Thursday, February 28, 2008

Footloose and hive free

Today Kaswyn's hives were gone. He had what I'd call hive corpses - places on his skin that looked like shadows where the hives had shriveled up and died. He looked great.

He felt even better. He was such a spaz while I was grooming him that I decided to jump on him for 10 minutes for a light hack. He wanted to work! It was fantastic.

Today I ordered more hydroxyzine and arranged for a potential pickup of more hay. Now that we've got the hives on the run all I have to do is get the footing in order and then we can get back to our previously scheduled training program. I'm very hopeful.

Well, today I am. Tomorrow is another day.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Let the medicating begin!

I got a call yesterday from the OSU resident. She had spoken with the two dermatology vets and the conclusion was to get the hives under control ASAP. So she said to start him on an antihistamine call hydroxyzine in conjunction with the dex to get rid of the hives. As soon as the hives are gone I should start with the allergy shots again. Then we can try to back him off of the hydroxyzine and get him re-tested. She said when I make my appointment for the re-test that I should make sure that both dermatology doctors are there to consult on the horse and results.

I called Dr. B and gave him the update on his cell phone voicemail, then I called the vet office to see if they had hydroxyzine in stock. They did not, but they said if I found the drug online from one of the veterinary pharmacies I could have the pharmacy fax them a form, they would fill out the prescription, and I could get the drugs directly from the pharmacy. I located hydroxyzine but found that there were two kinds - hydroxyzine pamoate and hydroxyzine hydrochloride.

I called my friend with the hivey horse and asked her which kind I wanted (since I knew she had used the hydroxyzine and I thought it would be easier to get a hold of her than it would be to get an OSU vet on the phone again), but she couldn't remember which form is the correct one. She said she was heading out to the barn at some point and would text me with the correct type. In the meantime she suggested I call her vet who had dealt with her horse's hives because she knew which was the correct form.

It was hours before anyone got back to me (again). After talking with my friend, her vet, and Dr.B, here is what I've come up with as a plan.

I will give one pack of dexamethasone every other day for a week, then every second day for a week, then stop the dex.

I will start the hydroxyzine pamoate (which Dr. B found one bottle to give me) the same day I start the dex because the hydroxyzine doesn't work as well alone initially, and takes about a week to really kick in and start working. The suggested dose is 1 to 2 mg/kg, two times a day. My horse weighs about 900 pounds, which is about 400 kg. I decided to give him 500 mg twice a day. Also, the hydroxizone that I'll be using is not compounded by the pharmacy, but is in capsule form from the manufacturer. It was suggested to me that the compounded hydroxizine might not be as effective, if it works at all.

I will keep him on the hay from the old barn until I can get him re-tested and started on new shots. I want to get him desensitized as soon as possible so I don't have to worry about every strand of hay that goes in his mouth. I really don't want to have a Horse in the Plastic Bubble.

After yesterday's information gathering session I called Susan this morning to get a report. Kaswyn's hives seemed a bit worse to her, so Susan gave him a packet of dex. I was able to pick up the hydroxyzine this afternoon so he started both today. And by the time I got to the barn this afternoon his hives were only at about 20% of their worst. So I think either the hay switch or the dex is doing it's job.

Now I just have to order more hydroxyzine, because what Dr. B gave me will only last 5 days, and get a hold of the hay guy and see when and how much hay he's able to deliver to me. I see this hay thing being a potential pain in my ass. But since when are things with horses ever easy?

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Hives! Hay?

Yesterday morning Susan called with the Hive Report. Kaswyn was bad again. I told her not to do anything but get him outside if possible and I'd start making phone calls.

At 8:10 am I called Ohio State and tried to reach the dermatology specialist that my other friend with the hivey horse recommended. I left a message and then called Dr. B. I told him what was going on and updated him on Kaswyn's allergy testing and shot situation. He told me that the best thing to do would be to start eliminating things that might be giving him a reaction. I told him that I suspected the hay, and he told me to get him on the old hay from the last barn if possible. He also said not to change anything else so that we know which thing made the most change in him. He also said that he was going to let the vets from OSU tell me what to give my horse next as far as medications go, since they are the experts and they'll know how they want to proceed.

Then I called the owner of my last barn to beg for hay. Hay is not easy to get right now so I was worried that she'd be short on hay herself. Thankfully I was very lucky, and she was very kind, and agreed to sell me six bales. She also gave me the name of her hay guy and said that although she wasn't getting a shipment soon she knew that he delivers to many barns in the area so I might get lucky and be able to pick up more soon if needed.

By noon I still hadn't heard from Ohio State, so I called again and left another message saying that it was urgent and asked if there was another way of contacting the vet. They said no, but she usually checks her messages so she would call me back. At 3:00 I still hadn't heard from anyone so I called yet again. Various miscommunications between the message takers and the doctors resulted in my not being able to speak to an actual vet until 4:30 in the afternoon. By that point I was pretty aggravated, but I think I had finally gotten my point across that I needed to speak with a vet TODAY because my horse was very reactive.

I spoke with a resident because both of the other docs were busy either teaching class or giving seminars for the rest of the afternoon/evening. She's a dermatology resident for small animals, so she has limited experience with horses but knew enough to advise me. I gave her the history and current situation, and my first question was - should I medicate him, give him an allergy shot, or leave him alone?

Here is the deal with his allergy shots - he got tested in 2002 and we found that he was allergic to bugs like most horses, but he was also severely allergic to mold as well as some other grasses and trees. I got several vials of serum and began the desensitization protocol. It was a pain in the ass but after we were done with the whole protocol Kaswyn was almost 100% hive free. Occasionally he would get 3 or 4 hives but they would go away in a day or so and I never needed to give him anything. Every year when I would order more serum I would speak to a vet so they could get his progress. They were always surprised at how well he responded to the shots. After four years I asked the vet if she thought I could stop giving the shots since he didn't seem reactive anymore. She said that every horse is different, and that my horse might not need a shot every week. She told me to try every other week for a few months, and if he was still okay then maybe try every third week. She did say that I'd risk having to re-sensitize him, but I could try it if I wanted to.

So I tried every other week. No reactions. Every third week was fine too. Then I did once a month and he was still fine. Then I got kind of blase about it and gave him one when I remembered to do it. I'm guessing now that this was a HUGE mistake and I never should have tried to reduce his shots.

Now, back to my phone call with the OSU resident. Based on what I had explained, her recommendation was to not give him an allergy shot, that she agreed that switching the hay was a good place to start, and that more dexamethasone should be given with caution and with the specific orders from my vet. We discussed his issues and history at length and she said she would speak to both doctors in the morning and then someone would call me back.
She also suggested that I bring him in this week for a consultation. Since I don't have a trailer and I'm 2.5 hours away, I told her that I really didn't want to bring him down there unless they were able to do something to him. She said that they wouldn't be able to test him or do anything but examine him at this point, so I said I'd pass on that.

My theory (which I've made based on conversations with vets and owners of hivey horses) is this - moving Kaswyn put him in a stressful situation. Then he was exposed to hay that has a higher mold and/or pollen content than the other hay. The fact that I hadn't been giving him weekly allergy shots put him in a situation where his body couldn't deal with the increased levels of allergens so he overreacted with the bad hive breakout.

I don't know what the vets are going to recommend to do. They might try and re-establish the needed concentration of antibodies in his blood by re-doing the sensitization protocol with the old serum mix. Or they might want him to be retested, which means he needs to be reaction free and medication free for at least three weeks. My guess is on the re-testing, which is fine with me. My thought is that I don't want to have to worry about every flake of hay Kaswyn eats, because any bale could be exposed to things he's allergic to. I want to get him back to a place where his body can handle any environment, within reason.

So we'll see if switching hay works. And if it does I imagine that I'll be keeping him on it long enough to get him nonreactive, get tested, and begin the new desensitization protocol. Again, I seem to have become somewhat of an expert on horse hives and immunology. Add that to my current list - navicular syndrome and splint bone issues - and I almost sound like I know what I'm talking about. But lets not add anything else to that list, okay? I kind of like saying "I don't know much about colic."

I decided not to give Kaswyn any dex yesterday. His hives seemed better in the afternoon, and since he had already gotten three doses of dex I'm a little nervous about giving him more. And if we have to get him off of drugs for three weeks I don't want to load him up if I don't have to. Hopefully he's better today.

Here is one good thing that's happening with Kaswyn. Believe it or not, he's perfectly sound. Go figure.

Sunday, February 24, 2008


Although Kaswyn's hives were better on Saturday, today they are back with a purpose. They are pretty severe on his neck, and have now spread to most of his body. I gave him more dexamethasone so hopefully they will be better tomorrow. I plan on calling the vet at Ohio State who saw Kaswyn when we had him tested all those years ago so I can get some direction.

I'm hoping the problem is just that I've been lax about giving the allergy shots. It had been so long since he had an outbreak that I started giving him shots every other week instead of once a week, then once a month. I figured that he had finally reached a significant titer of antibodies in his system and that he was in the clear. Apparently I was mistaken.

I know that Kaswyn is very allergic to bug bites, and if he gets stung by something he'll react. But it's the middle of winter and I know he hasn't been pestered by flies or other biting insects. I also know that he's allergic to many weeds and some trees, and it might seem odd that he'd be having a reaction now with nothing in bloom. However, if he's eating hay now that was exposed in the summer to pollen from anything he's allergic to then he'll react to that pollen regardless of the time of year. So I'm kind of suspecting the hay.

I also know that he's allergic to mold, but I don't think that's the issue right now. If it were then I'd expect his hives to improve when he's out of the barn, which was the case at a different barn. I could clearly see the hives recede after he'd been outside for an hour or so. Susan has been getting him outside all day and it doesn't seem to have helped ease the hives at all.

I called another owner who just went through this with her horse last year, and she said that the stress of moving him plus eating the new hay might have stressed his system enough that now he's reacting to things much more than he would otherwise. She said "Think of it this way - you want your horse to be standing on the ground. Everything that stresses his system takes him up a rung on a ladder. Moving him took him up a rung, as did having different hay, and probably not getting the regular allergy shots. When he gets too high on the ladder then he's going to have a big reaction. You just have to figure out what is the best way to take him back down the ladder and get him grounded."

What I need to know is what to do now. I've been down this road before and doses of dex are not going to solve this problem. He really needs to get back on the allergy shot protocol, but I'm afraid to send his system into overdrive by giving him another shot. My options as I see them are start giving the shots again as they are and hope he pulls through (with or without dex), don't give shots but give the dex possibly in decreasing dosages so his body can catch up with the reaction, or take him off everything for three weeks so he can get re-tested.

I hope the Ohio State vet calls me back tomorrow so I can do something for my poor bumpy boy. He still doesn't seem uncomfortable or stressed, but the other owner told me that her horse began have a mast cell reaction where his body began overreacting to everything, even things that were not on his allergen list. He was in a bad way for a few days or so and things got a little dicey. She said "Don't wait and see what happens. Things can go downhill very quickly so you really don't want to mess around with this."


Friday, February 22, 2008

Buzz about the hives

As you can see, Kaswyn's hives are not better today. In fact, they were worse on his neck and had spread to his whole body. A call to the vet, two packets of dexamethasone, and a good roll in the arena later and I think my horse will be feeling better soon. Susan is going to check on him later tonight just to be sure, but Dr. B thinks that his hives should be gone tomorrow. He also thinks that missing one allergy shot probably didn't make any difference in his hives so I can stop feeling guilty about that.

On a happy note, the mare is finally feeling better. I hope she stays that way.

Pooping horses everywhere

I took this lovely picture last night at the barn.

He had those large hives all over both sides of his neck, but none on his body. As is usual with his hive outbreaks he didn't seem uncomfortable so I decided to hop on him bareback and do a little walking and trotting. When I was grooming him a mare across the aisle started kicking at her belly and rolling. Susan told me that she'd been in a mild colic all night and was still uncomfortable that afternoon. She needed to run out of the barn for 15 minutes and had asked me to keep an eye on her and call her if the mare started acting like she was going to colic. So of course, right on cue, the mare started acting painful as soon as Susan left.

I called Susan and she asked me to put the mare and her buddy in the arena, since that seemed to make her more relaxed. When I went to get her out of her stall she had just made a big nasty smelling pile of manure, which I thought was probably a good thing. I kept an eye on her while I cleaned Kaswyn's stall, and she seemed fine just ahning out quietly with her neighbor. Then I heard that characteristic whump of a horse lying down and I went into the arena to get her moving. She did not want to walk and was kicking and trying to lie down. After five minutes she pooped again, and it was very light and dry. I don't know much about colicing horses, but I do know that horse poop should not be dry. I checked her gums, which were nice and pink, and her refill was good, so I wasn't worried about a torsion but was thinking maybe impaction or gas colic.

The mares owner arrived and took over walking duty. Kaswyn had been throwing a little hissy fit in his stall, as if to say "Hey! You got me ready to be ridden! Let's go lady, you gotta ride me now!" so I grabbed him and jumped on for 10 minutes. As I was putting him away the vet was taking care of the mare, who will probably be just fine.

I just had to put Kaswyn's blankets back on and then I had to run out of there. I was standing behind him so I could hook his leg straps. His blanket has a tail flap that covers the top of his tail, and that is probably the reason why I didn't see his tail lift up. He pooped on me. Right on the arm.

Oh well. I needed to wash that coat anyway.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Because the new look for spring is bumpy

I got a call from Susan at the barn. Kaswyn has big hives all over his neck. She didn't take his blanket off, but assumes that he's got them all over. I told her not to do anything about it unless he looks like he's having problems breathing or his nose looks swollen. She said that all looked fine, so I told her it was okay to put him outside since that tends to make the hives better. Usually his hives don't seem to bother him much so I'm not all that worried about it.

I guess I'll see how bad it is when I get off of work. Looks like I won't be riding. I realize now that I forgot to give him his last allergy shot. I better remember to bring it to the barn tomorrow. Oops.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Arena Project - Phase Two

Phase One

Phase Two - Consultation

Once I got the green light from Marge to contact Mr. K about the status of our arena footing, I decided to drive over to his place to talk to him instead of calling him on the phone. Besides being more personal by meeting face to face, I thought that if I called him he might not remember who I was and that might be a bit uncomfortable for both of us.

I stopped by the barn first, but he wasn't there. I had a brief visit with two ladies who had their horses at the barn when Kaswyn was there. They seemed very much the same, and we chatted about shows and horse health. The barn was pretty much as I remember it - clean, quiet, and very warm. It's certainly been the warmest barn I've ever boarded in, which is very nice in the winter. Surprisingly it's not too hot in the summer either.

One of the gals told me that Mr. K was up at his house, and that I should feel free to stop by and talk to him. I walked up to the house, knocked on the door, and hear him yell "Come on in!" so I let myself in. Just as I said hello, his phone rang. He answered and I came in and sat down.

I busied myself by petting his dog, but since he was sitting right there it was hard not to hear his conversation. I actually heard both parts because the man on the other end of the phone was practically screaming as he was talking. Either that or the phone was just turned up really loud. Anyway, their conversation just happened to be about arenas.

See, I knew the man that Mr. K was talking to. He has a business that designs, constructs, and maintains arenas. He had called Mr. K to talk about the new footing that was going in some arena someplace and wanted to meet with Mr. K at the site to evaluate the job that was being done. They discussed various aspects of the job and agreed to meet.

When he hung he said "That was D. We were just talking about the arena that going up for this certain horse show."

I said "That's funny that you'd get that phone call now, because I'm here to ask for your expert opinion about arena footing."

He immediately went into information mode, saying "Indoor or outdoor?"

I began to explain the situation, telling him about the footing that we took out, how I thought the base looked pretty good, and about all the sand we put in there. Even though I was afraid that he might criticize me, I admitted to being the brains behind all that sand. He was very kind, saying "Well, at least you were trying to improve on what you had." I also told him that it was very uneven with high and low spots that needed to be taken care of.

He said that sand alone is not the best footing, but a mixture of sand and loam that he calls a racetrack mix. He said that the best depth is about an inch and a quarter, up to about an inch and three quarters, but less footing means more management (watering and dragging) to keep it in place. Water is key to maintaining the spring and give of the footing, so maintaining the right amount of moisture is important.

He asked what equipment we had to drag with, and I told him that we had a small drag that was in bad shape but worked enough to even the top out. He said that his drag is hydrolic and allows him to really work the footing to make it very even if there happens to be little rises or dips due to jumps or riding. He said that he has a few clients that he visits once, maybe twice a year depending on how much use the arena gets. With theses arenas they water and drag with a "top" drag just to get the footprints out of the footing, and then he comes in and does maintenace to even out the ring with his hydrolic drag. It's a reasonable price too, and while he didn't outright offer to do this for us, he implied that it's something that he'd be open to.

Then he says "Since this isn't your arena, what will you be allowed to do?" I told him that Marge was my friend and that she would do whatever it took to fix the footing, keeping in mind that we're on a budget of close to nothing. He said that the best thing would be to remove all the sand and replace it with the racetrack mix, but knowing that we can't afford that then maybe we could just remove the excess footing. He asked who would be doing the maintenance, and I told him that it would probably be me and my friend, and that I'd probably be dragging the footing with the little rickety drag pulled behind the barn's four wheel ATV. He said he thought that would work just fine.

Finally he said "Look, we can sit around here all day and discuss your situation, but I can't really tell you what needs to be done until I see the arena. Let me come over, say in about two weeks, and see what you have. I'll take a look, kick around the footing, and let you know what I think. We can go from there."

I took his cell phone number and I'll be calling him in about two weeks. In the meantime I'm just riding Kaswyn and Albert very lightly. I do about ten minutes just to keep them moving and loose. I'm too afraid to push either one of them in the deep sand.

Phase Two - completed!

Phase Three - Evaluation

Friday, February 15, 2008

The Arena Project - Phase One

Phase One - Permission

A few years ago (maybe 5, I can't remember) when I was boarding at my current barn I was concerned that there wasn't enough footing in the ring. The footing that was there was very powdery and if it was watered then it got slippery because there wasn't enough footing on the base. So you could either ride in the dust or risk having your horse fall down on top of you. At that time I convinced Marge and the other boarders to all chip in and re-do the arena. After I did a little research on footing, I called a company which supplied sand for horse arenas and they advised how much sand we should purchase.

Marge's son spent a day removing the old footing. Surprisingly the base was almost level and looked like it was in good shape. The sand people showed up with the truck and everyone pitched in spreading it around. I thought it looked kind of deep at the time but after having too little footing it seemed like a huge improvement. A few weeks later two of the borders commented on how much better their horses felt on the sand. At some point I moved Kaswyn and didn't think much of the footing. Until I moved back in. Now I'm certain that the sand is too deep.

It comes down to this - the reason there is too much sand in that ring is my fault. Maybe not 100% my fault, but I was the one who was driving the bus to get different footing in there. So, besides the fact that I'm scared to ride in there as it is, I feel responsible for the situation and I want to fix it. I was scared to mention it to Marge for a few reasons. First I figured she'd get a bit annoyed that I was the one who said "Yeah! Let's put all this sand in your arena! It will be great!" but now I'm saying "Uh, now it's too deep. Oops! My bad." I also didn't want her to think that I moved my horse in and now I want to make a bunch of changes. Lastly I didn't want her to get offended or for her to think that she's a bad barn owner.

On Tuesday I decided to approach her about it. I just laid it on the line, saying the footing was too deep, that it was kind of my fault and I feel responsible, and that I'm concerned that working horses in that footing could result in injuries. I then suggested that someone who has experience with arenas should come over and evaluate the situation so that we don't make a bad thing worse. Then I told her who I would ask.

Mr. K has a repuatation in our area for being a tough guy to get along with. He's a very experienced horseman, rides well, and runs more than one business. But he is the kind of guy who wants what he wants, when he wants it, and how he wants it. And he has no problem telling you if he's not happy. I boarded my horse at his barn for about two years and I was always very careful not to break any of the rules because Mr. K did not like that at all. I never had a problem with him. In fact, we've have some very enjoyable conversations in the tack room while I was cleaning my tack. Mr. K has been in the horse business in this area for a long time. He knows a lot of people. But most importantly he is very knowledgeable about horses, barns, pastures, and footing in arenas. Some of the best footing I've ever ridden on has been at his barn - both the indoor and outdoor arenas.

Marge said she'd have to think about it, since she didn't know Mr. K personally but had heard about him, and needed to decide if it was a good idea to invite him into the situation. Last night she called me and said that her number one concern was for the horses, and that if I thought that Mr. K could advise us about the arena then I should contact him and see if he'd come over.

Phase One completed!

On to Phase Two - Consultation

Saturday, February 09, 2008

A Short Tag and Eight Horse Profiles

I got tagged by Equine Spirit. This is a new one for me, and I decided that I'd do it.

The rules are...

You must post the rules before you give your answers.

After you've been tagged, you need to update your blog with your middle name and answers.

You must list one fact about yourself for each letter of your middle name.

Each fact must begin with that letter.

If you don't have a middle name, just use your maiden name/last name.

At the end of your post, you need to tag one person for each letter of your middle name. (Be sure to leave them a comment telling them they've been tagged and need to read your blog for details).

Here are my answers -


And I'm tagging -

Echo at Diary of a Young Horse
Wiola at Freelance Instructor's Diary
Julia at Mood Swings in Med School

Also, I got tagged by A Girl and Her Horse for the Seven Things Meme, and I was a giant pill and didn't do it because I'd already been tagged. After thinking about it, I decided not to do seven things about me, but what I remember most about Eight Horses from the school horse herd that I started out riding when I was 12 years old.

Eight Horse Profiles


Alpha horse. Older appy gelding with eggbar shoes and a fiesty attitude. Dallas was a beginner horse but would sometimes show up in the intermediate or advanced classes, but he didn't jump. We always had to be careful where and how we tied Dallas to the row of hitching posts where the horses stood waiting for lessons because Dallas would get into mischief. His favorite things were kicking over the brush buckets, grabbing a whip in his teeth and whacking things (horses and people too) with it, and untying himself or his neighbor.


Second in command. Older white gelding pony. Snowball was also a beginners horse who liked to jump but didn't get the opportunity to do so much due to his age. He was also a popular mount for the kids because he had the habit of coughing or sneezing and farting loudly at the same time, which made everyone giggle. I also found out one day that he didn't like the top of his rump touched while being ridden. He let me know about it by bucking quite athletically for an old fart. Being 12, of course I did it again while my friends and I just laughed.


Chestnut (of course) gelding. Probably an appendix Quarter Horse but I'm not sure. Chester was an intermediate/advanced horse who jumped. He had to be put down while I was still taking riding lessons there. I think he foundered but I'm not sure. There was talk of putting him down and none of the adults would tell us kids anything about why or when. We wanted to be there, but they made sure it was done when we weren't around. I have a shoe from him in a box somewhere that has his name and the date he died written on it.


Palomino Quarter Horse gelding with a brand on his neck of "56". He was a tall, thin, beginner/intermediate horse and was the first horse I took a lesson on. I'm pretty sure he had navicular syndrome because I remember him moving very stiffly at times. He was a favorite and was always requested by riders because of his great attitude. Very quiet, laid back, and obedient.


Liver chestnut with some white socks and a blaze. I have no idea what breed but he was average height, kind of round, and had good bone. Intermediate/advanced horse. This is the one horse that I didn't get along with at all. He was ornery and stubborn, but he gave great rides to some people. Monty arrived after I had been taking lessons for a few years and we quickly found out that he could not be tied to the hitching rail with the other horses. Several broken halters and lead lines later I learned what "pulling back" meant, and Monty was then always tied to a tree with a chain. This seemed to suit him just fine, and for some reason he never attempted to pull back on that chain. One or two rides on him convinced both of us that we weren't a good match and I never rode him again.


Chestnut gelding with some white socks and a flaxen mane and tail. Arab cross of some kind. Advanced horse who loved to jump. Ranger came to the barn after I had a few years of lessons but for weeks nobody rode him but Blair because he was so hot. Eventually he settled in and he was a blast to ride, especially on trail rides because he loved to run up hills (which all the kids loved to do too). He was a bit spooky but not malicious, and was an exciting ride.


Black bay gelding. Probably a thoroughbred cross. Advanced horse. Tommy was a retired event horse and he loved to jump. I think soundness issues brought him to the barn because there were days that he had to be trotted before we'd tack him up to check if he was lame. My friend Jean-Marie who got me into riding loved Tommy and really wanted to buy him. I only rode him a few times because if Jean was there it was understood that she'd be riding him.


Bay with 4 white socks, a blaze, and a large "X" brand on his left hip. Probably a clydesdale cross. Beginner to advanced horse. Moose was just like his name implied - big and plodding and kind of lazy. Moose was the first horse I loved. He would do anything if you pushed him, including gallping up hills or jumping. Jean and I used to talk about somehow raising money to build our own barn, buy Tommy and Moose, and live there forever with our two lovely mounts. Ah, the dreams of two teenageers.

Years after I had left that barn I drove passed the paddock where the school horses lived and I think I saw Ranger and Monty. Sadly, I'm sure none of those horses is still around, but they sure helped me learn a lot about horses and riding. I wish I had pictures of them all, but I don't think I have any. I'll see if anyone else from the old days has some. Those boys were quite a crew.

I'm not tagging anyone with this, but feel free to jump in with Eight (or Five or Two) Horse profiles.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Than again, maybe not

Unfortunately, watering and dragging the arena didn't solve the footing problem. It helped it a great deal, but Kaswyn was still struggling to trot through the deep spots, and there are a lot of them. Only one end, about a third, of the arena has decent depth of footing. The rest is too deep. Also, he was forced to change his length of stride depending on the footing, and that made it very difficult to tell if he was sound or not. Going off of his attitude and how the left lead canter felt when we were on the "good" footing, I have to say that he is sound. I think it would have been hard to tell just by looking at him because his stride was changing so much. I could also feel him getting a bit tight in his back in spots as he slogged through the deep sand. Not good at all.

I'm in a difficult situation. Marge is my friend, and she owns the barn. She doesn't have money to fix the footing in the arena, and I know this. The board is as low as it is because she realizes that the arena is not ideal, and there is not outdoor arena or place to put one. Marge's son has the equipment (tractors and bobcats) to take some of the sand out and level the arena, but he doesn't want to have anything to do with the barn, so Marge rarely asks him to help her out.

Susan is also my friend. At first she said she thought that the arena was deep in spots but overall it was pretty good. I told her last night that it was not and that we needed to do something. She said okay but I could tell from her reaction that she wasn't saying all she wanted to say. I said to her "Look, I think you're not telling me what you really want to say. We need to talk about this so please tell me what you think."

She said "Well I know it's deep in spots but overall it's fine."

I said "Since I've left here I've been at five different barns. I've had the opportunity to ride on good footing and bad footing. I have to say that this footing is good but it's just too deep. Both my horse and your horse were struggling to get through it."

She said "Well my horse needs to work harder so that's good."

I said "No, that's bad."

She said "I've ridden him through mud and deep stuff before and he's fine."

I said "Every day? In a training environment for 30 to 40 minutes?"

She said "Oh, well, no..."

I said "Listen, please believe that I don't want to make an issue out of this. I don't want to create problems, and I don't want to be a pain in the ass, or come in here and change everything. But the fact is I'm scared to ride my horse in there because I'm afraid he'll pull a tendon and be lame again. And I don't want to ride your horse in there and make him lame too so that you can't ride him"

Nodding, she said "Okay, I see your point. So what are we going to do?"

We have yet to decide what's best. We both think that Marge will say "The arena is fine. Leave it alone." Or "Okay, it's deep but I don't have money to fix it." Susan and I certainly don't have the money either, and to take the sand out a wheelbarrow at a time would take forever and break both of our backs. I don't mind asking Marge's son for help, but only if Marge agrees to it. But then she'd probably ask him herself.

I want to do whatever I can to get the arena fixed and I'm not opposed to doing a lot of work myself to get it done. However, I don't want to anger my friends. I don't want to get kicked out of the barn. I don't want to cause trouble. I don't want my horse to be lame again. What's the solution?

Tuesday, February 05, 2008


I'm happy to say that a good watering and dragging has improved the footing in the arena. It's still deep in spots but it's much more even. Last night after working on it Susan and I jumped on our horses bareback and in halters to check it out.

As I've said before, Kaswyn will "go on the bit" in a halter and I'm able to ride him at the trot and canter without a problem. I can even do half-pass and flying changes. It's really very cool and I love being able to ride him and feel his back as he's working. Susan was walking her horse Albert around and after trotting Kaswyn I asked her if she was going to trot Albert. She said "Not unless you want to see him kill me." I told her "Oh, come on. Your horse is so trained he should be able to get on the bit and trot without a problem."

And with a little coaching from me that's just what they did. At first he was resistant and was just pulling on her, but when she continued to ask him to unlock his neck he submitted and became very round and soft. Susan even cantered him and he looked great. Granted we were only on them for about 10 minutes just to see how the footing was, but I enjoyed myself.

And since I got a call from Dr. B saying that the ultrasound data showed no lesions in his suspensories, I'm going to ride Kaswyn today. I'm looking forward to a ride in the better footing. Lets hope he's sound!

Monday, February 04, 2008

Difficult Transitions

I'm just getting around to writing about moving Kaswyn back to his old barn 5 days after the fact. It all went down just like I expected it to. The gal who agreed to move me showed up with her trailer and Kaswyn jumped on. We drove to the old barn, which was less than ten miles from the other place, and I unloaded my horse. I walked into the barn and went to put him in the stall that they told me he'd be living in.

The stall had mats in it, but there were 5 mats of various sizes in the stall, overlapped so that the whole floor of the stall was covered. The reason I could see the mats was that there were no shavings in the stall. You see, his stall wasn't ready. They knew when I'd be there but just didn't get around to it. Marge had asked Susan and this other boarder who helps out to put mats in the stall, but they didn't do it so Marge got it done. Then when Susan saw the mats Marge had put in the stall she didn't like it so she had been hunting down more mats to replace some of the ones Marge had put in.

So I'm standing in the aisle with Kaswyn and I have nowhere to put him. He's starting to get really antsy and spastic and I really just needed to put him in a stall. There are plenty of empty stalls in the barn but all of those empty stalls are either used for storage (of miscellaneous crap like lights, old buckets, wheelbarrows with holes, you get the idea) or are not safe to put a horse in because the floors have been so dug out that there are gaps between the floor and the wall boards. There was a horse turned out in the arena, so I just put Kaswyn into his stall. His dirty stall. Sigh.

As Kaswyn began spinning in the stall and acting like a fool, I went to his stall to assess the mat situation. Susan got one more mat to repalce one that was in there that she didn't like, and we positioned it as best we could. Some of the edges on the mats were so curled that I was afraid that Kaswyn would catch his foot on them. There wasn't much we could do at that point though, so I just started bedding the stall myself since everyone else was just kinda standing around waiting for something to happen. When she saw what I was doing Susan offered to help but I told her that I would do it, since she was in the middle of cleaning stalls. I bedded the stall kind of deep in order for the edges of the mats to be covered. Then I put Kaswyn in the stall.

He was still really excited and a little stressed, so I decided I needed to get him on the lunge line for a few minutes just to get him to relax a bit. I really needed to get home because I didn't know when our weekend visitors would be arriving, but I just couldn't leave him in the stressed state he was in. They brought the horse in from the arena and I took Kaswyn out to lunge.

I knew that the arena footing wasn't ideal, but I didn't really have any idea until he started lunging. The footing is very uneven, not just in depth of footing but it seems like the base might be uneven too. It's so hard to tell because the footing is also very dry and since it's sand it just kind of falls away from the hooves and gets kicked all over the place. By the time we were done with our little ten minute lunge we were both covered in dirt.

Kaswyn didn't work up a sweat, but I put his cooler on him to hang out in his stall while I organized the rest of my stuff. I must say now that I'm really spoiled rotten. I'm used to groomed arenas and plenty of space for my tack. I do have my tack trunk in the tack room but only some of my stuff fits in it. The rest I'm going to have to stow in plastic tubs to keep the dirt out and to prevent the barn cats from peeing on anything.

I gave Kaswyn a quick brush, blanketed him, then I grained him. He didn't touch it. I threw him some hay and he ate that, but he still didn't want to eat his grain. And he still seemed upset. I was certainly stressed, since I knew I had to get getting home ASAP. I was already later than I wanted to be, but I was scared to leave. The last thing I needed at this point was to have Kaswyn colic. Susan was done with her barn chores and I told her my concerns about Kaswyn and asked her what her plans were for that evening. She lives very close to the barn, so she told me that she'd come back in about an hour to check on him. I gave Kaswyn a carrot and told him not to colic, and left the barn.

As always, Kaswyn did as he was told and did not colic. Susan called me an hour later to give me an update. In fact she called me twice on Saturday and once Sunday to let me know that he was okay. I was relieved and thankful that she had been keeping her eye on him.

Sunday afternoon I went out to ride my horse for the first time in over two weeks. He was excited to be ridden but was obedient. It was really hard to tell how he went because the arena is so terribly uneven - really deep and wavy at one end and less deep but still uneven at the other. I also rode Susan's horse, Albert, and he was a good little man. I only rode him for ten minutes because he's really out of shape and I didn't want him to get sweaty. He hasn't been clipped or blanketed so he has a coat like an alpaca.

Susan and I have big plans for today after work. We're going to water the ring throroughly and then try and drag it. I think that will go a long way to help with the uneven spots, and if it's watered it will get firmer and hopefully won't seem so deep. Maybe everyone else is okay with the current footing, but I'm not happy with it and I intend to do something about it. I hope today will take care of some of it, but the whole arena footing thing is going to get complicated because I know Marge doesn't want to put any money into fixing the situation. Considering I'm a spoiled dressage queen now, riding in the arena like it is just will not do!

I'll ride again Tuesday, hopefully on a better riding surface. I know that I'm not at a dressage facility anymore, and that I'm paying less board for a reason, so I'm trying not to bitch and moan too much. I'll just try to make changes as diplomatically as I can. I don't mind doing work to make it happen either. I just hope not to piss anyone off. In the end, better footing helps everyone's horse, not just mine.

Header Image from Bangbouh @ Flickr