Monday, July 31, 2006

Stitches time

Kaswyn gave us a little scare last week. He went suddenly and alarmingly very lame on the nerved leg on Wednesday. I called the vet to see if it was normal. Indeed, it was not, and he wanted to see the horse first thing the next morning. I know that there are complications of a neurectomy which can lead to having to put your horse down, so of course I feared the worst. However, Dr. G concluded that Kaswyn was just very sensitive to the cut end of the nerve on the inside of the leg. I was given a different way of wrapping the leg and was instructed to walk him without the bandage so it would not rub on the nerve. That seems to have done the trick, and since then he has not been limping at all.

Today I will take the stitches out of Kaswyn's leg. His incisions look wonderful and I don't forsee any problems. We have another 2 1/2 weeks of walking and icing before he can be ridden. Both of us are already bored silly with this routine. It usually goes something like this...

Kaswyn raises his head up high and walks closer to me..
Kaswyn's thought bubble says - "I'm gonna bite ya!"
I say - "Uh uh uh! No! Do NOT bite me!"
he takes a few steps away and walks
Repeat for 30 minutes.


That's her secret

Last weekend the whole family went to the mall for something to do on a rainy day. I saw when we walked past Victoria's Secret that they were having a bra clearance sale, so I told Craig I wanted to go in and rummage through the bins of bras.

As soon as she was in the store, Lily ran over to a table with a bra display and said loudly "Look Daddy! They have hats here!"

Monday, July 24, 2006

His feet were made for walkin'

After five days of being confined to his stall after surgery, Kaswyn was allowed out of his stall to have his leg re-wrapped and to walk for 15 to 20 minutes today. I was a little afraid of what I might find under the bandage when I removed it, but I was pleasantly surprised. The incisions looked wonderful - no seeping or swelling, and the stitches looked tight and even. In fact I could not even see where the skin was cut apart, so it kind of looked like the stitches were just stuck to healthy skin. Trippy.

When I was done wrapping the leg back up with fresh bandages we took two trips down the driveway and back. On the first time down I think Kaswyn was simply so glad to be out of the barn that he just walked beside me. The second time, however, he decided that only walking was a little boring, so he'd spice it up a bit by trying to bite my arm every four or five strides. Now, understand that he doesn't do this to hurt me. Oh no. He does it to get a reaction, because he thinks it's funny. I know he knows that he's not supposed to bite me, since immediately after he attempts to make contact between my arm and his teeth he jerks his head up out of smacking range. It's pretty predictable that I'll yell "KASWYN!" or "NO!" every time he tries it, so he's getting the attention his little ego craves.

Kaswyn will need to be hand-walked every day for a month. I imagine that one of us is going to get fed up with the whole "Oooh! Careful! I'm trying to bite you!" routine. And it's probably not going to be him.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

So far so good

Kaswyn seems to be recovering well from the surgery. He doesn't have any heat in the foot or leg, and hasn't gotten a temperature. All good signs that he's healing as expected. Since his surgery, he's been on stall rest. Which means that he can't leave his stall at all. This is very unusual for my horse, because he's used to getting turned outside in a large grass pasture every morning, and then 5 days a week he's ridden in the afternoon. When I go to the barn every day to see him, he seems like his usual self so I don't think he's suffering any mental anguish from his stall rest. It helps a lot that his stall has a dutch door that opens up to the outside, so he can hang his head out the top of the door all day long.

I'm also spoiling him. He was spoiled before, but now I think I might be going a little overboard, even for me. See, I felt bad that he wouldn't be able to eat any grass until his stall rest is over, so every day I hand pick him a few bucketfulls of grass and feed it to him. By hand. He really likes it when I offer him a big clump of long grass, because then he can grab the end and rip it off. I think he finds it very satisfying to eat it this way. What a clown.

This will all end on Monday when I'm able to take him out of his stall and change his bandage. I'll then be able to walk him and let him eat grass outside. I'll fell much better then. Horses really need time outside. And I don't really need to hand-pick my horse's grass when he's got a perfectly good mouth he can use to do it for himself.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Prima Donna

I got a call from the barn this morning. I thought they were going to tell me that Kaswyn had chewed on his bandage (which needs to stay on for 5 days so he needs to keep his teeth off of it) but they just said that he did not want to eat his medications. I spent an hour yesterday grinding up pills and putting them in containers so that the barn staff can dump the meds on his grain in the morning and evening. However, he left most of the meds in his feed tub this morning. So the barn owner mixed what was left with a little tub of applesauce and he ate it all. Now I'll have to stop by the store on the way to the barn and buy a bunch of tubs of applesauce.

Looks like my little princess needs to have his meds mixed with sweet applie goodness before he'll eat them. What a booger.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006


My trainer and I showed up at Dr. G's place bright and early this morning. After doing the usual physical exam, Dr. G looked at his x-rays again and then went outside and jogged Kaswyn. What he found is that Kaswyn is "servicably lame", meaning that he's only a little lame. Most people would find this level of lameness an acceptable solution to navicular. However, he did acknowledge that under saddle the horse might be more lame than he is just trotting free.

He presented me with three options. The first two involved injecting steriods into the foot in different locations in an effort to alleviate the pain. The last option is nerving him - aka the dreaded neurectomy. He agreed with me that the first two options would just be temporary, while the neurectomy would most likely be permanent. Five to ten percent of horses experience complications associated with the surgery, but my alternative options suck. He recommended just doing the left foot, and if the right became a problem down the road it could be done at that time.

I said I had decided on the surgery. So he told his team to prep for surgery. I said ,"You're going to do it today?" and he said "Sure, why not?" I said that I figured that he wouldn't have time, since he squeezed the horse in as it was and he had a full schedule, and he said with a wink "Eh, I'll fall behind for a few hours, but I'll catch up. I've been doing this for a few years, so I can handle it."

Kaswyn was drugged, the surgery was area shaved, and his foot numbed by a nerve block. Then the surgery area was scrubbed for ten minutes with iodine surgical scrub while Dr. G scrubbed up. Small two-inch incisions were made to the left and right side down the back of his pastern bone. Then Dr. G pulled out the nerve bundle through the incision on the right, cut about a one inch piece out of it, injected more nerve block into the ends of the nerve, and proceeded to the left side. The whole operation took less than ten minutes. Dr. G put four stitches in each side, put a muzzle on my horse (so he couldn't eat hay or drink water until he was fully awake) and we put him back in the stall.

His leg will stay wrapped for two weeks while he gets meds for pain and infection. Then he gets to be walked and his leg iced. In a month I can start light work and see if this helped. If all the data is to be believed, this should completely solve the problem. Which means we can go back to training and showing. Now, I realize that it might have helped somewhat, but not enough for us to train and show at the level we once did. So I will see how things go. If he can only handle being a pleasure horse, then so be it. And, worse case scenario, I will retire him if he can't handle being ridden at all. I'm just hoping it won't come to that for a good long time.

On the way back to the barn, my trainer looked at me and said "Well, I think you should call J (the blacksmith) and tell him what happened today. Because you know that he said you should nerve this horse a few weeks ago." I'm sure that will be an interesting conversation, to say the least.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Back to the vet

When I called Dr. G this morning and told him that Kaswyn was getting worse, he said "He should be getting better not worse." Uh, yeah. I agree. He thinks that Kaswyn might have an abcess. Personally, I doubt that, but I guess we'll see. We're going in tomorrow at 8:30 am.

Instead of worrying about it I'm going to take the girls outside and let them play in the new little plastic pool that I bought this afternoon. That should be fun for everyone. And hopefully it will take my mind off of my poor lame horsie.

Sunday, July 16, 2006


Yesterday we had professional photos taken of the girls. We had tried once before to get photos taken, but we went to a place at the mall. The photographer was this young lady who didn't really give a crap if we got good pictures or not. Craig and I were the ones posing the girls and trying to get them to cooperate and smile. They used real film (in this digital age why use real film? Come on people, get with the program) so we had to wait over an hour to get the photos developed. And when we did they were so bad that we didn't buy any of them.

While we were waiting for our photos, we were sitting in the mall and a lady came over with her infant. She must have heard us talking about our terrible experience, because she recommended a place to us. She said they were great with kids and reasonably priced too. The next day I made an appointment and hoped for the best.

These people were fabulous! There was a photographer and another lady who would pose the girls and get them to smile. Then they downloaded our pics onto the computer and we got to preview them and pick them out while looking on a HUGE flatscreen monitor. Then our prints were done in 20 minutes. We got tons of really great pictures in three different outfits. Here is one of the great ones -

So I guess this a plug for Portrait Innovations in Solon, OH. Great work guys!

Limping along

Last week my horse started on meds and new shoeing to help with navicular. He was better for two days and has been getting worse since then. Yesterday he was actively lame on that left front foot. Not just uneven or taking a short stride, but head bobbing lame.

So on Monday I'm calling Dr.G and to let him know that it's not working. I'm not sure what he'll say. I suspect that he's going to want me to continue on this course of treatment for another two weeks, but my feeling is that if it's not getting better, only worse, that it's just not doing the trick.

I'm really thinking that a neurectomy (aka "nerving" him) might be the best thing to do. We can continue to mess around with shoeing and meds, but everyone I've talked to who has had this problem with their horse has ended up nerving their horse in the end. There was a horse in California that my trainer nerved and after his recovery he went on to train and show, winning championships and being happy. I'm just not sure how much longer I want my horse to hurt. Sure, nerving is pretty permanent, but according to Dr. G the area of the foot that is numbed by cutting the nerve is very small. Basically it will just numb the back of the foot, which is the area that hurts.

Maybe Dr. G will go for the neurectomy. Lets hope so. I'm tired of my horse hurting.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

How to "manage" your blacksmith

Navicular disease. Most horse people shudder when they hear that, whether it's about their horse or someone else's. It's because they realize that it's an uphill battle that you really can't win. Once degeneration starts in that bone, it can't be reversed or stopped. It can only be treated, or what the vets like to say is "managed."

The official results from the radiologists at Washington University say that my horse has navicular disease. He has a confirmed, inflamed, active cyst in his left front navicular bone and a very small area of degeneration beginning in his right front navicular bone. That's the bad news. The good news is that they agree with Dr. A that the deep digital flexor tendon is not involved at all.

So we have a diagnosis. Great. What next? "Management of the condition." Ugh. Basically we start by changing his shoes in the front. By putting a special wedge pad (a hard piece of plastic) between his shoes and his foot and rounding his toes off to make his foot shorter, we will reduce the load on the tendon, thus reducing the stress on the bone. Then we'll start with three medications in doses that we know will alleviate the inflammation and the pain. After that it's a matter of slowly reducing the meds until we find the lowest dose that controls the pain.

The shoeing is the tricky part. No because it's hard to do, but because of the personalities involved.

I first met my blacksmith 6 years ago when I started riding with my trainer. At that time I was having problems with Kaswyn taking uneven strides in front. He wasn't really lame, just uneven, and I had resorted to giving him a dose of anti-inflammatories every other day cause it seemed to help. Since I had been through 5 blacksmiths and was not happy with the current one, my trainer asked this blacksmith, J., to shoe Kaswyn. After one shoeing my horse was even. It was like magic. When I asked him what he did, he just looked at me and said, "Well, I evened him up in front. He has two differently shaped feet. I just got them even. That's it."

See, while that might seem like he's pretty casual about the whole thing, what's actually happening is that he's really digging on being the big savior. J, like almost all blacksmiths, thinks quite a bit of himself. And he is a huge character. He'll say he needs you there to hold the horse just because he wants to have someone to chat with while he works. He'll tell you jokes, talk about the latest barn gossip, talk about politics or unemployment or whatever. He always has an opinion, and he has these crazy metaphors that he uses to get his point across. More on that later. But don't get me wrong - I love J. I would not want anyone (well, except Kaswyn's very first blacksmith in California, Paul) touching my horse's feet again.

Like I said, J has an ego. And when you get a bunch of backsmiths that have egos, they sometimes butt heads and end up not getting along. Most barns have multiple blacksmiths that service clients, so every now and then you'll have two of them at the barn at the same time. If they're buddies, no problem. If not, there can be trouble. So when I moved my horse to a particular barn, this is the conversation I had with J -

J: "I can't go there and shoe your horse. R shoes all the horses over there. "
ME: "Well I don't want him to do it. I want you to do it."
J: "Look, I've seen his work. He does a nice job. Just have him do it."
ME: "No. I don't like his work. I like your work. Please, J."
J: "I just don't think I can do it."
ME: "Okay. Then you tell me the next time you'll be at a barn in the area shoeing horses. I will bring my horse to you and you can do him any place you'd like to."
J: (long pause, followed by a sigh) "When do you want me to come over there?"

After that, whenever I've moved my horse he just comes and shoes him, no questions asked. Usually I try and be there when he works because I enjoy talking to him. Most of the time he asks if I've had to give my horse any anti-inflammatories, and when I tell him no, he implies that since he's the reason I don't have to medicate my horse, maybe he should be getting some of the money I'm saving. He's kidding, of course. I do, however, appreciate his work, so I bake him cookies or a pie as a little thank you. When he's all done with Kaswyn and I say thank you and hand him his goodies, he'll say "Well, I just want you girls to be happy." And I've been happy.

The best way for Kaswyn to get his special navicular shoes is for Kaswyn to go to Dr. G's place and get x-rays of his feet. Then J and Dr. G will measure and look at the films and decide what the best angle will be for his foot so that J can make the wedge pad the right height. Major problem #1 - J doesn't like Dr. G. Major problem #2 - the feeling is mutual.

This is not a new problem, and I suspect it's not something that happened over night. I imagine that it arose from Dr. G telling clients "Tell your backsmith to do X with your horses shoes." and then J saying "I don't think that's going to help. It's a bad idea." Then the horse owner gets caught in the middle. Dr. G is a lameness expert and feels he knows the best course of action. J is a blacksmith and feels that he has put more shoes on horses than Dr. G has so he knows best.

I left it up to my trainer, L, to tell J that he had to go to Dr.G's to shoe Kaswyn. For some reason J really likes my horse, so he told her that he would do it. He made a big deal about how he hates going there, and told L that she and I have to take him out to dinner as a thank you. She agreed and told her that she'd call him when we had an appointment for Kaswyn. When she called him and left a message about the appointment, he didn't call back. Four days later, on the morning of the appointment, she called him and he said "Well, I don't know if I can make it. I have four horses to do that morning. But I'll try." When she pulled into Dr. G's place, J was right behind her.

I had to work that day, but went right over there after work. As I pulled up I saw J putting his anvil away. I came up and we talked about what he did with the shoes. We were discussing navicular disease and how it's very uncommon in arabian horses (which Kaswyn is), and I said that it probably wouldn't have been as advanced as it is if I hadn't trained and showed him so much. This is what he told me:

"Look at it this way. You got two guys. Over here we have Joe Stud the athlete, and over there we got Dweezil McGee who sits in the library all day and reads. Now, Joe, he gets up every day and runs and lifts weights, all that jazz. Dweezil keeps reading those books. At 30 or 40 years old, when Joe gets out of bed he starts to feel his age. He's got those aches and pains. Dweezil doesn't. But what's Dweezil done with his life? Nothin'. So if you ask me if I'd rather have a horse that's done nothing with no navicular disease or your horse, there's no question. . . (points at the barn) . . . I'd rather have him."

As I handed him his plate of cookies (chocolate chip, no nuts), I told J how much I appreciated him coming out there for me, and he said "Well, you know what I say. All I want is for you girls to be happy."

Thankfully both Dr. G and J were on their best behavior and there were no incidents - just shoeing of my horse. They may disagree at some point down the road, but I guess I'll deal with that when I have to. Whatever they did seems to be working - I've ridden Kaswyn 3 times since he got his new shoes and meds. He moves differently because of the new shoeing, but he is back to his old self as far as wanting to work goes. He seems like a happy camper.

I hope he knows that, like J, I just want him to be happy.

Friday, July 07, 2006


I know, I know, I need to post about my horse. I'll do that. I just need some time to sit down and do it. Tonight, if all goes well. But first -

Craig posted about Wednesday night
here. Go read it first, I'll wait. Finished?

Yes, I had a migraine. I have only had one other one that I know of, and they suck a duck. I was completely useless, lying in bed with a towel over my eyes. I could hear Craig and the girls downstairs, but I didn't dare move my head for fear that the tiny men inside my skull would once again flash their strobe lights and stab their nasty knives in the back of my eyes. I was not happy.

I heard the crew come upstairs for the bath. All sounded well, but then I heard the conversation that started with Lily saying "I pooped" and ended with Craig yelling "GODDAMMIT!". When I got up I was sent back to bed, but I could still hear what was going on in the hallway. Craig put Lily on the potty just in case there was more product comin' down the pipe. Then..

CRAIG: Lily! stay on the potty please!
LILY: Heeheehee! (running down the hall)
CRAIG: LILY! Are you done pooping? Come here please!
LILY: Wheee! Wheee! (still evading Daddy)
CRAIG: LILY! I'm going to count to three! One....
LILY: (sounds of feet running towards the bathroom)
CRAIG: Thank you honey. Here, let me wipe your hiney.
LILY: Look! (points at tub) It's a flower!
CRAIG: No, that's your poop.
LILY: It's a POOP FLOWER! (laughs)

Of course I had to laugh at that. Poor Craig. And then after he scooped the poop into the potty, Macey wandered over and stuck her hands in the toilet. I guess she wanted to play with the poop flower.

Header Image from Bangbouh @ Flickr