Wednesday, February 28, 2007

We walk on

..and on and on..

Hand walking my horse every day gets SO boring. However, it's necessary. I have at least three more weeks of this. Dr. B said I could get on Kaswyn and ride him at the walk if I wanted to. I did this after the first shock wave treatment, but I've since decided that it would be better to not put added weight on the leg as it heals. So hand walking it is.

Speaking of the leg, it's been ranging from normal to filled since the treatment. Yesterday was totally normal, but yesterday was also his last day on bute and aspirin until his next treatment. I'm anticipating some sort of inflammation today, but I don't know how much. I did notice that his first shock wave treatment was 1500 pulses, and this second one was 2000. I don't know how much of a difference that will make in terms of inflammation.

So I'll see what it looks like tonight. I already know that tonight will be another 15 or 20 minutes of my horse trying to chew on me as we walk. He keeps trying to grab my coat every thrity seconds just to spice things up, and I hate having to holler at him or smack him so often. I could really lay into him once or carry a whip and I know he'd quit it, but I don't want to do that either. I know that he's bored too, and I sympathize. However, boredom does not give him a free ticket to treat me like a teething ring.

Gotta love my horse.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Of Roses, Black and Red - Epilogue

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8
Part 9
Part 10

Time to answer some questions...

So, what happened to everyone?

Llano and Cheryl

Strangely, Llano's sour demeanor completely changed after Blair's disappearance and he became a very lovable guy. Years later when he was having problems walking due to many lameness issues, Cheryl made the difficult decision to put him down. She waited a few years and then ended up buying Kaswyn's half brother by the same stallion. She loves her horse, who is an absolutely darling boy, and trail rides him in the Open Space Preserve. After a few moves to different barns she is back in the last barn that Blair trained out of.

Teeya and Me

It turned out that Teeya was pregnant when Blair sold her, so she had a beautiful foal that following summer. He's by the same stallion as Kaswyn, and from everything I've heard he's a fabulous horse who has been very successful in the Arabian show ring. Teeya was eventually sold back to her original owner and last time I heard she was at the barn where Blair moved when she quit at the lesson barn. It's funny how things work out like that.


Bo went to live with Blair's sister and her horses. I have heard nothing about him, but by now he would be pushing 30 years old so I have to assume he's moved on from this world. He was a dear, sweet horse and I still miss him.


I ended up selling Tyler. He just wasn't cut out to be a show horse, and resented me for trying to make him one. I sold him to a Christian riding camp in Ohio. They loved him there and he was very happy. A few years ago he met with tragedy when he was being used for an overnight trail ride. His rider tied him to a tree that unknowingly had poisonous bark, which Tyler ate. They called the vet as soon as they saw he was sick, and got him on the trailer bound for the ranch. He was dead before the vet arrived.

Kaswyn and Me

I waited a year and bought Kaswyn, who has exceeded my wildest dreams. He has won three Nationals Championships, and I wonder what Blair would think of that if she were alive today. I wonder if she would have supported the dressage thing, or if she would have talked me out of it or teased me. I wonder if she's proud of me. I hope she is.

What's the title mean, anyway?

The black roses represent the pain and loss of Blair's disappearance and presumed death at such a young age. It bothered me for a long time not ever knowing exactly what happened. For years I would see her at horse shows in someone's walk, or the back of their head, or a figure in the crowd that never turned out to be her. I still find it incredibly sad that she never had the chance to see her daughter grow up.

The red roses signify the realization of my dream of winning a National Championship which began in Blair's family room when I picked up my first copy of Arabian Horse World and saw the beautiful trophies and rose garlands. And the horses...all the pretty horses...

The second wave

I've been really impressed with the shock wave results so far. Since I'm psychotic about note taking, I have information on how his leg looked each day since the first treatment (well, I actually take notes every day for my horse, so I have a complete diary of what's been happening with Kaswyn for the past five years or so...). In addition to noting any heat in the leg, I also came up with categories that describe the appearance of the leg that give me a better idea what's going on than just "swollen" or "not swollen". That's just too vague.

Normal - The best case. No swelling, no heat. Tendons tight.
Thick - No swelling. The tendons under the knee appear thicker, but still tight.
Spongy - Slight swelling, with the tendons softer and no longer tight. Fingers can be pushed into the tendons with a spongy feel that gives to pressure. Tendons still distinguishable from bone.
Filled - Discernable swelling. Areas between tendons and bone are filled in with inflammation so that the tendons are not easily distinguishable from bone, but swelling does not exceed the outer edge of the bone.
Swelled - Considerable swelling, with tissue extending past the outer edge of bone.

The first five days after the treatment Kaswyn was on bute and aspirin to keep some of the swelling down, and it worked beautifully. His leg looked normal and cold. The day after the meds were stopped his leg was thick. The next day it was spongy, the next it was filled, with moderate heat. Dr. B. said he wanted to have some swelling in the area, with the thought being that some inflammatory response was good. Thankfully the inflammation didn't get out of control, because it never reached the swelled stage. After hovering between filled and thick for almost a week, two days before the second treatment his leg went back to normal.

Yesterday he had the second shock wave treatment. Of course he was a fantastic boy for it, thanks to some nice drugs which made him a sleepy pony. Today his leg looks totally normal. I know he's on meds and that in five days he'll get some inflammation again, but this time I anticipate that it will go away. Just in time for treatment number three. After which Dr. B. wants to take some x-rays to see how he's healing. The pre-treatment x-rays are from Dr. G's and they are digital. I thought I'd have to bring Kaswyn there for more digital x-rays so we can compare apples to apples. However, the awesome thing is that Dr. B. just got a digital x-ray machine for his truck so I don't have to take Kaswyn anywhere.

I'm very excited to see the progress on the x-rays. Dr. B. expects that it will be significant. He thinks I'll be able to go back to work the day after treatment number three. While that would be great, I think I might wait two weeks anyway, just to be sure. This has been enough of a journey that I don't want to rush things and screw it up now. I can wait two more weeks. At least until his leg look normal without meds. If the last two weeks are any indication, I'll be back to work in a month.

Must not get excited...must not get excited...

Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Shocker..well, not really..

I was asked about how Kaswyn was doing last night by someone who has been keeping track of his progress here. Which made me realize that I haven't written about the shock wave therapy experience.

First let me say that when this all started over a year ago I didn't have very much experience with lame horses at all. Kaswyn is only my second horse, and Tyler never took a lame step when I had him. Kaswyn had some issues in the past that I now attribute to him being imbalanced with his shoeing moreso than any real lameness. Any of the horses I worked with in California weren't mine, so I wasn't intimately involved if they were lame - I just saw it and let Blair or the owner know and they dealt with it. Sure, sometimes I was involved in walking or bandage changing or whatever, but I was just given orders which I followed.

So anyway, all of this was pretty new to me a year ago. Taking my horse to see one vet, having another come out to watch him work, and watching the diagnosis form, and evaluating any progress - it's all been a learning experience. By now I have also gotten quite an education on the latest technologies and treatments, mostly because I have access at work to all sorts of scientific journals and research papers. I'm sure I'm a pain in the ass to the vets because I read up on all of this stuff (which gives me just enough information to be dangerous) and then I have a ton of questions.

Which leads me to shock wave therapy. I read great things about it, and
I have already said that I thought Kaswyn would be getting it done eventually. This hunch became a reality last Friday when Dr. B. came out. Kaswyn got a little tranquilizer because apparently there can be a little tingling or stinging sensation during the treatment. His knee needed to be hit with about 2000 pulses and if he kept moving around it would have taken forever. Since Kaswyn is a good patient anyway, and an excellent patient when doped up, it only took about five minutes.

Dr. B said that when he first started using shock wave he thought it was complete crap. His take on it was that you held this expensive probe up to the horse and the machine made lots of noise and that was it. Then he saw the proof of injuries healing in much shorter times, and he's now a true believer in the treatment. I had read the research and the physiological effects it has, so I was cautiously hopeful that it would do the trick.

The next day Kaswyn's leg was totally normal. No heat, no swelling, no thickness in the area at all. It was the same the next day, and the next. I don't know for sure what's going on in there, but reduction in inflammation is a good sign. He'll get two more treatments spaced two weeks apart, and then we'll x-ray the knee again.

Here's hoping that the machine does more than just cost a lot and make noise.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Of Roses, Black and Red - Part 10

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8
Part 9

How could someone just disappear? I know it happens every day, but you always think it will never happen to anyone you know. But it does. And it did. To me and everyone who knew Blair.

I felt very guilty for not calling her back that evening. I kept thinking that if I had tried to contact her that I could have added another piece of information to the investigation. If I had called her boyfriend's house and she had been there, or called her place and reached her, or something, then more questions could have possibly been answered. This was all in the days before cell phones were commonplace. We just take for granted now that we can call anyone and say "Hey, what are you doing right now?" Regardless, I suspect that I would not have reached her even if I had tried.

Things were really weird for the next month or two. There were many phone calls back to California to try and piece together what could have happened. Since I wasn't out there I missed a lot of the really agonizing stuff, like the police questionings, flyer postings, news reports, and the search parties. The police wanted to question my boyfriend because they said he was the last person besides the ex that Blair had spoken to. I kept waiting for them to call or supoena me, but since I was in Ohio when it all went down they decided I was unimportant.

In a way I'm glad I wasn't there, because Cheryl said it was madness. Her house turned into headquarters and people called her at all hours of the night. Nobody knew what to believe. Was the ex involved? Was it the boyfriend? Was it someone else who attacked her in her apartment, or as she was entering the building? Did she just take off, abandoning her horse and daughter?

Here are some things of interest about the case that I remember. What do you think? Of course I have my own opinions.

  • Her apartment showed no signs of forced entry.
  • Her purse was not found (I think...)
  • Her blood was found in the ex's truck, house, and clothing. He said in his deposition that this was because Blair used to run around the house with her used tampons and throw them against the wall. Yeah, women ALWAYS do that.
  • A few weeks before she disappeared she started telling people "If the brakes suddenly go out on my truck you'll know it was my ex" - he was a mechanic.
  • Shortly after her disappearance her ex said "It sure is going to be hard raising our daughter alone." At this point she wasn't assumed dead, just missing. Kind of suspicious.

Sad events had to take place. Someone had to go clean out her apartment, where they found Christmas presents that she had bought for her daughter, friends, and family. Someone had to take custody of Bo, and after much debate he went to live with Blair's sister who had horses and many acres of land. All of her tack was up for grabs. I was asked if I wanted any of it, and I chose some pretty strange items. I still use one of the soft body brushes when I got to shows with my horse. Kind of for good luck. I can't use it without thinking of her.

Blair's sisters decided to have a memorial service for her the following spring, which was highly attended by horse people. It was actually an agonizing experience, complete with pictures and personal belongings of Blair's. Llano was brought in and led around with her boots backwards in the stirrups. It was supposed to be very somber and symbolic, but Llano was uncharacteristically freaked out and was a snorting, blowing, prancing loon. Instead of being a nice presentation it turned into a spectacle, with me and Cheryl cursing and trying to control her stressed out and obviously upset horse.

This is one of my favorite pictures of Blair. We were all at a show and Cheryl and I were about to go into the ring. That's Cheryl on the left, and me on the right. When Blair saw we were getting our picture taken she ran up behind us for this memorable shot. Her sisters put this picture on the back of the program for her memorial service.

For awhile no-one was arrested for anything because it was unclear if this was a missing person case or a murder. If it was murder, the immediate suspects were the ex and the boyfriend. The police had heard about the raunchy voicemail and questioned the guy who left it for Blair. He denied having anything to do with her disappearance, saying "I may be a pervert but I'm not a murderer." Ultimately the ex was arrested and charged with her murder. The ex swore that he had nothing to do with it and that she had just run away. We all knew that she would never leave her horses, and, more importantly, her daughter behind. If she and her daughter had disappeared, then I might have believed him. It's hard to convict someone for murder without a body, but they thought they had enough evidence to make it happen.

They failed miserably. They made a lot of deals with the ex's lawyers so that some of the evidence was never presented to the jury. The prosecuters were trying to keep some of the unsavory elements of Blair's past out of court (like all the partying and drug use when she was younger), but I think they shot themselves in the foot because much of the incriminating stuff wasn't heard in court. The ex was cleared of all charges and was free to go.

After the trial the ex tried to get Blair's sisters to grant him a divorce so he could get remarried. They refused, mostly because he had refused to officially divorce Blair before she disappeared. He was required to wait seven years until she was legally declared dead.

All of us from the barn kept in touch for awhile, but most people just sort of drifted away. It was just so strange, and for a few years we talked about her a lot. But it was so hard emotionally. There was anger at Blair for suspecting she was in danger and then not taking steps to protect herself. There was sadness at the loss of our friend. There was confusion about what had happened. And there were many unanswered questions.

Blair's body has never been found. Psychics and search dogs were unable to produce any results. Most of us from the barn have our ideas about where she might be. One summer, a horse that was in training with Blair died at the barn (that's a whole different story that I'll tell later). She was dating the ex at the time and he worked down the hill at the rock quarry. It's not legal to bury a horse in California without a permit, which is costly and takes time to get approved, and Blair couldn't bear to have the horse hauled away by the meat truck. Blair and the ex loaded the horse onto a tractor with a front end loader and drove up behind the barn and quarry into the California Open Space Preserve. They dug a hole and buried him. It was all very illegal, and she would not let anyone come with them. They also would not disclose the location of the horse, because they could get in a lot of trouble, with fines and possible jail time for burying a horse on state land. The ex even commented "We buried that horse so deep nobody will ever find it."

I've always supected that Blair's ex buried her body in the same spot. I can't prove it, but I wish she had told me where the horse was so I could tell the police where to look.

What happened to Blair isn't my fault, of course, but I still feel a responsibility to her, even after all these years. Blair contributed greatly to my journey with horses, and she gave me the solid foundation upon which I've been able to build to great success with my horse. Most importantly, Blair taught me what it really meant to be a rider, to connect with a horse in a fashion that you just can't explain to someone who doesn't ride.

Blair teaching a lesson in early October, 1990 - two months before her disappearance

Blair, wherever you are, I hope you're at peace. And I hope you have a firm seat on a willing horse that takes you everywhere you ever wanted to go.



Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Winter Blues

There are two reasons I haven't been riding my horse for almost a week. One is because of the swelling in his leg. The second is because I live in Cleveland.

Dr. B was going to come out to the farm on Monday and check out Kaswyn's knee. However, the temperature in Cleveland for the past few days has been in the single digits. He said his equipment won't work properly unless it's at least 20 degrees, so he has plans to come out on Friday when it's supposed to be a balmy 25 degrees.

I decided to call him to give him an update on what's been happening with the leg, sicne my trainer was the one who made the appointment. Yesterday the knee had almost zero swelling, and any swelling that was there was completely gone when I was done walking him. I'm pretty sure that the leg will look totally normal on Friday, and since my horse never went lame, I didn't know what Dr. B would have to work with. He said that based on the history it sounds like a red flag that the area is not healing well and that shock wave therapy would be a good option. So that's what we're going to do, unless he sees something on Friday that changes his mind.

Of course this will probably mean six more weeks of icing and hand walking to give the shock wave the best chance of working. But I guess I'm not missing out on much, since I won't ride if it's 25 degrees or colder.

Why did I move here from California again?

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Of Roses, Black and Red - Part 9

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8

I arrived in Ohio, horseless, in the middle of August. I got settled in at school, and explored the option of taking some equestrian classes. My father said no way, he would not support me taking riding as a college class. Because I didn't know anyone, I had no horse to ride. It was very sad.

After a few weeks I made plans with Blair to sell Tyler. She had said she would keep him for me, but she'd also try and find a new home for him if that's what I wanted. It's not what I wanted, but I didn't think I had any other options. She began looking for prospective buyers. She was not successful. In two months it came down to her having to get rid of him because she couldn't afford to keep him anymore.

Blair was in a bit of a bind financially because she and her husband were separating. She had sold Llano before I moved, and had recently sold Teeya. She tried to breed Teeya for a year, and couldn't get her pregnant. In frustration she just sold her, which I think in the end made them both happier. So she was just down to Bo, who she used for lessons and was planning to keep for her three year old daughter to ride, but Tyler wasn't bringing her any money. I didn't want her to give him away to just anyone, because I wanted him to have a good home. That's when I decided that I would take him back.

I made arrangements to have him shipped out to Ohio, again. Blair said she would have him ready and get him on the truck, along with all the tack and trunks. All the while I was super nervous about my parents again finding out that I had a horse. This time, I decided, I'd keep the secret. To make it work I had two part-time jobs. It was very busy for me but it was well worth it. I was very happy to have my horse back.

I kept him at first at a private home, where I couldn't ride but it was cheap and he was outside all the time. I was concerned about boarding him in a stall because he had never been kept in a stall.

Then winter came. I was completely unprepared for the amount of snow we got in Cleveland. I think Tyler was shocked too. The owners of the barn kept him outside as much as possible, but during snow storms and bitter cold they put him in a stall. He seemed to adjust to this pretty well, which made me relieved. I was looking forward to being able to afford to keep him at a stable that had an arena.

That winter I was working evenings after school in an educational toy store. They had extended hours in November and December because of holiday shopping, so I was there until 10:00 pm most nights. It gave me a chance to sneak in some homework or studying if it wasn't busy. One Friday night I got a call from my boyfriend saying that Blair had called his place looking for me. He said they spoke briefly about a voicemail that she had gotten that she wanted to play for me. She said that she'd be out that evening but if I wanted to call her later she'd be at her boyfriend's house.

I knew the voicemail situation. One of Blair's female clients had a boyfriend who was very open about how he felt about any of the attractive women at the barn. He would openly flirt and proposition most of us right in front of his girlfriend. She just kind of laughed it off, but we all felt that it was very demeaning and disrespectful to her. Blair had gotten voicemails from this guy before with him moaning and saying suggestive things to her. Apparently this recent voicemail was a doozy.

By the time I closed up the shop, I was tired. I decided I'd just call her the next day, because it was three hours earlier in California and I'd have to wait a few hours if I wanted to catch her at her boyfriends house. So I went to bed.

The next day Cheryl called me.

CHERYL - Have you heard from Blair?

ME - Yeah, she called me last night, but I never called her back. Did she play you the voicemail?

CHERYL - Voicemail? No, I'm calling because Blair didn't show up for lessons this morning.

ME - What do you mean?

CHERYL - She didn't show up and nobody has seen or heard from her since last night. When her ex dropped her off.

Eventually I got the story. Blair went out to dinner with her soon-to-be ex husband to discuss school plans for their daughter. He wanted her to go to a Catholic pre-school, and Blair was not too keen on that. They had been arguing about this and other topics for weeks, and he had started saying things that made people nervous. Things like - "If I can't have her, nobody can." and "She'll take my daughter away from me over her dead body." Everyone urged her to meet him in a public place, because he had been violent with her before and had a wicked temper. She assured everyone that it would be fine, and he picked her up. They supposedly were going to go to a restaurant, but we all think they ended up back at his place.

What happened next is anyone's guess. The ex swears he dropped her off at her place, but didn't see her enter the apartment because they had been arguing and he drove off in anger. The boyfriend said she never called him or came over to his place. He called her when she was late and drove by her house a number of times but got no answer.

Blair had disappeared.

To be continued...

Part 10

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Too much too soon

Well, crap.

I added cantering to Kaswyn's workouts last Sunday, and he felt fantastic. On Tuesday when I was wrapping his legs before the ride I felt some swelling under his left knee on the inside - which is right at his injury site. At first I thought maybe I was imagining it because it was so slight. I decided to get on him and see if he was lame. He still felt really great, and I went ahead with the plan to add cantering. When I unwrapped the leg the swelling was almost gone, but not quite. I iced the leg and dosed it with anti-inflammatory cream as usual, and just waited to see what it was like on Thursday.

Thursday he was swollen again. It's not like it was a huge balloon on his leg or anything, but noticable. I worked him, again adding canter, and at the end of the workout he felt not quite right. My trainer was there and saw him working and told me she thought I should stop. She said he didn't look lame but looked disconnected, probably because he had loss of strength in his back. He didn't feel lame to me either, but just not right.

The swelling was definately down after I worked him, but still not gone. Again I iced and creamed the area. And waited until Friday.

Yesterday brought more swelling, and I had my trainer look at it. She confirmed that it was there, but that it wasn't really bad. Now, Kaswyn's legs are very clean and tight. Many older dressage horses have windpuffs (chronic swollen areas in their ankles), splints (calcified injuries similar to Kaswyn's that are now permanent but probably cause no problems), and other miscellanous swellings, bumps, and lumps. Kaswyn has one area on the front of his right leg that he got as a yearling when he stuck his leg through a fence while fooling around in the pasture. He's had it since I bought him and it hasn't changed or caused any problems. Since his legs are so clean it's very easy to see even a slight change.

When comparing the left swollen area to the same area on the right leg, you could see a slight difference. The right leg was tight, cool to the touch, and the tendons were easily distinguishable. The left leg was a little warmer, with spongy swollen areas filling in between the tendons and the bone. But you really did have to feel it to see the difference.

So I got on him just to see how he felt, with the plan on going back to just ten minutes of trotting. After about three minutes I decided he didn't feel right. No lameness, he was just hesitant. He was willing to go if I asked, but he felt like he was guarding himself. The leg was less swollen after the short ride, which I guess is promising. I think I'm just trying to convince myself that it's not that bad.

Dr. B. is coming out on Monday to check it out. I'm going to have him bring the shock wave machine so he can treat the area if he decides he needs to. I just keep telling myself that I followed the vet's plan, and that this isn't my fault. But that doesn't stop me from feeling terrible about this. I hope I didn't just re-injure my horse. Blah.
Header Image from Bangbouh @ Flickr