Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Bubble. Wrapped.

One of my profound abilities as a horse owner is to *always* find something to spend dollars on.  Always.

It is my inalienable truth.  Money.  Spend it.

Overlay this with my (totally inaccurate) notion that a horse on stall rest is somehow "saving" me money.

For obvious reasons, this is not the case.  Just because we're not showing doesn't mean we aren't still eating (lots), and racking up vet bills (see previous post) faster than I could ever spend my funds at a show.

Anyway, a compulsion to shop, plus *feeling* like I'm somehow not horrifically over budget means Prairie gets a care package.

Mostly I can blame this one on Supermom, since when having lunch with her last week and listening to me ramble on endlessly about Prair's foot, and omg what about her back, and did you know MRIs are so subjective??? I didn't, but that's horses, does navicular make sense to you? I guess it does to me, but I just don't want to deal with a horrible soft tissue injury.... blah blah blah"

So amid that, somehow she interrupted me and asked if I wast getting my Back on Track wraps on the mare.

And somehow I stopped talking (and eating) long enough to say "huh?  No."

But she had a good idea.  With both the soft tissue strains, and the navicular fragmentation, our challenge is increasing circulation to the area in order to promote healing.

Which.... is just what BoT claims their products help do.  (face smack).

I shot a text to my vet to just make sure she didn't have any concerns with me covering the mare in BoT and then promptly got my ass on SmatPak.

So, Prair is now wearing her BoT Mesh Sheet at night (we already had one of these for her back), and then wearing her new Quick Wraps and Bell Boots during the day (except for when she's walking).  That would give nice BoT coverage for everything we may or may not be concerned about while she's all cooped up.

Naturally I ordered everything in every size and spent the morning down at the barn treating Prair like Cinderella until we sorted it all out.
The mare was convinced that wraps = trailer, so she promptly got all excited and circled around like a crazy lady until I produced a handful of treats.  Baby and I finished grooming the mare to a shine, did some carrot stretches for her back, and then watched some other ponies get worked before heading home.

Prair is scheduled for her second shockwave tomorrow, which I'll miss since I have some meetings, but so far stall rest is going well.  If you didn't know she was on rest, you'd never guess.  She's fat, and shiny and looks like a million bucks.  Also, her brain seems to be doing okay as well.  She's still calm and happy and social in her stall - no signs of craziness or anxiety.


Monday, August 25, 2014


One of the many things I knew nothing about when Prair and I started doing the Hunter thing was how to manage a horse's eligibility for all the various "green" divisions that you can pretty much show in forever (only a slight exaggeration).

Part of me hates how dumbed down all the divisions have gotten - and that part of me wouldn't really mind if shows went back to starting at 3' for the lowest option.  However as a floppy Adult Ammy, I also really like being able to bop around at lower heights and still chase satin so I don't really complain about the current structure.
(winning all the floppy-ammy-awards)

Of course, managing the "green" divisions doesn't affect my personal rides too much since as long as I'm with a trainer full time, it's likely that I would have my trainer take the ride for any "green" division we ever pursue.  Really the only thing it does affect is the pursuit of satin and points and year end awards.  Which, as we know, I LOVE.

For non-Hunters who get confused by all the weird names for our (weird) divisions, here's a quick, down and dirty summary of the "Green" divisions limited by show experience. There are some funky details but for most intents and purposes this is what you need to know:

Baby Green - Open to horses in their first year of showing, regardless of age.  Fences set to 2'6".
Pre-Green - Open to Horses in their first two consecutive years of showing at 3' or 3'3".  Horses can NOT have ever shown 3'6" or higher.  You can switch between the 3' and 3'3" divisions at different shows.  (USHJA National Derbies limit the high options at 3'5" so that horses don't cross the 3'6" threshold.)
First Year Green - Open to horses in their first year of showing at 3'6" or higher (fences are 3'6")
Second Year Green - Second year of showing 3'6" or higher. Fences set to 3'9"

Lots of horses (regardless of discipline) aren't capable (or safe, or maybe even sound) showing at 3'6" or 3'9" so for some, trying to make the First Year Green's is a huge reach goal.  Of course there are plenty of Open divisions at every height (even 2'6") so you can always continue to show a horse at a lower height, even once their experience prohibits them from staying in the "Green" divisions.  In fact, at some shows I think the competition is stiffer in the Greens since those tend to be the fancier, fully campaigned horses - whereas the horses who hang around 2'6" or 3' forever may not have the same quality as a horse moving on to bigger and better things...

Anyway, I knew literally nothing about any of this when Prair started showing over fences, so here's what our record looked like:

Prair's first show over fences was a schooling show in July of 2012 where we showed over cross rails with no fill.  In September, we ventured to a B show where Prair showed in the Baby Greens and I took her in the Long Stirrup.  We did awesome on the flat, but nearly died over fences.

That was the end of our 2012 how season - one schooling show, one outing at Baby Green.

In 2013, because Prairie had shown the previous year in the Baby Green's, she could no longer compete in that division.  We could still show the 2'6" open divisions (and maybe we should have), but instead we showed primarily in the 3' Pre-Greens with considerable success.
Pre-Green Champ, and Zone Finals
While the fence height was no problem, Prair lacked a lot of the exposure and experience of the other Pre-Green horses who had been campaigning at 2'6" for an entire year already.  That was the first time I realized that if I had been "planning" Prair's Hunter education, I would have saved her Baby Green year for 2013 and not blown her eligibility on one B show in the Fall.

No matter.  2014 saw the start of Prairie's second year of eligibility for the Pre Green division, and we started with three weeks down at HITS Thermal.

Well  the mare was a bit... nervous.  So we stayed low at Thermal (2'6" and 2'9") the entire time.  When we came home and started the Spring season locally, Prair showed a full week in April in the 3' Pre-Greens before the mystery lameness started.  She had one more show at 3' in May, with mixed results before we dropped her back to 2'9" in June to log some good, relaxed miles.  July saw the return of the mystery lameness so we skipped all shows in July and August and now we're staring down the barrel of more stall rest and an uncertain recovery time.

A First Year Green horse in our barn was also out for a chunk of the season and when her owner opted to take the rest of the year off she applied to "reinstate" her mare's First Year Green status for 2015.

Intrigued, I spent some time on the USEF website and looked into what was involved with reinstating Green status.  Basically, the reinstatement process exists so that if your show season is cut short (for one reason or another) and your horse had minimal experience, you can repeat that year of eligibility - like red shirting in the NCAA.  There are some intricate details, but the basic qualifications are not having shown more than 4 times at whatever height you are trying to reinstate, and not having shown that height at all after September 1.

So, for Prairie, I wouldn't have been able to reinstate her Baby Green Status since even though she only showed that height once in 2012, it happened after September 1.

But this year I can reinstate her Pre-Green status since she only showed 3' twice (before September 1) and she won't show 3' again this year.

I don't want to jinx Prair's recovery by planning for our 2015 show season, but reinstatement applications have to be processed in the year that competition occurred.  So basically I can't rely on waiting and seeing if we'll need it.  Really the only downside of applying for reinstatement is the $100 fee... Which I guess I'll just consider a donation to USEF (sigh).

I'm pretty sure that the reinstatement process exists for two reasons.  1) to keep owners happy (since horses are expensive and get hurt and screw up the best laid plans).  and 2) to make USEF a little more money.

I'm fine with both, and glad that if we're able - Prair will get to play in the Pre-Greens one more year in 2015.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Barn Baby

Went to pat the mare yesterday and started my experiment of how best to tend to the child while getting horsey time in.

When we see Gus, M2 graciously logs some time with Cayla, leaving my hands (and brain) free to play with mr man - but I haven't really devised a plan for childcare while I tend to the Big Mare.

Once we're back riding regularly, I think babysitters will be involved, but until then I feel like it's totally possible for me to balance baby, mare and random barn chores.  Last time I had the baby at the barn, I left her in her car seat and just placed her somewhere near me - office, outside the stall, arena....

It worked pretty well, but I felt like I was running around always toting something be it my groom box or car seat, or whatever.  Didn't seem very efficient, so yesterday I threw the baby in her front pack and figured I would just wear her the whole time.

For the most part this worked great, she snoozes like a beast in that thing, so she was happy and quiet the entire time which takes care of my primary concern regarding having the baby in public with me.  It also kept her off the ground and away from hooves, which takes care of a major concern about having her out at the barn.

However, what it didn't take care of was keeping Cayla hidden from Prair's big, snuffly beak.  I don't know if Prair remains fascinated by the baby, or if she was just convinced that the front pack must have been some new giant treat dispenser, but the mare was adamant that her nose be shoved inside it, which resulted in a very slobbery (though undamaged) baby head.

Other than the baby slobber, the front pack was a good solution while Prair is off from work and my "barn days" consist of nothing more than grooming cleaning (already clean) tack and watching other people ride.  I did have to be a tad careful when I bent over to pick feet, but the baby didn't fall out, so no harm done.

Later in the day we went out as a family and The Boy put the baby back in her front pack, which did look a little.... grimy after the barn adventure.  Admittedly, Cayla herself smelled a tad horsey, which I assume can also be blamed on the massive dust cloud that was coming off Prair while we curried the crap out of her dirty, dirty coat.  The mare slobber probably didn't help either...

All in all, getting better at the whole barn baby thing.  I don't know how you moms do it!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Gus's Big Job Interview

I'm behind on posts (and laundry.. and other basic tasks) but such is life with a baby I'm told.

Gus has been doing so well at his new home that I finally felt comfortable with reviving my earlier conversations with the Therapeutic Riding Center about potentially using Gus in their program.  Typically they only use horses they own outright, but I guess they have from time to time also leased appropriate horses, usually from staff members or established volunteers.

The process of being approved for use is fairly rigorous.  There's an initial interview of sorts, followed by approval by their executive committee, followed by a 30 day trial, followed by a final vote of yay or neigh (lol) before a horse gets incorporated into use.

So last week we arranged for his first interview which would include members of the staff watching me ride and videoing, then a member of the staff riding, and finally testing Mr Gus with some program like challenges.
The Gus.
 Gus was a great boy for me (no surprise).  He felt a bit stiffer than he has, but was still steady and very happy to tootle around.  We showed them our best walk, trot and canter complete with work on the contact as well as plenty on the buckle.  True to form, Gus was steady, happy and reliable.  Finally, because it's so hard not to play with Gus' buttons, we did some lateral work, flying changes and halt/canter/halts.  (so FUN).

When their staff member got on, Gus didn't bat an eye.  He stood still at the mounting block and walked off on the buckle when asked.  After about 5 min of walking and trotting, his rider politely asked if she could borrow my spurs (oops) as Gus was slowly getting lazier and lazier.  (his signature move)

Once she got the (tiniest ever) spurs on, Gus offered some lovely canter transitions and worked like a gentleman.

The next part of the interview involved attaching a lead and asking Gus to walk and trot around with both a leader and a rider.  Gus was perfectly pleased to do this.  Then they added a third person who represented a potential "sidewalker" who would offer support to some of the riders during their sessions.  Gus thought that he had just accumulated extra friends and was perfectly willing to walk around with a crowd.

They simulated some of the "spookier" things that volunteers inadvertently do (falling behind and running to catch up, dropping the lead, waving arms... etc).  Also the rider offered some tests such as falling on his neck, leaning off one side, shaking the reins, kicking, shouting, etc).

Gus was not concerned.

Finally, it was time to test his interest in some props, so his rider got off and out came a bucket of toys. Initially Gus was convinced that said bucket would be full of treats (naturally), so he was moderately disappointed when his panel of interviewers pulled out a big plastic ball to throw around.  Gus gave it a hairy eyeball, but kept his feet on the ground and watched skeptically as the ball was tossed and rolled and passed around.  After a few minutes he was perfectly willing to let the ball roll into his feet, or get tossed into his neck.  None of the other toys (rings, stuffed toys, etc) caused him any stress, though he continued to inquire as to whether or not each item could in fact be consumed as a treat.

After a few more minutes of exploration, the interview was over and Gus was told that he would be hearing from them soon.

Well, the big man got a positive review and was approved for his initial trial period which actually starts today.  During the trial period the staff basically replicates the environment and processes that Gus would experience as a program horse.  He will join some of the group sessions (with a staff rider), walk around the property and work with some of the therapists and get poked and prodded and tacked as though he had clients working with him.

After 30 days we'll discuss whether or not they think Gus would be a good fit, and if he is, we'll talk about options.  I'm not ready to let the big guy go entirely, so I think we'll be looking at a lease, maybe a partial lease depending on his workload.  Ultimately it will also depend on how much M2 wants to be using him and for me... if Prair is back in work or looking at a longer layup.  If Prair continues to be out of work I may need Gussie for some good ol saddle time.

Those Lips
Fingers crossed for Gus!

Friday, August 15, 2014

First Steps

Sat with the mare yesterday as she got her first shockwaave treatment and was able to pick my vet's brain a bit more regarding our rehab and overall plan.

(slightly sedated)

Mostly this consisted of me asking lots of repetitive questions and my vet patiently tolerating them while she finagled the shockwave head at an awkward angle so it would target the Navicular...

We also discussed the specific plan for Prair for the next 30 days.  First is some special shoeing.  The mare will get reverse shoes up front to get some extra heel support and bring her breakover waaaaaay back.
reverse shoe.  open side toward toe...
Then we discussed how best to maintain some back strength during her layup. Ideally the vet wants Prair jogging nicely for a few minutes a day, but the Eurosizer has mats as footing and there's a scary risk of slippage if we tried to jog her in there.  Lunging is too small of a circle and, well... i don't jog, so jogging in hand isn't an option either.

Finally it seemed best to forgo the jogging and just have 30 minutes of walking in the Eurosizer each day (assuming she stays calm) to break up the stall rest.  Frankly, 30 days isn't that long and I don't think we'll lose too much ground with her back in that time....

So - Funny Shoes.  Daily Walks.  No work.

Sounds like me on maternity leave!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Prair Prognosis

Alright.  One month (and apparently a lot of cash) later, we have more info on Prair and her bum left paw.

As predicted, the two radiologist that looked at the MRI had shockingly different opinions (I guess that's why you get two?).  They both identified the same issues, but ordered them differently in terms of relevance and importance.

As with anything, if you start taking pictures, you find all sorts of crap, some good to know, some scary and some not relevant at all..

The WSU vet identified the primary issue as the sagittal tear in the medial oblique sesamoidean ligament on her left fore.

Our second read agrees that the ligament has irregularities, but thought it was more of a "strain" and not a ful tear (yay).

Instead, Second Vet thought that the "mild fragmentation" of the navicular bone, and some strain on the DDFT was more concerning and the primary issue.  I'm eager to learn more about this since the navicular looked clean when we took a radiograph back in April... I'm hoping that means its *really* mild, and not something that's shown up over the last couple of months.

Prair has already had a month of (mostly) stall rest with walking in her Eurosizer every day, but the current prescription is to take another month off, get a series of shockwave done during that time and see where we are.

My primary vet seems rather optimistic about returning to her normal job, and while I know there are no guarantees, it's nice to hear.  Frankly I was mentally prepared to hear that Prair would need six months to a year for the ligament, so the notion of another month before starting back to light work sounds downright speedy.

Obviously we don't know-till-we-know... but I'm feeling more upbeat about things than I did over the weekend.  I spent a lot of time staring at the report from WSU (trying to fill in the blanks) I started thinking about how I would stay in the saddle if we were looking at a seriously long, hard road to recovery.

I know we still have a lot of finger crossing and time between us and getting back to the show ring, but I'm going to cling to the notion that my vet wasn't all doom and gloom when we chatted today.

Leaving baby Cayla James with my mom tomorrow so I can go down to the barn and cross paths with my vet in person and be there for the first shockwave treatment.  Also we are going to try to come up with a plan to maintain as much back support/strength as possible so we don't lose ground on the kissing spine during this ordeal....


Monday, August 11, 2014

True Costs: Vet Bills - Fancy Diagnostics

Since my primary equine activity of late seems to be writing checks, I figure maybe it's time for another "True Costs" post.  While I feel like the notion of big vet bills is more widely acknowledged and discussed than the cost of showing, it's hard to find real numbers as to what certain procedures cost if you're bracing yourself for a costly endeavor.  Plus, much like showing, the costs often extend beyond the actual line item that you are planning and saving up for.

So, since Prair is currently working her way through my checkbook, here's a rundown of what some actual costs were for our recent MRI adventure.  If I'm brave (and can remember) I'm going to try to keep track of our rehab/vet costs so that in theory we can have a "total injury cost" at the end of it all.

While I'm guessing we've been dealing with the side effects of this ligament tear for a while - I'm going to start the clock with this last round of diagnostics (lameness exam, ultrasound, MRI).

Initial Lameness Evaluation: (including shared barn call):  $150
Ultrasound and Sedation: $400

So that's $550 before we even scheduled the MRI... which, as we know took me weeks to figure out.

MRI Time:

Actual WSU Hospital MRI Charge:            $2,000
2 Nights Lodging near WSU:                      $300
50 Gallons of Diesel (650 miles round trip): $200
650 miles of snacks:                                    $80
1 nice meal out to appease The Boy:           $90
Ice Cream & Cheese:                                 $40
Bodywork for Prair at home:                       $70

WSU Trip Total:  $2,780

Grand Total: $3,350

That's a chunk of change before we even have a rehab plan (waiting for a second review of the MRI, then we'll talk prognosis...).  As always, some of it was voluntary, here's the breakdown:

WSU Hospital charge:
My invoice was a simple, one line item charge - $2,000.  That included her overnights, feed, lab work, anesthesia, MRI, clinical consult, etc.  It was sort of nice to have it all just lumped together.  Made for easy planning, and based on previous vet experiences, seemed like a fair price given the number of students and vets swarming around my horse for 3 days.

2 Nights Lodging:
We opted for a Holiday Inn Express.  Definitely $40 more than some of the other options, but a known quantity and for the first hotel stay with Baby, it seemed prudent.

50 Gallons of Diesel:
Diesel hovers between $3.90 and $4.20 around here, but we found fairly cheap fill up options, and the Ford averages about 13mpg hauling one horse over the mountains

650 Miles of snacks:
Clearly we could have saved here, but The Boy and I enjoy our road trips and eat all the random crap we want.  random drinks, candy, chips... you name it, we snack the entire time we drive - But really, when you're blowing $$$ on vet bills, you might as well self medicate with pounds and pounds of gummy snacks.

1 nice meal:
Also an optional expenditure, but The Boy is gracious in letting me classify horsey field trips a "vacations" and I think that a few dollars here or there on a nice glass of wine and a steak are small investment in maintaining that illusion.

Ice Cream and Cheese:
Two blocks over from the Veterinary Teaching Hospital, is the University's on campus CREAMERY.  So, what does one do when you're horse is under anesthesia and you can't do anything?  Eat cheese.  And ice cream.  and more cheese.  Again, I see this as something akin to self medication and a worthwhile investment.

Bodywork for Prair:
The mare is back on a regular schedule again, but I wanted her to get a prompt session after the stress of a long trip and negative effects from being all bound up under anesthesia.  I would skimp on mandatory road snacks before I skimped on this for the mare.

So, what does this tell us?  It tells us that if your horse is insured (mine isn't) you will pay for your policy well before you finish the MRI.  I've chosen not to insure Prair since she already had two legs excluded, and when we had multiple horses my average vet bills beat the cost of multiple policies.  Essentially I was banking on my "general population" beating the actuary tables.  Also, we've been able to maintain a sizable "rainy day/vet fund" for the horses so that instances like this don't impact our daily finances (yet, lol).

I'm guessing our future holds many more ultrasounds, and maybe even another MRI down the road.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Home Again

Quick post to say we all made it home in mostly one piece (really my pinky toe and milk inflated boobs had the worst of it...)

Prair's MRI showed a tear in her sesmoidean ligament though I haven't gotten the full rundown on how big or how bad or what the hell that means.

Details to come, but for now just glad to have everyone home and happy.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Ready to Go

Prair made it to WSU teaching hospital yesterday (Thanks again D!!!!) and settled into her (air conditioned) stall quite nicely.

The Boy and I got to town today and after an absurdly delicious breakfast we checked in at the hospital, checked on the mare and got a rundown of what to expect for the day.

What to expect is not to hear/see anything until it's all over.

Also Prair was on her forced food restriction in anticipation of her anesthesia so no carrots for her (bummer)

Now we are back at the hotel waiting for the all clear that things went well, then we'll go meet with the docs and hear about what they saw.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone
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