote: why is navicular so fucking ridiculous to diagnose!?)

We moved on to the second portion of the lameness exam - a brief trot in the back parking lot revealed Suzie is sound at the walk, but very lame at the trot, more noticeably on her left front leg (which is information I already knew). The Vet called for blocks to Suzie's left hoof, from the fetlock down, so we understand how much of her lameness was caused by the knee and how much was caused by the navicular/heel pain. After the block was set, we repeated the trotting and found that only about 20% of her lameness disappeared.

Choosing where to block in the fetlock.
With this information, we now know for certain that the knee is our biggest issue, which moved us on to removing her shoes and doing xrays of her left hoof and knee. I opted to not xray her right hoof, as the Vet mentioned that her left leg is the bigger issue and if there was something appalling with her left hoof, we would xray her right.

Radiographs of her left hoof revealed some black spots near the navicular bone, but the Vet basically said not too be too concerned with that. While I internally celebrated the fact her navicular bone was in good condition, the Vet again reminded me that caudal heel pain encapsulates all the bones in the hoof, not just the navicular bone. Based off of how Suzie has responded to the therapeutic shoeing, her current conformation issues (contracted heels), and a few indications in the radiographs, she was pretty confident in confirming the previous declaration that Suz has navicular/ caudal heel pain.

We discussed the idea of xraying her right hoof, and I opted not to. The left did not show any rotational change in the coffin bone or any other kinds of degenerative conditions. The Vet agreed with me that, at this point, it wasn't super pressing we get both feet xrayed.

Instead, we moved on to her knee. I was the most nervous for this, as I knew the potential outcomes I faced should the results not be in Suzie's favor.

What I can say about the knee is that it has advanced arthritis. So much that the Vet cannot even determine if a previous fracture or otherwise caused the build up or if it just happened to collect there because it just felt like it.

If you do not know how to read xrays, the front of her knee
is to the left. You can see the faint outline of the large bump
and inside the bump you will see the jagged outline of
all the arthritis.

We reviewed the xrays, chatted about the non-existent veterinary options I have at home, and started to formulate a plan.

The good news is that the Vet is confident Suzie is happy - she can still motor around under her own steam, can still get down for a good roll or nap, and is still ornery when she needs to be. The arthritis is troubling and will never get better, but thankfully the Vet gave us a plan that is easy to carry out and will bring Suzie (hopefully) a much easier, and fulfilling retired life.

Because I live so far away, the Vet wanted to give us the best possible plan to minimize our travel and to expand Suzie's quality of life. Firstly, she asked me to stop Suzie's daily dose of Previcox for a period of two weeks - her reasoning is that the Previcox may be affecting her hind-gut since she has been on the drug for the better part of the last three years and the excess water in her bowels may be from gut irritation (ie. ulcers). However, the Vet is skeptical of ulcers given Suzie's weight, appetite, and currently healthy poops. It was noted during the appointment that apparently a few horses this year are also experiencing similar issues, so it may not be related to the Previcox at all. She did prescribe sucralfate - 3x/day for 14 days to see if it would help and also mentioned that it wouldn't hurt to slather some vaseline on her legs to prevent scalding after I wash her up again.

For her knee, we agreed to put Suzie on Legend. It is the most readily available drug, and the easiest to administer since it is given IV. The Vet was concerned about injecting the joint since there is so much arthritis, that a needle may not even make it through all the crud in there. There was worry about injections as well, because it would mean I would have to travel. For Legend injections, they are IV, so I could easily get that done on my own at home. Personally, I have never given IV injections before and told the Vet I'm sure I could find someone to help me, but the Vet walked me through it and gave me the all clear to administer them at home on my own. It was enlightening to learn and I am grateful she took the time to explain to me. At the clinic Suzie received 1 injection of Legend and I took home two more doses which will be given a week apart from one another. 

And lastly, for her feet, we spoke at length about the fact she really needed some heel support (heartbar shoes) and a farrier to coax her heels to open up vs continuing to shoe them in a contracted fashion. I took her recommendations and have contacted a farrier in the area who is supposedly pretty decent with therapeutic shoes and he is supposed to be calling me within a few days to go over the xrays and set up an appointment. 

So, all in all?

All good things.

Ready to go home and get this game plan

I have the confirmation and validation that Suzie is happy. I finally have the answers about what the hell was going on in her knee. I no longer have a big, black hole in my gut that rumbles around because I am scared of not knowing how to continue helping her, or if I am making a mistake in prolonging something that is impossible.

And for once I feel very much at peace with the information I have and the clear, directional path only brings me more comfort.

Some will say I am crazy for hauling an old, ornery horse 14hrs in the beginning of Winter - but crazy is what keeps me going sometimes. And sometimes, I don't really have clear reasoning behind what I do or why I do it. But no matter what, my animals are always the forefront of my life and I do whatever I can to keep them happy and healthy.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

The Long-Haul

In my previous post, I had alluded to the fact I would be trailering a horse to the Vet. And subsequently, after I had posted, I realized some of my readers may not actually realize just how far a Veterinarian is from me.

This little snippet of British Columbia is very veterinarian-poor: (pretty sure this link is going to imply as to where I live... but I suppose that's okay) we have no emergency clinics, and no specialized clinics (ie. large animal, reptile, etc). The majority of our medical assistance when it comes to our pets is in the form of small animal vets - which is just fine when it comes to cats and dogs - but becomes a race against the clock when you own a horse or otherwise.

Below is a super awful and terrible graphic that I quickly drew up to show everyone just how far a horse owner needs to travel to receive veterinary care for their horses. In most emergency cases, horses will not willingly partake in a 3 hour trailer ride. It is literally the difference between life and death in many scenarios, and the reason most owners in my area have another option pre-planned, should euthanasia be required immediately.

You will note that I have included the Traveling Vets in the drawing. Yup - their practice is a 6 hour drive away.

And if we did not have this Vet traveling up North to us and providing us with routine veterinary care (floats, vaccinations, lameness evaluations, castrations, PPEs, and the like), we would literally be up Shit Creek without a paddle. In addition to the routine care, they also assist on emergency calls during the 2 -3 weeks they are up here servicing all of our animals.

But during the remainder of the season, we are on our own.

A bit scary to think, but it has been something that has just been common here for close to a decade. From what I have heard, there are plans in the works for an equestrian veterinarian to settle in the area after she completes her final years of veterinary school. Whether or not that actually happens? Time will tell.

So back onto the topic of this journey to the vets and how we got it done.

Have trailer, will travel.

This past weekend, Suzie, myself, and the BF made a 14 hour round-trip journey to one of the most thorough and well-respected clinics in the area in two days - add the fact that both of us were horrifically sick and it's nothing short of impressive.

Several friends and acquaintances of mine have utilized the clinic in the past and have had nothing but glowing reviews, so I had high hopes of obtaining the answers I so desperately was searching for.

While I realize Suzie's "regular" Vet is closer, it all came down to the amount of tests I could do, including the almighty $ figure. Being able to run more diagnostics (if necessary) and at a lesser price was much more appealing to both the mind and wallet.

Before I get into the logistics of the trip, it is important to remember that with any long-distance travel, it is imperative to ensure everything is in tip-top shape and in good running order.

My preparations began last week wherein I checked over the horse trailer - ensuring all lights and cables are in working order, the tires are in good condition, the spare is ready to be utilized if necessary, and the insurance was up to date and paid (it had run out mid-October). I also ran out to the feed store and picked up shavings to bed down the trailer floor.

Once the trailer was looked over, I moved on to the truck. Summer tires were pulled off and Winter tires were rolled on. Air pressure in the tires was topped up in all four tires as well.

After this was completed, it was time to set up for accommodations - both human and horse. I sent a note to a friend in the area who owns a boarding barn (the same barn Spud had a lay-over at!) and asked if she had any stalls available for Suz. We set up the dates and I confirmed all the details again on Friday to be sure things would be set up when we arrived. (I also confirmed my appointment with the Veterinary clinic - it would suck to drive out 7hrs and find out there was some kind of miscommunication.) The hotel room was also booked for me and the BF.

I hunkered down and began to furiously pack on Friday afternoon (I normally don't leave things till the last minute!) - bales of hay were loaded into the trailer, emergency supplies tucked into the rubber bins, buckets, grain, blankets, wraps, and even extra halters were packed up and neatly tucked into the trailer. Shavings were spread into the bottom of the trailer, and the truck was cleaned out (ie. dog blankets removed, extra garbage removed). And once the brunt of that was completed, I started to pack my own clothes and toiletries.

Initially, we had planned on leaving Saturday morning to have a day for rest and shopping (Suzie's appointment was Monday morning), but the flu hit our house-hold HARD and I was down for the count and didn't join the land of the living until 6pm Saturday night. With both myself and the BF sick, it made for an insanely miserable drive, especially since we didn't necessarily get a "rest" day in between.

So on Sunday morning, we headed out to the barn to scoop up Suzie. We arrived shortly after 9 am, which would give us the benefit of traveling during the light hours. I haltered Suzie and fed her her grains/ Previcox, and outfitted her with a BOT knee boot and standing wraps. At this point, things started to go to Hell in a handbasket when the BF remembered we hadn't retorqued the wheels or brought any tools to change a spare tire on the trailer (d'oh). I attribute our lack of thoughtfulness due to the high levels of cold and flu medicine we were hopped up on (pretty sure we shouldn't have been driving...).

Once we got the extra things squirreled away, we were able to finally leave and start our road-trip. It was a quiet and non-eventful drive. Suzie traveled like a super star and I was super impressed she didn't have an ounce of extra fluid in her legs or a sore muscle to be seen.

We arrived to the lay-over barn around 6:30pm and tucked Suz into her stall for the night before unhitching the trailer and running back into town for some food and blissful sleep. Our alarms were regrettably set to ensure we'd have time to hitch up, load, and travel to the vet's clinic come morning.

I realize this post doesn't give much insight as to why I chose to haul to the Vets - sit tight, because that will be unveiled in the next installment of posts.