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Canter departs

Canter departs

Thirteen years ago, my horse somersaulted and landed on me when we were cantering during a riding lesson. I don’t remember what happened exactly. We were cantering down the long side at the end of the lesson and she felt magnificent: strong impulsion, light in my hands, and then something. The world spun and I slammed into the dirt face down between her legs. She kicked once with her back legs and hit my helmet on the temple. She looked around at me like “What are you doing there?” My right leg was underneath her body below the girth and still in the stirrup on the other side.

Isis’ canter had huge impulsion: every push-off with her back legs in a canter stride felt like someone shoving me. My core muscles would burn after riding that stride one time around the ring. It wasn’t a rocking chair, more like a rocket chair. All of her gaits were like that: splendid to look at but challenging to sit.

Except when she started tripping. She would fall to her knees sometimes, or other times it was like she couldn’t recover her movement and her legs wouldn’t cooperate. We would be trotting, and I’d feel her back leg give out like she had missed a step or her foot had landed in a hole. Dip, step, and keep moving.

After that accident, every ride on Isis was slightly terrifying. The once-desired feeling of cantering now posed a block, like a shut door locked by a traumatic event. She would trip multiple times during a ride. Isis shifted her weight when I mounted, planting her feet to stabilize herself. We walked, her gait felt steady, until it wasn’t. The ground suddenly got closer as she fell to her knees then pulled herself back up and started walking again. Even footfalls most of the way around the ring, except in the back corner where one step on her back left missed a beat. My hips dipped to the right with her misstep and recovery. We resumed walking. Every ride had episodes like this. 

My friends told me I shouldn’t ride her.  What if that horse has a metabolic disorder and has to be ridden or exercised in order to keep her medical issues under control? My hands shook after every ride. I was anxious before I would get on and anxious afterwards.

Isis died in 2011 but this part of our riding still lingers with me. I still tighten my core and my legs far more than I should. My hands still get sweaty when I think about cantering. 

There is no physical reason for me to be nervous about cantering Kasane. Kasane does not trip. She’s steady in her gaits and strong in her movement. No neurological issues. She’s light and willing to try things (and avoid doing what I ask, but that’s a training issue we’re working on). 

I ask her to canter and I lean forward like I’m off to the races. I should be sitting back and visualizing lifting into the canter with the lightest of aids. When I do that, Kasane does a canter depart and canters with a silky smooth stride. She’s wonderful and relaxed and reaching — when I am relaxed. 

Except most of the time I’m not. My legs are tight, my butt is tense, and she can feel all of that through the saddle. Her gait gets tighter and more like a pogo-stick with bounce instead of reach. 

And when I do relax, her gait is so easy to sit. It is a joy and a wonder to have the opportunity to even work on her canter after a year of not knowing if we would be able to continue riding after rehab last year. 

We’ve made huge progress, the Bay Wonder Mare Jr and I. We’re a team. She’s schooling First Level at home with shoulder-in, leg yields, and haunches in (still working on this). She is doing trot extensions with impulsion that make me laugh with delight. 

One last canter depart to fully let Isis and the anxiety of “what-ifs” go so my girl and I can enjoy her rocking-horse (and not rocket-horse) gait. 

Kasane post-rehab

Kasane post-rehab

Kasane’s slow rehabilitation from her suspensory ligament injury made last year feel longer than almost any other year. Doing the rehab itself wasn’t hard. It just took dedicated time every week. No excuses (well, except for weather — can’t do much walking or riding in the rain without a covered arena).

The hardest part was trying to remain positive when the odds were not in my favor. My vet had warned me that 60-65% of horses with Kasane’s injury do not return to the level of work they were at prior to the injury. I did everything I could to help her. We did shockwave treatments on the ligament, osphos injection to help bone regrowth, regular massages, and her regular rehab walks, and later rides.

But I was worried and trying not to worry. I tried so hard to remain positive that things would be okay. That I would be happy to have her in my life even if all we were able to do were periodic trail rides and not do any more dressage. She’s an amazing, fun mare and I am delighted to have time with her.

I just wanted her to be okay. She was so bored in her confined, small quarters. She eventually graduated from a stall to a narrow 20 foot run in one of the paddocks with a stall. She quickly figured out how to walk through the fence to get to the limited grass on the other side of the paddock. She rubbed off a foot long section of her lovely mane from putting her head through the fence to reach grass.

She was a trooper. She’s amazing and lovely and weathered all of this with so much more grace than I did.

I felt like I was letting her down because I couldn’t make it right for her. We had to have the perseverance to make it through a year or more of rehab. Nothing would come back fast, but with determination, we could see what we could do.

We were able to start riding again in May of last year. And that was wonderful. Just to be able to ride for 10-15 minutes at the walk. Eventually, that progressed to adding in some trot, and a few months later, a little canter. I was doing the rehab as required but it took the joy out of riding. I was riding because I had to in order to help her but that worry of would it be enough sucked the joy out of it.
Kasane's nose
Investing all of this time in Kasane has resulted in some positive changes. She carries herself on her haunches more, instead of pulling herself along on her front end. Her SI joint area no longer hurts so she can use herself.

Back in October, when my vet suggested adding in more canter work, I realized I had hit the end of what I knew how to do. Kasane and I started back into dressage lessons to have more of a focused plan on helping her with my riding. I’m a reasonable rider and I’ve dealt with rehab cases before (tendon sprains and laminitis), but nothing like this.

And those lessons brought everything together. Kasane had been swapping out behind at the canter, so we had homework to help her lateral movement by learning how to do leg yields as they are done in a First Level dressage test. Instead of just moving off of my leg, Kasane and I had to keep her straight or slightly bent while asking her to move over. That movement meant she would reach underneath herself with her legs when moving over.

When we were first working on leg yields, I carried a dressage whip to be able to tap her by my leg. She was indignant that I had the whip and became elevated in her movement. She rocked back and started using herself in a way I had never felt before. She felt up — but not like she was going to bolt. It’s like feeling coiled energy gathered and managed. My instructor said she had never seen Kasane move like that — and that she looked like a completely different species.

And then it hit me. We were working at a higher level in our lessons than we had been prior to the injury. All of this work meant that my little mare who used to move like a nice hunter was now moving like a dressage horse.

We had made it into the 30-35% from the rehab work. Instead of being just a trail horse, I now have a performance horse who feels better everywhere so she can use herself.

It’s taken me a while, but I’ve realized that there is so much joy in just having her with me. I’ve started laughing again when I ride instead of grimacing.

We’ve even been cleared to go back to showing, with an understanding that we have to work up to things. Kasane will probably always be slightly lame on the lunge line (so no lunging). No small circles, so we would have to be very careful of the First Degree dressage tests with the 15-meter canter circles. We might never get to take that test in a show, but that’s okay.

The 15+ months of hard work has paid off. We’ve addressed a lot of issues that she had and she is much more comfortable in herself.

My girl and I are back. We’re a team again. I want to go to the barn and ride now –it’s not something that I *have* to do because the vet said. It’s something that I want to do because it is fun (again) and she is amazing.

I feel like she has a future now. Before, I felt like I was waiting on a pronouncement of doom. When doing a rehab like this, you have to take things one day at a time. You have to try and not focus on what might or might not happen, because you just don’t know. It took realizing that she was performing at a higher level now than before the injury for me to realize where we were in those recovery percentages.

And then it was like the weight of the world was lifted and I could find joy again in riding.

Kasane knew that I had been upset. She wasn’t always happy to see me because I wasn’t happy in riding. I was doing what had to be done. Our relationship suffered.

Now that my attitude has changed and I’m seeing the joy again, she’s nickering at me when I come to the fence. She walks over to me again (instead of looking up, and insisting that I come get her in the field).

We’re going to learn as much as we can. It might be a smattering of things from different levels. That’s okay. We are going to have grand adventures again.

Returning to writing and riding

Returning to writing and riding

I finally feel like I have enough energy to start writing and riding for fun again. Kasane’s rehab took the majority of my energy last year. On top of that, things at my old position became…less than optimal. While I enjoyed everyone I worked with, the last reorganization ended up in my position changing from what I loved to something intensely frustrating. I did what I could from within the position to work with it, but there are times when you can’t correct the context then you have to remove yourself from it. So I did.

I started a new job in November writing about OpenStack at Red Hat. It has been such an eye-opener finally being in a business culture that fits my own outlook. (Yay for Open Culture!) I’m working on a team of talented, intensely geeky writers (my people!). The technology is fun, if somewhat daunting to learn. Drinking from the firehose metaphor is very appropriate.

After being in my position three weeks, I was asked if I like to travel. Yup, sure do. They sent me to a team meeting in Israel! I still have to write up that trip. It was amazing. Best of all, I got to meet our team members that I’ll be working with face to face instead of just on the usual video conferences.

It’s been a topsy-turvy year, but ultimately it ended up fantastic because of Kasane’s recovery and return to work and my new job.

I’ve been feeling pretty blessed this year after so many months of worry and stress, both equine and professional.

Long, slow summer of the Mares

Long, slow summer of the Mares

It’s been a long, slow summer. For the past few weeks, I’ve felt like I was holding my breath waiting for Kasane to reinjure herself. She hasn’t. But she might try, like the times she put her back feet through the stall wall and almost needed stitches. (She demolished that wall when she rolled in the stall and got cast.)

I’ve had three mares to work with: Kasane’s rehab cycle (3-5 rides per week on a regimented time frame), Breezy (my new two-year-old filly), and Sahra (Mom’s 16-year-old broodmare). Kasane is always my first priority, with Breezy next and then Sahra.

Breezy in stall
Breezy looking over the stall door

I started Sahra under saddle in December. We’ve had some very good rides but it’s hard to be consistent with the time she needs right now. The good thing is that she lets me ride her and remembers things between sessions. Her retention is excellent — as is her pushing back to see if you really want her to do something. She’s at a place in her training where she could be sent to a professional trainer and be finished anyway Mom wants. Sahra is doing solid walk and trot, mostly in a bitless bridle, but she understands the bit well enough. She’s good with me mounting from the ground or a block. We’ve done a few trail rides. She tolerates a lot (unless you push her too much, and then she pushes back, but a quick discussion and you work through it). She likes being worked.

Breezy and Sahra
Sahra and her granddaughter, Breezy

Mom is going to take Sahra to her farm soon. I’m hoping that she’ll be able to continue Sahra’s training in the spring. Sahra would be such a pretty driving horse, too.

Lack of posts and injury worries

Lack of posts and injury worries

Let’s say that you have a pool of energy to draw from to complete all of your daily tasks. Having a certain level of stress or worry is like having a small leak in that bucket so some things — like writing more blog posts — don’t happen as often.

Kasane’s treatment for her proximal suspensory injury has been worrying me a lot. It is all a waiting game. Maybe she will heal and return to a normal level of work, or she may not. The injury may never heal properly. Either way, we’ll still be able to do stuff (just what “stuff” is, depends).

This injury happened right when we were at the cusp of going to our first show. We were making great progress and then thing started not quite feeling right when we rode. Even some of the people at the barn didn’t see Kasane being off the way I did.

I lost so much riding time and momentum on Isis because of her medical issues. Kasane wasn’t supposed to go through those same kinds of things. Isis had laminitis concurrent with a sprained tendon two years in a row — we effectively lost almost three years because of those injuries. And then the colic surgery, EPM, and all of the repercussions of her metabolic syndrome issues. I didn’t breed Isis because I didn’t want to put a foal through what she had gone through.

I am trying to keep a positive attitude. I’m doing everything I can to help her, within reason. Yay for medical insurance that helps reimburse about 50% of the costs of covered procedures. We have a 40% chance of returning to the level of work we were at prior to the injury. Hopefully, we’ll increase those odds by doing everything that we can to help support Kasane during her healing and after.

Some days the weight and worry of what might or might not happen to her feels overwhelming. It’s hard to stay positive when you want so badly for everything to just be okay with her.

Proximal Suspensory Injury for Kasane

Proximal Suspensory Injury for Kasane

For the past few months, I couldn’t bring myself to post here about Kasane. Her injury on her front right leg is serious and more complicated than we originally thought. It wasn’t just her front right fetlock that had arthritis, there were other things going on that had been highlighted in the bone scan done in early December.

Because the joint injection did not completely resolve Kasane’s lameness, the vets did additional investigation. The next step after the bone scan was either to do an MRI (ouch! expensive!) or to use that money towards treatment. I chose the latter.

The diagnosis for her front right leg turned out to be an injury to the proximal suspensory ligament where it attaches to the canon bone. Recovery time is 8-12 months, with the first month or two in stall rest followed by small paddock turnout. She has to be ridden or walked for 15-20 minutes 3-5 times per week.

The prognosis for horses with this type of injury is not good: 60-65% of horses with similar injuries do not return to the level of work they were in prior to the injury.

This all happened back in late December and early January. Initially, I was stunned. It felt like every time the vet came out, there was no improvement in Kasane’s condition. I hate it for her. She is so good with everything. So patient and trusting and I’m putting her through all of these tests and she does it. We were getting ready for a horse show just before this injury happened. We were riding so well — the most advanced stuff I’d ever ridden. It was amazing. It felt like we were on the brink of being able to do anything. And then this. And no idea if I’d get my girl back in full form or if we would be resigned to trail rides at the walk.

Worrying over what might or might not happen wasn’t going to help her. I couldn’t do anything except on focus on what I could to improve her chances so hopefully she will be one of the 35-40%.

I wanted to do something to help address the whole body issues, like her sacroiliac (SI) joint in her back. (The chiropractor was unable to complete an adjustment on Kasane’s back because she was in so much pain.) We added a few more treatments to the mix to try and help her. One of the ladies at my barn is an equine bodywork specialist. She uses massage and acupressure to help treat horses. I’d seen the good results she had with another boarder’s horse, so I was willing to give her a try. Kasane has weekly bodywork sessions. She’s also on a Devil’s Claw and Yucca supplement to help with pain management.

The vet suggested using shockwave treatment and Osphos (helps repair bone damage) to help her healing. We did the shockwave treatment first, with three treatments three weeks apart. Her lameness improved from a 1.5 (on a scale of 0-5, with 5 being the worst) to a .5-1. Minor improvement, but I’ll take it! These treatments finished up mid-March.

Next, Kasane had the Osphos injection in early April. Osphos has some potential side effects, like colic, so I wasn’t excited about putting her through it. I stayed with her for two hours to keep an eye on her. My good trooper thankfully didn’t have any side effects from it.

Our next checkup with the vet is May 10th. I am really hoping that the improvement continues. Of course, other things have happened that might impact that, but more on that in another post.

Kasane 1, Stall Wall 0

Kasane 1, Stall Wall 0

Just as I walked into the barn today, Kasane managed to get cast against the stall wall. Seriously cast—as in, she couldn’t push herself away from the wall to get up. She was on her left side against the stall wall partition with her front legs tucked underneath her. She kicked out with her back legs—and took out most of the boards in the stall wall.

She managed to cut up her back legs, thankfully most of them were only surface cuts. The worst one was the three inch cut cut high on the inside of her back right leg. It looked like it might need stitches.

The other two long cuts were on either side of her back left on both sides of the cannon bone. These were not major, just fur scraped off in six inch stripes.

The vet came out for an emergency vet call. No stitches needed on the deep cut and no residual splinters from the wall either. The cuts has to be washed several times per day with Vetricyn. The deeper wound has to be treated with triple antibiotic ointment. She’ll be on antibiotics for five days.

I’m glad it turned out to be nothing serious. But darn. If it isn’t one thing, it’s something else.

Joint injection worked for Kasane

Joint injection worked for Kasane

When Kasane was at the vet hospital earlier this month, the diagnostic tests indicated that she had issues in her front right fetlock, sacroiliac (SI) joint in her back, front left foot, and one of her hocks. The vet said to wait two weeks and then check her for soundness. That check was today and I am so happy to report that she looks much better. There is still a slight head bob with her front right, but it’s so much better than it was.

My vet was very optimistic about the video and wants me to start riding Kasane again with a two-week rehabilitation plan. Yay! We’re going to start with 15 minutes of walk. Every third day, we’ll add another 5 minutes, up to 30 minutes of walking. At 30 minutes of walking, we’ll add in 5 minutes of trotting.

I’m going to keep an eye on Kasane and will take a video periodically to check her progress.

Sick mare, of course

Sick mare, of course

What happens whenever you go to the hospital? You come home with a cold. It appears that Kasane may have done just that. On Saturday, I found a great wad of yellow snot on the wall of Kasane’s stall. She hadn’t been in the stall that long, so I thought maybe someone else had used her stall.

Nope. No such luck. Today, the barn called and said that Kasane had white snot in both nostrils. She’s been eating and drinking okay. She seems to be acting normal. She greeted me and was happy to have her apple on Sunday when I was at the barn. No change in attitude that indicates she is not feeling well.

We’re going to take her temperature tonight and see how she is when she comes in for dinner. Poor girl can’t get ahead. If she has a fever (and depending upon it’s severity), then we’ll give her a bute (horse aspirin) and call the vet in the morning.

Update: No fever tonight! Her temp was 99.4F, which is perfectly normal.

Test results for Kasane

Test results for Kasane

The bone scan showed that Kasane has issues in her front right fetlock, ilial sacral joint, back left hock, and in her neck. The vet did some additional tests by repeating two of the nerve blocks. The low four-point nerve block (which blocks the fetlock joint) almost completely resolved her lameness issue. Some lameness was still present, but it was greatly reduced.

The radiographs of her fetlock showed a boney spot on the point where one of the ligaments comes into the joint. The ligament was slightly irritated. There were also signs of degenerative joint disease (arthritis), which may or may not be related to her lameness. An ultrasound of her leg showed no problems with the suspensory tendon (yay!).

The next step would have been either to wait a week and then do a nerve block of the fetlock joint proper (which involves waiting a week and then a joint injection for the nerve block) or to go ahead and treat the joint with an injection of HA and steroids. I opted for the latter since there seemed to be enough evidence pointing to the fetlock joint as a potential issue.

Her discharge papers say to wait 5-7 days before checking her lameness. When we were leaving the vet school, the vet said to wait two weeks before we’d see full results. So. I’m going to wait two weeks before checking her for lameness. I don’t want to get my hopes up. I have a feeling we’re in this for the long haul.

Radioactive mare

Radioactive mare

The vet called me this morning from the vet school with an update on Kasane. She is doing well and has been getting the radioactive substance via IV. Everyone loves her because she is so well behaved and sweet. Proud of my girl.

I went to the vet school to see her during lunch. I missed her by the amount of time it took for me to return to the car to put the parking permit in the dash and come back. Her stall was empty and roped off with radioactive warnings.

Bone scan for Kasane

Bone scan for Kasane

It’s been almost six weeks and Kasane is still lame. My regular vet referred Kasane to the local vet school for additional diagnostics, including a possible bone scan.

The vet exam today showed that Kasane is lame on her front right (moderate, 3/5) and her back right (mild, 1/5). The lameness was more pronounced on the lunge line.

The vet school had a neat diagnostic tool for detecting lameness that uses motion detectors. During the lameness exam, three motion detectors were attached to Kasane at the poll (head), front right fetlock, and at the top of her croup. The motion sensors streamed data back to a tablet. The tablet then reported where she was lame and the severity of the lameness: moderate front right and mild back right. These findings are consistent with previous vet exams.

Because it’s been six weeks and we haven’t seen any improvement in Kasane’s lameness, I opted to go ahead with the bone scan. She will be kept at the hospital for three days, including tonight. Tomorrow, she will be given a radioactive substance that will highlight areas where there is bone remodeling. The bone scan will not show what is going on, rather it will provide a map of issues to investigate.

I hate to leave her at the hospital for so long, but we need to figure out what is going on so we can help her feel better. The bone scan results should be available on Friday morning.

Lameness check, part 3

Lameness check, part 3

Kasane is still lame, even after the chiropractic adjustment. She is moving much better on her hind quarters, but she still is off on her front right (indicated by a head-bob when she trots). During the initial lameness exam, the vet found an issue with the front right as well as the hind end. There was a swelling on the inside of her back right hock.

This swelling appears to have gone down on its own.

My regular vet came back out today to do a follow-up lameness exam with two nerve blocks. Nerve blocks are used to help diagnose the location that might be causing the lameness. If you block out the area that is hurting, then the lameness goes away. Today, Kasane had two nerve blocks done to check from her mid-cannon bone down and then from the bottom of the knee down. We don’t know if her lameness is caused by a tendon issue (like a suspensory tendon) or something else going on. The previous vet exam last week did a nerve block on her heel and fetlock joint. Both of those nerve blocks didn’t have any affect.

Unfortunately, neither nerve block had any impact on her lameness. She was the same before and after the nerve blocks. My vet is going to refer Kasane to the local vet school. It’s a very good school.

I’m not sure how I feel about taking her to the vet school. She doesn’t have anything life-threatening. I know she will be in good hands and we’ll hopefully have a treatment plan after their evaluation. It’s just the idea of returning to the vet hospital that fills me with dread.

The last time I was there was with Isis six years ago when she had her acute onset of EPM. The feeling of jitters comes from those memories, not from anything related to Kasane. Thankfully, Kasane has never had Isis’ barrage of issues and illnesses.

The other thing that kind of weirded me out was the job title. We’re going to see an orthopedic surgeon. Surgeon. Yikes. I had never considered that whatever is going on with her could require surgery. Must stop thinking about this before my writer-brain goes down a rabbit hole.

Kasane will be fine. We’ll figure out what is going on. The vet school will be a good thing because we will have more tools to be able to help Kasane, and that’s what matters. Making her better.

Post-chiropractor lameness check

Post-chiropractor lameness check

The chiropractor said to check Kasane’s lameness on her front right leg a week after her adjustment on November 15th. I have very carefully had Kasane on rest: no riding, no rambunctious mornings. She’s been very good about it. We didn’t have a small paddock to turn her out in right now because of two other horses recovering from lameness issues. Unfortunately, there isn’t much of a change in her front leg lameness. The good news is that her rear end no longer has the waddle.

I took two videos to check her lameness four days apart.

Here’s the baseline video from earlier this month:

This video was taken one week after her adjustment. Rear-end waddle is gone but the front right lameness is still present.

The last video was taken 10 days after her adjustment, with the same lameness on the front right. It’s slightly more pronounced in this video since she had been goofing off before the video. That’s what I get for trying to lunge her by myself while taking video.

The vet is going to come back out next week for further evaluation.

Got some of the wonk out

Got some of the wonk out

The chiropractor adjusted Kasane today. She was seriously out of whack. Her sacroiliac joint (SI joint) was rotated up on one side and down on the opposite side, which caused her to have waddle when she walked or trotted.

We’re hoping that the correction in the back was causing the lameness in her front right.

Kasane seemed to feel a lot better after her adjustment. She has 72 hours off and then I’ll check her again to see if there is any improvement in her lameness.

I’m so glad that we had the chiropractor evaluate Kasane. Next appointment is in a month to see how the adjustments are holding.