Wednesday, December 29, 2021

The Spring and Summer

Well, it's been an absolute minute since I last blogged. It kind of makes me sad in one way, but it also has been weirdly cathartic to not feel pressured to write or share more private and intimate details about mine and my horse's life. 

Not that I don't enjoy writing or sharing, but it has been hard to stay motivated and part of me did not want to open myself up to judgement or criticism. Truth be told, I still don't know where the cards will fall with a lot of things and for a long time felt like I was suspended over a large ravine, clinging to the edge of a rock face with aching fingers... just hoping and praying to get some kind of traction to pull myself up and back onto flat ground again. 

It hasn't been all bad, though, because I have been chugging along with things and am trying to keep a level of indifference to things, as I know that stressing over something to the point of physical exhaustion is not productive or conducive. I mean, I do get pulled into the game of "I'm not doing enough", "I don't deserve these animals", "I'm a terrible owner", but I also remind myself I am quite literally doing everything I can to advocate for them and ensure their health and safety first and foremost.

Regardless of all of those... feelings... I figured it was time to do an update of sorts and while a lot has changed, a lot has stayed the same. We last left off sending Maizey to pasture which was a blessing and a curse all in one and somehow was one of the best and worst decisions I've made in a while (which, we'll get to that). 

Still, things had been moving forwards and the month of May came with sending Maizey off to "big kid pasture" and the unintentional purchase of a new-to-me trailer. It was one of those situations where you couldn't look a gift horse in the mouth because it just played out ever so poetically that even though I attempted to reel myself in and say I didn't need a new trailer, it just kind of... was too good of a deal too close to home to pass up.

And so, I somehow found myself bringing a 3 horse trailer home in the middle of attending a canine behavioural clinic. 


I did end up selling my little straight haul (a few months after purchasing my "new" trailer) that the SO and I refurbished five years ago after doing some touch ups and I was able to offset a majority of the costs spent on the "new to me" trailer. Which, heck ya I'll take that. I definitely shed a few tears as it pulled out of the driveway for the very last time - that trailer has seen so much and was one of my prized possessions. 

The very last picture with her <3

But I'm getting ahead of myself again...

Where was I? Oh, right... 

The month of May closed out with battling off and on flairs with Annie, who continued to baffle me with her inconsistent symptoms. I tried a variety of different medication (and at the time of first drafting this post, had just finished trialing yet another with zero success) and have tried to track her symptoms with borderline obsession with absolutely zero trend... It has been quite frustrating to have an inconsistent horse and no real conclusive or definitive answers to be seen. I remained optimistic for our Vet appointment in July though, and held hope that the allergy testing would at least reveal what her sensitives were so I could eliminate or start to manage them.

Admittedly, I didn't ride much this Summer. Annie fluctuated daily and some rides would be symptom-free outings where I could walk, trot and canter to my hearts delight. Other days, the prospect of even trotting would be met with several deep coughs. And so, on those days, I would simply come back to a walk and that's where we'd work. 

The Summer was.... tough.

And actually, I haven't schooled the mare since early Spring when she was feeling good. My desire to play in the sandbox currently mirrors the light of a dull flame most days, as I feel as though any schooling goals do not align with my current level of horsemanship. Her comfort and wellbeing will always be first and foremost, and with a pending vet appointment looming near the end of July to hopefully give us more answers, I saw no reason to push her for absolutely zero reason.

As June approached, I started taking Spud out for more drives and visited Maizey a handful of times. Things seemed to be pretty good and despite losing some weight initially, she seemed to fill back out as she stayed out on grass and learned the ins and outs of being a pasture-pony. The herd her and AJ were put out with were finally becoming more accepting and I was pleased to see she retained a good level of soundness as the month progressed.

I started hiking more - taking advantage of "less" horsey time and more "me" time, which was well needed. I still got the horses out for scheduled exercise but it was much less structured and still largely is. Some days we toodle, some days we stretch, and some days we walk in a frame and leg-yield like we know what we're doing.

The end of June brought a massive heatwave and with that came the first cut of hay for the year. Since Moo is boarded at a friend's barn and they only feed square bales, we got quite the work out loading 400 bales into the loft. We headed out around 4pm and called it quits around 1:30 in the morning - the humidity and heat was just killer and I distinctly remember looking at the clock and wincing when it read it was still in the high 20Cs (70F+). While some areas of the country are made for that kind of heat, we just AREN'T.

We regrouped the next day around 9am to offload the rest of the hay and finished around noon, which I was incredibly thankful to have that whole adventure behind us. The remainder of my hay will be roundbales which do not require the same level of handling and physical exertion, which brings me much happiness and relief. 

The things we do for our horses.

Regardless of the heat wave, I still got out to play pony and made my biweekly trip to the fairgrounds to let Annie and Spud loose to kick it into fifth gear, play, and buck and roll. They always seem so appreciative of the extra space to kick up their heels and truthfully, I am glad they are located closer to the grounds now so that I can give them that freedom. While their "new" boarding situation is much smaller than the previous one, it is spacious enough to allow some theatrics. Although, neither area (current and previous) would allow for Seabiscuit rehearsals, so the ability to turn them out at the public grounds is a good option.

Following a good visit with Maizey near mid-July I received a slurry of text messages in the middle of the night that some of the horses had gotten out, followed by a redaction that all the horses were in the pasture and not to worry. Upon waking up and reading this, I contacted the barn owner and we chatted for a bit before she realized that AJ had gotten loose on the property mid-morning and it Maizey was actually injured and had sustained a variety of cuts to all four of her legs, chest, and all up her thighs.

That's an unhappy leg, even post-wrapping.

There was a lot of back and forth, as the BO could not determine where the horses were getting out (as two others had made their way onto the wrong side of the property not long after she had put AJ back) and the message she had received the night before about a horse loose on her road became less impossible. Essentially, a concerned passerbyer had posted on social media that there was a loose horse on the road but when the BO went to check, all the horses were accounted for (albeit an hour later than the social media post). The following morning, one horse was out in front of the house and upon returning him to the pasture, two others had somehow gotten out as well.

I'm still not really sure what happened, and I'm not sure we will ever know but it didn't take me very long to decide that I was hitching up the horse trailer and bringing not only Maizey, but AJ home. What had initially seemed like a one-off was now turning into a safety issue, as the BO frantically stated AJ had gotten loose yet again and she had no one to assist her in repairing fences, as her husband was away on business. 

What we assume happened was once AJ got loose, Maizey attempted to join him and got absolutely cut up by barbed wire in the back 40. Thankfully all of her injuries were superficial in nature and despite being clearly sore and moderately lame, it did not appear as though she would need any significant intervention. The BO, the sweet lady that she is, apologized profusely and once she was able to contain all the horses, had messaged me that they found a rotten tree had fallen and taken out 30 feet of fencing in one of the back pastures. 

I still am not 100% sure on what happened and I don't think we will ever really know. I just know that horses are stupid and even with 180 acres to roam, they'll take the first opportunity they can get to exit stage left when they so have the chance.

It took four days to subdue the swelling that Maizey's hind right canon sustained and despite being fidgety (every single time I attempted to wrap her legs, she'd lift her leg, thinking I had wanted to see her hoof. No baby Moo, I need you to stand still) she was a pretty good girl. 

With that over and done with, I was able to shift my attention back to Annie, who waffled between flairing and not, especially during the heatwaves. Her symptoms still continue to be coughing and mucus production, although the mucus has been few and far between this year compared to last. 

The SO and I headed out mid-July for a Vet appointment and hauled 6+ hours for both Annie and Maizey to be seen. We opted to make it a bit of a trip (what kind of sick person takes a vacation for their horses vet appointments??.... me... that's who) and it was kind of nice to be out of town and enjoy ourselves. 

Moo took advantage of the tossed hay to make
herself a bed and have a nap each and every day.

The vet trip went about as well as it could have gone, I guess. The vet was very adamant that allergy testing was not "good enough" and that it is quite inconsistent. I had a hard time convincing her that this was the right test for my mare, and despite her begrudgement, she pulled blood and sent it off (but not before reminding me to "not expect much"). To her credit, I can understand and appreciate that the entire basis of allergy testing in horses remains a bit of a mystery at best. However, as more reputable and thorough studies (because the one I just linked is... mediocre at best) come to light, I imagine that the ideology behind blood test-based allergy tests will go by the way-side. Of course, intradermal testing is the best way to go (but not always possible depending on location). Anyways, I could write an entire tirade about the whole situation because it really left me defeated, but I'm trying my best to not let myself get pulled into that line of thinking. 

The test results for Annie came back nearly a week later and the first thing the vet said was that she warned me that testing was inaccurate and the results did not make sense. Which, fair enough I suppose. The two allergens that Annie showed reactivity to did not make sense, considering we don't even have any of the one (cockroaches) in the Northwest wilderness here. What followed was the basic conversation I have had with several other vets, "She has heaves - you have to manage it, here is more dex."

I don't want dex. 

I want my horse back.

You can see the two allergens depicted near the bottom of 
the page - this was page 3 of 5 allergens. All the remaining
allergens were pretty similar in "severity".

And while yes, what she warned me about appeared to come to fruition (because of course it did), she also stated that had Annie shown reactivity to items that made sense that she would not be able to offer us immunotherapy unless we were to trailer to the clinic to receive the injections. Which, okay... but you're 6 hours away and the only other vet close to us is 3 hours away. I'm not going to trailer my mare 3+ hours to get a shot every 2-3 weeks.

So, it was kind of a bust for Annie. 

I laid there and licked my wounds for a few days in defeat before sharing my results on several of the COPD groups I'm a part of. Several people were quick to respond, urging me to retest, as out of the hundreds of people I've seen share the results of their test, none have had the puzzling results I have had. (Quick note, the lab that was used is NOT one that people typically recommend for allergy testing. So... good to know).

It took a few weeks but I managed to book Annie in with another vet to be allergy tested with the blood being sent to a different lab for the Fall. (At this point I'm basically funding several vets' family vacations).

The Million Dollar Mare.

Maizey's updated radiographs were about as good as can be expected - she's attained a lot of arthritis in the area (surprise surprise) and despite how her radiographs look, the vet couldn't help but say good things about her level of soundness. Of course, since that appointment it waffled and weaved as I knew it would. 

Still, we hold onto the here and now and I've slowly been playing around with ground-driving and continued sacking out, although my motivation-meter is quite low. I don't think it'll make much of a difference in Moo, though, as she is relatively unbothered by most things (unless that thing is a tarp. No tarps please).

And just as August came into bloom, I started to play with Spud more and more and noticed some inconsistencies with him as well. There was some issues with his recovery times in harness, although I chalked most of it up to fitness-related issues and since I wasn't riding much, it seemed very plausible. Of course, that didn't stop me from obsessively checking him over, trying out a few breathing treatments and beginning to track how he felt in harness. 

The bestest boy.

I had anticipated to take him to the BVX at the end of August, but something just felt off and when the entry due date dawned ever closer, I made the decision to not only not enter any of my horses, but to not attend.

This would be the first year Show Buddy and I would not attend the BVX together in a very, very long time. There were a lot of tears shed and I rooted for her from my work desk - a very different scene from the past several years where either her or I would be ringside. It was absolutely bittersweet, but something just felt off about the whole thing and looking at how the following months unfolded, I am glad I didn't push Spud (or myself) to go.

So that's where I have been for a majority of the Spring and Summer - slogging my way through very frustrating and diagnostically impossible ailments in not one, but two of my horses. It's been a heck of a trip the last few years and I can feel it in my bones that I am nearing the end of the pages full of sadness, frustration, resentment and heartbreak because I am ready to start a new book with my herd and we are well on our way.

Stay tuned for a second, certainly more positive update.