Saturday, July 28, 2007


I went out to see my horse today and his stitches look fantastic. There was no swelling, oozing, or heat in the area, and no swelling in the lower leg at all. I wrapped his lower leg again after I walked him, just in case he gets any inflammation.

Such a relief.

Friday, July 27, 2007

I should know better than to open my big mouth...

In my last post, my optimism got the better of me and I was anticipating getting to show my horse next summer. This, it seems, guaranteed that something bad would happen to Kaswyn.

I got a call this morning at work that said my horse had somehow punctured the inside of his left front leg while turned out with two other horses. Normally he would have been outside in a large pasture with these horses, but today there was thunder and lightning associated with the light rain which was falling, so the horses enjoyed a turnout in the indoor arena. A wound like this would not have been unheard of in the pasture, but there is really nothing in the indoor arena that he could have punctured himself on. The gals who were doing the turnout checked on the horses and saw that they had blood all over them. Concerned, they went to catch them. One of the other horses decided it would be fun to run some more instead of being caught, so they all began running. This activity caused the wound to start spurting blood all over the place. When they finally caught Kaswyn his leg was drenched in blood and his turnout boots were sticky with blood and dirt. They called me, and then called the vet.

I hurried out to the barn, concerned because there in a nice large vein that runs down the inside of the front leg, and if he had sliced it badly he could lose a lot of blood. The messages that I got from the barn owner sounded panicky, so I started to panic a bit too. It's really hard to gauge sometimes how bad something is without seeing it for yourself.

By the time I got to the barn, Kaswyn's leg had been hosed off with cold water and wrapped. As horse people know, the upper leg of a horse is very difficult to wrap because it's wider at the top then it is at the bottom, so the wrap slides down the leg and fails to cover the wound. I just happened to have my camera with me (in hopes of getting more videos), so I took some shots of the wound, which was uncovered because of the slipping bandage.

From this angle it doesn't really look that bad.

This is a shot from the front, showing how much swelling there was around the area. It could have been worse, and although the swelling indicates that it might have been a kick, it just doesn't look like a kick wound to me.

After I looked at it I thought that it didn't really look that bad. The barn gals told me that they had applied direct pressure to it to finally stop the bleeding, and they thought there was a large clot in the wound keeping it from bleeding. I decided not to poke around in there, but to just leave it alone until the vet arrived.

I called Dr. B. on my way to the barn, but he was tied up at the racetrack and couldn't make it to see my horse. The vet on call was Dr. K., who I have to say that, on the one occasion that he saw Kaswyn for something, I didn't really care for him. He seemed to have a very casual and flippant attitude towards whatever the problem was (I can't remember what at the time) and I just didn't appreciate feeling as if he was rolling his eyes and placating me.

Dr. K. arrived about two hours later. To my surprise, he was reserved but showed the appropriate amount of concern and attention to the wound. He gave my horse a sedative, a tetanus shot, clipped the area, scrubbed it up, and put in three stitches. As he stitched, he explained that he thought Kaswyn got kicked and was cut open by the nails on the shoe. He said the wound cut into the top of the vein, and that he might nick the vein again as he stitched because the vein is very close to the surface of the skin. Luckily, he didn't do that because that would have set off the bleeding again, possibly resulting in a hematoma. He finished off the job by spraying some Aluspray on the area. He then gave me some doxycycline to hopefully keep it from getting infected, told me to give Kaswyn 2 grams of bute a day for the next two days, and put him back to work on Sunday. He seemed to think it wasn't that big of a deal and that Kaswyn wouldn't be lame because of it.

Here is a shot of the wound after the stitching was done. The silver you see is the Aluspray, which is actually aluminum spray powder (really a pretty cool product!). All in all I think it looks really good and I think scarring should be minimal. I'm still not sure if it was a kick, but I don't have another plausible explanation.

Now we'll just have to see if he's sound on that leg. Of course it was his left front leg that was cut. Figures. In light of this, don't expect any more posts about potential shows. I'll post results when we're back from the show, safe and sound.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Show musings

Things have really been going well with my horse. I've been steadily increasing the total riding time, so now we're up to about 35 minutes of work. That's really pretty good considering my horse used to work for an hour each session.

I've also added another line of half-pass at the trot, and two lines of half-pass at the canter each direction. I'm hoping to get my trainer to video us so I can update my Video Glossary with half-pass. I also need to get her to video shoulder-in and haunches in, two more movements that my horse is now doing at each workout.

I'm feeling him get stronger every day. It's really quite thrilling. Our lessons are very productive and I'm starting to fix a lot of bad habits that I've picked up over the years. It's hard work but I'm really enjoying it. Sure, there are times when I feel lazy or tired after working all day and just don't feel much like riding. But then I dig deep and find the energy to ride as best I can, knowing that both me and my horse will be better for it. I also know that we'll never get back in the show ring without lots of hard work.

Yes, I'm thinking about showing. I know I've said that I'm not going to make plans or decide what shows I'm going to do until he's ready to go, but it's just so hard not to look into the future. So, my hope is to be able to go to the Arabian Region 14 Championships next year in Kentucky. It's in July, so we have a whole year to prepare. It would be nice to go to a show before the Championships, and we will if he's ready. If not, we can just qualify at the pre-show. It's always possible that we won't qualify at the pre-show, but frankly, it's not hard to qualify for Regionals at the upper levels of dressage. We'd need a score of 50% or better. Now, I know it's possible that any ride can turn into a train wreck and you can get a really bad score. I know I've had one score of 47%, but that wasn't on Kaswyn. However, if I didn't think we could lay down at least a 60% I wouldn't even enter the show. So if we enter it will be because I'm confident that the scores will be adequate for qualification.

We could also qualify with points at the pre-show. The point qualifications only work at Arabian shows, not open dressage shows. With open dressage shows you have to use scores to qualify for Arabian Regionals. The way the points work is that you get one point for every horse you place higher than in the class, plus one point for yourself. For example, if there are 5 horses in the class, then first place gets 5 points, second place gets four points, etc. If you are the only one in the class and manage to finish the class, then you get a point. To qualify for Regionals we'd need one point. I think we can do it.

Stay tuned for updates on my Video Glossary of Dressage Movements. I'm hoping to have new videos soon!

Monday, July 23, 2007

A bee in his bonnet

Last Wednesday I was working in the lab, as usual, and when I got to a place where I could stop and take a break, I checked my phone. I saw that I had received several calls from my trainer, plus a text message, all in the space of about 20 minutes. This is a bad sign, because most of the time anything she has to say to me can wait at least an hour or more.

The text said, simply

call me ASAP

The first voicemail went something like this -

Hey, I wanted to let you know that when they brought Kaswyn in the the pasture this morning it looked like he had gotten into a nest of bees or something, because he has hives all over his head. They're coming up on his body now too, so I'm going to call the vet and see what he wants us to do. It doesn't look as bad as last time, yet, but I think he needs drugs of some kind. Please call me as soon as you get this. Thanks.

About two years ago Kaswyn came in from the pasture (at a different barn) with his nose very swollen and with hives all over him. I wasn't able to leave work so they called the vet and my trainer said that she would wait there. His nose and muzzle continued to swell while she waited for the vet to arrive. She got a little concerned because his lips were large and very hard and his nostrils were starting to resemble little slits instead of nice open holes. Thankfully the vet got there in time to give him a steriod, a pain reliever, and an anti-inflammatory shot before his nose swelled completely shut. By the time I got there he was much better, but he still had hard, swollen lips and hives all over him. A few days later he was back to normal and none the worse for wear. My theory is that he either ate a bee while grazing, which stung him inside the mouth, or got stung on the muzzle.

The next voicemail -

Dr. B. had me give him a shot of Banamine (pain reliever and anti-inflammatory) and dexamethasone (steriod anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressant) and he's starting to look better. I'm supposed to call Dr. B. back in 20 minutes with a report. I'll let you know how he is.

And then -

Hey, Kaswyn is looking much better. He doesn't seem as itchy now and the hives are looking flatter instead of sticking up so much. I'm going out in the pasture to see if I can find a nest or something. Hopefully I'll see you soon.

I left work immediately and ran over there. Here is a picture of his side.

It's taken with my camera phone so it's not the greatest, but I'm hoping it shows how bumpy he looked. He also had hives like that on his head. He actually didn't look as bad this time as he did last time, so I wasn't really concerned. He had nice open nostrils and I think that if his airway had been in jeopardy it would have already happened, so I thought he was out of the woods.

And I was right. The next day he had about 5 hives on him, which I suspect were really sting marks from his bee encounter. He's perfectly fine now. Dr. B is giving my trainer a full bottle of dexamethasone to keep at the barn becasue Kaswyn in the second horse within two weeks to have a reaction like that to a sting. And when I left the barn yesterday I saw that the barn owner's horse was covered in hives too, so that makes three.

Lets hope we are all done with that for the summer.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

No new tale to tell

I haven't posted lately because all I have to say is "Kaswyn feels great! My ride/lesson was fantastic! Things are going well!", which is really quite boring. Not that I'd want to go back to the mystery lameness/attempt to rehabilitate roller coaster that we were stuck on for 18 months. At this point, I'd rather be boring.

We're up to about 35 minutes of work each session and he's been feeling great. He's been completely sound and absolutely even. In addition to leg yields we've added come shoulder-in, haunches-in, and one short line of half-pass. I need to get my trainer to video these movements so I can add them to my video glossary. He's still pretty weak in these movements since we are still building muscle and stamina, but I can feel him getting stronger with each day.

In our last lesson my trainer had me ride a 20 meter circle at one end of the arena. On the "open" end of the circle (the part that was open to the rest of the arena and didn't have a fenceline for us to follow) she had me ask Kaswyn for a few strides of very collected canter. Normally this would be the warm-up for some canter pirouettes, which require a lot of strength behind so they would be out of the question for Kaswyn at this point. However, after two strides of the very collected canter Kaswyn assumed we were doing a pirouette and started to do one. I quickly stopped him and my trainer and I both laughed.

You see, it's rare to find a horse that has such a great work ethic. Instead of asking, demanding, or forcing Kaswyn to do difficult movements, he just offers them. As if to say "I know what you want, and I want to do it for you. Here ya go." Granted, he doesn't always do them correctly, but he offers to do them.

When that happens it's hard not to get excited for the future. Which looks like it might not be boring at all.

Monday, July 02, 2007

How to piss off your trainer: Part 3 of The Critic

Part 1
Part 2

Liz and I had been working hard for the whole show, doing our best to keep the stall area cleaned and perfect in our quest for the groom's award, and we were tired. In my experience, there are three stages of being tired for a horse show groom. They are Tired, Slaphappy, and Grouchy.

You get Tired from running back and forth from the stalls to the ring, standing for hours in the sun, and toting equipment across the show grounds. If you can push through the Tired stage, you get your second wind and end up at Slaphappy. Everything is funny, even things that are clearly not amusing. The dumbest thing makes you laugh, and laugh for a long time. This stage is most fun when you have someone to share it with.

When you get done with Slaphappy and still have work to do, there is nowhere to go but down, and you hit Grouchy. This is the "Why do I have to do everything?" stage, and even your Slaphappy buddies are "lazy" and "worthless". Even the smallest job is a huge task and is accompanied by much whining and martyrdom.

By the time 12:30 am rolled around and it was time to get Andrea ready for Blair to ride, I was Grouchy. I'm sure Liz was too. We just needed to sleep and re-fuel for the next day. I remember there being a lot of grumbling out of Blair's earshot about "What's the point of riding this horse in the middle of the night?" and "How is this going to help anyone? I'm sure the horse is tired too." But being the good little grooms we were, the horse was ready to ride at the appropriate time.

I remember going to the ring with Blair, because I think she lunged Andrea before she got on her and someone needed to carry the lunging equipment back when she was done riding. I can't remember if Liz was with me or not. But I remember watching Blair get on and ride as I leaned on the fence, bleary-eyed. The horse looked good, except for an occasional uneven stride in front when she tried to take too large of a step with one front leg. We used to call this "hitching". Other than that the ride was pretty good.

Blair's face was glowing when she rode up to me, knowing the mare felt good. She asked, "So, what did you think? How did she look?"

This would have been the prefect opportunity for me to say something nice, and then mention the hitching. But instead, in full Grouch mode, I snapped "Well, she was hitching in front."

Blair's face fell. She was silent for a second, and then said "You know, it would really be nice to hear something positive out of your mouth every once in awhile. You're always picking the horses apart, and I'm really getting sick of it." With that she got off of Andrea and walked back to the barn without another word to me.

I felt terrible, but I didn't know what to say. I hadn't realized how negative I'd sounded in the past. I always looked at it as pointing out problems so that she could fix them. I didn't mean to hurt her feelings or make it seem like our horses were crap. Granted, that evening I was Grouchy and was probably snottier than usual, but after the incident I decided that I'd make a concerted effort to say something positive about the horse in question before I brought up anything negative.

Regardless, the damage was done for that evening. I can't remember putting Andrea away, so maybe Liz did it. I know that for the rest of the show Blair was short with me, only speaking to me when necessary. I don't think I ever really apologized to her, which is bad. I should have, but I just didn't know how and it seemed awkward to bring it up.

To top off it all off, we didn't win the grooms award. And I think that was the last time I went to the Cow Palace for a horse show. Kinda sad in a way, but that was one show that I was glad to have over and done with.
Header Image from Bangbouh @ Flickr