Tuesday, August 18, 2020


Looking like the most saddest pony outside of the 
Vet clinic, as one does.
(*This was post-treatment, so she is still slightly 
sedated, hence the "sad" ears).

The long and the short of it is that 2020 has been a really fucking trying year - which isn't something new or particularly shocking given the circumstances of the world we are currently living in. And part of me hates being the person who drones endlessly on about my own challenges. Because, somewhere out there, someone else has it worse - tenfold.

The reality is tho, things have been particularly difficult and while I am still navigating the waters of everything (in a small boat with a giant leak), I'm doing my best to stay afloat.

I know several readers have been waiting to hear an update on Annie - given the vague mention I gave in my last post. I appreciate the few who did reach out, even if just to offer support and a shoulder to help carry the weight of my frustrations and sadness. Life really is better with all of you, and although I am still hiding deep within my hobbit hole, I truly appreciate the love and support.

A more recent photo from a day when 
it wasn't raining for once.
It has been such a terrible summer - it has rained so much that
I actually found mushrooms growing in the middle of the 
SAND arena. HOW?!

Now, buckle up for a very long-winded story time, because in order to do this any justice, we have to go back several months in time and articulate some things for clarity's sake. 

Back in Summer of 2019 (yes an entire year ago), long-time readers may (or may not?) remember the little blip I mentioned in my blog about Annie coming down with a moderate horse cold following a weekend-long clinic at a local barn. Which, is something that can and does happen, especially if you are hauling from place to place a lot. Something we did quite a bit of the last few years.

During that Summer, several horses I know of had symptoms of a cold, ranging from mild to moderate - and it appeared as though it was some kind of low grade flu. It happens - and often times, is not anything to be particularly overly concerned with.

However, a month or two following the initial sickness, Annie still continued to have a very sporadic cough (if I had to put a number on it, I'd say she would randomly cough once or twice 2-3x a week). While it wasn't anything to get into a tizzy over, it was certainly not "normal", especially not for her. But at the same time, it did not appear to be restricting her performance or otherwise. I continued with light riding, as eventually brought her back into full work under the guidelines of a Veterinarian who I had reached out to when she initially got sick. 

During her explosive eye episode, I had the attending Vet give Annie a once over (in October), as I was still hearing some sporadic coughing which was not a "normal" thing for her since she hadn't ever coughed the first two years I had owned her. Upon palpation of the larynx, the Vet was able to induce coughing and told me to give her some time, as her trachea was irritated and needed more time to heal. I continued with sensible exercise, but pulled back from almost all schooling or meaningful work for the remainder of the season.

Photo from October 2019, back when her eye blew up.

Fast forwarding through October to April, the coughing was less, but still at random intervals. Some days I would hear her cough maybe once, and then I wouldn't hear it again for a week or two. One day in February, while picking poo (as much as one can do in the middle of winter, anyway), I found a rather large and concerning glob of goo on one of the stable mats in the horse's run in shelter. The consistency was very mucus-like and I immediately contacted the Veterinarian who saw Annie in October to ask for advice. I was reminded that her system had probably been weakened by whatever flu wreaked havoc in July of the previous year and to continue light exercise, but that expelling mucus is a good sign her systems were working and trying to clear the excess crud, no big thing.

I took the advice, shrugged it off and continued to monitor as time went on. As we moved into riding season, things were relatively normal. We had a few coughs here and there, but nothing that suggested a pattern and because of the nonchalant bed manner, I assumed everything was alright and after a period of time, Annie would be just fine.

May came, and the horses were moved to their new digs in the middle of the month. As the pollen from the alder trees poured down and we rolled out a new round bale for the horses, Annie went from coughing sporadically and randomly to having an all-out coughing episode. Several times over the next two weeks as I organized a Vet visit and attempted to alleviate the issue, she went into awful fits where she'd cough 10-15 times in a row. She'd cough simply standing in the paddock, she'd cough being led out to be groomed, she'd cough regardless of what was going on and I could tell it was very uncomfortable and frustrating for her. While waiting for her appointment, I tried cough syrups and powders to no avail, and was thankful as our Vet visit drew ever nearer. 

Oh, and I also shaved her entire mane off in May bc 
what good is an emotional breakdown if you don't shave off 
SOMEONE'S hair? All jokes aside, I think she looks 
like a Trojan war horse now, and I love it <3

Finally, Vet Day came, and I loaded up and headed out to Barn C to meet up with the Veterinarian. We went over a few things, and I was thankful when Annie began coughing (because it is often the way of things that you take a sick animal in to be seen and miraculously they stop doing the very thing you were so worried about) and produced a very small amount of mucus on the ground for him. He performed a rebreathe, which she passed, as well as advised her lung sounds were good. However, we were given a light diagnosis of "heaves", but the Vet advised that without further diagnostics, it is really a process of elimination if the prescription he gave did not work. (Readers will note how often I stress that Equine Veterinary Medicine is not prevalent in this area. Basic care is available approximately 3 hours away (in this case, those Vets traveled to us which is helpful) but any extended care which includes radiographs, ultrasounds, and more complicated blood panels are 7 hours away). 

With all of this in mind, we were prescribed antibiotics and steroids as a "catch all" prescription to see if any of the following was a magic bullet. Things thankfully began to improve exponentially once Annie was on the medications and as we finished off the last remaining amount of steroids, I noted that although the terrible coughing fits were 100% gone, the randomized coughing was still lingering around. I vocalized that I didn't feel as though the steroids were working, even after being sent several more packets of them. Feeling wary, I struggled my way to getting a referral bounced to a clinic 7 hours away for more diagnostics after I joined several Equine COPD groups and started to become more educated.

Now, I'll be frank. I had a few people look at me sideways and call me crazy for booking the appointment (including the Vet). I also had to push a little bit to convince them that yes, the diagnostics I listed were the ones I wanted and yes, it is for a mare that coughs infrequently. 

As we hooked up the trailer and headed out, admittedly I felt a little foolish. My mare was not presenting like a heaves case - she has never had issues recovering her breathing, nary a heave line to be seen, does not have exercise-induced mucus streaming out of her nostrils (or any mucus), she never avoided food, hadn't lost weight, and she has never struggled to breathe regardless of the activity. 

The 7hr drive was pretty nice - save for the 
fact we left kind of late, which meant we didn't
get into our hotel room until nearly midnight.

Still, there was this feeling that something was wrong.

We saw the Vet on a warm but rainy Monday morning near the end of June and I won't lie - I saw the skepticism in the Vet's eyes as she started her examination. (Fun fact, this is the same Vet who treated Maizey when we hauled out, so she is getting real familiar with my crew).

Blood was drawn and sent off to their in-house lab and a rebreathe was performed which Annie did not pass and ended in a complete coughing fit very reminiscent of the ones she endured mid-May. If I might interject one thing here, though, is that I felt as though the rebreathe was only failed because Annie actually started to panic because they had held the bag over her nose for far longer than the first Vet team did. Which, is probably standard practice, but I could see the fear in her eyes as the air was pulled from the bag. Still, the end result was coughing vs "spooked" breathing, so the "fail" still stands in a way. The Vet noted that during the rebreathe her lungs sounded decent and she didn't hear anything too alarming.

Pictured: A Very Cheap Date
Hahaha, just kidding. The sedation
may have been cheap, but that's about the 
only thing cheap about it.

The blood panel came back and all was in order, which actually made me raise a brow. Part of me was so sure that there was an infection somewhere (hence my thoughts that the steroids were not doing anything with the previous vet), but the blood test showed a perfectly balanced system. Puzzled, and slightly worried, we carried on with the examination and tests. The Resident Vet (who was overseeing the procedure) looked at me a little weirdly when I said I had stopped giving the steroids from the first vet because I did not feel they were working.

We went into the large animal examination room and I led Annie around the stocks several times, as she has never been in anything like that in her life (although I imagine a straight load is good practice for this). Once she was comfortable, she was sedated and the Vet performed a tracheal wash. This procedure is pretty neat, and it actually is not something they typically do at this clinic. In fact, the Vet who performed it had never done one since school, so she was pretty excited for the opportunity (happy to help Vet's live out their dreams, I am). The Vet who owns the clinic oversaw the procedure, and they began explaining to me how it would work.

It was difficult to get any photos of the procedure because there 
was a big window that was streaming in sunlight which created a glare
if I stood directly in line with the Vet. Thankfully you can see it pretty
good here.

Essentially, a needle is inserted into the horse's trachea mid-way down the underside of the neck. From there, a sterile catheter is pushed through the end of the needle point and extends down into the horse's trachea into the lungs. Once this is completed, saline is pushed into the lungs (which I know, sounds totally weird) and then immediately aspirated back into the syringe. The sample that is collected is able to be looked at under a microscope and/or sent for cytology if required. Typically, when you pull back on the plunger, the sample should look slightly cloudy and a bit tinged with color (yellow/brown/white).

The Vet pulled back on the plunger and uttered what every horse owner dreads, "Er... that's not what I've seen in videos/labs." Aka: "That's not what it should look like."

Oh, great.

I'm SO sad it is blurry, but you get the gist. 
This is what they pulled back and drew during the first
flush. You can kind of see the one tech prepping
more syringes in the background, as they flushed her 
probably 4-5 more times.

I knew in that exact moment I had made the right decision in hauling her the 7 hours to run more tests.

At this time, the practice owner wandered over and the two of them exchanged a few words - since we were all wearing masks and maintaining social distancing I could only eavesdrop snippets of their murmurings. I heard the practice owner say, "...impossible to have pneumonia this long..." and "...would be septic by now...."

My heart continued to race until I could stand it no longer and asked what they had found. Of course, they weren't entirely sure themselves but assured me they would be smearing a sample and the treating Vet continued the procedure by flushing saline into Annie's lungs four more times to clear all of the disgusting eggnog looking mucus-y liquid. Once the syringe came out clearer, the catheter was pulled and the techs excitedly hurried off with a sample to stain. At this point, the Resident Vet looked over at me and said, "Now I'm not so surprised the steroids weren't working."

Let me tell you, when a first year Vet student and several techs are called to the back to "check out the cool thing we just pulled from this horse", it isn't such a great feeling when it is your own animal. 

Two more samples - the Vet is holding another syringe in
her opposite hand. Slowly getting less chunky/ egg-nogg-like. 
Still not great.

While we waited for the stain, the Vet moved on to the endoscope. In a rather unfortunate (but kind of hilarious) set of circumstances, the Vet was in the very wrong place at the very wrong time as Annie coughed when the endoscope tickled down her throat. The Vet was showered with a watery, grassy, mucus bath, which I am sure she was ever so pleased to be wearing for the remainder of her day, considering we were her very first patients. 

The endoscope revealed a lot of mucus build up on the lower portion of the respiratory tract, which seemed consistent with the crud that was still yet to be named. The Vet theorized that the sample from her lungs was potentially mucus and infection, but we would know more after a specialized lab viewed it (approximately a one week wait for results). 

Endoscope in progress - with a towel over the nose and mouth
to prevent additional mucus showers on the poor Vet.

Despite the techs staining the slides, it was difficult to determine what was present. I am not sure why this is, but I guess it had something to do with the stains they had available and the capabilities of their machine. However, they noted that they were quite confident it was mucus-chains and some kind of infection. Still, we sent a sample off for a complete review and while this was being done, Annie was prepped for her next test - a ultrasound of the lungs.

The ultrasound revealed some moderate scarring to the lungs, which is par for the course given the absolute shit-kicking her respiratory system has gone through the last year. I tried my best not to cry as the Vet pointed out the areas where you could see the scarring and the resident Vet leaned over and said, "Your mare should be a lot sicker than she is." It wasn't said with backlash, but more with amazement that this mare who looked picturesque of outwardly health was actually struggling internally. 

The visit was completed with a prescription of injectable antibiotics and the promise to reconvene when the results from the cytology came forward. However, both Vets were quite confident that there is some kind of airway issue going on. It is difficult to say how it came about, but the best guess is that Annie's immune system was absolutely shit-kicked last year and never really fully recovered. And once the pollen and round bale dust got into her lungs, her lungs failed to clear out the crud and there it sat, festering and churning into a full blown infection. 

A very drunk Bannie post-endoscope and the Vet performing
an ultrasound of her lungs. 

It makes me wonder just how much of it there was, considering we would now be entering Round 2 of antibiotics.

We started the antibiotics and I also had ordered spirulina and MSM weeks previous to start her on, as several of the COPD groups recommend it for heaves or any airway problems. A week later, the Vet called us with the results and the sticky eggnog was determined to be the following: 70% nondegernate neutrophils, 5% small lymphocytes, and 25% vacuolated macrophages with a variety of Kirschman spirals (mucus), mild amounts of plant material, rod shaped bacteria. And the response of: the cytologic findings reflect mainly a neutrophilic inflammatory response. 

All of that to say, there is infection and the aforementioned white blood cells were there attempting to deal (unsuccessfully) with the problem. 

Since there was a bit of lag time between us ending the antibiotics and getting the results, instead of being able to just continue the antibiotics, we had to start a full round again and I was also prescribed steroids as well. 

The Very Best Bannie, whilst receiving her daily needle poke of antibiotics
(sans halter).

We're still in the midst of treatment, and things have been mostly trending upwards, although there have been a spattering of bad days which have made me question if the medications are actually working effectively. Still, as my mother has taught me, I need to trust the process and give things time to work - it didn't take overnight for this entire mess to happen, so it'll realistically take months to get us back to where we once were, especially as we navigate the waters in finding what maintenance methods work or don't work.

I am trying to stay optimistic though, because Annie has been absolutely on fire these last few rides. Mare has a lot of get up and go within the last two weeks and while part of me is elated to see her feeling better, I am also a bit sad that the calm demeanor I saw for most of the Summer was most likely directly related to the fact she felt like absolute poo. 

I should probably also mention that altho she was clearly not feeling well, she
still managed to ejecto-seato me during our weekend stay at a friend's barn
when we travelled out for our vet appointment which brings my
grand total to three falls off of this mare. All of which are completely
and utterly ridiculous.
I was riding her bareback in the indoor to get her out of her stall
she was staying in all weekend, and although she was spooky, she was mostly level-headed
(I had even lunged her lightly prior to getting on). Unfortunately, the wind shook
the back doors and Annie spooked HARD. I slipped off her right side as she went left, 
but hung onto the reins. As I landed on my feet (which I thought, score!), Annie
started to panic and started to go backwards (didn't Emma just post something about
how dangerous it is for horses to back up when they panic??) and spin and
her front right leg came crashing down on the side of my right knee and left me unable to
walk properly for nearly three weeks.
So uh... thanks, Bannie.

So... we're still edging ever forwards. Horses still fucking suck and I'm still frustrated beyond belief with my terrible luck this year. But, these animals depend on me and I'm trying to do everything I can to ensure rehabilitation of Annie's lungs goes according to plan. And as such, we're not really doing anything particularly... productive at the moment. Lots of long walking hacks, some trot sets and the very occasional mini schooling session to keep things moving, keep her brain engaged, and encourage her to keep some semblance of non-feralcy. 

In all of this, I cannot help but be amazed at Annie's resilience. I had always thought this mare was so... breakable and frail and looking back I cannot help but see how truly stoic and strong she really is. How absolutely blessed am I to have a horse that, even after ten long days of being stabbed with a needle, she wandered up on her own accord, shoved her head into my arms, and let me cry out months worth of frustration and sadness. 

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Horses are Hard

I think, in a lot of ways, 2020 has been an absolute rollercoaster for almost everyone I know. Lots of particularly... heavy stuff has been floating around, and while I did my best to rise above, I admittedly have been treading water for a while.

Owning horses is... hard.

I recognize first hand that owning them is a privilege that few are bestowed. In fact, I personally know of at least several kids who would sell their soul just for the chance to ride - never-mind owning 3 of their very own horses. I am well aware of just how lucky I am to have what I have, and to be where I am.

That being said, it is not to say that it doesn't come with it's own struggles, because it does. Living in an area that does not particularly cater to horses or horse ownership in general is tough. There are no boarding barns (nearby). There are no vets. Critical and urgent care is non-existent - which means any furthering of diagnostics is a 5+ hour trailer ride, and you better hope your horse can make the trip. And if they can't? Well...

This all being said, the lack of vet care in this area isn't necessarily a deal-breaker in owning horses here - most of the equestrian community is very hands on and helpful, which makes it that much easier to handle things when disaster strikes amongst individuals. And believe me when I say, several of us could be vet techs with the amount of knowledge and vast array of education we've obtained from years of doing this on our own. These are good people to have on your side, and even better when they come running at a moments notice. Still, it is certainly time consuming, exceptionally costly, and gut wrenching when you have to make that 10 hour haul, especially coming home with bad news like I did in April.

Still, despite having several gigantic fucking curveballs thrown my way I rose up and dealt with it. Up until a month or so ago, I felt okay - that I could weather the storm and gather the pieces where they may lay. But the fall-out from each and every curveball is beginning to seep deep into my veins and I'm struggling to be as motivated or as happy as I have been in the past. And that's not to say I am neglectful or lazy when it comes to overall care and consideration for my animals, because I still go through the motions of ownership and riding as per usual. However, I'm really struggling to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Going through the motions of relocating the horses, setting up a safe and secure paddock, being given a devastating diagnosis for my yearling, and now, a potentially career-minimizing (or ending) issue with Annie and I'm pretty fucking tapped.

Struggling to see the point of investing blood, sweat, and tears into a lifestyle that maybe isn't actually meant for me.

And it's not to say that I don't love horses, because I do. I enjoy my time with them immensely. But when push comes to shove, I am overwhelmed with emotions and struggling to find traction on solid ground. The instant I manage to get somewhere, I look up, and see yet another mountain to climb.

I am tired of fighting so hard to keep things chugging along when they threaten to fall apart at a moments notice.

And if I'm being completely honest?

Horses are not fun for me right now.

Being around them and spending time with them brings me happiness, but the questionable future of 2/3 of my horses is really, really fucking hard. I don't have all the answers yet, and although there is a sliver of me that remains hopeful, I am also just waiting for the other shoe to drop.

So I guess, aside from the incredibly massive pity party I'm throwing myself on the interwebs, did any of you feel similarly? Did you ever take a step back from horse ownership/riding - what was that like and how did you get back into it (if ever)? What kept you going amidst the struggles?

There are few things that break me, but 2020 has cut me open and split me in half.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Do Not Pass Go

Horses can be such funny, fickle creatures.

They have certain behaviours or traits we as riders must learn to mesh with - these "traits" being things we don't necessarily address for the purpose of eradicating them. Horses are horses, and even moreso, some are very individualistic beings. "Quirky" horses are often underappreciated amongst the masses, but with the right rider/owner combination, they shine and boy, when it goes good, do they ever sparkle.

With all that being said, have I ever taken a second to explain what a sensitive and hormonal mess Spud is?

I mean, to most, he is the most affectionate, sweetest, and goodest boy in the world.

And truthfully, they wouldn't be wrong.

He is affectionate. He is sweet. And he is a good boy.

The Best Potato™
But, it took a lot of practice and patience to get us to the level of success we achieved.

Over the years and as our relationship has blossomed, we've become pretty amicable partners. He is still a very fussy and sensitive flower, and I've learned that I can't change him and do what I can as a driver to emulate positivity and good experiences.

It doesn't mean we avoid the hard stuff, because proper training is important.

But, I don't get mixed up in the details.

And I don't let him drag me into an emotional fight - neither of us win and it only creates a more tense, nervous, and sour horse. Not exactly the vibe I strive for.

He may be sensitive, but he's as solid as they come.
Since starting him back to cart in 2020, I've had a relatively easy time re-acclimating him to the cart. It's much heavier than his old dinky easy-entry, but he's done really well with it this year and I was pleasantly surprised.

What I was even more surprised to find out is how resistant and tight he is in harness this year. It isn't during conditioning drives - he loves those and is happy to trot all day long if the circumstances dictate. However, the more technical and dressage-esque schoolings we've managed to put in have sent him right into pissy pony land.

We had a particularly disastrous drive a few weeks ago, wherein he completely blew off my verbal cues the entire time despite receiving reprimands and reminders (a tap on his butt with the reins was met with absolute and utter meltdowns, so that was fun).

We took some time off to take things back to the drawing board and I lunged him several times to really drive home the verbal cues. He continued to have a pretty sour attitude about work in general, but without the cart in the way, we were able to suss out a few non-negotiables.

Spud: "This is bullshit"
Annie: "I'll just watch."
Largely, one of the problems is that we haven't had direct access to the riding grounds in all the years I've owned him. Hacking 40+ minutes (bc his legs are short and he's much slower than Annie) to and from the grounds is NOT appealing in the slightest, so I've done the best I can do - which includes endurance-style drives with dressage incorporated as well as hauling to the grounds where possible. Since being at the new place, driving to the ring is around 15 minutes (both to and from), which is much more doable. And as such, we've been putting in those dressage-only drives and the idea of being pushed has never been Spud's strong suit.

Additionally, since being broke and reliable, Spud hasn't been a main priority for me to school or drill particulars into. I mean, we've still gone to shows and we've still pushed for more, but at the end of the day, these last few years were about Bringing Up Bannie. Time is scarce as an adult amateur, and lack of consistency is also (likely) a large factor in this.

There is also no horse I trust greater
with precious cargo than this guy.
After that Terrible No Good Very Bad drive, I threw in the towel for a bit and went back to the drawing board. We took away the cart and took away the harness and went back down to lunging - the most basic of basic.

The Terrible, No Good Drive, while particularly awful, gave me a lot of information about my mini and what I needed to address on the lunge. Particularly, he expects me to nag him along the entire time. Which, may be motivating for him, but it is absolutely frustrating for me to ask him for the same thing 10x. We practiced a lot of "trot" means "trot" and not "trot then stop and wait for me to ask again" - he was verrrry offended by this but I remained insistent and unchanged by his obvious frustrations and annoyances. Once this happens, he becomes impossible to rate and legs fly every which way.

Spud is a sensitive boy - he takes criticism from his driver to heart, and he frets over it instead of absorbing it and moving on. This prevents him from concentrating on the next series of movements or questions, and he gets all jumbled up and overwhelmed so his solution is to go fast and blow through the aids - because nothing says "I'm listening" like trotting mach 10 towing a cart with a human inside.

When he is all in and is strong in the bridle, it feels like
the most magical thing in the world.
Of course, this is a safety hazard in itself. While he has never ever attempted a runaway, it is something I've always been cautious and observant of. Any horse can perform a runaway at any time, especially when spooked, but there is also a level of protocol that needs to be put in place, especially with a horse who prefers to get strong in the bridle when he gets overwhelmed.

All of this to simply say - driving horses don't get chances when it comes to safety.

Since going back to the basics and re-addressing things, he is becoming more amicable and pliable in harness. We've driven a time or two since, and both have been very pleasant. I am dolling out some high value treats (ie. all the carrots) which is not something I have ever done before with him, but I found good success with Annie with this method so I figured it was worth a shot. An obscene amount of praise and cookies being tossed his way has seemed to have boosted his morale and work ethic, which is nice to see.


We still are not passing go.

He is still a very good boy <3
There are, very obviously, some things we need to address and work on. The gears are a bit rusty and as he's aged and matured, we need to make some (minor) changes. I reached out to a good friend who has helped with me with Spud back in the green-pony days. We're going to be making some changes to his current bit, as we both feel similarly that something with a bit of leverage will help me get the point across without having to feel like I'm reeling in a whale from the bottom of the ocean.

But tack changes aren't the holy grail, and while waiting for that to arrive, we're still working towards a happy and positive horse. Making small changes and outlining the expectations in a fair and consistent way gives him the opportunity to seek the "easiest" route. Refusing to engage in his hysterics (ie. Zen Ninja Level 100) negates any escalation and for someone who has dealt with a Meltdown Queen (looking at you Annie) the past few years, I am well-versed in the practice.

Our happy place!
However, there are some subtle differences - with Annie, I would often continue whatever I was asking/doing and wait quietly and patiently for her to join me (ie. crossfiring). Spud only continues to fret - it's almost as if he panics and is screaming, "You're not saying anything - IS THIS WHAT YOU WANT?! AM I doing THIS RIGHT?" So with him, I find that instead of trotting circles asking for bend, bend, bend while he carries on, it is best to just halt, wait for him to take a breath and try again. Of course, this does not work with every situation, but when he gets completely and utterly frazzled, it is our way of decompressing him and letting him just find himself again.

With any horse, finding the right balance is important, and sometimes, you have to recognize that you don't get to collect $200 and you don't get to pass go.

Sometimes, you have to hang out on the boardwalk a little longer.

Monday, June 1, 2020

The Feeling of Change

When I found out our previous BO wanted the horses moved, I was really, really nervous about finding a new place. I've said it previously on this blog - the immediate area we live in is not the most horsey-friendly (in comparison to the town where Barn C and most of the shows I go to are). For example, there are precisely two (private) areas in town that have enough land for horses to be on pasture during the summer. There are no boarding barns and most set ups are privately owned, so it can be tough to find anything unless you "know someone".

"I heard a noise over der"
In my case, I was lucky enough to have a family friend reach out and offer the back portion of their property for my horses. We set to work on clearing, putting up fencing, and dumping crush to stabilize the wet ground. It all got done and I'm living a little bit of a different horsey life. At first, I wasn't quite sure how I'd adjust to it and I was a bit nervous on how the horses would adjust. A lot of us are creatures of habit and change is not something we do well, especially when it is not incremental.

This is especially the case for Annie, who long-time readers will know is a specially sensitive mare (sometimes). Change is not something she does well, and long-time readers will remember my motto of "do all the things" with her the last three years I've owned her. Which, has included overnight stays at Barn C, trips to the Tree of Knowledge, short duration trailer rides to prep for long duration trailer rides, etc. I've incrementally and so carefully orchestrated Annie's life with me, knowing she can be... dramatic at times.

"Excuse me, there is something I need to go be anxious about."
- Annie, always
With the new place being quite a bit smaller than our old barn, I was very hesitant and worried about how she'd transition to a more paddock-type lifestyle. Being an advocate for 24/7 turn out on as much land as you can, I was struggling to accept the lopsided paddock I had in front of me. Don't get me wrong, I was beyond grateful for the helping hand and the opportunity to utilize a portion of their backyard to house my horses while I continue to struggle to get my own barn going. Despite this, friends assured me that since I ride often and do quite a bit with my horses, she'd be just fine.

But still, I was wary.

Hanging out in the treed area, not obsessively staring down the road.
This past weekend marked 3 weeks since the move and while it may be still too early to appreciate any long-term effects, I've witnessed such a weird and almost dramatic change in Annie that I can't help but showcase and document it for all of blog-land.

First and foremost, I've caught her cuddling with the property owner several times. Like, who is this mare?! She isn't the most personable thing - she'll hang out for grooming and scritches but I have never ever seen her seek out a person, lay her head on their shoulder and just... quietly exist and enjoy eachother's company. It was hands down the sweetest and most wonderfully wholesome thing I have ever seen. Being a complete non-horsey person, the property owner wasn't sure how to take it, but by the envious look in my eye, he recognized immediately that what he was experiencing was something special. Admittedly I was am still pretty jealous, given the fact that Annie has never in her life shown any inclination to snuggle (unless she's exhausted after a long day of showing!).

No media of the snuggling, but she's been catching a lot of Zzzzs
while interacting with the neighbor's horses. (Which, sidenote: I
figured for SURE she'd be dumb about having horses next door
and become a bit obsessive but she's actually content with them there
without being compulsive which is awesome).
Secondly, she is just overall... less stressed. She used to stand at the fenceline at our old barn, staring down the road whenever someone or something went past on the street (which was frequent). At our new place, it's much more private and she is content to mosey around and eat - almost every time I show up she is eating, which is was a rare occurrence for the first two years of me owning her. She started to be more interested in food in the last year and a half, but would still leave a full mash bucket after a long ride to go check the fence-lines.

A quick note, I don't know if I addressed it much on this blog, but I have spoke with several vets regarding her anxiety and picky food habits. I tried a few vet recommended things, as well as supplements, grains, feeds, pastes, homeopathic remedies and even changing my hay supplier for a year. I found little to no change in her and sometimes, one product would change our life for 3 months and then stop working. I did have it set up to haul her out to a vet in March for more internal and intensive diagnostics but COVID put a large damper on that. This all being said, her eating habits from point of purchase to March 2020 had vastly improved, but she still wasn't where I'd like her to be, hence the furthering of diagnostics.

OK, now back to the regular blog:

Old Place - I used to put hay here to entice her to eat, as this area
 was her favorite fenceline (behind her) to "stand and stare".
She is also weirdly quiet - any time I took her out to hand graze at the old barn, I had to either have her drag a lunge (and watch her closely) or hold her, because she'd try to take off down the driveway once she realized I wasn't paying attention. She also used to take a loooong time to convince to eat the fucking grass bc staring and being alert to every noise ever uttered was more important.

And now?

She is just... unaffected.

Her belly isn't sucked up to her spine anymore and although she will always be a little herring gutted, I have yet to see her walk away from her daily mash (which is something she did often whenever she heard a noise out on the road). She doesn't have that frantic look in her eye of being on edge 24/7 - in fact, she reminded me a lot of a stallion or "alpha mare" in the past because she always seemed to be looking for the next possible threat and always keeping tabs on everything.

She is much happier <3
She kinda just let it all go when we moved. She is curious about the going-ons, but they don't produce a high level of intense feelings and worry like they used to. I can't help but feel joy that this move has given her so much mental freedom and has eradicated a good portion of her previous anxiety and worry.

I was so concerned about moving to a smaller area, no access to a barn, no tack room (all my non-essential pony things are packed away (like winter blankets) and everything else is in my horse trailer which I am using as a tack/feed room), and no extensive land for the horses to roam that I was blown away by the changes it had on Annie (Spud could literally give two shits where he lives, haha).

Two besties, sharing some green.
It brings me so much happiness that she feels relaxed and comfortable and it really goes to show that sometimes a bigger barn or an all-amenities-included facility isn't what your horse needs. Of course, basic care and needs must still be met, but all the extra creature comforts are just that.... extras.

The narrative that is playing before me has shown me that all of these necessities people claim to need are just... not vital in the grand scheme of things. They're nice to have, of course, and they make life infinite times easier, but we're making do and the quality of life for one anxiety-ridden mare has been raised exponentially and I simply cannot ask for anything more than that. 

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Happy 1st Birthday, Maizey

Earlier this month (May 12th to be exact), Maizey and I celebrated her first birthday!

Happy Birthday, Moo <3
Despite the very fresh news of her ringbone diagnosis, I was bound and determined to not let it put a damper on my ownership or excitement of her first birthday. It was really shitty for a while (and it still is), but sitting in a slump does nothing for anyone. Might as well enjoy every little milestone we can, right?

This being said, I'm pretty pleased to write that Maizey hasn't been on Previcox since mid/end April. I tapered her down to a low dose, as per the veterinarian's recommendation, and began the process of weaning her completely off of it to see how she did.

For the most part, her soundness is pretty well intact. She flutters from about 80% to (dare I say) 100% sound, and from the videos I've sent to several friends, it seems to be the general consensus. Of course, soundness at this point does not indicate soundness for the future. So again, I'm guarded and cautiously optimistic.

She is living the hard life, clearly.
That's not to say she isn't without dietary support for her ringbone - I am a believer in achieving comfort through less harsh medicine and chemicals. Of course, there is a time and place for heavy duty drugs, but I also have to consider the fact Maizey is 12 months old and will require a lifetime of support. So, best to set the body up for success while I have a chance to.

Upon her diagnosis, I went to work immediately to source any kind of remedies, tonics, tinctures, cures (ha ha ha), and followed several stories from horse owners who also have youngsters with this terrible disease (and reached out to a few in the process). Armed with the knowledge of familiar stories and my own research, I started her on a Herbs for Horses supplement which has a lot of wonderful ingredients that will do wonders for joint support (especially for her "good" leg). It is packed with hyaluronic acid, chondroitin, collagen, herring oil, glucosamine, MSM and an antioxidant blend. It took her a while to accept the weird smelling powder, but she eats it quite readily now with her very tiny amount of mash.

Always and forever sun-tanning.
I also got suckered into purchasing a set of EQU SteamZ magnetic fetlock bands. I read a few studies they did on the bands and there seems to be positive reviews from hundreds of horse owners. I figured why not, I'll give it a try. So far I haven't found any negative issues with the bands, although the first time I put them on Maizey I just about died laughing as she attempted to figure out what the heck was on her legs!

She is also on holistic and homeopathic remedies, as Nicole's mom is a huge advocate of natural healing. She asked if she could give Maizey some remedies and I found no reason not to, so I'm learning about the other side of the coin. She is on a few different mixtures at the moment, but primarily has been on calc fluor, ruta and a few others I struggle to remember. Regardless, it's been a neat way to look at treating an issue and I'm learning a lot about homeopathic treatment from her mom.

(*Please note, in no way am I replacing veterinarian medical advice with magnets and MSM - there isn't really anything anyone can do until Maizey is older, so trying out a few different options is worthwhile to me. Sitting and "waiting" is something I have never been good at, so these things give me options, and give me hope. In addition, they are recommended by quite a few others I've talked to who also have young horses with ringbone. So we will see what it brings.)

Waking up is tough to do, even when it's your birthday!
All this being said - it's very much a waiting game. I remain cautiously optimistic and continue to enjoy working with Maizey as she learns about the world.

On her birthday, I gave her her very first bath - which she was slightly nervous about but OK enough that I was able to fully bathe her without it taking several hours. I had been practicing with the hose on her leg weeks prior, and she has been exposed to cold-hosing and soaking her hoof in a tub of water... so I'd say all her ailments prepped her quite well for bathing, haha!

All clean... for about 30 minutes.
As a sidenote, I'm loving how she's maturing!
As she dried off, she got to graze a bit and we did some in hand work which she was really good for. Once she was dry enough, we got some cute little photos (without the party hat because she had a meltdown with that on her poll... oops).

We've still been doing The Things like tying, leading, picking up our feet, etc and she's done really well. Last weekend Nicole and I went for a ride and she ponied Maizey while I ponied Spud. Annie got to see Maize for a short period, which was cute, although it took her a second to really remember her.

It seems like time is just flying - she was a teeny little baby not so long ago and now she's ginormous!

That being said, I'm looking forward to playing around with her a bit more this Summer and seeing how she matures. We're firmly into yearling territory, and I'm interested to see her personality continue to develop and how she handles meeting new things. We're going to be keeping it quite light this year, for obvious reasons (mostly bc she's a baby haha) and we'll reassess as the year goes on if I'm going to send her to pasture for a month or two. In speaking with the Vets, they cautioned me against sending her just yet, so she might have to wait until her two year old year to do that.

Either way, I'm happy to have her and whatever is best for her longevity and health.

Here is to many more years with my sweet, sensitive, and kind Moo-cow!

Happy Birthday, Moo <3

Friday, May 15, 2020

An Update - A Semi-Abridged Version


It's been a hot minute, blog-land.

In all the years I've been blogging, I think this has been my longest absence from the writing scene. And in a way, I am kind of glad for it. Not because I don't enjoy sharing my stories, or connecting with other like-minded individuals who are rooting for me and my horses no matter what, but mostly because I was (and kind of still am) in a very.... heavy state of mind.

This year has been a colossal fuck-sandwich for many people - COVID19 aside (but hey, why not add a world-wide pandemic to the list?). Lots of just really heavy stuff has been happening and it can be hard to break to the surface when so many things are pushing you down.

One pretty cool not terrible thing that happened is that
I rode Annie sans bridle for 95% of a hack on the last
day of March. So, that's pretty fuckin neat.
She hadn't been out in about... a week and a
half or so at that point and was a total doll.
In truth, I wish I could say that my radio silence gave me the opportunity to become well rested, more level headed and dare I say it... inspired? But no, it in fact decided to do the opposite - see just how much I could possibly bear and then throw a bit more fuel on the fire just to watch me run around in the flames.

I wish I was kidding even a little bit.

That being said, although I am still walking on hot coals, I'm still moving forwards and still pushing just as hard as I was in the beginning. Life doesn't stop and when it hands you giant curveballs, you just have to hit them away as best as you can and deal.

Trying to navigate through life can be a bit tricky
So for the last few months, I've been dealing.

Like most, my job was impacted by COVID19 and ever since the beginning of March, I was working from home. Unlike most impacted by COVID19, this was actually a blessing in disguise. Having the "freedom" (bc that is an oxymoron if I ever did hear one) to do what I needed to do in a day vs a scheduled set of hours in an office gave me the opportunity to get a lot of things done.

I last left off with the news that my horses needed to be relocated. And despite having two months to find a place, it took me several weeks to secure somewhere. And even then, we had to bustle hard to make the area liveable for the horses, as it was previously a vehicle/trailer storage area for the home-owner.

This was taken March 24th - the amount of snow leftover in
spots where the sun didn't yet reach was insane!
I watched nervously as the months of March and first few weeks of April passed by - the snow was melting at a glacial pace and we weren't able to do anything to the new place until mid-April. And just as we started to get things rolling, the home-owners father passed away. Without him home to move his equipment and help move items (since all of it was stuck in snow weeks previous), I spoke to my previous BO and asked for an extension for my horses, given the circumstances. With all the barns closed to non-boarders in the next town, I literally had nowhere to put my horses until we got things ready.

Thankfully, the BO was happy to extend and the following week, we got a jump-start on fencing, footing, and removing a lot of the old garbage back there as well as dead trees, etc. It took about 10 dump runs with the dump trailer, 3 dump-truck loads of gravel (which we need to coat with sand, as the gravel is a bit too rocky for my liking), 30 posts, 80 boards, hundreds of screws, several good friends, and in 3 days time, we had a liveable and safe space for my horses. We did the bulk of it on a Saturday and Sunday and the following 4 days I put up the electric, raked, pulled roots, spread gravel, etc.

A bit too much gravel - we'll be bringing sand in in the coming weeks.
The horses officially moved in just a last weekend (May 9) and they both settled in really well.

Oh wait.

I guess I have to back up.

If you caught onto it, the new place only has Annie and Spud living there for the time being.

Annie, waiting to go for a ride.

So where did Maizey go, might you ask?

On April 1st I got text from Nicole (who owns that cute paint that Spud loves) saying that their old QH gelding was not doing well. I knew he had something going on earlier in the week, but unfortunately, he declined at a rapid rate and that evening he was put to sleep. He lived a very long life - 31 full years! - and their remaining horse, AJ, was very upset about being alone. She asked if I would mind bringing Spud over (as Spud and AJ are good buddies), but the fencing at her parents place is not Spud-approved, so with some quick thinking I walked Maizey the 20 minutes over at 10pm with only my phone light as a guide.

Morning of April 2nd.
They get along quite well and since AJ needs a buddy until they find themselves another horse (which is also delayed because of COVID), Maizey is being "lent out" to provide that duty. I am happy to report that the whole family absolutely adores her and spoils her rotten, which brings me to my next update.

The day after I moved Maizey to Nicole's parents place, Nicole let me know she saw some swelling on Maizey's fetlock but it "felt weird". Upon investigation, I couldn't really determine what was wrong but she was mildly lame at the trot, the bump on her fetlock held a teeny bit of heat and it felt really, really hard. I cold-hosed and poulticed for three days, saw no improvement and called Suzie's old farrier to come take a look (as she is home from the States now due to COVID). We all agreed at that point, x-rays would be best, as no one could really pin-point or narrow down what it was.

I made an appointment with a vet clinic 3 hours away, and after specifying I needed x-rays, Nicole and AJ (for his own appointment and also so Maizey had a buddy) traveled out.

Vet trip #1.


They didn't have a fucking x-ray machine.

Not a horse one, anyways.

The vet attempted to (poorly) diagnose Maizey based off of 5 strides of trot on an uneven gravel roadway and told me, "Here are some antibiotics, I think it's an abscess that went to the joint. If she isn't sound by the end of it, she's probably never going to be sound."

I immediately started calling vets within a 3 hour radius of where we were because I was ready to just haul an extra 3 hours to see someone with a fucking x-ray machine. Of course tho, with COVID, a lot were reduced in staff and with it being a Saturday at 3pm on Easter weekend, most were closed and/or didn't have the x-ray tech in.


We headed back home, I started her on the antibiotics and pain meds and got to work calling around. I got a lot of "We're currently booked up and can't fit you in until next week, is that ok?" Except... erm... if its a joint infection don't you think I should be seen a bit sooner? I mean, I get it. I understand they are busy, but I am literally trying to plan to haul 6 hours and figure out what the fuck is going on.

Spud, at the new place, stuffing his face.
Which, is precisely what I was doing when I was
trying to get an appointment.
I called around some more, and after literally begging a vet clinic 6 hours away (who was actually closed to all non-essential appointments) to please just take a look at my horse, we had an appointment scheduled two days later.

At 5:30am we loaded back up and off to the vet clinic we went (the same one I took Suzie to when she was diagnosed with navicular and a hygroma/advanced arthritis in her knee). We arrived just after noon and after jogging her out, I handed Maizey off to the tech and they went inside to run their diagnostics while we waited outside the clinic.

With all the vets I had spoken to over the course of the weekend and sending photos/ videos, etc, we all had thought it was a bone bruise or even the weird migratory abscess the first vet diagnosed her with.

Unfortunately, that is not the diagnosis the vet had for us.

Well, that's a big fucking problem.
Maizey was diagnosed with advanced arthritis and high ringbone of the left fetlock. At first, I kind of just nodded along and managed to ask some of the right questions. However, when I asked about rideability the vet looked at me sympathetically and told me the prognosis for a riding life was, "Very poor."

I don't remember a lot of the verbal exchange from there, because my brain kind of shut off. I just kept thinking, "She isn't even one yet." And when the vet brought her out, the waterworks came. Me, Jamie, and Nicole all drove home in silence that day - none really sure what to say or what to do.

Maizey was beyond amazing for the trailer hauls and handled being at the vets all alone like a champ. She was her usual calm, quiet self and the vet had even commented how level-headed and wonderful to handle she was for a baby.

The vet did confirm that ringbone is highly unusual for a baby horse to have, and while it is not unheard of, it is odd. She sent Maizey's file off to a specialist and three days later, that vet called me to tell me that the cause of the ringbone was due to subchondral bone cysts in the fetlock region. Which, is doubly not good. I was advised against breeding her, for fear that the cysts may be genetic in some way.

Bad leg vs Good leg.
The cysts are the two open "holes" you can see near the bottom of the fetlock.
Comparing to the right leg, it does not have cysts.
I spent a good week or two going back and forth with the vets, trying to find out what can be done. We discussed everything and anything and then back again - surgery, pasture life, euthanasia, and new drugs.

Unfortunately, this is a situation where there is no right answer. There is no gaurantee any of it will work, and there is certainly no one size fits all approach here.

The specialist gave me a 60% chance of a light riding life (lessons, schooling shows, trail rides) and 40% chance of a performance career should I opt to do the fusion surgery. Which, in a perfect world I would jump at the chance just for that 60%.


It is a highly invasive surgery and the vets warned me that recovery is long, laborious, and some horses do not handle it well and end up having to be euthanized due to complications (whether that be infection or inability to handle being stalled).

And then there is a financial aspect. I don't have $10,000 sitting for a surgery that may not work and/or may kill her in the end.

We also talked about alcohol injections, but again, she is a bit too young for them and they do not have a high success rate.

The other options are drugs - which are great, but not so great to have a not even one year old baby on long-term. Both the vet we saw and the specialist agreed that long-term use of any "harder" drugs would be detrimental and both suggested I wait until her two year old year before going that route. For now, we have previcox for the bad days.

And the last option is to wait it out. The specialist said that there is a potential that her joint could fuse on it's own and she'd be good to go without any kind of surgery.

I spent a good few weeks feeling inadequate to own horses, feeling immoral for not electing to do the surgery, and for not just euthanizing her immediately. I mulled over rehoming her to a pasture home, but having had worked in the small animal rescue scene I know what sometimes can happen when you rehome your animals.

And I hate to sound so silly, but there is just something about her.

Something that screams "give me a chance".

And whether or not I'm blinded by rose-colored glasses, I've decided that I will do just that.

As the weeks rolled by after her appointment, I started to lower the doseage of Previcox as the Vet instructed to see what the lowest amount is she'd tolerate. I'm happy to report that she is actually no longer on Previcox, and hasn't been for a week and a half now. I reassess her every few days to see how she's feeling, but for the most part her lameness is very, very slight or non-existant (which is stark in comparison as to how she started out in April).

She's on some joint health supplements and I got suckered into purchasing some magnetic fetlock bands. The swelling has drastically reduced in the area and on more days than not, it is cool to the touch.

She is still learning baby horse things - just because she has a limitation does not mean she gets to be a wild child. We still take little hand walks, work on leading basics, tying, grooming, bathing (she had her first bath on her birthday!), and meeting new and "scary" things.

Looking so grown up and sporting her magnetic bands.
Of course, time will tell how things progress and at the end of the day, no one really knows how this all will shake out. We have a plan to recheck the joints next Spring to see which way we're headed and as always, Maizey will be a decider of her own fate. I will not push and cajole her to exist if she is in too much pain or is suffering - I will try as much as I can to make her comfortable, loved, and give her a chance at a normal and happy life, but I will not force it.

In writing this, I actually had to take several breaks because the entire situation still rocks me to my core. How unbelieveably unfair and cruel is life, that it has chosen my sweet filly to burden? I used to hold dear "everything happens for a reason" but after Ella passed, I have a hard time believing there is just reasoning for some things. Some things are just dark and cruel and there is no rhyme or reason why.

Regardless, I try hard to keep positive and remember that I am doing the best I can with what I have available and at the end of the day, Maizey is in a position where she will never not feel loved or cared for. How wonderful that she is in a loving, caring home where she doesn't have to worry about being mistreated, abused, or in crippling pain?

So yeah, that majorly fucking sucked.

But in better news - I've slowly been riding more and have worn my tall boots a total of twice (go me!). Annie has gotten a few schoolings under her belt (specifically, two lol), and despite being very out of shape and unbalanced, she's been a rockstar for it! We don't have any show or lesson plans this year - most of which are cancelled anyways - so the need for serious schooling is out the window and I honestly don't even mind.

The best blurry ears to be behind!
I haven't gotten Spud hooked back up to the cart in a few months, despite having driven him several times at the beginning of the year. His cart is still at our previous barn since I need two or more people to help lift the thing because it's heavier than heck - and I also need to find out where I can store it at the new place. Most of my tack/ hay/ first aid items, etc are all crammed in my little horse trailer. Which, I kind of thought was going to be a pain in the ass and come to find, it's actually super handy. Still tho, the cart won't fit in the trailer because of the center bar, so it'll take some creativity.

There are a few more things that need to be done at the new place, but for now it is a safe and secure spot and that's all that matters. It isn't fancy by any means, but it works and weirdly enough, Annie seems more at home there than at our previous barn - I had thought for sure she would be a pacey, sweaty mess (esp since there are horses right next door) but she is the exact opposite. I mean, not that I should complain!

He got a clip before moving to the new place - what a handsome potate!
So yeah, that's kind of the abridged version of the happenings here - we've been going full tilt at the lot recently and are getting lined up to build this summer so cross your fingers we don't run into any hiccups there.