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

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.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Long overdue

Sorry for the radio silence. A lot has happened since my last post – and not much has happened. What hasn't happened will probably take longer to tell than what has, so I'll save that for the next post.

On March 24 I hauled Lance down to the NW Horse Fair & Expo in Albany to participate in Jec Ballou's session on "Cross-Training Exercises for the Dressage Horse." I do a lot of cross-training, so this sounded right up my alley. But that session wasn't until 3:00, and Lance had to be there from 8:00 am until 6:00 pm. Thankfully, a friend came to help me pass the day, and we attended Jec's classroom lecture at noon. It was very good; I wish I'd taken better notes. I did take photos of some of her slides, though. Some take-away messages were:

1) Several different veterinary university studies have confirmed that it takes a minimum of working four days a week to keep a horse in condition. Considering how long it takes to get a horse fit, it behooves us riders to keep them fit! I feel pretty good about my long-standing policy to not let Lance stand around more than two days in a row, but am being more intentional about riding four days a week now.

2) Trail-riding, schooling, and conditioning exercises all need to be part of the mix; a well-schooled horse isn't necessarily a well-conditioned horse.

These points were confirmed in the riding session. Lance and I were one of three horse and rider teams that Jec used to demonstrate some conditioning exercises. The good news for an energy-conserver like Lance is that a lot of valuable work can be done at the walk.

Just a few days later (with no time to ride again), we flew to Omaha, NE to attend the FEI World Cup (and see family and friends). What an experience! I cannot accurately convey what it's like to see that many world-class horses and riders up close and personal; when the Grand Prix competition started, I actually teared up. Not that all the rides were beautiful to watch; I wanted to rescue some horses from harsh hands, and was once again struck by how gracious horses are to allow us on their backs. I took photos of every single test (SIXTEEN in a row!!!), but you can see far better images taken by professionals elsewhere, so I will spare you the long slideshow. I did share a few excited images on Instagram – you know, as proof I was there. ;-)

Other high points were getting to meet a blogger whose posts have inspired and challenged me, and reconnecting with an old friend I haven't seen in 26 years. There were also celebrity sightings (I kinneared a couple) in the extensive vendor area:

No shopping for me except for a few small thank-you gifts; "all I want for Christmas" is a healthy, happy horse!

And with that, I will segue into the next post . . . .