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

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Another update

Lance's weight is holding now with the addition of oil and fresh pasture to his diet, but his allergies and their effects on his breathing and attitude seem worse if anything.

On Sunday we took a saunter through the woods while it is still passable. (Some areas are crowding in on both sides with an unsavory mix of poison oak, stinging nettles, burdock, thistles, tansy ragwort, Himalayan blackberry, and horsetail.) The last stretch when homeward bound is all uphill; Lance stopped five times to huff and puff even though we didn't ride long, far, or fast. As far as I'm concerned, that means trail rides in the mountains during horse-camping trips is out of the question.

I have also noticed a strange phenomenon in recent weeks. Lance has always been a "stingy sweater;" I used to think he had anhidrosis or hypohidrosis. Now I often find him sweating just standing in his stall or out grazing when it is warm (even though Oliver isn't) – and there is always more sweat on his left side. I took some photos one day to show Rick; you might have to click to biggify the full body shots to see the difference.

When we come back from a ride, the sweat seems bilateral; it's only the "resting sweat" that's uneven.

He is itchy and rubbing out his mane which is usual for this time of year. Yesterday morning with puffy bags under listless eyes, he looked a picture of hay fever misery, poor guy. Then last night when I went down to do chores, I was startled by puffy bulges where divots above the eye sockets usually are. Again I snapped photos to show Rick, with a shot of Oliver's face shown first for comparison:

Rick thinks it is probably inflammation due to allergies, but could be a side effect of the steroids or a symptom of Cushings disease. (Interestingly, Cushings was one of Rick's suspicions when we noticed in January how much weight Lance had lost, but the specialist thought heaves was much more likely so we never tested him.)

Beating heart? Check.
Today Rick took time to do some follow-up. After checking Lance's heart, he listened to Lance's lungs and airways at rest and stressed. Then he scoped the back of Lance's throat to see if any structural or neurologic problems were evident. Next came an external neurologic exam, followed by a blood draw. His conclusion is that Lance appears pretty normal clinically. There's the uneven sweating and swelling above the eyes, but no sign of neurologic problems and fairly minor lung issues. He's going to send the blood in to test for Cushings, and is cutting the amount of prednisone I'm administering each day. Now we wait on test results.

I really appreciate my DH's time and expertise; I feel much better now about continuing the bit of work we do in the arena as well as short trail rides. I will continue to give him inhaled albuterol before each ride, as it seems to open up his airways and reduce coughing for awhile.
He is mastering the straddled-pole walk!

Monday, May 8, 2017

My pokey little pony

Right after my last post (you know; when it wasn't raining yet?), I did indeed go down to ride Lance. We got wet. :-/

Lance and I keep putting one foot in front of the other. Nothing we've done has made a noticeable difference in his breathing or energy level (not even fresh green grass!),

so I still feel like I'm taxing my mount with any amount of movement I ask for. The only reason I keep asking is the belief that no exercise is worse for him than some exercise.

Today we went for a trail ride. The weather was perfect, the woods were peaceful, the wildflowers were beautiful – and I even captured a barred owl being harrassed by songbirds!

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

No news isn't terrible news

At least the bilateral shaved spots (for ultrasound) are covered by the saddle pad!

A couple of my faithful readers/commenters have contacted me to ask if I've heard anything yet. Sorry; it took a few days, but the consulting vet (Rick said to tell you she used to be Zenyatta's vet) finally let us know that she didn't think Lance has EMPF based on his lung ultrasound. That's GOOD news, since EMPF is usually fatal. But it is sometimes hard to remember that it is good news, because we are still no closer to turning around Lance's decline. The consulting vet recommended that we add albuterol inhalers 4X a day to the twice-daily oral prednisolone, and so we have.

Lance tolerates this too-small mask that restricts his breathing to a tube filled with medication surprisingly well; after the first treatment I haven't needed the halter. But the treatment hasn't brought about any noticeable improvements in his breathing or energy level. I hate pouring medication into him six times a day, but without it I'm afraid we'd go back to severe heaving. I feel bad about riding him at all, but know that being a "couch potato" would do him even more harm. I guess I need to look at riding him like physical therapy; it may not be fun or easy for either of us, but it's necessary and beneficial.

So that is what's going on here. It's not raining at the moment, so excuse me while I take Lance out for physical therapy....

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Careful what you wish for

I scheduled a lesson with Julie for this morning. Even though Lance is still compromised, I thought we could work in short, effective periods like last time.

It rained all day, so when we got to Julie's I tied up Lance in the arena to tack up. After removing his turnout sheet, I snapped a photo on impulse:
Changes are sometimes easier to see in 2D. His neck, shoulders, back and hindquarters have all lost significant mass, and for the first time in the five-plus years I've had him, I can see a hint of ribs.

The footing in the arena is new – and chunky. As we walked around to warm up, I worried a bit. Lance tripped and fell with me once in Kate's arena with similar wood chip footing – and Lance was stronger and more energetic then.

When Julie arrived on scene, she immediately commented on Lance's condition. She felt he had lost the weight he'd regained between our last two visits, and she wasn't comfortable with asking him to work. Given my concern about the footing, the decision to cancel the lesson was actually a relief. We chatted awhile; she had an event horse with COPD so I asked how she had managed him. I shared my nagging worry that we haven't gotten to the bottom of Lance's decline; we brainstormed a little but couldn't come up with any new possibilities.

On my way home I called Rick's secretary to ask her for the contact info of a veterinarian Rick knows who is board certified in Internal Medicine. Rick has run Lance's problems by her; I wanted to pick her brain myself. I sent her an email as soon as I got home, sharing his history, test results, treatment regimen, and continued, concerning muscle loss.

By late afternoon she responded, asking for some video clips of his at-rest breathing and an ultrasound of his lungs. I shot the videos and texted them to her; Rick is going to do the ultrasound in the morning. The suspect near the top of her list: EMPF – equine multinodular pulmonary fibrosis. We may know tomorrow; my stomach is in knots.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Better living through modern pharmacology

Lance has been on twice-daily oral prednisolone for a couple months now. It has not been a magic cure; his breathing still isn't 100%, he still lacks energy, and he's still losing muscle mass, albeit more slowly.

Case in point: The day we got back from Omaha was beautiful, so I turned out Lance and Oliver in the arena to burn off steam. Lance hadn't been out in a week and a half, but what you see in the photos above are the sum total of his energy expenditure. He dropped and rolled, got up and hopped once followed by a bit of canter. After that he shuffled around at a walk or jog while Oliver continued to race around.
I continue to ride him often but briefly. Asking him to do very much makes me feel like I'm 'beating a dead horse,' but not exercising him at all would be even worse for him. So we keep it short and effective; touching on the knowledge that is there, refining it a wee bit each ride. I'm glad to have the exercises learned at the Expo in our toolbox!

His ears aren't really THAT big. ;-)
Finally, this week Rick did a lung lavage in order to check cytology. Poor Lance; even though he was sedated, the sensation of the silicone tube going down his bronchial tube and into his lung made him cough so violently his eyes watered! Fortunately, it didn't last long. Like most of the other tests Rick's done on Lance, the results came back pretty normal, other than some plant material present (probably hay dust). We've added once-daily Ventipulmin syrup (clenbuterol) to his regimen; that helps him clear his airways better and seems to have perked him up a bit. Once the bottle is used up, we'll have to look at something more suitable for long-term use; clenbuterol can affect his heart.

So that is what has – and has not – changed in my Camelot. The Holy Grail of perfect health is elusive, and its quest has been an overarching burden on my mind these many weeks. But I still have my Lancelot, and he has me. That is enough.