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In Loving Memory...
~ Gogo Fatale ~

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

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Quick Clarification.

Because I've inevitably gotten a bit of the sour grapes thing going with the comments on my last post (which, of course, we all knew were coming), I thought I would clarify one or two things.

Firstly, and I've said this many, many times before, I'm not crazy barefoot Nazi. I'm not out to tell anyone what to do with their horses ever. I actually try to avoid giving people advice unless they specifically ask for it, and even then I'm hesitant, because I don't like when people do it to me. There are insane barefoot freaks who say that shoes are evil and cruel and that no horse should ever wear them ever. I think they're nuts! There are also people who say that you HAVE to shoe a horse to do anything beyond stand around in a field. I think they're nuts too! It takes all kinds for the world to go round, and I do my best to keep an open mind. I keep saying this over and over, if this were a matter of Gogo needing to be shod, then I'd do it. I'm not out to prove anything, I'm here to just try and enjoy my time with my mare and do the best I can by her. Nobody feels worse than me when something bad happens to her. I hate to say it, but I really can't be bothered to care whether or not people around me shoe their horses or not. I've really got better things to do with my time than get all crazy on people. This is a public blog meant for sharing my own personal journey, and like all public things on teh great interwebz, somebody's going to disagree. So what? That's what makes the world interesting. I know for a fact that plenty of my readers regularly shoe their horses and that's what works for them. Keeping Gogo barefoot is what works for me. She's been barefoot for years, she's never tender, never gets chips or cracks or ouchiness or anything. She's a freak of domesticated nature. So I keep going because she gives me the green light to do so.

Secondly, I'm not making excuses and trying to direct attention away from her barefootedness as a source of the slipping issue. Yep, she's barefoot and she slipped. Related? I can't stay that it's not! I just think there's more to it than that. If she were regularly slipping and sliding out on XC, then yes, obviously we'd need to address this as purely a traction issue. In this particular case it's just not that easy.

Thirdly, can I PLEASE reiterate that I'm not a crazy barefoot person trying to press her lifestyle on others? Seriously. It's the same accusation people make that by merely existing, my gayness is invalidating straight marriages everywhere as we speak. By merely sharing my barefoot journey, I am not invalidating shod horses everywhere. I'm doing what works for me. Doesn't work for you? Let's agree to disagree and have a conversation about it. The finger-pointing and name-calling are a little shocking and quite frankly, I'm surprised at how nasty it's gotten. I feel like I've done by best to be neutral about my stances. I'm certainly not walking up to barns nationwide and pounding their doors down until they listen to my crazy opinions. I'm just sharing the journey.

Fourthly, this is the first real issue Gogo has ever had. I've had her for over three years and this is her first injury, and I'm pretty sure it was my doing. So the accusations that it's always "one thing after another" with her and that she's constantly broken are seriously out of left field and I'm quite frankly confused because I'm not really sure where that came from! She's been disturbingly sound and problem-free until now, on all types of terrain and at all speeds. We always made fun of how low-maintenance she is, at least physically. And given how freakishly well she's healing, I can only conclude that she's just a hardy, healthy soul who's had a rough couple of months. Can I mention again (like I keep doing) that she just had a bone scan and those "problem hocks" and her back were as without inflammation as could be? The vet made a point of telling me so. So what can I deduce from this and from those comments that she "lacks push from behind" in her trotwork (never her canterwork or walk work, I should mention)? It's probably me! I'm no Rolex rider. I'm just some Smurf trying to do my best.

And finally, I've also been accused of being a close-minded know-it-all. Which, really, is a rude accussation from a total stranger who doesn't know me in real life, so I can hardly in reality be offended. I try my best to keep an open mind - hell, how do you think I got into this barefoot stuff anyway? Because I try to learn about new ways of doing things and if something seems intriguing, I try it. If it works, I learn and aborb. If it doesn't, I learn and absorb. I know - we all know - that we've all only just scratched the surface of the collective world's knowledge. It's the name-calling and finger-pointing from those who come from one side and have NOT tried the other that I would tag as close-minded. I've tried shoes, believe me! It was because of my prior journey with shoes that I became interested in the barefoot thing. I KNOW both sides. So don't knock it til you've tried it, or until you at least understand it a little better. If it doesn't work for you, then at least you can accept that it DOES work for somebody else.

I'm not out to prove anything, to convert anyone, to tell anyone they're wrong, or to tell anyone they're right either. I'm just trying to do the best I can by my horse, even if people, for whatever reason, think I'm not. Those of you that know me in person know better, and quite frankly, you're the only people that matter to me anyway.

Over and out!

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Elephant in the Corner.

((Edit: Due to an influx in random comment spam about Viagra and the fact that I want to know who is leaving comments on complicated posts such as this one, I've had to disable anonymous posting for now. Sorry for the inconvenience.))

It's high time I touched on a subject I've been vastly avoiding for the past three months. I've heard the question asked so many times now that I have no choice but to confront it. The skeptics, the critics, the naysayers are all gleefully certain that I have failed in my barefoot quest, that obviously because of the incident at the AECs I am destined to fail and will surely change my sordid ways now. I hear the question everywhere I go, from everyone I talk to: Will you shoe your horse now?

The answer, my readers, is no.

No, I will not alter what I consider to be the best horsecare decision I have ever made, and after this long post you will understand why. I hope that by now those that know me understand that I am here on earth to make the best decisions I can for my horse's health and well-being. If that were to mean shoeing her, I would. If that were to mean giving up eventing, I would. But it doesn't. I have quite a lot to say on the matter, so get comfortable. Knowing what I know about feet - seeing what I've seen - I just can't go back. Taking the barefoot route is a choice for her health, and I will not choose metal shoes for my convenience. There has to be a better way to provide traction and protection for those that need it. There HAS to be. And do I need it beyond what I already have? Quite frankly, no, I don't.

Let's first talk about the mechanics of a bare foot versus a studded foot. The bare hoof has a certain amount of natural slide engineered into it. You want the foot to have a little wiggle room when it lands because it cushions the impact and lessens strain and the likelihood of subsequent injury. That being said, a bare hoof is surprisingly "grippy" on most footings. In a lot of scenarios, a bare hoof is actually a better option than a regular smooth shod hoof because flat steel/aluminum/whathaveyou can be VERY slick. The bare hoof might have a little give, but the metal shoe once it starts to slide doesn't stop. Think about wintertime for example - not a sane soul would keep a horse smooth shod around an icy, snowy, hilly place. Everyone either goes bare for the winter or uses caulks/borium. It's a similar situation on grass - smooth shod hooves are just too slippery. So that leaves me two options essentially - staying bare or going with something with caulks. The big question is, do I want a little bit of give to lesson the beating a leg takes while in action and risk a bigger slide than I want, or do I want to potentially torque and damage a leg through not allowing it that natural slide when it needs it? In a normal situation, a bare hoof actually provides a surprising amount of traction, much more than a smooth shod hoof. A nice, cuppy foot holds ground very well, and varied, texturized structures on the bottom of the foot increase surface area and the "grippy" factor in most situations. At the AECs, what I failed to take into account was the footing that day, because it seemed just fine at first glance. My horse had been going round the soaking wet mountains of New England all season with not ONE single slip anymore - or ever in her entire LIFE that I can EVER remember! - so I felt pretty invincible. Imagine how stupid I felt when the beautiful, totally flat footing proved dangerously slick - unlike my soft, wet New England hills, this footing was rock hard but covered with a layer of wet, slick, long grass... like a sheet of ice. In some circumstances, no one can cope with footing situations like that. Let me say this in bold to stress its importance: All feet - flat shod, barefoot, borium, calks, studs, boots, anything - can slip under the right circumstances. Your average horse weighs between 1000-1200lbs. A tiny piece of studded metal nailed to the bottom of a foot is realistically not going to stop a slide if the conditions are right. Case in point - at the AECs, the day before I ran XC, at right about the same time in the morning that I ran XC, a Prelim horse with studs all around slid right about where I slid, in no relation to any fences. My horse caught herself and continued on. That horse slid, fell, fractured its scapula, and had to be euthanized. At a Championship show, monkeys are not going around riding at Prelim. This was obviously a competent pair. Studs did not help that horse in that situation. And, quite frankly, I wonder what would have happened had I been riding a studded horse. Either the studs would have stopped the slide, or they would have seriously compounded her injuries. As it stands, I feel lucky that the damage was as minimal as it was. It could have been worse.... so much worse. And one of the reasons I believe she is recovering as rapidly as she is now is because she is bare. The blood flow in that foot is uninhibited, and free to bring a rich supply of nutrients and fibroblasts to the site of the injury. It's helping her heal.

When it comes to caulks, it takes two to tango - the foot needs to come in contact with the ground for the studs to take effect obviously, but the ground has to be firm enough to match the force and return the hold. Sure, calks add traction, but not all the time. At Huntington, for example, the stadium footing was horrible and soaking wet. You know that turf that just comes up when you step on it, the kind that you could grab a handful of and the grass would just release from the mud underneath it? That's the kind it was. No foot - studded or otherwise - is going to negotiate that well. I actually watched a studded horse refuse a fence from well over a few strides out, and he sat on his haunches like a reining horse and slid.... and slid.... and slid..... and slid, right into the fence, nearly flipping over backwards on his rider because his hind end rocketed underneath himself so fast that the rest of him didn't have time to catch up. Did Gogo negotiate that footing well? Nope. (And I have a feeling I know why that is, but I will explain that shortly). The girl who won my division had a quick, catty little horse who, as she described it, skipped right over the footing. Gogo, with her different stride length and style, didn't.
Caulks can really be a scary thing. They are designed for one thing - keep the foot where the horse puts it. If a hoof at speed needs a little bit of slide, it doesn't get it with studs. This can lead to strains, hyperextensions, and trauma. (I'm not saying it does, I'm just saying it can.) If the caulks aren't big enough, they're worthless as traction devices. If the caulks are too big, they can do damage through either the aforementioned strain, or by creating pressure points on the foot. (This is why you remove studs immediately after your ride - standing around on hard ground with studs still in can be VERY damaging.) And let's not forget what happens when a horse miscalculates where to put its legs and stabs itself in the belly/legs/chest/wherever with a studded foot. They make belly guards for a reason, you know!

So what I want is traction. I don't need protection like an endurance horse out in the rocky desert might. For the most part, I have all the traction I need with her big, gorgeous bare feet. And I'd prefer that she be able to slip a little when she needs to in order to keep her from harm. So now, it's back to a question of morals - if the footing is bad enough that I would need studs, should I even be running her at all? And, in all seriousness, it's Novice we're talking about here. It's not Rolex. If you can't get around a regular, nice-footing Novice course without needing studs, then you've got some serious issues, I'm sorry. It's been raining for a week straight and the ground is a muddy mess and you're doing to die without your biggest spikes? Well.... maybe you should just call it a day and go home with an intact horse.

I need traction. But I need give when she needs give. And I need stop when she needs stop. 99% of the time I've got exactly what I need when I'm bare. And I think the most important thing to stress now is that I don't think she slid at the AECs because she was bare.

So what happened? I have a theory. Stick with me on this one because it might take a small bit of explaining.

Remember those hock injections?

Let's start there.

Daun awakened this little kernel of thought in my head. We were talking about injecting her right stifle when she was at Tufts and how I didn't want to make my horse a pincushion but that I felt that this time, unlike the hocks, we really did have hard evidence and that I felt less ethically stressed about it. We both feel pretty much the same about injections, only I've subjected my poor animal to them and she has not. You all remember how I essentially gave myself an ulcer going back and forth about whether or not to do her hocks in August, and how I eventually caved and went ahead with it. And yep, she did in fact feel better... but it was hardly the miracle I expected. What Daun had to say about injections, particularly in the hocks, is that besides all the ethical drama behind them, they can also "move the problem" somewhere else. Making her hocks feel better (even when they were doing their job just fine before) increases the likelihood of her injuring something else. To quote Daun, "The whole leg is connected, obviously, and if you give them 5 degrees more flexion in the hock, that is 5 degrees more movement the stifle and pasterns must absorb as well. Say the horse is tracking up fine pre-injections, but now after injections the horse easily overtracks by 6". At speeds, that is a LOT more strain on those tendons reaching under, suddenly, overnight, because the hocks feel better. Stuff like that scares me. Also when changing the way of going via shoeing or the feet. The tendons and support structures need time to adjust to the new way of movement, but we don't give them time, we change things suddenly." (This is why I love Daun. Because she has brains and she uses them.) And I certainly don't disagree. In fact, I am quite certain this has quite an enormous part to do with her injuries.
We were all shocked when she did bilateral tendon injuries on XC, no one more than me because of the countless hours of slow work on tarmac that I did alllllllllll spring and summer long. Her tendons should have been made of IRON. And I think they probably were... until I changed things. Suddenly, she had a bigger range of motion. Suddenly, she had more push and more stress upon limb flight and landing. I counted it up and prior to Huntington (the first show after the injections), she hadn't taken a rail down in 9 shows. 9 SHOWS. That is astounding. After the injections, at Huntington, she smashed through a couple of warmup fences like a madwoman. Strange, I thought... she's normally more careful than that. I think perhaps she had a bit of a Superwoman complex... no need to protect those hocks anymore Ma, they feel awesome so I can take off wherever I feel like and I don't have to be careful with them anymore! And before that fifth fence, she took off early and both hinds rocketed out from underneath her. She didn't protect herself in that footing AT ALL. Not like her in the slightest. (Ironically, she handled the soppy, soggy, hilly XC like a champ, giant hills and all.) And who knows? Maybe during that slip - maybe during that last month of gallops and hacks - those newly-loaded tendons started to get a little tired. Maybe I didn't give them enough time to adjust. Maybe I overstressed them simply by giving her a bigger range of motion far too late in the season, when we were already training at maximum capacity. Whatever the case may be, when I half-halted her before fence four at the AECs, instead of carefully slowing herself and coming up in front like she normally does, she saw no need to protect her body and wasn't careful about the way she took the half-half. And the fact that during a very small, routine slip - when I have no memory of her ever slipping on XC ever before in my life - she did such extensive damage begs the question, did she have undetected bilateral microdamage before? It wouldn't surprise me. In fact, I feel pretty strongly that this has a large part to do with it.

In short: I don't think she slipped because she's barefoot. I think she slipped because she wasn't protecting her body, and because I had quite likely inadvertently caused a predisposition to an injury. It was probably me that caused her body to fail. I don't think as horse owners we sit back and think about these things enough. We rely on our trainers, our barn managers, our vets and our farriers to give us their best opinions, but sometimes all we really need is our own selves to make the best choices. Sure, Gogo felt better after the hock injections - what horse wouldn't? But she was moving just fine before. At what cost did an unnecessary procedure come? Maybe we all need to look around at all our injured and damaged horses. All right, so Sammy did a suspensory on XC when he slipped. Sure, we've got that. So we put studs on Sammy when he's better and don't think about it anymore. But maybe what we should be doing is looking back at what led up to Sammy's injury. Maybe Sammy's farrier work was unsatisfactory and that predisposed him. Maybe he was worked too hard, maybe he was injected too recently, maybe he's a 16-year-old OTTB, maybe the footing at home is terrible, maybe he's conformationally lacking, maybe he's been showing a lot and his body is tired. There is so much that goes into all of it. And at the same time, it's crying over spilled milk, and after an injury there's nothing we can do but just plow on. But hindsight is 20-20 every time, and you find yourself always thinking, I wonder if I had done things differently, would the outcome have changed?

Add, add, add, add, add. We are always adding for our horse's benefit, or so we think. My horse is working hard, so let's add a joint supplement. And let's add DMG, and an antioxident, and supplements to support his tendons and ligaments. His feet aren't so good, let's add a hoof supplement, and fancy shoes, and pads, and studs. His back is sore, so let's add these fancy new pads. He hurts from all the new strain we're adding to his body, so let's inject his whole body. Oh now he has ulcers, let's give him thousands of dollars worth of treatments that may or may not help, depending on what else his lifestyle is like. He's broken all over now, so let's double all our efforts. Soon, you have a horse living miserable in bubble wrap, so broken and over-supplented, over-shod, and over-drugged that it's hardly a horse anymore. You know, Mother Nature did design everything in the world to work well on its own without our interference. Sometimes, we should just do our best to try and stick to Her plan.

You can tell I've had a lot of down time to think about all this.

In summary, I think slapping on a metal pair of shoes isn't going to change a damn thing, except her hooves, and not at all in a desirable way. I think there is far more to all of this than a simple solution. I think it's complicated, stressful, and altogether morally challenging, like all things related to horsecare. As I said before, if putting shoes on her was the answer to the problem, I'd do that. It's not about pride in a horsecare style I've opted for. It's about her, and what she needs.

Quite a lot to think about, going into this New Year.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Mare-y Christmas 2009!

Gogo and I want to wish everyone Happy Holidays and a very Merry Christmas!

And Metro and Quincy deserve a special Christmas spot here too:

My oh my how time flies, and how we change.

Happy and safe holidays to everyone. Thank you all for all your support this past year, and may all your 2010 hopes, goals and dreams come true.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Winter Wonderland A Go-Go

So what is on Gogo's Christmas list this year?

Not surprising.

My Christmas list is a little less, um.... food oriented.

A new dressage coat with gold piping and big fat brass buttons, a custom jockey whip, and a Charles Owen J3 helmet. I currently have an International that I feel lukewarm about. I used to have an amazing International that I LOVED and that was slim and fantastic, but then Gogo fell on my head and I had to replace it. The company sent me a new one, but it just didn't fit the same, and didn't have the same low profile. I've kept it around and not gone full-eventer with the skullcap because, quite frankly... the brim of a helmet has thus far kept my nose from getting broken. As it stands, I am sporting a big bruise on my cheek from when Gogo cracked me in the head on Saturday, and she did it again today. Bad news.

For Christmas, I'd also like the aliens to return my sane horse, please. Or for Santa to bring her some BRAINS. Today was just ridiculous. The random bolting, leaping, rearing and spinning is out of control. She was scaring other riders in the ring, and I fear for those legs if she keeps this crap up. She felt great and sound, but STUPID. And I don't want to keep her on a circle at one end of the arena, given her legs. Keeping her over there was working to keep her sane until today, when she went leaping away at the entrance end of the arena for no reason at all, more than once. So tomorrow, no more Mister Nice-Mom. I've been very hesitant to drug her while doing trotwork, because I worry that a) she isn't going to protect her body, b) she's going to take a drugged misstep and hurt herself, and c) she might stumble/fall/kill us. But I don't have another choice at the moment. Heavy sedation, coming soon to a Gogo near you!

And now, a little bit of December Appreciation as well....

It's beautiful out there.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Rehab, The Video

You asked for it, we got it!

A brief video of Gogo's trotwork today. She was very well behaved considering everything. Actually, today she was being bratty more than spooky. She wasn't scared, she was annoyed that we were not going out to run XC. I think the video caught an actual spook though, it's hard to say quite what set her off. That little bounce was hardly a thing though. What timing, that it got caught on video.

Sure, it all starts out peaches:

Annnnnd then... not so much.


Friday, December 18, 2009

Does this saddle come with a seatbelt?

Gogo feels awesome. She is also feeling awesome, which is certainly delightful, but remember what happens when she is feeling great? Yea. She can be downright EVIL when she wants to be.

Not to say that she is being evil on purpose. She just has entierly too much energy to know what to do with, and under saddle I am going to have to be very careful that she doesn't end up doing something stupid and reinjuring herself. My problem is that with my go-go-go-go job all day long, I am exhausted at the end of the day and not inspired to get on when it's dark and freezing cold out. So, instead I've been coming to ride first thing in the morning before work. First thing in the morning for a very spicy mare in the freezing 12-degree weather is not exactly a fun time however. When I rode her the other evening and we took our first trot steps, she was totally quiet and relaxed... after she had been turned out and treadmilled. First thing in the morning, however, she is a veritable fire-breathing monster. Take yesterday, for example. Our walk work is a bit scary because while she is behaving for the most part, I can see her exceptionally expressive eyes rolling around in her head. Which usually means trouble. When she's relaxed, she has nice relaxed eyes. When I can see the whites of them popping, everybody put your seatbelts on. She demonstrated her tension by walking by one of the arena doors, spooking at whatever evil monster was hiding behind them, and standing up in a huge rear. She rears.... and rears.... and rears..... and rears. Just stands there on her hind legs, hanging out. I had one arm wrapped around her neck, and one on the reins, and I actually had time to scratch my nose and then start laughing while she was still up there. Seriously. By the time she came down I was peeing my pants laughing. I probably shouldn't find that as funny as I do. Well, she's balanced!
When we started trotting, she felt OUTSTANDING, not like the weak-butt of Tuesday at all. She very very, very even - even better than this summer, maybe - and very forward. Very, very forward. I obviously don't want to be on a circle for any length of time in the trot, so I sort of gulped and made my way down to the far end of the arena to where the scary door is. Miss Gogo Queen of Camels shot her head up in the head, started snorting, and rocketed away from the door, launching herself into a series of leapy-bucks. This mare NEVER bucks, so it surprised me, but they weren't like rodeo bucks. They were leaping-around-with-all-four-feet-off-the-ground-too-much-energy bucks. So we spent a lot more time than I wanted trotting down at the far end of the ring instead. It's only 5 minutes, thankfully, but it was 5 VERY exciting minutes of my life. Especially because every 10 seconds or so she'd spook horribly. Very exciting.

At least there was no nonsense in turnout yesterday..... and why was that, do you ask?
Oh I dunno. It might be that she's magically come into VIOLENT FLAMING HEAT again:

Oh for god's sake, Gogo.

Today we will be riding in the afternoon. Just because I'd really rather not DIE today, thanks.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Look at me Shrek! I'm TROT-TING!


Okay well, it wasn't quite what I had expected/planned. Gogo is set to start her 5 minutes of trot daily on Thursday, and she was being SO good and quite last night under tack that I thought I would trot a few steps in each direction to see how she felt, seeing as she'd have today off anyway and just in case we needed to change plans. She felt very weak - like she had no idea what had happened to her butt over the past 3 months - but otherwise very even and very, very well behaved. She lost her right stifle going right, and her left stifle going left, which to me is indicative of lost-butt-syndrome, and I would expect that with strengthness this will resolve itself. She was remarkably well-behaved, stretching down to my contact and everything, and she did feel quite good. And as for me, I just wanted to keep trotting all day!! I curbed it at about 15 seconds in either direction... no need to rush.

Boy did THAT ever feel good. Remember when you were a kid and you trotted for the first time and you just NEVER wanted to stop trotting EVER? Yea, that was me yesterday.


And Evil Gogo gets one more big FAIL: yesterday, she was out in her medical paddock per usual, and I of course being an idiot had unknowingly put the obnoxious grey gelding Query next to her. Gogo and Query do not have a good history together, because they are both hateful. It is an unfortunate juggling act with 31 horses and 7 turnout spaces in the wintertime, and I have to do some serious brainwork every night trying to figure out who is going to go where, and when so as not to conflict with their lessons, and who to NOT put next to who, and who does NOT do well in the AM/PM, and who is hateful towards chestnuts, and who is going to hump a mare over the fence. So anyway, Gogo and Query ended up next to each other, and in our four smallest turnouts, they all share a wooden fence. NOT good planning on my part. There is electric wire running around the tops of all the fences, and in the medical turnout, our maintenance guy recently put up a very low line of electric tape around the lowest boards. It was very ugly and my boss didn't want it there because it was not only an eyesore, but it was so low it would have been easy to catch a leg in. ENTER GOGO. Query had a haypile in his pen, as did Gogo, but did Query go over and eat his hay? Nope, Query had to stand next to Gogo the entire time and go, Whatcha doin? Whatcha doin? Whatcha doin? Until she finally went, I AM GOING TO KICK YOU IN THE FACE IF YOU DON'T LEAVE RIGHT NOW. Well of course, Query being Query, this made him very angry, so he started rearing and making horrible Jurrasic Park noises, which in turn set Gogo off, and she started firing double-barrel kicks at his face. Remember the line of electric tape? When she came down, she got both hind legs stuck in it. Bless her heart, even though it was shocking her to death, all she did was very casually jig away.... and pulled the entire thing down with her. Query is still making dinosaur noises, my boss is peeking her head out of the arena door while on a horse, and I am running mad as a hornet towards the fields, angry at Gogo for bouncing on her legs, angry at Query for being an insufferable asshole, and mad at myself for not separating the two of them earlier. Gogo is no worse for the wear but she did get cold-tubbed and some banamine because I take no chances. I got back at Query by deworming him yesterday. That'll teach him.

Evil, evil mares.

Monday, December 14, 2009


A message from Gogo:

"Hi, this is Gogo. I'd like you all to know of something you should not do. Sometimes it seems like a really, really good idea to lunge over your stall gate at passing horses, because sometimes the passing horses are very ugly and you need to move them out of the way quickly. And sometimes the humans forgive you. But then sometimes when you attack the passing horses five, six, seven or eight times, then the humans don't forgive you anymore and they make your human move you to the other side of the barn under the hayloft in the darkest, smallest stall with no gate or anything. So then you're in horsey jail and it's so dark and caca that nobody even knows you're in there because nobody can see you. And then you feel pretttttttty stupid. But those horses needed to be bitten and scared anyway, because they were ugly. And mom says that if you behave yourself then when the boss lady goes away to Florida you will get to move back to the big fancy barn with the big fancy stalls. But until then, you will be stuck in the jailcell until you learn to stop taking chunks out of the boss lady's very expensive horses."

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Party on Wayne

Sorry I've been missing for long - I am TOO BUSY! But there you are, that's life at a big barn for you!

As December wears on I am feeling increasingly excited for the upcoming year. When the clock rolls over to 2010 we'll be just beginning 10 minutes of trotwork (if she continues to be sound, of course), and I'll be able to really put my goals for next year all in order. I have some pretty lofty ones, but if she continues to be sound there's no reason to think we can't achieve every one of them. I've got eyes for all the bigger events around here - Groton House, Millbrook, Fitch's, GMHA, Stuart - and of course, hopefully the 2010 AECs. That is a bloody long way to go for a show but that's the hopeful plan, if everything goes well. I feel a little behind the ball due to the fact that as of January 1 this past year, we were gearing up for heavy dressage work in anticipation of the earlier start to the season. The old saying is that shows are not won in June, they're won in January, and I completely agree. We won't have this chunk of time to work on new things and advance like we normally would be able to. As that stands, it may put us back a season but that's all right. You never know how these things work out.

Dr. A came out today to work on Gogo and one of my boss' horses. Even by Dr. A standards he was a little weird today, and I think my boss wasn't totally sure what to think because he told her that Athos had liver qi stagnation. I don't even know what that MEANS! Well, I mean I get the idea of qi (and my own qi is... seriously off) but I had to look it up to understand it better than how he explained it. But it does make sense - I guess this is responsible for soft tissue issues, digestive upsets, and the like... all things this horse is displaying currently. It was very interesting to see Athos standing in the crossties totally covered in acupuncture needles! Poor kid. As for Gogo, there was less crazy Chinese medicine and more chiropractic work to be done with her, but it was surprisingly less than I thought. As predicted, her SI had some pain, but not nearly what I expected. She had mild soreness around her withers as well, which surprised me until Dr. A mentioned that her posture was pretty bad. That hadn't occured to me.... I guess it makes sense though. Standing around in a stall for 3 months like a bump on a log will definitely bring out your weaknesses, and if your topline isn't strong to begin with, well... you start to sag around the middle! Here's where Dr. A got a little weird again... he took three polos and made a sort of body wrap that I cannot describe with words - I will have to get a picture of it! This supposedly makes her more aware of her body and that she has a butt and that she needs to bother using it. She'll wear this 3 or 4 times a week on the treadmill. My suspition is that she is going to get used to it and not care, but you never know. We did some belly lifts with her and BOING! Her back went right up to where it's supposed to be and she actually held it for awhile. We will need to do PLENTY of those to re-engage her abs as she gets back to work.

All in all I was pretty happy with the news. Athos did not fare so well. We'll be keeping an eye on him... he is his own mystery. We actually have a couple mysteries and I would like to write about some of these horses some more when I have time. They're all fabulous but some are just... odd.

The progress we're making is fantastic. She went out yesterday in the medical paddock for the first time without Ace (which was actually a staff miscommunication and my guys went to go bring her out for me before I could get over there with drugs), and she was GREAT. Obviously this is not going to work every day, but there you are. The blue mullen mouth bit of this past year has been switched out for a big-girl bit again, the double jointed loose ring, and she is going fantastically in that, as I thought she might. The blue bit was a training device and it served its purpose. Nevertheless, as it was blue, I am of course sad to see it go. Work under saddle is GREAT, and she is behaving herself - hooray! Or well, mostly. ;) And the best part is that we are finally starting to wean her off wraps. She is going in them nightly only, and during the day those legs have stayed very tight and cool. I LOVE THAT!

Happy, happy progress. Of course now that it is December, it is 17 degrees... that's the crappiest part of the whole deal.

Off to see a horse off to surgery (yikes).... enjoy the awful weather!

Monday, December 7, 2009

End of November Analysis

A few days late, but hey, better late than mever ;) I've not been keeping goals since this injury because quite frankly, I only have one goal: get Gogo sound. And I can do the very best that I can but sometimes it's just up to fate in the end. However, with things looking brighter, I am going to go ahead and do my December goals, and hope that all of them will come true:

December Goals:

1) Continue successful walk work under saddle, building to 30 minutes and working on very simple on the bit work
2) Take our first trot steps in 3 months and not be lame/freak out
3) Fully plan out rehab schedule for the next 3 months
4) Start looking ahead to next show season and make very tentative plans
5) Have Gogo chiropractically adjusted

Dr. A's wife literally just called me right now as I was typing out "get Gogo chiropractically adjusted" and we set a time for this Saturday at 10am. Thank GOD for that too because boy does she ever need it. Now that we have bone scan images that show definite asymmetry in her pelvis we need to really do something about it!!

I'm counting down the days not only until Christmas, but to when I get to start trotting again. 11 days!!!

Guess this is a short post. But that's all right because any news about Gogo is always good. ;)

Sunday, December 6, 2009

When Big is TOO BIG

Prior to having Gogo, I used to love having a big horse. Metro was solid and meaty and I wanted something over 17hh for a long time. And then I found Gogo and went wow, 16.1 is really the perfect size for everything. But I still appreciate a big, powerful horse when I see one.

Until I find one that is TOO BIG. Meet the aptly named Crane, our newest boarder horse. He is a solid 18.1hh, broken at the age of 9 due to a prior career as a big eq horse, bloodlines, and well, being 18.1. He had recent bilateral pastern fusions in both hinds due to his crippled-ness, and guess who gets the fun task of walking the beast? That's right, me. They warned me that he only walks with a gum chain and he rears like a maniac. So far, I've found him to be a complete sweetheart and a goon who is just too big for his own good. He respects authority completely and hadn't put a toe out of line with me, and I've only used a stud chain on him. However, I've seen him run over a couple other people, so it's hard to say.

You really can't appreciate how gigantic he is unless you're standing next to him. That picture makes him look tiny compared to what he's really like. It's funny, for such a big guy he's really quite delicate. He has a very dainty face and body.... his legs are just a mile long. Literally, the point of his elbow is at my belly button. I'm 5'7", just to give you some sort of idea of height.

Bigger isn't better in my opinion. Just ask Nicole, who tells me the tales of the horses in her barn that have named like Greyzilla and Jurassica.

Think I'll be sticking with 16.1hh, thanks.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Let's Talk Stifles

Gogo's bone scan results came back Thursday. I actually called Tufts midday in a total panic, very nearly cancelling it and making the other vet very angry, but we decided that since she was already there and already injected with the isotope that we would just go ahead with it. I felt much better after telling him exactly how I felt about it though. He called me back later in the day to confirm that the effusion in her right stifle was indeed showing up on the bone scan, and she also had left SI pain, which didn't surprise me given her chiropractic history. They found the two SIs to be asymmetrical, which Dr. A had mentioned when he looked at her last. They blocked the stifle yesterday and she jogged sound. It appears that along with the tendon hyperextension she also jammed her stifle while sliding. As the other stifle was sparkling clean, this appears to definitely be an acute injury versus long-term degeneration, so we opted to treat the stifle with Vetalog and Polyglycan to get any last inflammation taken care of. That's of course not ideal in my mind, but I want to take care of this right now - long-term inflammation CAN lead to joint degeneration and that's the last thing I want. By taking care of it now, we can prevent that from happening, and it's likely that we've had to do this joint (and only the right one, I might mention) and then never have to think about it again. All in all, I am glad we ended up doing the bone scan, as it gave me peace of mind, like a few of my readers said.

As for the SI asymmetry, I am calling up Dr. A right away to have her adjusted. I knew for a fact that she needed one (he put his hands on her and told me so), so we are opting to treat the SI issued chiropractically for now. If we need to address them again in the future with antiinflammatories we will, but I hope not to do that. Dr. A is nothing short of a miracle worker in my mind so I expect he will be able to help greatly.

(For those of you unfamilar with nuclear scintigraphy, here is a little write-up of what it is. Essentially, the theory is that when bone is injured it repairs itself by adding more bone to an area and increasing its activity, a term called remodeling. The isotope injected into the horse is radioactive, and accumulates where there is a high level of bone activity. Essentially they measure the radioactivity of areas of the horse - the areas that accumulates the isotope in high levels is essentially measuring inflammation. It's useful over radiographs for things like joint degeneration because a horse might have clean x-rays but still have joint pain, or often times vice-versa. However, it doesn't do more than tell you which areas of bone are inflamed - it's up to the doctor to determine what exactly is causing the pain and why.)

Of particular note is the fact that her hocks were, and I quote, "pristine." Either they were not the trouble I thought they were, or injections greatly helped. Which is very comforting to hear. We ran the ultrasound over the fat hock and found nothing of particular importance, and when it showed up clean on the scan, we can only deduce that for whatever reason, she developed some mild cellulitis (bug bite? trama?), which may or may not go away. Seems to not be a problem, so we'll just wait to see what it does.

One last thing to note is that we no longer suspect this is an issue of Lyme. The other vet said that something about Lyme shows up in a certain way on the bone scan, and they didn't see that (he explained it to be but I couldn't make heads or tails of it). So at least there is that. Now we know she's just a nutty event mare on stall rest in December. Not surprising!

Here are a few of the images from the bone scan:

It's always very interesting to see because I dunno, those stifles look the same to me!

And a quick ultrasound image:

Coming along very nicely. I guess there are still small margins of where the lesion was but they are so unremarkable that they weren't even pointed out to me on ultrasound.

Gogo's rehab program continues as thus:

Dec 5: Strict stall rest (and grooming), 2g bute
Dec 6-11: Treadmill 25 minutes once a day, 2g bute daily for 3 days then 1g bute for 4 days
Dec 12-18: Tackwalking 30 minutes, treadmill 25 minutes
Dec 19-Jan 1: Tackwalking 30 minutes, trotting 5 minutes, treadmill 25 minutes
Jan 2-15: Tackwalking 30 minutes, trotting 10 minutes, treadmill 25 minutes
Jan 16-29: Tackwalking 30 minutes, trotting 15 minutes, treadmill 25 minutes
Jan 30-Feb 13: Tackwalking 30 minutes, trotting 20 minutes, treadmill 25 minutes
And then we can begin canterwork, if all is going well. We'll talk to Dr. Chope in 6 weeks to see about another ultrasound if we need it, but I'll probably just have Dr. C do it here.


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Recheck at Tufts

Gogo's 2-month recheck at Tufts was at 9:00 this morning. Technically, this is three months out from her injury (a little less, actually), so I was not expecting the news I received for such a short time out from the injury. Gogo's tendon is HEALED. There is nothing at all to be found on the ultrasound anywhere. The only thing of any remark was that on ultrasound both tendon sheaths of both SDFTs has slightly hazy margins, which essentially means nothing at all. Maybe it's residual, maybe it's just how she is. Either way, it is doubtful that it is or ever will be lameness causing in the present or future.

However, it's not so simple as a hop right back to work. She was still ever so slightly off RH. It was so slight that to me, she looked sound. Dr. Chope didn't seem that concerned about it, but had another vet that I wasn't familar with come over for a second look after she ultrasounded clean and I was getting ready to have a new rehab program outlined for her. We had already run the ultrasound over her fat hock and found some very mild joint effusion (possibly from recent trama?) but it wasn't bothering her that we could tell. When this other vet poked around at her, he also found she had very mild effusion in her right stifle - again, something I neither noticed nor could hardly see unless I got in there and felt both stifles several times, and even then I wasn't totally sure. What did concern me was how seriously reactive she was to palpation of both SI joint. She about sat down when he palpated her. THAT to me is indicative of a bigger problem, something I've actually long suspected given her chiropractic history. When we jogged her again and flexed her, she flexed positive to both full flexions on both hind legs. And again, I couldn't see any difference between any of the jogs. Me being a worried horseowner with insurance and this vet being a macho vet at a high-tech school, he "highly recommended" a bone scan and gave a long list of why exactly I wanted to spend about $2000 doing that. My concern at this point is whether or not Gogo's insurance will continue to cover her at all after this year. We've already been cancelled from another company, Markel (and I use the name so that you will all know to never use them), for making a single claim on Gogo - we scoped her for ulcers and she was clean. They made an exclusion, and then bam! Cancelled when the policy came up for renewal. What's the point of insurance if you CAN'T USE IT. We are with Broadstone now, and hopefully they will do what a sensible insurance company would do and make a temporary exlusion for a length of time, and charge me ridiculous amounts of money. Very irritating. Anyway, so I got some sharpness from my mother about it, got some more pep-talking by this vet who I am now convinced I don't like anymore, and decided to go ahead with it. I mean, it does make sense to me - we'll be able to know exactly what kind of bony trama we are dealing with in her entire back end, and know what we can rule out and what is/is going to be problematic. What irritates me is that this guy essentially is playing with my money by putting me in an emotionally unstable situation where I obviously want the best for my pet and will do what I have to to secure that for her. I could have said no but... what if there really is something going on that simple blocks and radiographs couldn't have told us? It just kills me that it's SO subtle I can't hardly see a thing. Are we finding problems that weren't there to begin with? I don't know. I mean really, she looks fine and sound to me, but I'm not an expert.

Dr. Chope is great. This other guy, not so much. I make it a point not to use male farriers/vets for this reason.

Likely what is going to happen is that something will pop up on the bone scan, they'll recommend a course of injections for Gogo the Pincushion, all my morals will go down the toilet and I will come back with a much happier and sounder horse and a much more miserable me.

We do what we have to, I guess. But this is the bad part of fancy diagnostic work. Would I have ever even bothered to have this looked at if I never knew it was there? Woudn't we be home and getting back to work already tomorrow morning if that other vet hadn't happened to walk through the room? Does that make it right or wrong?

I've written about all these morals before and I still feel the same way. There are plenty of horses doing just fine with way worse problems that we have. Hell, if they were to run me through some fancy diagnostic machinery they'd probably tell me I shouldn't do physical labor ever again. But I still seem to be getting along just fine. I hurt really badly some days but I do it anyway.

Anyway, in short, the news is essentially great. Gogo's tendons have healed and she is *almost* ready to start trotwork again. We just need to figure out if this is some sort of mild low-level joint pain or something else, and address it as needed. You still wonder though how and when this all happens, and why we continue to do what we do if this is what happens to our bodies and our horses bodies in the end. Are we creating problems where there aren't actually any at all? She could just be stiff from standing around in a stall for 3 months. That sure as hell would make ME stiff. It's quite likely we're just looking into this way too much and I'm spending ridiculous amounts of insurance money for no reason at all. We'll know tomorrow.

I guess I'm doing the right thing. Maybe. I don't know if I'm doing the right thing or just wasting time and money. All I know is that I really just would rather have her home than sitting radioactive in the ward at Tufts until Friday. That's just... creepy. And it makes me feel dirty, in a way.

Yes. That's how I feel about all the vetwork that has happened in the past year versus any other year for any other horse in my entire life. I feel dirty. I just hope this all gets over and done with quickly. I just want her to be able to go back outside and get filthy and run and just... be a horse.