Sunday, June 29, 2008

So today? Did the arena work get started?

Nope. That's just about all I can say.

Since Mr. K told me that the arena would be easier to work on if the footing wasn't wet, I haven't been watering the arena. So the footing was super dry today and there's no way I wanted to ride in that dust storm. I decided to ride him down the road instead. Susan was already out with Albert and another friend at one of the Metroparks so this would be a solo ride.

Not like it matters. Kaswyn really doesn't care if we go out alone. He's a little more cautious, but he's not spooky or nervous, thankfully. Once we got off of the main street we met little traffic and had a nice ride down the street. There are areas on the side of the road where we have to walk because the shoulder is either too narrow or makes a bit of a ditch. However there are areas that are wider and flatter and that's were we were able to do a little trotting. It was quite enjoyable.

About ten minutes into the ride I noticed that the sky was getting dark, but I couldn't see rain yet, so I figured we'd be okay and just kept on truckin' along. The street we were on dead-ends into another street, and off to the right there is a wide, long, flat grassy area on the side of the road that's about 200 yards long. It's well groomed and perfect for cantering, so I asked Kaswyn for the canter and got a very nice ground covering canter with lots of jump. When we got to the end of the flat area I went to turn around, and then it started raining.

When I say raining, I mean it POURED. I rode Kaswyn a little bit into the woods and we huddled under some trees. He wasn't very happy about it, and kept shaking his head when the drops would hit him in the ears. I assured him that we'd be getting much wetter if we were out from under the trees, but that didn't seem to make him feel any better. The trees gave us some really good protection - that is until it really started to rain. Then we did get wet. Very wet.

My first thought was for my saddle. Kaswyn and I can dry off, but getting that saddle soaking wet would not be a good thing. I tried to shield it the best I could, but how was I going to cover the whole saddle? I mean, I was covering most of it with my butt and legs, but what about the other parts? It was warm out so I didn't have a jacket or sweatshirt with me. I just crossed my fingers that the shower would pass quickly.

Which it did. As soon as it let up we headed back down the flat area, cantering nicely on the other lead. It's the best canter I've felt from him in months. It's a feeling that I sorely miss.

Going home the road looked very different. You can see the wet pavement and the grey sky in the distance, the evidence of the storm. I really hate riding on black tar roads to begin with, but when it's wet it's even worse. Luckily Kaswyn isn't the spooky type, because I hate that "blacktop scramble" that horses do when trying to get their feet under themselves as they slide on the asphalt.

We were gone for a total of an hour. It was really wonderful. Although I only had a few short bursts of trot and two passes of canter, I'm really jazzed about how Kaswyn felt. I'm anxious to see what the massage lady has to say on Tuesday. I hope she can do something about the swelling in that left front, or even make it so that he's 100% sound.

Hey, I can dream, can't I?

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Friday, June 27, 2008

Looking up

Things seem to be falling into place.

My blacksmith reset Kaswyn yesterday. He always talks a lot while he works on horses, and yesterday was no exception. I asked his opinion about the fact that when Kaswyn puts weight on his left front leg at the walk that the pastern doesn't flex nearly as much as the right front. I wanted to know if he thought it was because his feet grow so differently or from something else. He looked at me, and in his typical way, said "What I think is that you're lookin' at his nose."

I said "What? Looking at his nose? What's that supposed to mean?"

He said "If you look at someones nose for too long it starts to look really big. It's probably because he's been protecting that leg for so long, and might still be protecting it. So stop looking at it and just feel him move. That will tell you all you need to know."

Huh. Pretty good advice. I've been trying to feel what's been going on with him but it's so hard in that arena. Luckily Mr. K is supposed to come out and work on the arena on Saturday. I'm supposed to call him in the morning and he'll give me a time that will work for him. His plan is to come over two times with two different pieces of equipment. He asked that I not water the arena because it will make it easier for him to work with, so that's one less thing I've had to do this week.

Since the arena is too dusty for this DQ, I asked Susan if she wanted to ride down the road with me today. While we were out I had a great idea. There's this massage therapist who I've used before who also works on horses. I think she might have worked on Kaswyn once or twice when he was a young guy, and she worked on me quite a few times but I haven't used her services in years. She's a bit of a space cadet, and totally looks like a hippie, but she really knows her stuff with both humans and horses.

So I called her up. We had a nice chat about his issues, and she's not sure if she can help or not. She said that his slight but persistent swelling (but no heat) in that leg might not ever go away, but she'd evaluate him and see what could be done. I figure it can't hurt anything to have her work on that leg. She's coming Tuesday afternoon.

Which is good, because Boot Camp Section A starts on Thursday! I'll be going to my trainer's barn for a week. While there I'll be having three lessons in that beautiful arena of hers. I'll take some pictures so you can see the footing. It's definitely something to drool over. I'll try and get someone to take pictures or video while I'm there. I'm so stoked! I get to have an honest evaluation of how Kaswyn is doing, plus all of my bad habits will be exposed so I can work on them before the next Boot Camp.

New shoes, arena repair, a massage appointment, and impending Boot Camp. It's going to be an exciting week!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

A hope dashed, then lifted

Mr F came out and evaluated the arena footing situation. Then he gave a price.


Even though I am certain that this guy knows what he's doing and would do a fabulous job, there's no way we can afford him. I told him so ,and he said that it was actually a pretty cheap price. I said I'm sure it is, but I know that the barn owner is not going to agree to pay that much. I thanked him for the estimate, and told him that I'd contact him again if, by some miracle, we were able to use his services.

Out of desperation I called Mr. K again, fully expecting him to not have time to work with us. He explained what his schedule was like, and after thinking about it agreed to come over on Saturday. He said he would have to work the footing with two different pieces of equipment on two different days. But he said he would start Saturday, and that I should call him Saturday morning and he'd give me a time.

Now, I want to believe that he's going to be able to come out. However, knowing what he's got going on this month I'm not counting on it 100%. But I'm trying to be optimistic that this is the time, and that work is finally going to proceed as planned.

Also my trainer is looking at her schedule and we're figuring out which week Kaswyn can go over to her place. Ooo! I can't tell you how excited I am. You truly never know what you've got until it's gone, and I'm very much missing good arena footing and another set of eyes on the ground right now.

I had been concerned that Kaswyn hadn't felt right the last time I rode, so tonight I put him on the lunge line and he looked okay to me. Maybe it's just my imagination that he's moving poorly, but I can't tell since we have no mirrors and I don't have anyone there to give me a clue about how he's going. Maybe he just feels worse than he looks. But my gut tells me that when he feels wrong, he is wrong.

Regardless, he gets his shoes reset on Thursday, and maybe that will solve some of the problem. Then new footing possibly this weekend, and then maybe to my trainer's place for boot camp next week. Could we be making progress?

Sunday, June 22, 2008

A new hope, on two fronts

A comment from my last post by Jester Jigger got me thinking about the possibility of doing a week long boot camp at my trainer's barn. I know I can't afford the monthly board, but I think I could swing a week at a time. I started thinking that I could bring my own hay and grain over to minimize my cost, since I won't ask Marge to discount my current board. If I'm there for a week and I know what week it is ahead of time then I could schedule two lessons. I think I could afford that every 4 or 6 weeks.

So yesterday I drove over to my trainer's barn and ran the idea by her. She said it would be a great idea, and it would be easy since right now she has an empty stall. And even if she ends up filling her stalls in the main barn she has two run-in sheds that have stalls in them. They don't have mats and the fronts have open gates on them so they wouldn't work in the winter, but for the summer and fall they would work out just fine.

She's going to run some numbers and figure out what it would cost me, and if it's possible we're going to make that happen. I'm really pretty excited! I can't wait to get Kaswyn in that arena over there. Yesterday she had just dragged it and the footing was beautiful. It looked, as she said, like brown sugar. I had huge arena envy!

Speaking of arenas, Mr. K has not been able to help us out with arena work. So I finally broke down and called his good friend, Mr. F, who has an established business of putting in horse arenas and outdoor sporting complexes like baseball and football fields. Mr. F also knows his stuff, but I fear that he will be well out of our price range. I called him at 5:30 on a Sunday and left a message. Fifteen minutes later he called me back! I was shocked. I explained the situation and told him that we had been trying to work with Mr. K but that it just wasn't happening. We discussed the situation and he said that he would come out and evaluate the arena. He's coming tomorrow at 9 am, and Susan is going to meet him out there.

I'm really hoping that we can afford his work because I have no doubt that he can do the job and do it well. Something really must be done to the arena because Kaswyn just isn't feeling right. Even though it's only been five weeks since his last reset I think he needs to be done again, so I'm trying to schedule the blacksmith this week. I hope that's the problem. My big fear is that working him in the too deep footing has pulled something somewhere. It's really hard to evaluate what's going on with him because the footing is so uneven that his strides are uneven also and he has to slow down and speed up just to get through the deep stuff.

Hopefully one or both of my plans will work out and I'll start making some sort of progress. Summer is here and I want to get my ride on!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Spilling over

I drove home from the barn tonight, trying not to think about the situation as is stood. I took deep breaths, convincing myself that I was just being selfish and that crying would just confirm what I'd been thinking for weeks - that I was acting spoiled. I needed to just get over it already and accept that just because I wanted something didn't mean that I was entitled to have it. My situation wasn't that bad, right?

Despite giving myself a stern talking-to, a tear brimmed in my eye and fell on my cheek. You big baby, I thought as I wiped it away. Ignoring the tightening in my chest, I blinked the rest of the tears away and got a hold of myself. All this drama is because I feel like my riding is going in a downward spiral that I'm afraid I might not be able to return from. This is due to a combination of my horse being injured and where I have him stabled.

As far as Kaswyn's injury is concerned, I think he's healed. For the most part he feels sound and he's usually willing to work. A few times in the past month he's felt lazy and I've had to work hard to keep him going, and this does worry me a bit. He's seventeen years old now, and having almost two years of inconsistent work mixed with long stretches of rehab makes for a difficult road back to top training form.

I fell like I could be making progress right now, except my barn situation is far from ideal. Like every farm, it's got it's pluses and minuses. On the favorable side, Kaswyn loves it there. He gets out either all day or all night, weather depending. He gets along with his pasture mates, and it's a quiet place since most of the stalls are empty. Also, the board is inexpensive due to the shortcomings of the farm.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of things to list in the "minus" column. Small stalls with no windows or gates. No outdoor arena. No trail access. Small indoor arena that needs a lot of work on the footing to get it the proper depth and level. And, unless I water and drag the arena myself, no arena upkeep is done. Ever. This makes things hard on me because I really don't want to spend my barn time watering and dragging an arena that is not mine. I want to ride and then get home to my family. However, I also don't want to ride in footing that is too dry and have my horse and I breathe in all that dust. So I water. I drag. I spend two hours at the barn and I don't even tack my horse up. Then I go home, dirty, tired, and feeling sorry for myself.

Don't get me wrong. I love the barn owner, who I've known now for sixteen years. She's just really done with the whole boarding barn business. She doesn't want the hassle, so she accepts very few boarders. I know she'd always let me in her barn because we're friends, but she's really not interested in fixing the barn to my liking. I can't say that I blame her either. I'm the only one who rides in the arena, so why should she do two hours of work each week just for me?

I boarded at her place for years until it was clear that Kaswyn needed to work in a full size dressage arena if he was going to progress in his training. When I decided I was going to move him to a different barn I talked with her about it. She was sad to see me go, but understood why it was time to do so. Now that I'm back she sees this as a place for Kaswyn to rehab, or even retire. I don't see it that way at all because I want to get my horse back in the show ring at some point. The only reason why I'm there is because I couldn't afford board at my trainer's old barn anymore.

Which brings me to the reason this has finally all come to a head. A while ago I found out that my trainer was getting her own farm. During my eight years of training with her she had her business in four different barns. Now she has a place of her own, and I couldn't be happier for her. It's the stability and control of her business that she so desperately needed.

When I began training with her, she had just started taking clients and was forming her business. Every time she moved, I moved with her. Twice I fell on hard time financially and had to move Kaswyn out, but I was always able to come back and make it happen. She always was accommodating for me, coming out to any barn to give me lessons or ride Kaswyn. This sounds queer, but I've watched her grow and change in so many ways. She learned about running a business, how to deal with clients, judges, and other trainers, and her riding has continued to improve.

Now, she's got her own place. A farm that she can run the way she sees fit to give her and her horses the best place to train and be successful. She's finally where she's always dreamed that she should be.

I can't be there to share it with her because I can't afford it.

Here is where we hear from the little nasty monster within me. This sucks. It's not fair. I want to be at a barn where everyone rides so that I can watch and learn, instead of being at a barn where I'm the only one who rides. I want to be able to ask other riders if my horse looks off, instead of riding alone a few days a week. I want to be confident in the facility and know that the footing is safe instead of being afraid to ride my horse more than twenty minutes in the too deep, uneven footing. But mostly I want to be there to see her reach her full potential, and to hang out with her again. But it's not meant to happen that way. At least, not right now.

I fully realize how spoiled this makes me sound. First of all, this new barn is not about me, it's about her. Second, I'm lucky that I even get to have a horse. Some people can't even afford the cheap board that I'm paying. Lastly, I have a great husband, two adorable, smart, healthy girls, and a good job. We have food to eat every night, cars to drive, and beds to sleep in. I'm very fortunate.

But I want more. Is that so wrong? That's something that I've been asking myself a lot lately. It ran through my mind again as I was driving home. You see, I had stopped by the new barn before heading out to pick up the girls. The horses had just moved in yesterday, and I wanted to stop in and see how things were going. Everything was clean, well organized, the horses looked happy. Most importantly, my trainer looked happy.

She was there with her mom and another student who I've known for years. I only had a few minutes to talk, and then I had to go. We made plans to meet later this week, and as I got in my car and drove out of the driveway the wave of sadness broke over me. Somehow I was able to control myself and I didn't allow myself to actually cry. But there were definitely tears in my eyes over this. And I imagine they won't be the last ones.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

He popped a WHAT?

A few years ago I was grooming Kaswyn before my ride and I saw a small wound on his coronet band. I said "Oh no!" and my friend Linda heard me. She said "What?" And I said "My horse has a puncture wound!"

She came over to take a look, and said "That's not a puncture wound! He popped a gravel."

I said "What's a gravel?"

She explained that a gravel was a small abcess that worked it's way up the hoof wall and came out at the coronet band instead of out the bottom of the foot. I asked if I should call the vet, and she laughed, saying that the problem was now solved and I didn't need to do anything.

That was the first I had heard of a gravel, and the first one the Kaswyn has had.

Here is a picture of the one that I just found.

You can see the little pink circle area right at the coronet band. It looks like a little hole that's started healing from the inside, and there was no blood or swelling at all. A big bonus is that he didn't go lame, and I'm glad the abcess came out as a gravel instead of having to be dug out of the bottom of his foot. That would have been a huge pain.

For both Kaswyn and my checkbook, I'm sure.

Friday, June 06, 2008

More adventures with hay

I don't know what it is, but picking up hay with Susan has made me laugh every time. I have laughed so hard that I fell down and peed my pants. Just a little. Yesterday was no exception.

Yes it was time to pick up more hay for Kaswyn. I bought 90 bales in April for him, and my friend S. bought the rest of the load. She has a barn with a hay loft and said that I could store the rest of my hay there, since I only have room at Kaswyn's barn for a stall full. I was down to one bale and was lucky enough that Susan's work told her not to come in yesterday.

The good news is that it looked like we were going to be able to go over and get the hay and not get rained on. That meant that we'd get to leave our old friend the tarp, Big Blue, at home. The bad news was that it was going to 90 degrees. Ugh, so hot! Hot to be doing anything, especially hauling hay around.

When I got to the barn Susan said "You're really going to make us do this aren't you?" Susan doesn't do well in the heat. I don't mind it, really. I hate the cold much much worse. Susan, on the other hand, would rather just live in Alaska. I promised that I'd buy her gas and some cold beer to drink when we got done.

The first part of the plan went very smoothly. We were able to back the truck into the barn and just throw the bales out of the loft and into the truck bed. With a little arranging and careful stacking we were headed back home. We started discussing how we were going to get the hay from the truck down the aisle into the hay stall that I set up. Last time we enlisted Marge's younger son to help us, and we really didn't want to get him involved this time. He seemed a bit crabby last time even though we did give him beer. My idea was to use the ATV and the dump cart to move the hay.

So here is the deal with the ATV. Used to be that the stalls were cleaned by loading up the dump cart with manure and then dump the manure in the pile. Then the ATV got older and older, and started having all sorts of issues. The electric starter went out so you had to kick start it. Then the transmission went out, at least a few times, and it was decided that the ATV would be used to hay only, and stalls were to be cleaned with wheelbarrows. Marge has a guy who comes in to work at the barn on Sundays. Leo does all kinds of stuff around there, but most importantly he moves the hay from the hay barn and stacks it in the aisle. He uses the ATV to do this, and over the years he has decided that it's his ATV and nobody else is allowed to use it.

A few years ago We needed to use the ATV for something and the key was missing. It used to be hanging on a hook in the hay barn and it was gone. We looked high and low for it, and Marge finally asked Leo where it was. He said he had the key because he didn't want anyone to break it, cause then he'd have to haul hay with wheelbarrows. Marge insisted that he leave the key just in case she needed to use it. He agreed, but not readily. At some point he decided he'd hide the key, so technically it was in the barn, but only he know where it was. That's just as helpful as if he'd taken it home.

So the last time we got hay we went to get the ATV key, and of course we could not find it. We looked in all of his hiding places and it was nowhere to be found, so we moved the hay with wheelbarrows. It was long and exhausting, but we did it. Then Susan asked Leo for the key, saying that we really needed to use it to haul hay. He was suspicious, but told her that it was in the box on the shelf. I had looked in the box, and it wasn't there. Whatever, just leave it from now on!

Yesterday when we headed into the hay barn we found the key right away. However, we could not get the damn thing started. It used to be easy to start, even to kick start, but now it's old and I think there's some trick to starting it. I must have kicked that thing 20 times with no luck. Leo showed Susan how to start it, but she said she wasn't really paying attention, and I was about to give up.

Then Susan had a great idea. Marge's riding mover has a place to attach the cart to, so we put the cart of the mower and drove it down to the barn. Then we loaded the cart and drove it down the aisle. On the first trip down Susan forgot that the blade housing sticks out of the side of the mower, and she ran into the bales of hay stacked in the aisle. We also had a bit of a issue with the long, sticky fly strip that Susan had hung in the middle of the aisle that morning because the flies were so terrible. I walked beside the cart and tried to keep it off the Susan, the hay, and me. Once we were past that obstacle she motored down the aisle and stopped in front of the hay stall for the unload unloaded.

Then it was time to back down the aisle with the dump cart. Backing it is just the same as when you back a horse trailer, except that since the axles of the mower and cart are so close together you have to make very tiny adjustments to steer or else you end up getting very crooked very fast. Susan tried a few times to back up but ended up running the cart into things, so I unhooked the cart and backed it down the aisle. Then she just had to back the mower up and we were back for load #2.

On the way back down the aisle after unloading #2 and preparing for the last load, Susan was backing down the aisle. She forgot about the fly strip, and I walked back into the aisle just in time to see her run into the thing. It stuck in her hair and she starting flailing around, trying to get it off of her, which just made it worse. It was like something out of a cartoon, or some slapstick movie. She was laughing, but she was also grossed out and frantic.

I laughed so hard that I walked out of the barn and collapsed on the grassy bank. I wish I hadn't been laughing so hard, for two reasons. One, it would have been nice of me to help my friend out of a sticky situation, but in my defense it was really damn funny and I was totally incapacitated. Had I stood up I would have peed my pants, not a little but a LOT. Two, I didn't get a chance to see how she finally got herself free of the fly strip. She ended up none the worse for wear but had sticky stuff on her hands and in her hair. Luckily the strip only had a few flies on it so she didn't have little fly bits stuck to her. Still gross, but very funny.

We have to get hay again in about two months. The first hay trip we had to deal with Big Blue. The second trip we moved too much hay and ended up exhausted and slap happy. This time we had The Battle of the Fly Strip. What's next?

Thursday, June 05, 2008

OSU Trip 2008 - Part 5

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

The results are in!

To read the test each injection site was compared with two controls - a negative control of saline which should give no response and a positive control of histamine which should give the biggest response - meaning a big ass hive. Those sites which were larger than the saline were given a reading of 1 to 4, with 4 being the biggest reaction equal to the histamine.

After 15 minutes he was scoring 1 or 2 for five different molds, only one of which was positive from his last test six years ago. He also scored 2 on the following trees, four of which were positive last time -

Elm Hickory
Orchard grass

In the animal category he scored two for goose, duck, and rat. But the big surprise was - HUMAN. My horse is allergic to ME. I guess turnaround is fair play, since I'm allergic to him too. He didn't have any of these animal reactions last time. For insects he scored 3's for deer fly, horse fly, mold mite, and midges, all of which he reacted to last time.

For the four hour read, in the mold category, all his reactions were down to 0. Not sure what to make of that. However, he popped up a host of weed reactions, with 2's for nettle, cocklebur, dock-sorrel, lambsquarter, pigweed, plantain, and black willow. He also added a 3 for alfalfa! He did lose most of the tree species though, so that helps.

In animals, he popped up scores of 2 for goose, duck, chicken, cat, dog, and a big 5 (which means it was bigger than the huge histamine spot) was goat. Weird!

So out of the twelve allergens that he was positive for last time, he has lost the four hour, long term sensitivity to eight of them. I think this is really very good! The insect category was the same because his old serum did not include insects. The docs don't think it's effective to desensitize against insects due to the large genetic diversity on the insect population. Just keeping him out of the bugs and using fly sprays and masks would work much better.

I got the new serum mix and started it last week. It contains what they think are the biggest threats to Kaswyn having a huge breakout like last time.

3 of the most reactive mold species
Johnson (a tree, I think)

I got four vials, each with an increasing amount of allergen in them. I'll give him a shot every other day, starting with 0.2 ml from vial one and increasing the amount by 0.2 ml each time until I get to 1 ml. Then I'll move to the next vial and start with 0.2 ml. It will take a total of 35 days to get him to vial #4 which has the maintenance dose of the serum. He'll get 0.5 ml of that vial each week indefinitely.

Since he had so many new reactions this time, I'm thinking it might not have mattered that I stopped giving him the doses of the old serum. He might have broken out anyway. Even so, I'm going to follow the instructions and keep him on this maintenance dose forever.

Or until he has another epic hive breakout.

Header Image from Bangbouh @ Flickr