Monday, April 27, 2015

Kaswyn's Birthday Bash - Part 3

Part 1
Part 2

Kaswyn was slowly recovering from his fall. I heard him start to chew and then he swallowed. He seemed steadier, and was able to look at me. I made sure he could see out of both eyes, and hear out of both ears. Then I walked around him and ran my hands down his legs. Everything seemed to be in the right place. The only injury I could see was on his upper lip, which he had somehow taken a chunk out of. It was pretty superficial and wasn't bleeding so I wasn't really worried about that. 

I ran my hands down his back, and he started to walk around me. Since he was willing to walk, I walked him around. He seemed very sound, and was becoming more alert to his surroundings. I walked him in a small circle in each direction and that's when I noticed that he didn't want to bend his neck. He was holding it absolutely straight out in front of him. 

My phone rang with the vet on the other end. She asked questions about what was going on with him, and had me apply pressure to him in certain places to determine where he had pain. In the end she said she could send someone out to x-ray his neck, but said that due to where I said he was sore, that he probably didn't break anything and had just really wrenched his neck muscles. She said that if he had a neck fracture that it would be difficult for him to stand, and that if he could stand he'd at least be exhibiting some neurological symptoms, which he was not. I decided not to have her come out, but that I would give him bute and if he didn't improve in an hour, or got worse, that I would call back. 

My farrier arrived just as I was finishing my call with the vet. I explained to him what happened, and he watched him walk away from him, then back towards him. Then he took Kaswyn's tail, and pulled him to the side. Then he asked me to do the same. What I felt is that Kaswyn resisted and pulled back against me when I pulled his tail. My farrier said that was a good sign. 

In the end, all that happened to Kaswyn was a very sore and pulled neck. His mouth started bleeding, so it's likely that the pop I heard when he fell was hit biting his tongue! So he got a few days of bute, his hay in a haynet for a bit, and lots of love. I was very lucky that he didn't hurt himself more seriously. I don't need any more scares like that! 

Three days later, he's outside in the sun, cute face and all. 

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Kaswyn's Birthday Bash - Part 2

Part 1

Kaswyn had just completely wiped out in the arena. 

I ran over to Kaswyn and he lifted his head up. He looked dazed, and was shaking. I told him to whoa as I clipped the lead rope to his halter, but he really wanted to stand. Before I could stop him he heaved himself to his feet, but he wasn't really standing. All four legs were still very bent and he was close to the ground. I was convinced that he was going to fall over. I just kept telling him "Kaswyn, you're ok, lie down, it's ok, you don't have to stand, whoa sweeite..." There was blood coming out of his mouth, and he still didn't look like he was clearly aware of what was going on. 

In between reassuring him, I shouted for the barn owner. She had just been in the barn feeding and I was hoping she was still there. I didn't hear her answer, so I called the vet. I told them I needed someone out right away, that my horse had fallen down. They told me they would have a vet call me back right away. 

As I waited for the phone to ring, Kaswyn slowly began to straighten his legs. Eventually he was able to fully stand, but he was really wobbly and his eyes looked very glassy. I still really wanted him to lie down but I know that horses feel more comfortable standing if they can. There was blood dripping from his mouth. 

I held onto his head, gently petting his neck and talked to him while I waited for the vet to call me back. 

To be continued...

Part 3

Friday, April 24, 2015

Kaswyn's Birthday Bash - Part 1

Kaswyn turned 24 on April 23, 2015. It was a regular barn day for me, so after work I headed out to the barn as usual. The only difference is that I wouldn't be riding because the farrier was coming out to take care of the boys' feet. 

When I got to the barn I knew that the farrier would be arriving within a half an hour, so I decided to turn Kaswyn loose in the arena. He loves to roll in the sand, plus sometimes he likes to herd me and chase me around. That day he decided that rolling was his first priority, but he was reasonably clean so I kept him moving instead of letting him roll. Then he gave up on rolling and started trotting around and enjoying himself. 

I took this short video of him at the trot because he was looking so great! 


He would stop every so often and look out the window or sniff the manure bucket, then he'd trot off again, occasionally cantering off halfway down the arena. He had taken a few bad steps with his back legs at the canter that day, and they looked like steps that hurt but he was able to quickly get his weight off the leg and recover just fine. I already knew that his suspensory ligaments were in bad shape, so I wasn't surprised that he had occasional pain at the canter. I was watching him the whole time, so I clearly saw what happened next. 

Kaswyn had just cantered by me, when his back legs gave out. They slid completely under his body, and his front end came off the ground. His momentum carried him forward on his back, until somehow he flipped completely over backwards. I heard a popping sound just as he landed. 

To be continued...

Part 2

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Phil's Progress - The Building

I have been working on Phil on many different ways. I had a great lesson where my trainer warmed me up and then said "Okay, do you have anything specific you want to work on?" Yes, I sure did, and it wasn't a specific movement. I pointed at Phil's butt and said "Did you notice how his butt isn't round right here, and here?" and she said, "That's one of the first things I noticed." Then I said "Well, that's what I want to work on!",  knowing that if his butt is not shaped properly we must not be doing something right. 

Here is a photo of the butt, taken on August 29, 2014. You can see how it's got a bump at the top, and on either side of the bump where the red arrows are there aren't muscles where there should be. 

So how do I fix this? Body building, said my trainer! Lots of 10 meter circles at the trot and canter. Making him go to the outside rein in the circles, and not falling in. The hardest thing to accomplish was getting him to stay on the bit! At that point, in late summer, we were still struggling with connection. Luckily, the body building process helped both of us with the connection issues. 

At first, Phil didn't want anything to do with the circles. He was resistant, and would almost toss his head every time I turned him with the left rein. He wasn't all that please with me using the right rein either. For the first few weeks we were both frustrated, but I refused to stop. There was a lesson to be learned here. 

Then, about three weeks in, he finally just accepted that I'm going to have to turn his head, and he doesn't have to have a temper tantrum every time. It was a major turning point in Phil's training. Writing this almost four months later, I can absolutely say that was when we both started to really get down to business. I use the rein, and he's okay with it. What a concept! 

We continued with the body building until our next lesson, which I'll post video of. My trainer said that he looked like a totally different horse, in a good way! 

The next step: Getting Loose

Wednesday, August 27, 2014


For the past four winters, Kaswyn has dropped weight. To help keep weight on him I have been putting him on alfalfa cubes just in the winter. He loses a little but always gains it back in the spring. 

This year, that didn’t happen. I kind of attributed it to the fact that he was in pain. I even asked Dr. B about it and he didn’t seem very concerned. On the contrary, he was happy that Kaswyn wasn't super heavy because that would be worse for his leg problems. 

Still, Kaswyn was looking pretty skinny. So much so that the barn owner was concerned enough to approach me about having him tested for something. She said he seems absolutely STARVING all the time, and is eating as much grain and hay as the big horses in the barn. Of course this is concerning, and we started thinking about what the cause could possibly be. 

Well, it turns out that Kaswyn and Phil were switched last fall to one of the low sugar, low starch grains that many people use. Kaswyn has been on this grain before and did really poorly on it. This happened many years ago, and after trying everything (even their fat supplement, which we ended up giving him more of than the actual grain), I switched him back to Purina. He put weight back on and started looking great again. 

Now I know a lot of people think that horses should be eating the low sugar, low starch grains, but Kaswyn just doesn’t do well on them. I’m not saying they are bad, because Phil looks and feels fantastic. It’s just something about Kaswyn’s metabolism that doesn't work well with the grain. 

So now he’s back on Purina Strategy and Equine Senior. Hopefully we can get some weight on him before it starts to get cold again. I’m getting a little concerned about this coming winter. All the horses, especially Kaswyn, are already blowing out their summer coats. Usually I don’t notice the summer coat shedding all that much, but this year it’s like it’s all coming out at once, really fast. What do these horses know about winter that we don't? It doesn't bode well, I’m thinking. If we have another winter like last one, I’ll need to find somebody to blame. 

Long live summer! 

Saturday, August 23, 2014


I’ve been working really hard with Phil to get him to relax with me riding with a dressage whip. It’s very difficult because I know he’s scared, and I don’t want to cause him undue stress. However I really feel like this is something that he has got to accept eventually. As my trainer has told me before, “If you’re not going to do it now, then when? In a year? Two years?” So it’s got to be now, because sometimes I feel like I need just a little tap on the haunches to help me out now and then with leg yields. 

Last week we had a pretty bad day so I decided that we’d stay on the 20 meter circle and work on shortening and lengthening his stride. I figured that could help him concentrate and give him less distractions as we worked. I found out that, at some point along the way, he got very confused as to what the aide for “canter” was. 

Turns out that he got the impression that if I used my “driving seat” across the diagonal at the trot, I meant “lengthen the stride”. But “driving seat” at the trot anywhere else meant “canter” regardless of if my outside leg was there or not. Of course, this is a problem. 

We’ve spent the last few sessions sorting this out. He was making errors, and he knew that he was wrong, and I had the whip, so he got himself all upset that he was going to get a punishment instead of a correction. This was exhausting for both of us. I took walk breaks and gave him a chances to settle down and think, but at times he just completely came off the rails and would bolt wildly when he realized that I really meant “lengthen” and he accidentally cantered. I never even so much as tapped him with the whip, but the combination of me holding the whip and him being confused and making errors was very difficult for him. 

As of our last ride he has gotten the idea that “seat and outside leg back” meant canter, and “seat plus light leg at the girth” meant lengthen the stride at the trot. However our canter transitions are quite bad. He LEAPS forward with his head in the air, as if to say “I’M DOING IT DON”T HIT ME”. He doesn't always get it right, bit he's really trying. I know that eventually he’ll get over this, but I’ve had him for three years now. I was hoping that he’d trust me by now. It’s just taking much longer than I thought. To give him credit, he is much, much better when I use just the short jumping bat. We just need more time I guess. 

I am trying to set up a lesson for next week. Maybe I can get a little video too! We’ll see. Of course I’m excited! 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Kaswyn, Master of The Unexpected

Kaswyn’s not doing so well right now.

He started out a few months ago feeling a bit off. Since he was on "light duty" I decided just to take is easy on him and mostly walk and maybe trot a little. He’s been getting steadily worse since then, despite some time off and a course of bute. He started slightly head bobbing at the walk, and definitely head bobbing at the trot. I suspected his hocks needed injecting plus a resurgence of the left front foot issue that has plagued us for many years. 

Dr. B came out to take a look at him. To my surprise he started his exam at Kaswyn's knees. He palpated his knees, finding fluid there. Then he felt his back legs and found thickening of both suspensory ligaments. The flexion tests were pretty positive for lameness, 2 out of 5 for all legs involved. Surprisingly he was Churchill negative (which is usually indicative of hock pain). 

After the x-rays and a long discussion with Dr. B, what it comes down to is this: Kaswyn has chronic arthritis in both front knees and chronic desmitis in both hind suspensories. He is now in total retirement, no riding even at the walk for now. According to Dr. B it's nothing that I've done in the past year or so. It's just old age, and possibly a genetic predisposition to have these conditions. 

We have begun a course of bute, which we will reduce slowly until we find a dose that is the lowest amount of bute that keeps him sound at the walk. From there we will replace some of the bute with aspirin, or Previcox, or both, until we have a combination of meds that is as low a dose of bute as possible and still keep Kaswyn comfortable. Kaswyn is also on isoxsuprine, and Equithrive. I tried to take him off of the Equithrive and put him on another supplement, but he got worse, so we're back to the Equithrive. After five days I could already see from the look in his eyes that he feels better. We have a lot of fiddling to do with his meds, but we'll get there. 

I am quite sad about this whole thing. I really thought I still had years of hacking him around, or even trail riding. I'm not sure if we'll be able to do that anymore. But I owe that horse everything. He taught me so much, was there for me through all my fumbling to learn dressage, and always tried his little heart out. He has always been an extraordinarily smart, selfless partner. The very least I can do is keep him comfortable and happy for as long as possible. 

Just before Dr. B left I said "Knees and suspensories. I certainly didn't expect that." Dr. B said "Neither did I. He just had to be different." 

That's Kaswyn. Never boring. 
Header Image from Bangbouh @ Flickr