It’s been forever and a day since I did a any sort of post, let alone a DB post and I HAD to break the cycle of horse show posts!
Pre-Pandemic, my routine was gym from 6-7, work from 8-4, then ride from 4:30-6:30, then home. Then two days before the shutdowns, we moved from 20-25 minutes from the barn to across the street and everything came to a standstill.
Except riding. Being that in that close proximity and having literally no other place to go saw me riding like I’d never ride again. Since I just could now just pop over and I was working from home, I started taking 2 lessons/week with Dressage Trainer K in addition to going up to Trainer B’s to take 2 lessons/week on Leo, who was staying with him until the end of May for a smooth transition.
So then my schedule looked more like:
7:30 Wake up kids and get them started on school
10:30-12:00: Lesson or ride P
2:00-5:00 Drive to Trainer B’s for Leo
7:00: Dinner, bed, etc.
Now things are a bit more tricky. With the kids having to do live virtual classes, it’s impossible for me to leave or to get my own work done during the T.D.’s 1st grade block of 8:30-10:10. And with Leo back at my home barn , going to Trainer B’s requires more time than it took me to zip up there in my little car. So now my day looks like:
5:30-7: Wake up, either work or crossfit; depending on deadlines
8:30-10:10: Tiniest Dictator’s school
4:30-7:30: Kids taekwondo (M-Th; I have to take them if Husband’s out of town, which he usually is)
* Lessons at Trainer B’s require Husband to be home
So that leaves me with basically one slot per day to ride. And Leo typically takes that slot, except on days off, which means he gets worked 5-6x/week and P gets ridden 1-2 days, unless Husband is in town. But Husband has been traveling so much (these last 2 weeks he’s been gone 7 out of the last 10 business days) so the weeks P gets more happen, but not frequently.
It’s kind of a bummer, watching my riding time dwindle down, but I guess it’s really no different now than it was when the kids were in school and I was at the office, though seems like a distant memory now.
So how has COVID impacted your riding? Better, worse, or the same?
So there we were, sitting dead last after show jumping (even though that was due to a scoring error on their part, but I figured I’d deserved to be in last…totes rational), but thankfully the fun part was coming.
Until there was mishap after mishap on XC (at all levels) and BN rider after BN rider came off of XC looking dejected after one or more stops. Even Trainer B came off course on a client’s horse and looked quite grim as he described how spooky the course was. The CD had set a few jumps right in the woods, when the horses go from full sun to darkness and then immediately have to jump and horses were backing off right and left- no pun intended.
Warmup was quite busy so Trainer B had me trot a jump 3 times and then sent us right to the start box.
And we were off!
We were ONE second away from getting speed faults, so that gave us a double clear round and moved us up to 8th (aka, NOT LAST).
I swear I do other things besides show. I’ve started at least 6 different posts about non-show things, then I get busy, then I go to a show, and, well, here we are.
We headed on up to Windridge last Friday (yes, I’m a week late with this) afternoon, with Husband, kids, and the dog in tow. Since my trailer sleeps one, we rented this RV through rvshare.com and 10/10 recommend. It’s like AirBNB for RVs, and this one did not disappoint.
Leo settled in much better than he did at VA, Husband made best friends with everyone around us (it’s what he does and why he’s a kickass salesman), we had a cookout with everyone on the team at our RV, and then got some shut eye because it was going to be a long day with 7 horses going the next day.
Saturday morning, I did a pre-ride on Leo, then he had some bodywork done by a friend of Trainer B’s. I don’t know what voodoo he performed, but Leo went from super tight from his jaw to his hip, to fluffy, bouncy muscles (serious scientific terms there).
The test wasn’t great, but wasn’t awful. The footing in all 3 rings was absolutely horrendous, as they had just been put in and way too much sand had been added. The ring I was in was the best of the three, at least, but the corner by M was trashed so I lost some points because when I went into the corner, Leo got angry and when I bypassed the corner, it showed a “loss of bend.” Trainer B and I have been working on a specific ride for the right lead canter, and he warned me the judge was going to hate it…and she did (5.5, lolz). But whatevs. We survived.
Gaits: 7.0 “Lovely type” (Duuuuhhh)
Impulsion: 6.0 “Needs bend for smoother test.” (And not boggy footing. That would help, too)
Submission: 5.5 “Some resistance today.” (Ya think? We were in a sand pit)
Rider position: 6.0 “Work leg to create more supple connection.” (Uhhh, ok…)
Final score: 36.1
Next was SJ, and it was going to be first time we’d done SJ on grass, as Windridge sets up on the XC course. I was more than a little nervous, especially when Rabid Antelope Leo tried to come out over the few jumps we quickly did in warmup before it got crazy in there.
So I go in, and I just feel like we’re bolting around. I came out going, “He was so wild!” and Trainer B looks at me and says, “Watch the video.”
Then he came back over and said, “Still think he was wild?”
They did screw up and give me 4.0 time penalties instead of 0.4 for the one second I was over, but I was to distraught by my horrible riding to care. All I know is that Warmup Leo totally psychs me out. And I had no good answer for Trainer B when he asked, “How come you ride so slow in show jumping, but you ride so fast on cross country?”
Because I ackshually LIKE cross country…which, thankfully, was next!
So Wednesday morning I gushed about Leo, right? Was it just Wednesday? That day is sort of a blur. Because at 2:18 that day, I got a text.
Luckily my vets love me.
2:18: I get the text and sit in disbelief
2:21: I call the vet office and start packing up my stuff at work to leave
2:55: I arrive at barn
2:58: Vet arrives at barn
The first thing she did was stain the eye while I waited to hear the words “puncture” and/or “ulcer” and/or “needs meds every 6 hours.” The surrounding tissue was so swollen that she could only see about 90% of the eye, BUT she said that the eye itself looked normal and asked me if he was allergic to anything.
She said it’s most likely an allergic reaction, the result of himself whacking himself, or a sting. We’re leaning towards whack or sting, as BO reported he looked normal when he came inside that morning and she took off his fly mask. Plus he had nothing out of the ordinary- hay, water, feed was all the same. So the vet gave him some Banamine, a shot of Dex and said just to be on the safe side, treat with the triple antibiotic eye ointment I still had from the days of P’s eye…but thankfully only 2x/day.
By the time I left the barn about 4 hours later, his eye was still a little puffy, but not nearly as bad as before.
And the next AM, I almost couldn’t look when BO texted me again, but…
And then I went out there that afternoon and lo and behold…definitely normal.
P was definitely relieved it’s not more serious, as Leo being out of commission means P becomes the focus. Since I was low on time after work, Leo had a real ride while one of the other boarders toodled around on P bareback. And being back in work is HARD.
I guess this isn’t technically a blog hop, or at least a new one, but it should be. Amanda has this insanely hilarious post that, if you haven’t seen, need to check out STAT. I almost keeled over in my office chair from laughing. Come back here when you’re done.
It inspired me to think about what characters my own horses would be. I don’t feel like I know Leo well enough at this point to ascribe him to a character, and then I had way too many options with P, because P has many MANY personalities.
But during this thought process, I realized that while maybe P doesn’t have the traits of one specific character, our relationship does have a certain movie-esque theme to it…
P when I insist on bathing or grooming him.
And when he knows he’s done something wrong and preemptively punishes himself.
P when you lead him anywhere and make the mistake of turning to look at him.
When I have a crazy idea (usually for a contest).
My face whenever P does something cute.
Whenever we hang together in the pasture or stall. He’s definitely a cuddler.
When I ride Leo first, then go get P second.
P in dressage warmup.
P going into stadium.
Me bribing P to jump all the jumps on XC.
After Trainer B rides him.
Whenever we have a great ride (usually the ride after Trainer B).
Vs when he gets us eliminated on XC.
And the next time I see him after said elimination.
Me threatening P before we jump anything.
How others see us.
When a friend of a friend wanted to lease him.
And me after almost going through with it, but ultimately not.
And lastly- the most perfect gif EVER to describe our twisted relationship (again, I’m clearly Ryan Gosling).
These last couple weeks I’ve really struggled. P’s eye has taken an inordinate amount of time, money (insurance denied it…long story), and energy, and last week was the end of the road for me. I was exhausted, both physically and mentally, and it looked as if I were going to have to decide between removing the eye and putting P down.
Sounds dramatic, I know. But this last year has been hellish. I rehabbed his tendon strain oh-so-carefully every.single.day and right when he was healed, he decided to chop half his hoof off. So I oh-so-carefully went out to bandage and baby his foot every.single.day until *that* healed, then as soon as that was a non-issue, he punctures his eye. Typically eye things take a week or two to heal. But not P’s. Oh no, P’s eye has taken my soul hostage. This eye has cost me thousands of dollars and virtually all of my time, since it has required round-the-clock eye meds to be administered. So when I decided to have the surgery to remove the ulcer mid-May, I did so to give it the best possible shot at healing. And it looked promising until last Monday, the day after we got back from WHES, when suddenly it took a turn for the worse.
I noticed it Monday morning when I went out before work to shovel eye meds in. His eye just seemed droopier than usual. And when I went back out after work, it was MORE droopier still. We had our weekly vet visit scheduled for the next day, so I just cried all the way home and forced myself not to have the vet out on an emergency call. At the previous vet visit, which was Monday the 10th and 2 weeks post-keratectomy, the vet and surgeon concurred that it should be all healed within a week. So this obvious setback was devastating.
The next morning I was driving to the barn to do meds before work and I got a text from my BO, saying she had woken up to P running the fence line, so she brought him in to hose him off and took off his bug mask, only to find his eye completely closed. I called the vet to see if she could come out earlier, who said yes and that considering the length of time this has taken, it might be time to consider either taking him to NC State or having the eye removed.
While it might be a no-brainer for some to just have the eye removed, I was also factoring in the fact that, hello, it’s P, and with his recent track record there would obvi be some rare complication that would send me even more into financial and emotional oblivion, should that be the path that I chose. I don’t consider pets disposable. I do consider horses as pets. But I also have a family, and as such, financial obligations like food and shelter for them, and I was lost when it came to gauging how much more of our resources I should continue to throw at this horse. This may be unpopular, it sure as hell wasn’t fun to think about, but it’s honest.
So I talked to Trainer B, who has infinitely more experience with all sorts of crazy horse things than I do, who said to see what the vet found when she got there and not to make a single decision that day. That eased the pressure I was feeling quite significantly, so I calmed the F down (somewhat) and got to the barn.
The vet arrived shortly after, stained his eye, and found a piece of necrotic corneal tissue hanging from the eye. Why or how that happened is anyone’s guess, as both the she and the surgeon hadn’t seen that happen before (because only P would manage to come up with something no one’s seen before). She removed the piece of tissue, re-stained the eye, and the stain took to only the faintest, tiniest spot.
She sent the pictures she had taken to the surgeon, and he was very happy with how it looked (post-dead tissue removal) versus a week ago, and wanted to continue the meds as usual and re-check in 3 days.
I had already promised myself that no decision would be made that day, but I also knew that at some point, I had to draw the line. This thing has been stretched out way past the initial 1-2 week prognosis and was reaching into 2 months, with some weeks having 2x/week vet visits + a surgery. Enough was enough.
So my resolve was to give it to Friday, when the vet would come back out. If it wasn’t healed over, there would be no more “Let’s give it another week,” talk. This was it. I just had to figure out how to decide after that. Remove the eye? We’re talking a surgery + recovery + possible complications (remember…it’s P) + the whole uncertainty of whether P would be able to adapt. I’ve only ever known two horses who have had their eyes removed: one was insane and had to be put down for dangerous behavior and the other never skipped a beat. Obviously there’s a middle ground, but I had no way of knowing which camp P would lean towards, and wasn’t sure I wanted to even chance it. So I did another likely unpopular thing and assigned it a dollar amount. If on Friday it came down to making the decision and the surgery were over a set amount, that would be it and P would be put down.
So Friday came and I got to the barn before the vet. I pulled off his bug mask and the eye was open, then shut, then halfway open, then shut, then wide open, then shut. So I cried some more, put the bug mask back on, and gave him a bath and pulled his mane to kill time.
The vet finally got there (she was on time, life was just dragging at that point), asked me how he’s doing, and I think I choked out something like, “I don’t know, looks the same as before to me,” so she stained it, shined the light in his eye (which I resolutely didn’t watch), then turned and said, “I think you’re done.”
I was firmly deep in the rabbit hole of despair at that point, so I figured she meant I had to make my decision about surgery vs. euthanize. Which of course set off the water works again, but she grabbed my shoulder and said, “No, it’s good. You did it. There’s no sign of the wound anywhere. No stain uptake at all,” then she showed me his eye and sure enough….no sign of green anywhere.
So that sets off ANOTHER round of tears (and I’m not even a crier, good grief), but I managed to ask her why his eye would still be closed the way it is, and she said (duh) the Atropine that he’s been getting daily to dilate his pupils (duh..I’VE been the one giving it to him) makes the eye incredibly sensitive to light. Which…I know what Atropine does, and I know what it’s like to have your pupils dilated, but in my crumbling sanity, didn’t put those things together.
She said to take him off the Banamine + Atropine completely, and drop the antifungal ointment and antibiotic drops to 2x/day, because we’re both terrified of just completely stopping everything. We’ll continue those for the next 2 weeks, which is how long it takes for the Atropine to wear off.
I sent the pictures to the surgeon, along with her instructions, just to get his take on it and he said that the eye does indeed look healed and that I could opt to drop all the meds, but that of course it wouldn’t hurt to continue them.
Naturally P being P decided that the bug mask was no longer acceptable and rubbed his face raw right where the strap is (after being in this thing for 2 months without issue), so I had to switch him to a regular fly mask and put duct tape over the eye. I feel like the “x” I made with the duct tape is fitting (and yes, I did that on purpose). While he hates the nose of the fly mask (see video below), too bad, so sad.
If you made it through this novel, congrats and you’re a champ. I haven’t really talked about this with anyone besides Husband, BO, and Trainer B, and really needed to spill my guts. The last couple months haven’t been fun, but the last couple weeks have driven me to drink.
While I’m not exactly celebrating yet, I’m no longer in the depths of despair. As much as he frustrates me, I really can’t imagine not having the P-Bug.
I need to hire a full-time videographer, as I’m despairing that I have no media from the lesson on Saturday since Husband was selfishly watching our children.
The day before the lesson I decided to start working with Leo on self-loading into the trailer. When I picked him up from the seller, she led him into my trailer and he politely, but firmly said no the first few times. But self-loading is a big deal to me, as I go most places alone. So I cleared my afternoon to work on it.
Aaaaannnnddd…this was his 2nd time being asked to load (first time without a helper to reinforce the forward button from behind):
And that lesson stuck with him the next day and he went right on, and off we headed to Trainer B’s! That is, until 15 minutes into the drive when one of my trailer tires went completely flat. Luckily I was right next to a tire shop when it happened and about 20 minutes later, we were back on the road.
I still got there early enough to tack up and walk him around the arena so he could take in all the insanity that’s in there. Flags/umbrellas/liverpools/banners/random fillers/the odd chicken abound and can be a lot for any horse their first time. He was definitely a bit anxious, but kept his cool for the most part.
Trainer B met me on one of his horses so he could show me some stuff from the saddle, and I hopped right on while L stood stock still and off we headed to do the baby OTTB thing. He was excellent, save for 2 times- once when a horse in the pasture next to the arena took off and L assumed we needed to do the same, and the other when we trotted over a pole and he whacked his hind foot and COULDN’T EVEN deal. But in both instances he came right back after a brief brain hiatus and by the end we were STEERING.
And most importantly, he got right back on the trailer by himself to head home! He looked a little surprised when we pulled back into our home barn, like he couldn’t believe he wasn’t being left somewhere new.
He’s also started coming to me in the field, like the good ammy horse I’m hellbent on making him become.
The next day I dragged Husband with me so I could practice our homework and actually get a video of me on him for the first time, as up until then I had no clue what I looked like on him. And he was just as steady and willing as before. I really think he’s going to be quite fun.
I absolutely LOVE that he stands still at the mounting block. So much so that I got off and made Husband video me getting back on.
And I LOVE his trot. While he has green moments for sure, he feels quite balanced and seriously powerful.
While Trainer B is off competing for the week, our homework is to work on steering and walk/trot/halt transitions, both in the arena and while hacking around the farm. And then hopefully next week I’ll find the time (bahahahahaha) to squeeze in a lesson before L heads to Carolina Horse Park to learn what a horse show is!
Alternate title: What Not To Do When You Have an Injured Horse
My appointment at Tryon was at 10 AM, and lasted until about noon. Bette came to hang out with me, then we left P with some hay at the hospital and grabbed some lunch, then went to go check out the rehab place next door (which ultimately ended up being a hard no at $128/day). Tryon is a 2 hour haul for me, so I ended up finally getting home at 5 PM.
Those 7 hours were, for the most part, quite zen for me. While I definitely shed a couple of tears upon first hearing the diagnosis, talking to Bette, to the vets, and to Trainer B for sure helped a lot. The vet sounded very optimistic and Trainer B has been through similar injuries with horses. Neither made any mention of this being career-ending (provided P doesn’t escape and tear around like a maniac). It was all going to be ok.
So I get home at 5. By 5:01 I made my first mistake- Google. By 5:01:05 I made the most fatal mistake anyone can: clicking on a Chronicle of the Horse thread. NEVER DO THIS. COTH is the equine equivalent of WebMD.
But once I was in, I couldn’t stop…I finally ended up involuntarily passing out around SIX AM, after ELEVEN STRAIGHT HOURS OF GOOGLING & COTH-ING.
Now what did I do in those 11 hours? Let me tell you.
I read that front limbs have a great chance of recovery. If the injury is in the hind, you’re SOL. No exceptions EVER.
I read that once a horse is injured there, they will DEFINITELY reinjure it and will NEVER recover.
I read that horses who have this injury should NEVER be jumped again under ANY circumstances.
I read that only the STUPIDEST of stupid people would EVER ride a horse who has EVER had this type of injury.
I read that there’s absolutely NO WAY a horse can recover in less than 18 months from something like this. Better give it 5 years to be on the safe side. 10 if you actually care about your horse.
I read that if they sustain this injury in one leg they will DEFINITELY injure their other leg in a similar fashion due to compensation.
I read that the ONLY treatment for something like this to have even the SLIGHTEST chance of recovery is for them to have a surgery called fasciotomy. And then I became incredibly angry at the vets for not even having the decency to MENTION this to me. Clearly they assumed I was a pauper and didn’t care for my horse in the least bit. CLEARLY.
Despair kicked in around 1 AM or so. I was tempted to drown my sorrows in a bottle of red wine and the huge bag of M&Ms that Husband so thoughtfully had waiting for me, but no…my horse needed me to think clearly. Eating and sleeping would be selfish.
It was clear to me by then (yes, I was sober) that my horse’s riding career was over. So I looked for retirement farms (FYI there’s a nice one in VA, if anyone is looking), searched for local land for sale so I could have a place for P, and redid our household budget 1,000,000 ways to see how I could fund a second horse.
You’re probably thinking I stopped there, but you’d be wrong. As I was also convinced that P was in immeasurable pain as well, and obvi would be for the rest of his life, I may or may not have memorized my equine mortality insurance plan in looking to see how humane euthanasia worked.
Poor Husband woke around 4 AM (probably to the sound of me sobbing) and said to stop with the internet and get some sleep. I snarled something about him hating P, I believe, and he fell back asleep. Damn patriarchy. I was sure he was HAPPY P’s life was essentially (or literally, depending on which scenario I was convinced of at the time) over.
By 6 AM I had a list of retirement farms to contact about pricing/amenities, some land that I was going to call realtors about, had quotes for run-in shelters to place on said land, and had rehearsed how I was going to accuse ask the vet of not offering up the only procedure that could possibly work to save my horse’s life. It was a very productive night.
Let me tell you about the vet I saw, real quick. He’s been with Tryon Equine Hospital for the past 18 years, and owned it for the last 10 years. He’s trained at New Bolton and was Chief of Staff at Univ. of GA Hospital. His wife is an eventer, as well as an FEI vet for dressage/eventing and is the selector vet for the Canadian event team. The 2 of them are literally overseeing all the FEI vets for WEG.
So, uhhh, pretty qualified, right? Which is why I went there to begin with. But by 6 AM that next morning, I was convinced they were hacks and had some sort of conspiracy against my horse and I. Ya know, all rational things.
Tryon opened at 8 AM, so I gave them until 8:03 before calling because I’m considerate like that. I explained to the receptionist that I had been there yesterday and had a few questions, then left my number for one of the vets to call me back.
Then I put down my phone and stared at it. That never fails.
When they hadn’t called back by 8:05, I lost it. It was obvious they didn’t care that I was going to have to put P down. They probably didn’t even like horses AT ALL.
My makeup had been cried off by now, and half of it was all over my work clothes. My contacts were blurry from all the tears and Husband suggested perhaps I stay home rather than go into the office. I had actual work that needed to be done though, but luckily had my computer at home with me. So I opened up my computer to get said work done, and within 5 minutes found myself with no less than 2 dozen tabs on suspensory injuries open.
I declined breakfast, and Husband tried to gently close my computer lid which only prompted me to grab it and yell, “I HAVE WORK TO DO,” to which he replied, “But….you’re not doing that…” which only caused yet another sobbing fit. I had already accepted the vets didn’t care about my horse’s life, but now my HUSBAND was trying to prevent me from learning all I could so I could make informed decisions about the care of my horse?
By 10:30 AM I had taken to not only cursing the vets and my husband, but also their respective parents. What kind of parents raise people to be so hateful of horses and their loving owners? WHAT DID HORSES EVER DO TO YOU, KAREN?!
By the time the phone rang at 1:14 PM, I was blind from blurry contacts, looked like I had pink eye, my lips and cheeks were swollen and puffy, my nose hurt from blowing it so much, I was surrounded by wads of tissue, and I had a broken toe nail from when I lunged for my ringing phone 15 minutes earlier (which was a STUPID telemarketer who will probably never call anyone else again).
I started with my legitimate questions, first. I needed those answered before going in for the kill.
Me: You said he needed to be hand-walked/tack-walked every day. How long?
Vet: About 20 minutes would be good, no more than 30 minutes for now.
Me: After talking to the insurance company, I’ve decided to do the shockwave but Tryon Hospital is 2 hours away from me. Can any of the vets from your mobile division in Charlotte do it?
Vet: Yes, of course. The receptionist up front can schedule that for you. We’re all on one system so the mobile vets will have access to Pilgrim’s records.
Me (because I couldn’t help myself): Do you really think Pilgrim has a chance at fully recovering?
Vet: Yes, as long as you stick to the rehab plan. Some people just turn their horses out for whatever reason and the ligament doesn’t get the chance to heal properly. Resting it lets it heal while controlled exercise will help the fibers heal in the right direction and minimize scar tissue. We’ve had hundreds of cases similar to Pilgrim’s, and most return to their former jobs at the level they were previously working at. The ones that don’t are the ones that further injure themselves during rehab.
Me: Why wasn’t surgery brought up as an option?
Vet (after long pause): What surgery?
Me (thinking, “Aha! I KNEW you had no idea what you were doing!”): Fasciotomy.
Vet: Oh, Pilgrim isn’t a candidate for that surgery because he doesn’t need it. There’s a small amount of edema (swelling), but it isn’t cutting off any circulation or causing any pain, and will subside with healing. The shockwave should help it go away faster, as well.
So, my friends, learn from my mistakes and NEVER EVER EVER Google or COTH your horse’s symptoms or diagnosis.