It happens to me every winter. I get burnt out. Tired of riding in the cold and dark. Tired of dodging rain storms. Tired of sloppy footing. Tired of five layers and feeling like a marshmallow.
Typically it comes in January as the days are short and cold but January was pretty mild this year. I rode religiously all month between rain storms. February has come though and brought my seasonal malaise along with it.
I haven’t ridden since the WR cross country outing and feel no motivation to do so. In years past I’d get angry with myself for this hiatus in riding. I’d silently scold myself for another day not spent in the saddle. Having a blog though allows me to spot trends and having noted that every year as winter wears thin and spring is about to bud I take a month off, well this year I’m allowing it with patience.
Spring is in the air. I can feel it in the slightly warmer sun rays, hear it in the increasing bird song and smell it in the wet earth. The days are growing slowly longer, the rain is still present but the ground is recovering quicker after each downpour. Soon, my favorite time of the year will explode around me and I’ll get a fresh breath of motivation.
I’ll ride with vigor until the end of summer when I’ll take another break as I burn out from riding in the heat, fighting hydration and hard ground. As I quickly approach 40, I’m learning to listen to my body as it tells me what it needs. Right now it needs spring. Until that comes it needs a break from the rigors of pushing through.
Eeyore is not the same horse coming into spring 2020 as he was spring 2019. His training is more solid, his antics less scary. Trainer hopped on him last weekend for the first time in over 2 months and was very pleased with the horse she found under her. He was lighter in the bridle, more balanced and a touch off the forehand. That was after 2 weeks of complete rest.
We will need a bit of a tune up and a lot of conditioning work once things get back in full swing, but I’m confident that all the work in 2019 will pay off. Until I’m ready to swing my leg back over my bestest orange buddy, I’m enjoying other aspects of life and he is enjoying a short break to eat the early spring grass and pick on Pete.
It is a normal occurrence to receive a cute picture of a litter of pups the Hubby is working on during the day. I love getting these since all I see are feet and lets face it…feet aren’t cute. Typically I respond with an “awe…can we have one” and get a “no way!” in response. I don’t actually want or need a puppy in my life, so this is more a ritual than a true asking. Unless it was a basset hound. Then that sucker would be mine…all mine!!! Dusty is smart enough never to show me a litter of bassets though and I’ve come to terms with the fact that a basset hound would not fit our lifestyle one bit and will have to wait until we sell the farm and move back to suburbia 20 years from now. Sigh.
When I arrived at the vet hospital for Eeyore Friday, I was met with an onslaught of texts from the Hubby showing off a litter of standard poodle pups. Only this time it was followed by him asking me if we could take the only one that didn’t have a home yet. Uh..what world am I living in? Beyond Einstein, Hubby has never asked for a pup in the 16 years I have known him. All our animals are my doing. I was shocked.
What could I say? I mean, a) puppy and b) this was the hubby asking. If he was asking, he must really really want this pup, so I said sure thinking surely this was a joke.
But I was wrong. Next thing I knew we were scheduling a time to go meet the pup on Sunday at the obscene hour of 9 am. I knew the Hubby was excited if he was planning on wrangling all four of us out of the house on a Sunday morning that early. I’m always up by 7 am but Sundays are my lazy days and I usually stay in my pjs until lunch when I have to get clothes on to grocery shop.
Instead I was marched out of the house on a cold, foggy morning and off to meet the pup. Dusty knows the breeders well as they are clients of his and he has known the mom and dad of the littler for a few years. He adores them and knew any pups from them would fit in with our clan and lifestyle/dog owner style well.
Of course once we put a puppy in the arms of the 7 year old, it was game over. I did get to meet the mom who was lovely and the dad who was fun and energetic. I’d be happy if the pup ended up with either personality or a combination of both.
His name was Cracker Jack after a Dolly Parton song about a loyal dog, but Wyatt immediately declared him Fluffzilla – a combination of Fluffy and Godzilla – so Fluffzilla it is.
So far his is proving to be quite the little pup. He is brave and bold, friendly and inquisitive. He loves being outside more than in, has gotten along well with our other two and the cats haven’t hissed yet though give them time. He isn’t wild and crazy though and loves a good cuddle. He hasn’t had an accident inside yet, though we are pretty insane about the going outside schedule and take him out every 15 minutes while awake and every 4 hours overnight.
He is sleeping on Wyatt’s bed and snuggles in and lays still until I wake him up at 1 am to go outside and then quickly snuggles again. We are trying to crate train him as I believe every dog should know how to nicely be in a crate if for no other times than when needing to be hospitalized, but he doesn’t like it and cries. Wyatt then sneaks in and removes him from his “prison” so we are trying to crate train both of them. He makes no sound except when in his crate and since I despise barky dogs, this make me very happy indeed.
If he stays true to his parents and his breed, he should fit perfectly. Did we need a third dog? Heck no! Was I in the market for a third dog? No way. The hubby was feeling a bit sad though that Waggy Tails is unable to meet the demands her 7 year old best friend has been putting on her lately. He wants to play with his dog. He wants to throw a ball, play tug and run around. He wants to set up an obstacle course and run through it with his dog. And well, thanks to the accident, Waggy can’t do those things. She tries. She wants to, but after a day of playing she hurts and is down for several.
Getting a dog to play with Wyatt will not only make Wyatt happy, but it will take the strain off Waggy and hopefully keep her more comfortable long term. It absolutely breaks my heart to see her hurting and know it is my fault but I can’t change the past so I am moving on and dealing with it. And Einstein? He doesn’t play. He is sweet and I love my little brown dog, but he is an independent sort and is out of sight the moment the door opens until you call him back inside and then he curls up next to you. He doesn’t play though and pretty much ignores Wyatt.
Ever want to experience all 4 seasons plus violent weather in one week? Move to SC! Its been a rollercoaster weatherwise around here.
It all started with an unseasonably warm 75F day. In February. Crazy, but definitely enjoyable. The day we went to WR for the xc school, it was windy but a lovely mid 60s temperature. Perfect for riding as nobody over heated or got too cold.
Then it lightly snowed that week. Only a tad and only for a short period. Wyatt was in school and the teacher nicely let him outside to play in it. It didn’t stick to ground or anything, but it was pretty.
Last Thursday we had torrential, flooding rains. Some areas got 6″ in 2 hours. It was bad. My entire afternoon canceled on me which let me sneak home after lunch and play with the kiddo.
Two roads on my way home were flooded and impassable and my entire property was one giant river.
There were also two confirmed tornados in the area though none close to my office (darn!) or home.
Saturday morning it began to snow again. Big, fluffy, wet flakes that stuck to the ground and turned the world into a winter wonderland before melting away overnight.
Next up it is going to warm up to the mid 50s again.
Friday morning I woke up queasy. I was nervous about Eeyore’s appointment. Would I be told he had to be retired? What would I do then? Was all the hard work over the last 6+ months for nothing? How would my Big Orange Doofus take to pasture puff life?
The hour drive flew by as my mind raced and soon I was unloading him into a cushy stall to await the internist who listened to his history then put the stethoscope to his heart.
Grade 2/6 murmur present. Well, darn. There went the hope it was transient and due to dehydration or electrolyte imbalance.
She said that it was a diastolic murmur, a better prognosis than a systolic one and unlikely to cause syncope under stress. Diastolic murmurs tend to have longer term complications as the ventricles enlarge over time from the increase in blood and pressure. This can lead to congestive heart failure. The question was what was causing his murmur and an echocardiogram was needed for that.
Of course I agreed and we moved into a treatment room where she shaved a small patch along his girth area and hooked up EKG leads. She watched for any arrhythmias and was happy when he was regular. One complication off the check list.
Eeyore had been the perfect patient to this point. She had complimented him several times and like all prior vets who have seen him said “he is a really cool horse. I like him a lot”. He doesn’t like his girth area touched though. Doesn’t like it scratched. Doesn’t like it groomed. Tolerates the girth as long as it is memory foam. When she jammed the ultrasound wand into his girth to see his heart, he freaked out a little. Nothing terrible, but his heart rate soared and he became fidgety. Two things that impede the process of the echo.
We tried putting him in the stocks but that made him even more anxious so he got some sedation. Not the best thing for an echo as it can change the heart parameters, but she remained confident we would get a solid reading anyway.
After the sedation he was a perfect gentleman and she was able to look at both sides and get really good images. There was a lot of good news. Heart wall thickness was normal, heart chambers were also normal in size. No arrhythmia detected. All major vessels coming into/out of the heart were normal. No pulmonary back flow.
But there was also some not so great news. He has mitral valve prolapse with mitral regurgitation. The mitral valve opens in systole to allow blood to be pumped from the atrium to the ventricle and then closes to prevent blood leaving during diastole. In Eeyore, the valve doesn’t shut properly so that blood seeps backwards during diastole causing the extra heart sound. He was born with this and it 100% was present in 2008 at his PPE. You will be spared a rant about the uselessness of a PPE that can’t even catch a grade 2 murmur that a professional should most certainly hear. If she had, I would have passed on him. But that’s not relevant right now.
As far as heart anomalies go, MVP is the best one you can get. It doesn’t progress and rarely causes issues alone unless the valve is degenerative in nature. She did see one spot on the valve that was a bit thicker than it should be but nothing that overly alarmed her. She wants me to do yearly echos to watch it. A degenerative valve is an issue and will cause deterioration over time but she doesn’t think that will be the case for him.
Prognosis? Pretty darn good all things considered. She gave the green light to ride as much as I want and followed that up by saying he is fat and I need to ride more. I’ll take a prescription for more saddle time any day, thankyouverymuch.
As an aside she recommended scoping for ulcers due to his recent gastritis but uh…no. I’m not made of money and he is fat, sassy and shiny. He shows no symptoms and beyond travel he has no lifestyle risk factors. I still went ahead and had Dusty order me a months worth of gastroguard and will treat just to be on the safe side. No harm in treating but I won’t put him through a scope for no reason.
Then I opened my darn mouth and asked if bloodwork would be of any value. Of course she said yes, so we ran a CBC and basic chem panel. I loaded Eeyore up as I waited for results. Mostly all came back normal except for his GGT level was off the charts high. She explained that this is related to his liver/gallbladder and usually a high value is consistent with cholecystitis.
The value can get high after a colic/gastritis episode which he had had only 5 days prior. Or it could be liver toxicity. She recommended a liver ultrasound and a biopsy. I asked if I could ignore it and she said no. Liver disease can be a serious issue.
At this point I got frustrated. If one more vet sees my horse and diagnosis a potentially very serious issue incidentally while seeing him for something completely unrelated, I’m going to take up riding cows. This is ridiculous.
I told her I would have the husband re run his bloodwork and recheck the value in 2 weeks which should be sufficient time for any acute problem to resolve. If it was still off the charts high, we would do the ultrasound and go from there but it darn well better be normal because this horse is killing me.
As of right now, once the shoe he ripped off on Wednesday gets put back on on Monday, I’m cleared to ride to my heart’s desire and then some to get him in better shape. She doesn’t believe his recent change in energy has anything to do with his heart or liver and is behavioral/fitness related. Which brings up a whole other series of questions that will only make this post even longer, so I’ll save it for another day.
Team Orange Doofus is back at it folks!! Only not at WR next week because a) I missed the deadline with all this stuff and b) between the emergency vet visit Sunday and this one Friday I’m out nearly $2,000 in unexpected vet bills so uh…yeah no showing right now.
Folks, Sunday afternoon was life affirming on a level I never thought was possible. Ignoring what happened when we got home, the cross country school was magical for me in a lot of ways and left me feeling ready to tackle my personal white whale: Windridge. Which made the discovery that night of his illness and heart murmur all that more devastating. I could go on about how everything seemed normal during the school. Believe me when I say that I have logged many hours rethinking every move, every decision I made that day to find something I did wrong. If I could go back and do it again with the same information I had available then, I wouldn’t change a thing. I guess that should ease my heart and mind. It doesn’t though.
But this isn’t about that. This is about that afternoon, with the wind blowing cool, the sun shining warm and a bright blue sky that seemed endless over rolling green hills dotted with cross country fences.
Eeyore was happy to be out on those fields. He was game on and ready. In fact the only thing he did wrong all day was to show his enthusiasm a bit too enthusiastically from time to time, but you can’t fault a horse who is having fun. Somehow the stars aligned and I was having one of the best riding days of my life. Never once in the nearly 2 hours we were out there did Trainer tell me…basically anything except what to jump next. No “sit up” or “don’t get left behind so much” or “ride the back side”. A reminder here and there to not hang on his mouth when he wanted to race to the next fence. A note to ride a bit farther from the jump before allowing him to turn. A tip to move more forward and not let him suck back. That is it. Nothing major. We flew. Together. As a team.
Out there on that course, we were the pros of our group. At one point after she told the other two to take the lead from me, I laughed and said “I must be living in a parallel universe if we are the ones to show the others the ropes!” I’m generaly the scared one, the one hanging back making the others go first, the one needing my hand held and being coached in depth. Not that day. That day I was sent over fences out of her sight and given the harder course to jump than the others. That day I was made to go first every time, was expected to be the good example of bravery and power to the fences and beyond. Eeyore and I were the role model.
Folks, it doesn’t get much better than that for me.
The warm up took forever. We did it inside the stadium arena to give the other two a chance to calm their nerves in a semi enclosed space before heading to the wide open world. Eeyore was behaving nicely. He was forward without being rushy and came back to me every time I asked. I got complimented on my down transitions and my upright posture. Trainer was able to spend more of her attention on the others and let me do my own thing which was empowering in and of itself. I’ve graduated to handling it on my own.
Once we hit the course, we began at the start box and tackled the first three fences on course singly then as a mini course. We stuck with the starter fences and honestly? They didn’t even give me pause. They looked small. Exactly how I want a starter fence to look. These same fences would have given me a heart attack any of the other times I was at Windridge. What a difference time has made.
After everyone was graduated from this exercise we moved to the water where Eeyore had a massive meltdown about not being allowed to play in it. We walked through, giving the lead to the other two, then trotted and finally made a fun little figure 8 exercise. We cut a sharp diagonal from right to left through the water at a trot, picked up a canter on the bank, circled around to the right to enter the water at a canter and then cantered through on a left to right diagonal line and exited.
OMG, but that was the best thing ever for Mr. Eeyore. He flew through that water, kicking up his heels and splashing water everywhere. Once we hit the bank at the end he threw in a few massive bucks of glee then tried to turn around and enter again, but alas we were graduated from the exercise after one pass through. He was a pissy horse when he had to stand still and watch the others run through it several times each.
Last we had our Grand Prix. Trainer pointed out a fun little course of starter fences and I was excited. Then she told me I had a different course. Gulp
We did a BN coop, turn right through the water, left over a BN cabin, then up the hill to a starter ramp/step thing between the cedar trees out of sight. Our first attempt we botched pretty good, but made it over all three eventually. I was so focused on getting over that massive looking coop, that I forgot to ride the back side and had to make a left hand circle to go through the water, nearly biffed the turn to the cabin, and then he refused the ramp because I was pulling on him too much but we represented and he went right over and that refusal was my fault.
We had to do it again and this time I made the direct route without a refusal and without screwing up my line too much. He didn’t appreciate that he couldn’t gallop to the horizon after the water and was made to turn towards the cabin. This resulted in him sucking waaay back and getting scrunched from head to butt which makes him move more vertical than forward. This in turn led to a very close spot to the cabin but we made it over anyway.
After that I hopped off, loosened the girth and walked back on foot to the trailer to untack and load him up to go home.
He was the perfect boy. Not truly in that he did no wrong. He flung his head a bit, tended to either rush or suck back, threw in a few bucks here and there but all of that is pretty par for the course with him and not dangerous at all. He is just throwing out his opinions on the matter and I have learned to ignore and deal with them. But he was perfect to me in that he said yes to damn near everything. He allowed me to be that rider – the one in the group I always looked at and wished I was. The one who felt confident, rode whatever was pointed at her with a smile, and looked like she was having the time of her life out there. The one who didn’t need her hand held and coddled. I’ve been waiting literally years…close to 4 now… to be in that place. To go out there and have fun and work on the nuances and have fun and ride an incredible horse and have fun and soak up everything and tackle new things with gusto and have fun.
And I got it. Thanks to a big Orange Doofus and an amazing Trainer who has always believed in us.
First, everything is acutely fine. Nobody is dead or dying so there’s that up front. No tissues needed.
Yesterday I went to Windridge for a cross country school to help determine who would be riding him in the Feb 15th show. It went amazing. Best school of my life. So many wonderful things to write about and I had the Cambox so while helmet footage isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, it is something.
But then after we got home shit hit the fan and I had to have the emergency vet out and well now everything sucks. So instead of writing about my most amazing afternoon, I’m going to write about this instead. Boo.
We got home at 4:15pm and I put Eeyore back in the pasture as I always do. Nothing out of the ordinary happened to be a red flag during the school or ride home. Trust me, I’ve about killed myself wracking my brain over what I did wrong. I was starving having not eaten all day so we ran to the local Waffle House for a cheap and quick dinner. When we came home 45 minutes later Eeyore was laying down in the pasture.
My first thought was “hahahahah look how tired he is!”. We called the horses in for dinner and he cantered to the gate so I didn’t think much else about it.
Until he didn’t even look at his dinner and did this instead
I thought he was dying. Seriously. I got him up and called the vet to come out and began walking. She said after 20 minutes to let him rest and only walk if he was trying to roll so we alternated hand walking and resting until she arrived.
Long story short: he wasn’t colicking. He had good gut sounds, heart rate of 44 and pink gums. She pulled normal, wet manure from his rectum and didn’t feel anything displaced. A tube into the stomach pulled out refluxed small intestine fluid and then he was back to trying to eat everything in sight and cribbing in his stall so she felt ok having him stalled for the night with water but no hay or grain. Diagnosed him with some excess gas and a weenie personality.
I felt a flood of relief until she looked at me and said “but we really need to discuss his 3/6 heart murmur”
Now he has seen a lot of good vets in the 1.5 years I’ve had him. He had his PPE May 2018, a thorough lameness eval Aug 2018 and his dental by a vet in March 2019. No mention of a murmur from any of them. A 3/6 is even audible by me, so no way it would have been missed by all three.
She asked if he had been sick at all or if his performance has changed suddenly.
He was his full blown raging energy monster self for the JBF show. I rode him hard the day before and the morning of and he had plenty of energy for all three phases. Then a month later we crashed at the FGF show because he had no energy. I blamed it on him being ridden hard the day before though that hadn’t affected him the previous show.
Ever since he has been subdued. Enough that Dusty and Trainer have commented. He breathes hard warming up for the lesson and lacks energy during. I’ve thought it was his training kicking in. I’ve thought it was his new evasion from real work. I’ve thought I’ve gotten better at riding him. Trainer worried enough that she prescribed a conditioning program on my hill at home.
Maybe I’ve been right. Or maybe his heart is giving out on him and he really doesn’t have the energy to do the work.
Dehydration and electrolyte imbalance can cause a heart murmur though the vet said not usually this pronounced or loud. Plus his heart rate was only 44 so while he was in pain from the gas, he wasn’t physiologically stressed enough to cause a murmur such as this.
Some murmurs aren’t an issue. Some can be managed. Some can cause the horse to pass out while galloping head long to a fence. The question is which one is this?
The other question is honestly, and excuse my language, wtf? How does an 8 year old horse, not in strenuous work, go from an undetectable murmur (or none at all) 1.5 years ago or really even 11 months ago, to a stage 3 with potential performance limitations? If it was a congenital valve defect it should have been present on his PPE or any exam thereafter. If it is degenerative, then that’s a big degeneration in a short amount of time and his prognosis is poor. Possibly infectious endocarditis but from what and how? I’ve read some articles and some say prognosis with that is 10% so let’s hope it isn’t that, ok?
My best guess with zero diagnostics and no cardiology education? It’s functional which exists. All those other evaluations were done after periods of rest. Normal heart function. Yesterday he worked hard for me, got dehydrated and became gassy which taxed him enough to not fully recover from the exertion and the heart murmur stayed.
Not sure what that means for prognosis on career or life span. Or anything for that matter.
Vet said to listen again tonight to see if after he returns to normal health, it sticks around though honestly I’m not sure that is going to change my course of action.
Dusty has asked that I not ride until we have this figured out. The risk of him fainting and breaking my body is too high without clearance that this isn’t going to happen. So the Windridge show is off the table as is everything else for the moment. We are going to set up an appointment with a cardiologist and figure this out. Maybe it is perfectly manageable with a strict conditioning program and sticking to the low level stuff I want to do anyway. Maybe it’s not and we are done.
I won’t know until we do some tests and see what’s going on with him and I absolutely refuse to horse shop again so he is just going to have to be manageable and that’s the end of that discussion.