To ride dressage is to dance with your horse, equal partners in the delicate and sometimes difficult work of creating harmony and beauty.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Around the arena and down the lane

Sorry to leave you post-less for so long! I'm still horsing around, I just haven't had any extra time or mental energy to post about it.

I haven't been over to ride Larry at his fine facility again (see second sentence above). He gets excellent care and regular exercise, so I'm not worried about him.

Like I said on my Boulderneigh blog, Lance is feeling much better, which makes my heart sing. After getting his immune system calmed down with dexamethasone injections, we're maintaining him with twice-a-day oral prednisolone. Being able to breathe makes him much more biddable; imagine that!

We were enjoying some ballroom dancing in the arena last Thursday afternoon when the sky starting changing colors. We left the arena at a trot and headed up our lane to catch an unobstructed view of a glorious sunset.

Yesterday afternoon we caught a break in the rain again and ventured through the woods. We had gone out once before at dusk and ran into unusually wet conditions; I wanted to see what was going on with better light.

The woods are in sad shape. Besides much of the track turning into a shallow stream (it has been a very wet month), a lot of mature trees have fallen over. Ivy is overtaking many other trees, which will weaken and eventually topple as well.

Anyway and however.... When I tried to ride late this afternoon, Lance was incredibly sluggish, coughed quite a bit, and was breathing different than his back-to-normal respirations. Needless to say, I didn't torture him very long. I forgot to give him his meds last night; I suppose his heaves could be that barely controlled. :-/

Taken last week; today we got rained on.

Wait – who? Ha! This nice little Paint mare belongs to my new student. Today was the fourth Sunday in a row that her mom has hauled her in from their home an hour away for a lesson. She's entered in our ODS chapter's league show next Sunday; it will be both the student's and the horse's first dressage show. So I will be going to Bears Above the Ground – to coach and volunteer, just not to compete.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Because, horses

If you have horses long enough, you get plenty of experience in various ailments, injuries, and freak accidents. Because, horses. For all their beauty, athleticism, and power, they can be rather fragile beasts.

So, Lance's diagnosis is COPD, a new experience to add to my file. Soaking hay and steroid injections have been added to our daily regimen. Long-term, we will be looking at the best drug and delivery options to maintain his health. We have a horse-sized inhaler mask, courtesy of a client who finally put his horse down after at least 20 years of managing his heaves. I am so thankful to have an equine veterinarian as a husband! It will be interesting to see how treatment and improved air movement change my horse's attitude and work ethic....

Too cute! Note short door and platform (with ramp) to look out his window!

What a contrast to today's weather!
Yesterday I went over to ride Larry again. He's at a beautiful facility where he is loved, cared for, and lightly ridden by one of the owners, so even if I had unlimited time, he doesn't have unlimited availability. That's okay; I don't have unlimited time. Riding Larry once a week, twice at most, will probably fit into all schedules involved. It still gives me a very different dancing partner to adapt to and learn from, one bred for the dressage ballroom – with a much bigger trot!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Puzzle pieces

For a week I've waited impatiently for each new bit of diagnostic information, hoping to get some concrete explanation for Lance's muscle loss and hopefully his lack of energy. His fecal was clean; his large animal profile came back with every value smack dab in the middle of normal. Today the results of his blood test for Cushings disease came in; his ACTH level was borderline low/normal. Rick brought home Pergolide in treat form just in case that's Lance's problem, but before that....

I was anxious to ride after work today since I haven't had any saddle time yet this week. As always, we started out walking on a loose rein to warm up. After a few minutes I stopped Lance to take a photo, and realized his sides were heaving and his nostrils were flaring. I immediately called Rick to report the incident. He had me time Lance's respirations (20.5/minute – too fast); I also shot this video so Rick could see just how Lance was breathing.

This, my friends, is what "heaves" looks like.  :-(

When Rick got home two and a half hours later, Lance was still heaving, albeit less dramatically. A shot of atropine seemed to help, but he was back to heaving when we checked him a couple hours later so he's definitely experiencing bronchial spasms. So now the questions are: What is inducing his asthma? Is this the cause of or related to his muscle loss? Is this the cause of or related to his low ACTH level (due to increased cortisol levels)? Of course, I also wonder how long Lance has had this problem. I can remember a few obvious breathing incidents like today's, but didn't notice the milder manifestations. His lack of stamina has long given me pause, though . . . why is hindsight so much clearer?

Competing Lance at the end of this month looks like a no-go for sure now, even as I (IMPATIENTLY) wait for my vet to do and tell me more. Next up is probably a bronchial wash, and perhaps trying clenbuterol. I've always said my horse (whichever one I have at the time) gives my husband plenty of diagnostic and treatment challenges; sigh.

On a slightly brighter note, I'm going to ride Larry tomorrow. I'll try to remember to take some photos of him to show you. Sayonara.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Lots of irons in the fire, but no photos

Well; it's been quite a week already, and it's just Wednesday night!

On Sunday, one of Brian's schoolmates hauled in with her two mounts for a get-acquainted lesson/session. She has been without a trainer since dropping 4H, and was excited about the possibility of taking lessons from me and entering our dressage chapter's show at the end of February. She brought both her cute little Welsh pony (she's quite petite herself) and her green Paint mare, and rode both of them. I sent her home with some things to work on and my old all-purpose Wintec saddle since all she has is a jumping saddle; her mom is planning to bring her up for lessons every Sunday possible between now and the show.

When they left, I was eager to get on Lance to "practice what I preached." That's the beauty of teaching anything; it confirms the knowledge in the teacher. But my eagerness faded when I didn't get any enthusiasm from Lance. He wasn't grumpy or resistant, just lazy it seemed. We schooled, but I wondered if we had any business trying to do two tests at our show. (Last year he was agonizingly lazy in the first test; I had to get pretty forceful with him in order to get through the second test without him petering out.) Last week, he was very rattly and congested during one ride, and became nostril-flaring, side-heaving out of breath after just a little walk and trot work. He wasn't breathing like that on Sunday, but the incident was in the back of my mind.

Monday I took him for a ride down the lane through the woods, thinking he might perk up with a change of venue. He didn't.

Lance had Tuesday off; I picked up some rice bran pellets to add some fat calories to the horses'  rations. (They both approved of the addition.)

Today we had a noon lesson scheduled with Julie. She noticed immediately that he had lost a lot of muscle in the three months since she had last seen him. I had noticed that as well, even though I've been giving him extra hay and he is getting regular exercise. After watching him move a little, she felt strongly that we shouldn't continue, and advised me to hold off sending in my show entry form. Lance had NO gas in his tank, and seemed quite subdued. We talked it over, and with her encouragement I loaded him back up, called Rick, and drove Lance straight to the clinic. Rick listened to Lance's heart and lungs (normal), put the hoof testers on his front feet (no soreness), tested him for hind-end weakness and ataxia (none noted), collected a stool sample for a fecal, and drew blood for a large-animal profile and possible testing for Cushings disease. By that time he was acting more like his busy self; I took him home.

While I was at the clinic, Rick asked if I was available to ride a horse later. He has taken ownership of a client's horse to try and find him a good home rather than putting him down, and wanted me to evaluate him. So later this afternoon I met Rick at the stable where Larry is boarded, and got in a ride after all!

Larry is a 22-year-old warmblood who has been shown to Prix St. George; he is out of condition, has Cushings disease and an old injury. But he's a sweet old gentleman, and after we got acquainted while warming up, he was actually a joy to ride! (The experience made me realize just how little response I've been getting out of Lance; I sure hope the blood work tells us something definitive.) The stable where Larry is boarded is willing to give him room and board in exchange for using him as long as Rick will cover his medical expenses, so I will probably go over and ride him again. Who knows; maybe he has another PSG test in him! I just need one more score for my silver medal.... ;-)

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Two rides in the bank

I did get Lance out for a ride in our snow-covered arena on Sunday. Yesterday I decided we'd have better footing on our thawing gravel lane, so we schooled there and cooled out in a snowy field.

I'm not sure what opportunities we'll have the rest of this week; the temperature is going up but the rain is coming down.

Our ODS chapter's league show is coming up at the end of February; I need to pull out my test booklet to see what we're ready for and ride with those tests in mind. I also want to schedule a couple lessons with Julie to utilize her eyes on the ground.

Looks like I'll be the eyes on the ground for someone else soon if we can work it out. A schoolmate of Brian's is interested in taking dressage lessons and entering our show; we're going to try to meet up for the first time this Sunday. I'm looking forward to it!