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In Loving Memory...
~ Gogo Fatale ~

6/2/01 - 10/11/11
~ Forever the Marest of Them All ~

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Elementary, my dear Gogo

Man, July just was not a good month for neither Gogo nor I was it? We are still dealing with the fallout from that, but I am thankful to say that the future is very sunny, and everything seems to be coming back together. Life may have imploded for me in July, but August is already looking way up, and September looks even more promising from where we now stand. It's not all back to normal yet, certainly no, but there is progress, always progress.

One of the things I do best in this world is honing in on a horsey problem and sleuthing about to find all possible answers to the issue, especially the physical aspect of things. I am a full believer in ruling out the physical issues before addressing the mental ones, and at the same time take full responsibility for all of them at once. If my horse is skittery under saddle and spooky, does that mean she's Lymey? High? Ulcery? What did I do to contribute to the problem, and what can I do to fix it? My horse is spooky and jittery on XC? Did I hang on her face, knock her in the teeth, chase her to a bad spot, slam on her back, overface her, scare her otherwise? Do her hocks hurt? Is she Lymey, ulcery, high? What did I do to contribute to the problem, and what can I do to fix it?

I never wanted to be a vet. No, I had no desire to play god and kill horses necessarily (or unnecessarily), or cut them open, live or dead. What I HAVE always been interested in is rehab once a problem had been diagnosed, and watching the progression being made. I thrived on taking care of my stall-bound Metro, day in and day out. Meticulously, I brought him back as best I could, and spent all my days wondering how better I could do it. That story ended sadly, but it didn't kill my enthusiasm for therapeutic work. In fact, for some time I wanted to open and run a rehabilitation center similar to KESMARC but with a homey feel, turnouts and such. That idea has long since been abandoned due to the enormous financial undertaking that would require... but discussing my future career options is a topic for another day. The point here is that I live for this kind of stuff. I want to make things feel better.

On Thursday, I had my first really successful dressage ride in two weeks. The preceding week had not been successful in the slightest, and Monday and Tuesday were quite awful as well. The Doxy has had 11 days in her system now, and I'm not feeling particularly as though it has made all that much of a difference. I will still give it another 5 days, and if there is still no improvement, I will pull her off it and save the rest of the Doxy for another time (not that I hope I ever need it ever again!). No need to waste money and eat at her stomach for nothing. Wednesday, it took a very long time to warmup, but I just let her do her thing within reasonable limits, and eventually, after endless 20-meter circles at the walk with occasional halts and reinbacks tossed in, she quieted and moved out without anxiety. We worked on transitions, improving the quality of her movement within movements, shoulder-ins, leg yields, and relaxation. We also worked a fair amount of counter-canter going left - we did several high quality shallow loops, and even went across the short diagonal to maintain counter canter halfway through the short side. She was lovely going left. Going right, I had almost nothing. She traveled very, very crookedly, her haunches way in at all times, and it was a struggle to straighten her. I decided it was foolish to try and do more than simply improve what I had to work with, so we left the more difficult stuff for another day when she's feeling better. This is still why I suspect hocks though. She was not being directly disobedient, she just didn't feel like she could do more beyond putting all our collective wills into simply traveling straight. That was the only real issue I had though, that right canter. She moved out very well the rest of the time, no other hesitations, and I felt very much like I was riding well too.

Yesterday, given how good she felt on Thursday, I opted to go ahead with my original plan for the day, a XC lesson with Ann Bowie at Mystic. All I wanted out of the day was to see how much of this is a rider-caused issue, and to give her some confidence back if I was causing her any reluctance. Ann was very helpful, and we got quite a bit of simple but effective schooling in. Ann made sure to pick apart the pieces of my equitation that are likely contributing to the issue, mainly in the way my energies and balance are centered up higher in my body than they should be. Instead of directing my energy to my legs and having them solidly on, I tend to make too much of a move with my upper body instead of letting it smoothly roll. About 6 strides out, she had me transition from a forward canter/slow gallop to a more collected (term used loosely) canter, and I sat down and put my leg on solidly. This, at first, had the effect of lengthening her instead of shortening her because she had also had me make every effort to have more neutral hands - i.e. not pulling back in ANY way to make adjustments - which, I think, was stressing her out because it's much harder to go pelting at a jump and hope you make it over than it is to bring yourself back before a jump! I had to really think about sending energy forward but capturing it in the contact without restricting her. With equal legs on both sides and equal reins on both sides capturing that forward energy and rolling it into a bouncing ball (that's the best image I had in my mind, a bouncing ball of energy rolling forward with nowhere for the energy to leak out of, such as a slack rein or a weak leg), she adjusted herself perfectly and gamely and calmly went to every fence. THEN, and only then, did I feel major improvements in my equitation over the top of the fence. But before, when I WASN'T perfectly perfect like that, she found the weak spots and she told on me. She bolted sideways away from the ditch the first time, the same ditch she loped over in May. She did the same at the white telephone polls. She chipped in, or she took things long and rushed. I had to REALLY focus and it wasn't until the last six or so jumps that I really felt like I got exactly what Ann wanted me to do. Then, everything fell much more into place. It was really odd to see how randomly spooky she still could be though. I walked her towards one of the teeny little upbanks they have there while on a loose rein, and when she got to the base of it, instead of walking right up it like she has always done before, she stopped, snorted loudly at it, and backed quickly away with a rather terrified expression. I walked her forward again, and after a little bit of quiet coaxing, she hopped up it from a walk on a loose rein (it was about a foot tall... she's walked up banks approaching three feet tall no problem, although they were often times unintentional when I was taking a break and not paying attention!!) That kind of behavior was still very odd to me. We weren't doing anything out of the ordinary, challenging, fast, or confusing. Just your run of the mill walk, like she always has done before. On the other hand, she did chase after a herd of deer that I pointed her at in order to clear them out of the field, and she cantered through a flock of geese standing around grazing in front of a fence, the only sign that she had noticed them manifesting itself into one single, perfect change right in the middle of the group. All in all, the lesson was very good and very helpful, but I will need more of them before I really feel like everything comes fully together and I really can give her the kind of ride she needs. When we got it right though, it was perfection and harmony.

But the continued odd spookiness that has really exploded into a problem in the past month got me thinking again. Gogo has been scoped for ulcers before and came out clean in situations where I felt SURE that she HAD to have them, and the odd weight fluctuations and jumping issues she had last summer all stemmed from her hocks and barn management problems instead of digestive issues. When those two things were addressed, she bloomed again. But, you still have to wonder. Spookiness at things that normally aren't scary is a typical ulcer-type symptom. So are things like going into the ring (or XC course) to do a round, and dropping a shoulder and having a right fit for no particular reason. She HAS been traveling a lot, which can really be hard on them even though she has to be THE best trailerer I've ever met in my life. I don't suspect ulcers because of management issues either - they get hay very nearly free choice, at the hours of 6am, 9am, 11am, 2pm, 4pm, and 8pm, and Gogo gets out on grass for about 6 hours a day (the best I can do, and the most she's ever had really). She's also on a very tiny amount of fortified grain a day: 2lbs of Gro N' Win, recently upped to 2.5 with the addition of another little cupful of Triple Crown Complete to counter the slight weight loss she's had. Or rather, topline loss. Her topline just... isn't looking as good as it was. There are a lot of explanations for that though, so you never know. Her attitude, however, has taken a slight downturn. She's much more sullen than she has been, and it doesn't seem to be corrected with fun things. A good swim in the river the other day was great fun while it lasted, but back at the barn? Very blah. However, I would like to note that after XC schooling yesterday, and today while getting her groom and handwalk, she was MUCH cheerier than I've seen her be in two weeks. Maybe she just needed to get out and run.

Could she be ulcery? Maybe. In the same way that she could have been Lymey, I suppose. I am not going to have her scoped and treat her with thousands of dollars of Gastroguard though, as my evidence is just not hard enough to really suspect it and my pocketbook is not vast enough to spend enormous chunks of money on possible whims. What I AM going to try, however, is something I got from The Barb Wire some time ago. This is a holistic alternative therapy, and given Tamara's gelding Aaruba's difficulty in responding to previous treatments and Tamara's serious knowledge on the subject, I completely trust in the way she raves about how good he felt after just three days of the treatment. All it is is just 1/2 cup of aloe vera juice or gel (I opted for juice as I felt she would eat it better), and a teaspoon of human-grade MSM. You can find these things at your local Whole Foods Market, or even Walmart. Is this curing the ulcers, or is this just helping tummies feel better? We wouldn't know unless we scoped before and after, which is not the case here. At about $2 daily, this is a far more economical option (Gastroguard is anywhere between $30 and $50 daily), and who knows? I've heard many good things about it, so it's worth a shot.

I finally have a hold on all the flyaway tethers that have broken loose from this hot air balloon basket we're journeying in. We've lost a little altitude, but we're retying them on, one by one. The Lyme tether is secured and no longer a concern. The ulcer tether is currently being repaired, and the hocks/eyes tether will be secured next week. The rider error tether is in my hands and is always a priority and a never ending work in progress, but it too will be secured, last but not least. And then, we will regain all our lost altitude with a vengeance, and break through the clouds to fly higher than ever before. It might be a campy little description, but it's an accurate one.

Gogo says, even with my tub of fresh water and my grass AND hay and my flymask and flysheet and flyspray.... I still want to come indoors.


LeopardAppy said...

I am glad August is looking up for you. I love your blog but never comment. I feel like I am getting a little inside information into a part of the horse world I know nothing about.
Example - I just looked at Horsemans Yankee Pedlar site they have videos about Groton House and Old Sturbridge Village Benefit ride. I knew what Groton House was because of your blog. I am in OSV video, (I am the handsome Leopard gelding). Anyway, thanks for making us a little part of your exciting riding experiences. Keep up the good work you are doing Great.

Ambivalent Academic said...

Good for you for looking at all the options. May I contribute my unsolicited thoughts?

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE FINISH THE FULL COURSE OF ANTIBIOTICS. Sorry, I'm a biologist and this is one of those things I feel compelled to get on my soapbox about. Stopping a course of antibiotics part way through is the NUMBER ONE cause of antibiotic resistant bacteria. There is a reason that the drugs are prescribed for as long as they are - it takes that long to kill all the little bastards. So many people stop part way through because they feel better (or they're not seeing any effect) and what's happened is that they haven't killed off all of them. The ones remaining are usually mutant bugs that have some mild resistance to the drugs. Continuing the drugs for the prescribed period keeps those mutant bugs from ever getting their strength back and reproducing and it eventually kills them. Stopping the drugs partway though means you've cleared out all the bugs that were highly susceptible to the drugs in the first place, and selected for those which have some mild resistance. Stopping the drugs now means that those mildly resistant bugs can now freely reproduce in an environment in which they no longer have to compete with the dox-susceptible bugs, and in so doing they have the chance to develop even stronger drug resistance.

Presto - you've just bred yourself a dox-resistant strain of Lyme.

If Gogo doesn't have Lyme at all this is not an issue. But you mentioned that her titer and Western blot were both at the cutoff which suggests some previous or current exposure. You can't really know if she's carrying or not based on those results. PLEASE, for Gogo's sake and for the sake of all the other horses in your area, do not take the risk of breeding a dox-resistant strain by stopping your antibiotics partway through. If she is carrying, that means you will have a much harder time treating it down the road if it flares up again since the bugs will be dox resistant. Not to mention that other horses in the area will then have the chance of contracting a dox-resistant strain as well. If they contract dox-resistant Lyme, then how do you treat it?

If you're worried about her stomach while she's finishing her course (and that's perfectly reasonable, I think that the aloe gel is great idea. Also consider supplemental probiotics and lots of roughage.

It's obviously your decision to make - she's your horse. I just hope that more people will become aware of and consider the long-term consequences of pulling themselves or their horses and pets off their antibiotic courses before they've finished them.

Andrea said...

I know, I know ;) She is on tons of roughage (about 12 flakes of hay and 6 hours of pasture a day) and probiotics while she is on the course of drugs, but I still worry. I do know all about antibiotic resistance, mostly due to personal experience and subsequent unresponsive illness later on down the road. I currently have an unfortune issue with this Doxy treatment: there was no prescribed number of days for it. A generic treatment usually runs around 30 days, but I've heard human doctors prescribing it anywhere from 10 to 60 days. I'm having a difficult time deciding if it actually DID anything either... she's feeling better now, but is that due to coincidence, the aloe juice, the doxy, or something else? If it was the doxy it took well over a week for there to be noticable change, and usually with Lyme you can see a difference in 2-5 days. So I dunno. On the same thread, whether or not it killed the ugly little bacteria that cause Lyme in particular is unknown, but what if it was in there killing something else that hadn't yet manifested itself into something, but now by stopping Doxy I've created some OTHER kind of wicked resistant bug? I dunno. I will be asking the vet when she gets here on Thursday though what she thinks I should do. I will mention all this and let her give me her honest opinion as I don't know enough about Doxy or Lyme to really make a choice.
The good news is that the cycle of this particular bacteria ends in the horse - Lyme is not contagious and it cannot be re-picked up by a tick and spread to another horse that way. So at least Gogo wouldn't be breeding a new strain that's going to mess with other horses. I've heard of so many people just putting their horses on and off Doxy ALL the time (whenever they do anything weird, and stopping if the weird isn't resolved in a few days time) that I wonder.

Beth said...

The problem with Lyme is even "borderline" cases can have long lasting results. The crankiness, random freak outs, stiffness and just-not-rightness you've noticed with Gogo are typical of Lyme. Not everyone gets knock down drag out sick, but it seems that the nagging not right but not wrong is pretty consistent among people and dogs I know with Lyme. (It's like Lyme Central over here, pretty much everyone has it or has been exposed.)Lyme Disease is a big fat ugly bitch. There are flare ups of pain and sickness long after the initial infection, plus it seems to have a permanently cranky/ouchy effect.
From personally having Lyme, I know doxy isn't the funniest thing to take, but I also know I'll do anything to avoid the flare ups, even if it means suffering that month of doxy. It's rarely a treat it once and you're done thing.
The most successful thing I've seen and experienced, in myself, other humans and dogs, for dealing with the symptoms and after effects of Lyme is acupuncture. It really does work. And if it isn't Lyme with Gogo after all, acupuncture is great for alot of other things too!
I'm not a vet or human doctor, just a pet groomer, but after experiencing Lyme Disease in one way or another for over 14 years, to me it sounds like Gogo's got it. Usual treatment around here is doxy for 30 days and retesting to see if more is needed. Plus alot of crossing fingers and hoping to avoid lingering pain and flare ups.

There's my random 2 cents and then some. I love reading your blog, more so when it's about a happy, healthy Gogo! I hope you don't mind me sticking my rather opinionated nose in.

Ambivalent Academic said...

Good for you Andrea - I think that asking the vet about the usual courses and when you can/should stop is a well-considered course of action. I thought that you probably knew about antibiotic resistance, but just in case some of your readers don't....

Whether the dox is treating Lyme or something else, or if it's even working...dang, sometimes it would be nice if there were clear cut answers huh?

I didn't realize that Borrelia couldn't be picked up from horses - learn something new every day. We worry more about Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever than Lyme in my neck of the woods.

Anyway, best of luck to you and Gogo. I hope you get it all sorted out soon.

Andrea said...

What the heck is Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever? Back in Michigan, we worried mostly about West Nile and Potomac. Here in Connecticut, it's Lyme Lyme Lyme Lyme LYME!

Ambivalent Academic said...

RMSF is another tick-borne disease...different bug than Lyme but nastier in my opinion. Starts with the typical bulls-eye tick bite, then wicked fever, horrible nasty spotty rash on the extremities which then moves towards the body. Similar neurological symptoms as Lyme. Often fatal if untreated or not treated immediately. Also responds to dox or chloramphenicol in most cases. It's certainly less common than Lyme but scarier for sure. I don't know which species are required for the bug to complete its life cycle - it's possible that there haven't been enough long-term cases to know if it can be passed from horse to horse (or other species) via tick bites. You can read more about it on wiki.