Thursday, May 30, 2019


Here we are at the end of May.

I hit a breaking point with Sailor in mid-late April. He was acting out for the farrier, refusing to be caught, melting down in the cross-ties, and rearing in hand. We essentially hit a point of no return where he needed to get his sh*t together. I stumbled upon a piece of the puzzle by (almost) accident. I say almost because I was doing my monthly physical on him, so I was searching for answers about how his body was feeling. Yes, our epaxials and lumbars spasmed on palpation as usual. But like a pinball machine, every single ulcer point on this horse lit up.

He almost nailed me at Liv-13 on the right.
I did some digging- more away from traditional standard medicine and delved into holistic medicine and found... the cecum lives on the right. Now... where is Sailor lame? The right hind... right. Below. The. King. Of. The. Hindgut.

We're on week 5 of stomach and hindgut ulcer treatment. Sailor's coming around- he's easier to catch and handle, falling asleep during grooming, and we're slowly reintroducing carrot stretches, the mounting block, and the saddle. He's still ouchy on palpation, but we're working on massaging them out, and I've talked with an equine vet who will teach me how to do mesotherapy. I haven't decided if he's coming with me on the move to Pennsylvania in a month, but for now, he seems leery, but okay with what we're doing. Do I think he'll have a career? I don't know, I never know. I'm just happy he seems happier.

We fake cross tie again!

We're sampling (and maybe enjoying) new treats!

We're attempting to cuddle!

Candy scared the bejeesus out of me at the same time Sailor had his come apart. Candy had an episode of founder four days after he started Pergolide; one week after finally being officially diagnosed with Cushing's after years of testing. It's been a struggle with his weight since he's been retired. The barn manager and I had a "should we, should we not" conversation about muzzling 2 days before he foundered because his body condition was so lovely. Luckily, he's finally feeling much better (after blowing an abscess as well) and seems to be moving better than ever. There was a day where the light had dimmed from his eyes, and I was so scared it was time. We decided, "What the hell!" and took him out of the dry lot, put him (muzzled) back on pasture. Candy never looked back- turned out he was just mad to be away from his buddies for two days.

He threw a tantrum because there was a fence *BETWEEN* them.

Meanwhile... I'm moving up to Pennsylvania for a job in a month. I've found some places to lesson at, but haven't had luck with finding a boarding facility yet. I don't even know if I want to move the boys up. I'm considering moving Sailor up, taking 1-2 years to bring him along and see what he wants to do, but that's still money and time spent out of the saddle for me. Candy is a harder decision- I love him dearly, want him close, but... He's happy with his pasture mates and so content with them. Our grooming sessions have dwindled from 45 minutes to 20 because he wants to go back out to the field. I also haven't found pasture board; Candy wouldn't and won't be happy to spend his remaining days on stall board. It's a hard decision of who to bring, if I bring anyone at all. At the end of the day, I promise I'll do right by these kiddos, even if they're fickle, dramatic creatures.

- K & C & S

Friday, March 1, 2019

Making Peace

It's been more of the same since turning Sailor out. I had cautiously sketched out a plan to bring him back into rehab work in March after spending February doing positive reinforcement.

Well, February ended up being a nightmare month where maybe half of my days off were spent at home, asleep, and the other half of my days off were spent traveling, and working nights. It rained on the days I had energy to go out after work, sunny on the days I was too tired to go to the barn. I ended up going a little over 3 weeks without seeing the horses, which is the longest I haven't seen a horse since... ever? I've backslid in my riding abilities; I haven't sat on a horse in 4 weeks, haven't truly jumped since May 2017.

Finally managed to squeeze in a visit- after 2 months of turnout, no rehab, no riding. Just grooming and occasional "playing" with Sailor, his back. Still. Hurts. Over T17- the deformed problem vertebrae. At this stage, I may text his sports medicine vet one more time to see what else we can try, but I think Sailor will ultimately stay a pasture pet. Even then, I've been struggling with the internal debate of retirement for 20+ years, or euthanasia. I hate the idea of discomfort, but can't justify euthanizing Sailor, when Candy hobbles around the retirement farm. Candy is in more discomfort than Sailor, but Candy "earned" his retirement. Candy still plays and romps, don't get me wrong, and I know the number of autumns left for him are very much in the low single digits. It's difficult to justify "Yes, I need to euthanize Sailor, a horse I can technically afford, because his back hurts." when Candy is in more discomfort than he is. Because it feels selfish to consider euthanizing Sailor; I feel like I don't "owe" him a retirement. We tolerate each other, but there is no bond. I feel like every week I struggle with trying rehab again with Sailor versus letting sleeping dogs lie; do I Shockwave, mesotherapy, splurge on the custom saddle, buy a sheepskin pad? At some point, I'd like to have a real savings account, buy a horse trailer, save for a home, actually ride again and finally start showing consistently. If I keep throwing all my spare money and time into Sailor, I don't know that I'll ever obtain those things. If someone told me, your horse will be rideable with a $6K saddle, I would make those funds appear, but I won't spend another $6K on something that "may" fix a horse.

I'm sure every week my optimism or pessimism will change regarding my riding and Sailor; I haven't made peace with a decision for him yet only because I don't want any of them for him that isn't a happy career and a happy home. I don't want the 8 year old retired amongst late teens, early 20s; I don't want euthanasia for him if I can't prove constant discomfort worse than Candy's. I can provide the home, but I can't provide Sailor with the happy.

So for now, the boys will toodle on in retirement.

He is beautiful, isn't he?
This knobbly-kneed handsome beast

Monday, October 29, 2018

Autumn Relapse

The last few weeks have been frustrating and a little devastating for me.

Sailor's back began to relapse again. He was refusing to stand for the mounting block, irrationally spooky, and just tight over his back after the first cold snap. We took a week off from under saddle work, and lunged only, repeated Shockwave, bought a new (to us) Back on Track mesh sheet, and kept trying. Between working 12-14 hour shifts regularly and having to go to the barn 6 days a week, I was exhausted.

Last Tuesday, when I put on Sailor's surcingle, he turned and walked to the back corner of his stall. His eyes said, "I'm done.",  so I texted Candy's retirement farm and my current trainer. I'll move Sailor to the retirement farm December 1st. His Christmas present was supposed to be a stall card with the show name he never got to use for a stall he will no longer have.

I'm not sure yet what it means for us. I got in touch with an eventer who does 1* with a horse with KS that made the mare previously unrideable and she said 24/7 turnout was the biggest game changer for her horse. I plan on giving Sailor the winter and most of the spring off, then starting him back in the Pessoa or maybe an Equiband to see where we go. It's complicated though- I struggled and could not find a barn with pasture board near me when I moved here. I have a set list of non-negotiables: excellent care, an arena with lights, and no set barn hours because my job doesn't let me have flexibility in the traditional sense. If I end up leaving the area next year, it further complicates things- do I spend the money to move a horse only to move him back a few months later when he relapses yet again? Do I go through the same semi-retirement I went through with Candy only to retire him completely 1-2 years later?

Then there are my own goals. My goal of owning and showing a 1.10m horse before I start a family and truly settle down. My goal of showing on the A circuit, or at least regularly on a local circuit.

I'm trying not to worry about the future of Sailor and I's partnership and focus on the now, but it's hard when even the now is painful. I'm watching friends finish up show season, and having to come to terms with the fact that yet another show season has come and gone, and I am not a part of it. Sometimes, I get frustrated that I couldn't have just leased an uncomplicated serviceable school master, and instead went for owning flashy and athletic, and now have two retired horses to show for it. Horses, though, are never fair. Life is never fair.

I'm sure I'll have my show season some day. I'm sure one day I'll jump fences again on something other than a 2'6 lesson horse. That 1.10m goal is farther away than ever, but I have no doubt I'll reach it.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Don't Jinx It Now....

Well, we are about 6 weeks out from Sailor's last Shockwave treatment, and officially 10 weeks out from his diagnosis/injections and beginning physical therapy/rehab.

He jumped his first line of cross rails last week and was tickled pink! He's becoming incredibly adjustable, learning his simple changes, working on transitions on the lunge and under saddle, and has now learned how to canter on the lunge in his Pessoa with minimal meltdowns. Other boarders have commented to me about how happy and relaxed he's becoming.

He continues to stress me out, though- I wonder how he'll do with the cold temperatures on the way. I've begun the hunt for a Back On Track mesh sheet to see if that helps, and plan on keeping his routine of 5-6 days of work under saddle/in the Pessoa through the winter.

He's had a few "twinges" here and there, but overall, is now "green horse" naughty instead of "painful" naughty. His latest fun trick has been backing up to avoid work; he'll even back up nose to my boot and refuse to turn so that's been frustrating, especially since one of our arenas requires a short trek over and into it. He's also developed a panic button when he meanders too far back in the cross ties and startles himself (as in sits down, and slips out of his halter) when he hits the slack. I'm hoping he gets over these vices soon- I really think he would be benefit from hacking out more (mentally and physically), and so far I only trust him to "hack" on the lunge line in the Pessoa. Baby steps, I guess? I've had some offers to hack out together from boarders, but my schedule is so erratic it will be hard to coordinate.

Geese will murder him.

But still, he seems to be trending upwards; I'm worried the more I brag about him and his progress, the more I jinx it, and he'll break again.

Fingers crossed, he keeps doing well!

Meanwhile, Candy has been a champion as a confidence booster- one ride, and I remembered I DO know how to sit a buck.
Post-peppermint boy 
- K & C & S

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

When You Knew It All Along...

When Sailor's issues undersaddle started last October, I was scared- scared because I knew most likely what it was, and scared for what it meant for our future. I did saddle fittings, a new saddle, chiropractic work, hock injections. All because I knew it was ruling things out, and would be things I ultimately needed to continue after Sailor's diagnosis.

Back in May- I pointed out to my chiropractor his weird vertebrae. It was out of alignment; she put reduced it, and recommended working long and low to build his topline. If the vertebrae gave him no more trouble, we were good to go.

So that month, we started walking for 30 minutes a day 5-6 days a week, then the next week walking 10-15, trotting 10, walking 10-15. By the last week of June, we were walking for 10, trotting for 15, cantering both directions, and cooling out on the buckle out of the ring. I jumped him over 2 cross-rails. We took a lesson and he was the best he had ever been.

Then he fell apart again- never rearing or behavior like before, but inverted at the trot, defiant when asked to get round, tense and guarded at the walk. So I had the vet out again, who recommended this time we go to Hagyard's and get him worked up.

So we did. And the vet saw what had stumped us all- a sound horse with a great topline, mild back pain, decent saddle fit, but a horse with a switch: perfect on the lunge line one direction, dangerous in the other direction.

And on X-rays? Kissing spine everywhere.

So we've injected his back. Put him on a calming supplement. Started a Bute/Robaxin taper. Adding in Shockwave. Starting him in a Pessoa while re-teaching him how to lunge because he's become a rank creature. And hoping for the best. The diagnosis could not have come a worse time (but is there ever a good time?) with me having to leave town for 5 days in mid-July for a wedding, so I'll be limiting my merry-making so I can make the 45-60 minute commute back and forth daily to continue his PT.

The veterinarian thinks if we can get him under control, he can go back to being a 2'9"-3' horse. I think he will never be the 1.10m jumper I purchased him to be.

My goal now is to get him happy, comfortable, and trained to see where he will take me. I've always said that if he will not be a 1.10m horse, that's okay- but he needs a job, especially while I have Candy in retirement.

 I'm not optimistic, and I see retirement or euthanasia-if the pain gets too bad- in his near future, and it breaks my heart since this little peanut means the world to me.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Learn As You Go

Slowly but surely, Sailor and I are having little breakthroughs each day...

1. He does, in fact, know how to be a gentleman at the walk, trot, canter.

2. Trying to ride a green OTTB in the outdoor for the first time in months on a brisk windy day when they've just introduced a new horse to the herd in the field behind the outdoor ring after he's had 5 days off is not a good idea. Lunging your horse and doing a victory lap at the walk around the outdoor? Better idea.

3. Don't look where you want your green OTTB to spook. Look where you want to go.

4. You will never EVER spook at the same things your horse spooks at.

5. You better start doing Pilates. Sailor is doing horse Pilates, you are a sack of potatoes.

6. Invest in bell boots.

7. You will never be financially stable between student loans and having horses. Hopefully, eventually, you will be "ok" until Sailor is able to leave the property. This will only happen when he manages to keep both shoes on and stops destroying Italian bell boots.

8. Those dreams of doing ROOTDs? See above.

9. He is stinkin' cute, and almost makes you not regret your life choices.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

New Year, New Me

New saddle, new hocks, new turnout, new... horse?

To start from the beginning-

October- Sailor began rearing and bucking with me and acting rank.

November- Sailor was spooky, and jittery; he bucked so hard after a lesson over fences I had lower back pain for a week, and I refused to keep jumping him. Called the chiro out and gave him 3 weeks off. Had a saddle fitter out, tried a few saddles, and saw some improvement. He was rude with the pro; bucking and kicking out under saddle.

December- bought a new saddle, but was literally too afraid to sit on him for more than 15 minutes to try it. We started doing carrot stretches and I massaged him myself 3 times a week. Sailor discovers soft peppermints are his *favorite* thing in the world.

January-He started bucking and striking on the lunge, so I finally called out a lameness vet and injected his hocks. Added Cosequin and magnesium to his SmartPaks.

3 pro rides- "He's been the most boring horse to ride. He's so quiet."

1 lesson, and 1 flat ride later... He's been "himself", floppy ears, putzing around, and just... playful.

The new saddle

A snowy boy!

On the other pets- Candy is cruising along- happy as can be with the cold temperatures! Wilbur had a relapse of pneumonia, and Lila may have ovarian cysts we need to deal with.

Now to pick what Sailor will do as a big boy.

- K & C & S