Tuesday, March 27, 2007

And now a break from our regularly scheduled horse update

Kaswyn is still sound and doing well. More on him later.

Right now, I'm super angry. Here's why.

My grandfather, who is 93 years old, went into the hospital on Friday complaining of pain, intestinal discomfort, and general malaise. He had been living alone for several years, and while my mom, dad, and uncle had been keeping an eye (or several eyes) on him, the last few weeks has been a bit of a downward spiral. Finally on Friday he called an ambulance and was transported to the hospital.

My parents met him in the emergency room, where of course he sat for hours before being seen or treated in any way. Blood was drawn and he was given x-rays, a CAT scan, an ultrasound, and a CT scan. For some unknown reason fluid was accumulating around his lungs, which they felt was a result of some yet unknown problem. Eventually he was admitted and was transported upstairs to a room. We were told his doctor would see him that evening and would give us a report on Saturday based on his exam and the test results.

When no call came Saturday, my mother and I went to the hospital to get some answers. I spoke to the nurse, who was very nice but didn't have any information. She was a little vague about whether or not the doctor had been in to see my grandfather or not, but assured us that she would put a note on the chart with instructions to call my father after the doctor had done an examination.

Saturday passed, and then Sunday arrived. No call. Sunday afternoon my mom, dad, brother and his fiancee went to the hospital. My grandfather was feeling much better. Apparently they had a pulmonologist come in to assess the "fluid around the lungs" situation. As told by my grandfather, "The doctor came in, listened to my lungs, and asked how I felt. I told him I was having trouble breathing and had pain in my legs, and he said 'Well we're going to take care of that. Lean forward.' Then he stuck me with a big needle and drained a bunch of fluid out of me."

Nice. Really nice. This guy just walks in a starts jabbing my grandfather without explaining what's going on?

Anyhow, my father was told by the nurse (again, because no doctor has seen fit to call and inform us of anything, despite numerous phone messages and requests to do so) that Monday would involve many many tests and they probably would not know anything until Tuesday.

Tuesday afternoon my uncle went to visit my grandfather, who was napping. He woke up, said to my uncle,"They found two spots in my chest that they don't like. I'm really tired, so I'm going back to sleep." And that he did. My father heard this and called the nurse (again!) to find out what was going on. She said she had no information and that she'd leave a note for the doctor to call him.

It's now Tuesday evening. We have no more information. We don't know the results of any of the tests. We don't know if the doctor(s) have any idea what's wrong with my grandfather, or what direction they are going in next. This infuriates me. I work with patients every day. When they call with questions, I'm expected to call them back promptly and answer them, or find someone who can. To have an ailing, ederly patient in the hospital and not communicate to the family is just plain wrong and totally unacceptable.

I Googled the hospital's patient advocacy department and gave my father the number. He'll be calling them in the morning. Hopefully they can help.

If not, I suspect I'll be angry again tomorrow.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

In a nutshell

Kaswyn is sound.

At least for today. I rode him at the trot for three laps of the arena each direction. It took about a minute a lap. A pathetically short workout by regular standards, but a wonderful feeling for both of us.

Both of his front legs had a little bit of fluid in them before I rode, which I attribute to the changing weather that's going on here right now. Both legs looked normal after the ride, but I iced the left one just to be safe.

I'm looking forward to getting both of us back into shape. I'm going to have to come up with some interesting trot patterns because it's going to get pretty boring just trotting around the outside of the arena. I need to stay away from circles, so I'm going to have to get creative.

So, here's to the beginning of a long but hopefully fruitful journey back to showing.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

And trot!

Tomorrow is the day. I'll be trotting Kaswyn for the first time in six weeks since his shock wave treatment to see if he's sound. Judging from the way he's been walking and how his leg has looked the past week or so, I expect him to be sound. However, every other time I've treated this horse for something and expected him to be sound he wasn't.

For example, getting his hocks injected with hyaluronic acid was supposed to greatly improve his mystery lameness. It did not. When I had the neurectomy done, everyone I had talked to told me that their horse was completely sound after the surgery. Well, mine was not. Why should I be optimistic this time? I'm trying to be, but it's really very hard.

Regardless, I'm very much looking forward to trotting my horse again. Even if it's only going to be for a few laps around the arena, I'll get to feel that wonderful connection with my buddy again. Those who don't ride probably won't get why this is such a big deal.

If he's sound, it's going to make my day. More likely make my month. Maybe my year if all continues to go well.

If he's lame, I'll be crushed.

Sunday, March 18, 2007


I was checking my email in the office while Macey watched and played with the mouse pad. Lily walked in with one of the bags that the diapers come in and said "Here Macey! Put this hat on!", and proceeded to jam the bag over her sister's head.

Lily and I had a little talk about never playing with plastic bags, and Craig and I have resolved to remove all of the diapers from the bags as soon as we open them. And not to let our kids try to kill each other.

Speaking of which, I hear screaming in the other room. Happy Sunday!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Mr. Clean

This past December we had an unseasonably warm day with temperatures in the high 40's, pushing 50. I declared to my trainer, "I'm going to give Kaswyn a bath!" She gave me a look and said "Um, I really wouldn't do that. It's too cold." I thought "Pfft! I can't see my breath in the barn! It's plenty warm! I have coolers! And he's FILTHY" But I didn't argue. I just packed away my bucket and shampoo and waited for spring.

When I was grooming for Arabian horse shows in California, it didn't matter how cold it was in the morning (and sometimes it was in the 40's). The halter horses got baths. Period. Most of the time we didn't have hot water, so we'd drag the poor ponies out and hose them with cold water. They'd usually be shivering by the time we were done soaping and rinsing, so we'd pile two or three wool coolers on them and walk them around, swapping wet coolers for dry ones, until the horses were warm and dry. This happened at damn near every Arabian show barn 20 plus years ago, and I'm sure it happens today.

When I started riding dressage, I noticed a different mentality about showing. The horses didn't need to get baths every day of the show - in fact, many horses didn't even get a bath before the show at home. This shocked me. The first time I went to a show without giving my horse a bath I felt dirty myself. It's like heresy, entering the show ring on anything but a spotlessly clean, freshly bathed horse. I can understand if you are showing in the winter and it's 35 degrees outside, but once it gets over 50 I'm good with giving a bath to my horse. Especially if you have hot water in the wash rack! I'm sure everyone thinks I'm weird to try and bathe my horse before every show. Not to mention the other weird looks I got from dressage people when I'd clip the insides of Kaswyn's ears, put oil on his nose, or wipe under his tail with a baby wipe before my class. You'd be surprised how much nicer your horse looks with a nice clean butthole.

With my Arabian show groom background, and coming from California where we can almost bathe horses year-round, I get really itchy to give my horse a bath in the winter regardless of shows. Since winters in Cleveland are a good 6 months long, it can be a long time before my horse gets clean. You'd think that if you groom your horse every day he won't be dirty, but oh, are you wrong. Kaswyn still loves to roll in the arena whenever he gets the chance, whether that's when he's turned out or when I'm walking him. All that dirt gets driven deep into his coat, and no amount of brushing will get that out. Also, winter horses get this grey dandruff/crud that comes off of them and sticks like nasty glue to your saddle, bridle, boots...whatever happens to rub up against their coat. You have to literally scrape that crud off of your tack.

In desperation this winter I tried one of those waterless shampoos in a spray bottle. Just spray it on, rub with a clean cloth, and your horse is clean! Well, not really. The hair on top is clean, but all the gunk underneath is still there. It's so nasty. Oh, and did I mention the smell your scurfy horse emits in the winter if he happens to get sweaty while you're riding him? Think funky sweaty gym sock stuck in someone's mouth with a few rotten teeth overnight. It's the worst.

However, today was the day. It was 68 degrees and sunny, and Kaswyn got a bath, complete with full body conditioning rinse and mane and tail wash. We walked down the driveway in the sun afterwards to dry him off, and he acted like he hadn't been outside in years. He got all puffed up and pranced next to me. He even stomped on my foot once just to make things interesting. What a fruit. Unfortunately I didn't plan ahead for the warm weather and get his sheet washed, so I had to put a dirty sheet on my clean horse. I almost couldn't do it, but it's going to get a little chilly tonight so I made the sacrifice and put the smelly sheet on. It's still bugging me thinking of it. I did bring his medium blanket home for a wash tonight because I know he'll be wearing it tomorrow.

Amazingly, I think I was the only one in the barn to wash their horse today. Come on, I've seen those horses and they are dirrrty! Get those critters clean, for god's sake!

Friday, March 09, 2007

Some thoughts on showing

Many people have asked me, in person and via the internet, about Kaswyn and how he's doing. When I get to the part about my uncertainty if we'll be able to show at the level we showed before, I've been asked if it would be possible for me to drop my horse down a few levels and start showing him there to see if he can hold up.

While that sounds like a great solution, it's not something I would do. It's not specifically against the rules, but it would be greatly frowned upon by the dressage community at large. I'm not saying that people don't do it. However, I won't do it and here is why.

Dressage in the US is broken down in levels from easiest to hardest. Each level has a training goal and expectation that your horse should achieve certain physical and mental goals before showing at that level. The idea is that as you correctly train your horse he should be able to move from one level to the next as he achieves the goals.

The levels are as follows -
Introductory Level (walk trot only)
Training Level
First Level
Second Level
Third Level
Fourth Level
Prix St. George (the first FEI level)
Intermediare I
Intermediare II
Grand Prix (what you see at the olympics)

Each level from training to fourth has 3 or 4 different test (Training level test 1, test 2..) with each test being a little more challenging than the last. So you start with Training level test 1 and go from there. At a show you are allowed to show two consecutive levels. For example, you can show all tests in Second level and all tests in Third level. If you do Third level, you can't drop to Training level at the same show. If you try Third level and one show and it's a train wreck, you can drop to Training and First level at the next show.

Kaswyn has successfully shown at Intermediare I. He has a Reserve National Championship at that level. Dropping him down the Third level because the work would be easier for him would be grossly unfair for those just starting and struggling with Third level.

I feel confident that I could safely drop him down to Fourth Level and Prix St. George because I only showed him once at Intermediare I. My trainer showed him Intermediare I in 2005, and he hasn't shown since. So I feel that Fourth Level and Prix St. George would be acceptable for an amateur owner who hasn't ridden in 2 years coming back to the show ring. This is basically the levels that I last showed with Kaswyn.

As far as qualifications for Sport Horse Nationals, he is already qualified. Kaswyn has been National Champion at both Fourth level and Prix St. George, and National Champions are qualified for Nationals for life. My only deadline would be deadline for entries for the show. I'm certainly not going to drop a bunch of money on entries unless I know for sure that he's in condition to go. Mentally I think he's ready to go now. But physically it's going to take a lot of strength and stamina. Those upper level tests are long and physically challenging.

If we don't get to Sport Horse Nationals this year, we'll go in 2009. Maybe at Grand Prix!

Thursday, March 08, 2007

How much of a load?

Dr. B was at the barn yesterday to x-ray Kaswyn to see how much healing the shock wave has done. The verdict?

Is his words, "A shit load"

It's not completely healed - it's about 80%. Dr. B is not convinced that we'll ever get healing on that last 20%, but he's really happy with what we've got so far. Regardless, his opinion is that the area will be stronger now than it was before because now we have bone filled in where the ligamentous attachment had torn. So, in theory, the risk of re-injury to that area will be small.

He did caution me, however, that since Kaswyn is 16 he's not as flexible as he used to be. So while I might not injure that left inside splint bone attachment again, I could easily overdo it and pull, sprain, or tear something else. That means I have to bring him back slowly. Like, REALLY slowly. Here's our plan -

Ride at walk for 2 weeks. He wants me to put weight on it. Fine by me, I'd rather ride.
Trot for 45 days, slowing increasing the amount of time. Yes, you read correctly, 45 days.
Mid-May he wants to x-ray again and evalute Kaswyn before I begin cantering. He even said, "Don't you canter this horse..I want to see him first."

Then he said I can't do anything difficult or challenging for awhile. Which probably means that Sport Horse Nationals in September is out of the question. Dammit. I know I should just get him back to work and see how that goes, but I really want to go to that show. Sport Horse Nationals won't be in Virginia again until 2009. I don't want to wait that long!

Okay, let me back up a second.

To be perfectly clear, I'll be thrilled if I can get Kaswyn sound again. Training, lessons, and going to shows will just be a bonus. How much of a bonus?

A shit load.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

A deal is a deal

Before I post about today's vet visit, I must attend to something.

A very good friend of mine also has a blog-journal thing. She posted this -

Leave a reply and...
1: I'll respond with something random about you.
2: I'll challenge you to try something.
3: I'll pick a colour that I associate with you.
4: I'll tell you something I like about you.
5: I'll tell you my first/clearest memory of you.
6: I'll tell you what animal you remind me of.
7: I'll ask you something I've always wanted to ask you.
8: If I do this for you, you must post this in your journal

Naturally, I posted a reply to her, as follows -

SUBJECT: this might not work... (Anonymous)
For some reason livejournal thinks I'm spam. Hopefully I'm not that salty. ;)


and this is what I got back -

SUBJECT:Re: this might not work... redkcolumbus
Heh - a little salt, a little sweet -you've got it all! :>

1. People meeting you now would never guess you can put grapes in your nose.
2. Homework? heh heh heh When was the last time you created a scroll for the SCA?
3. Horse brown. That warm vibrant sweaty horse color. Do they call that chestnut?
4. You have an earthy sense of humor utterly without malice that always delights me
5. A nervous phone call asking for advice.
6. A falcon
7. Are you sure you don't regret the belt?

Some explanations, and comments back to redkcolumbus, for the curious

1. Um, I'm not sure I'm going to explain this one. Give me a few beers and ask me in person and you might get the whole story. Those who know, know. Or have seen...
2. In the SCA, redkcolumbus is my teacher/mentor. Is there a due date for this homework?
3. Chestnut is an overall color scheme of the horse moreso then a specific color. A horse who has a brown body (which can range from a bright reddish-brown to a dark liver brown) and also has a brown mane and tail is called chestnut. A horse who has a brown body and a black mane and tail is called bay.
4. Sometimes I find my humor a little juvenile. I still crack up at the Simpson's joke where Bart calls the bar and asks for Seymore Butts.
5. My first memory of you is at an SCA event when you made an announcement. I asked who you were and was told "That's Duchess Garbonzo." No, I won't tell you who said it.
6. Really? So interesting.
7. Never.

And now back to your regularly scheduled horse nonsense...

I'll see it in his bones

My blue mood about my horse has lifted, partly due to the Fench Silk pie. Mostly I've just been able to get things back in perspective. It's the uncertainty of the whole situation that gets to me from time to time. It's also not being able to ride my horse for such a long time. Like I've said before, I went years and years without Kaswyn taking a lame step, so having 16 months of lameness is just a little much all at one time. Let's just have this be it for the rest of his (long) life, okay?

Friday was going to be the day that Dr. B was coming out to x-ray Kaswyn's knee and determine how much healing has been induced by the shock wave treatment. However, I got a call from the clinic saying that they had to re-schedule the appointment for TODAY. That means I don't have to wait until Friday. I'm super nervous and excited all at once. I just need to remember that, while Dr. B is convinced that the bone will be greatly improved, it's possible that the bone will be the same. Or, very unlikely, worse. I guess I expect that it will be better because I saw 30 days of rest improve the bone by 50%. The shock wave should have helped the healing process even more over these past 30 days. It's certainly not cheap, so it damn well better have worked.

I must say that I won't miss hand walking if my horse is healed. I decided that I'd make him walk on the lunge line instead of walking next to me, thinking that if he was far away from me he couldn't cause any trouble. This is Kaswyn I'm dealing with, so of course that's not the case. Instead of walking in a big 20 meter circle around me at the end of the lunge line, he only wants to walk in a 10 meter circle. See, this makes it easier for him to suddenly take a few steps towards me, head held high, and invite me to play with him. This he does by shaking his head at me, arching his neck, and stepping high with his feet. If he gets close enough he'll even try and grab my coat in his teeth. Sure, it's cute, but not really acceptable behavior.

So instead of saying "Stop biting me!" every minute, I'm saying "Get away, beast! Walk on! GO!". Nice change of pace I suppose, but still super annoying. I'm sure all he can think is "I'm bored, I want to work, what's with all the walking? Let's DO something!"

Message received, big guy. Got it.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Treat others with delight

After talking to me today (and, I suspect, reading my post), my huband arrived home with moral support about my horse and a French Silk pie from Baker's Square.

I feel better already. Thanks honey.

The opposite of optimistic

Today I'm not feeling very hopeful about Kaswyn's recovery and return to work.

Maybe all of the treatments, vet bills, hand walking, etc, have finally worn me down. Because of this, I'm having a hard time deciding what is my next move if he's not sound after this shock wave treatment. Sure, I should probably just wait and see if he's sound or not, but I always have to play the "what if" game.

Today, with my current blue mood, I'm thinking that if he's not sound at the end of the month that he needs to be retired. Just writing that brings tears to my eyes, because he doesn't want to retire any more than I want him to. But how much more of this can we take? Both emtionally and financially?

Somebody give me some hope. Or chocolate.
Header Image from Bangbouh @ Flickr