Thursday, July 30, 2009

Mesotherapy Treatment #2

On Tuesday Dr. C was scheduled to come out and do a second mesotherpay treatment on Kaswyn. I had ridden Kaswyn once since the first mesotherpay treatment, and he was so much better that I decided to just lunge him until Dr. C could come out and evaluate him again. I was afraid that if his back was healing that I should stay off of it and let it heal, so I didn't ride even though I wanted to. On Tuesday I thought Dr. C would just come out and do the exam plus the therapy, so I lunged Kaswyn for 10 minutes. Then I rode the other two boys and was cleaning tack when Dr. C arrived.

He examined Kaswyn's back and neck and was surprised at how much better Kaswyn was. He said he never thought he'd see that level of improvement in just one treatment. Then he looked at my saddle on Kaswyn's back, and said that he thought the saddle fit just fine. Then Dr. C said he would like to watch me ride him. I told him that I had already lunged him so he might be a bit tired, and he said that was okay. What he was looking for is how much change there was in Kaswyn's pain after I rode him.

So I tacked up the boy and I rode. I was in a hurry because I didn't want to keep the vet waiting so I didn't put on my spurs or grab a whip. Kaswyn took advantage of this and was a little lazy, but otherwise he felt really good. I was thrilled! Oh, and Dr. C said that I should do some deep bending every time I ride during my warmup at the walk to try and stretch the neck and as much of the back as possible. During the bending Kaswyn took a few of those "weak behind" steps, and Dr. C saw those. He said what made him happy was that Kaswyn took those bad steps but then recovered and didn't repeat them. This was a good sign to him.

We just did about 10 minutes of very simple trot and canter with some 20 meter circles. Then we untacked Kaswyn and Dr. C checked him again. He said Kaswyn's neck was much better after the ride, but his back had gotten tighter in the area where he has the most pain. It's basically his lower back right behind the saddle. Dr. C said that he thinks that Kaswyn's back pain started with lower limb pain, which caused Kaswyn to carry himself differently to compensate for the leg pain. Eventually he had pain everywhere, and now we've eliminated the leg pain so we have to work on the back pain.

He said that Kaswyn has a mild back injury, probably just muscle pain, but he can't rule out arthritis because he can't x-ray the back or neck.

I'm going to stop here for an aside. I got this comment on a recent post.

Just a couple points from the wife of an equine vet who is a member of ISELP (International Sociey for Equine Locomotor Pathology). He frequently x-rays and ultrasounds backs and necks to diagnose arthritis and soft-tissue injuries; it CAN be done by those who have been trained in the proper techniques. He commonly injects necks for arthritis with marked improvement shown, and has used shock wave therapy successfully to treat both sore backs and injured suspensories and other soft tissue. Stall rest and hand-walking for the latter can work, but does leave the injured area susceptible to re-injury. Shock wave actually helps reorganize the damaged fibers into a more normal pattern, which makes them heal stronger. Anyway, food for thought for the future; hope your horse's back issues resolve!

I love getting comments like these. I think it's so cool that there is an International Society that studies Equine Locomotor Pathology! Very groovy. Anyhow, I was told by Dr. C that I could take my horse to Ohio State or another facility where they could x-ray his back and neck, but that his clinic is not set up for that sort of thing. He said the x-rays would tell me for sure if Kaswyn had arthritis, but his guess is that an 18 year old upper level dressage horse will probably show some degree of arthritis. He also told me of a study where they took two groups of horses - one group had no clinical signs of pain (control group) and another group that had pain. They x-rayed all the necks and found plenty of horse in the control group that had arthritic changes in the neck.

So basically I could find out if Kaswyn has arthritis in his neck, but mostly I'm just assuming he does. Based on the level of improvement from just one mesotherapy treatment, Dr. C thinks that if Kaswyn has arthritis it's probably not bothering him all that much, otherwise the mesotherpay wouldn't have been so effective. On the other hand, he said that the neck improved with riding and bending, and that movement of arthritic joints helps them. So we'll just assume he has some arthritis and move the neck as much as possible in the warm-up.

Anyhow, Dr. C did the second mesotherapy treatment and then we talked about the plan. He wants me to ride Kaswyn every other day for about 10 minutes. He said that since Kaswyn has a back injury he needs to be in a rehab program that will make the area stronger without injuring it again. He also wants Kaswyn ridden because he wants Kaswyn to use his back with me on him versus me lunging him becasue my weight, the saddle, and Kaswyn's frame play a big role in which muscles work. He wants to give Kaswyn just one more treatment, and then said says "You're on your own after that."

I'm pretty optimistic. This is the most improvement that I think I've ever seen after I've treated Kaswyn for anything. I think we've treated all of his lower limb pain, because let me tell you that boy was SOUND on Tuesday. Even the vet tech, JR, who has come along with Dr. B for all of Kaswyn's other lameness visits said "Wow, that is the soundest I've ever seen that horse. He looks great!" With the lower limb pain gone, and the back being worked on, I see us finally getting back on track. I will just need to work my horse moderately or at a low level so I don't aggravate any of his other issues.

Oh, and Dr. C said I should know by August 12 (Sport Horse Nationals entry deadline) if Kaswyn will be able to make the show. To be honest, I have a really good feeling about it!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Better Backs R Us

So I rode Kaswyn on Thursday (yeah I know it's Sunday, I'm just getting around to writing about it). I was scared to get on him but Dr. C told me to ride him so we could figure out if we were heading in the right direction with the mesotherapy. I checked Kaswyn's back before I put the saddle on and I could not get a pain reaction out of him. So we headed to the arena and I climbed on.

And Kaswyn felt so much better. I would say he is 80% of where he should be. He still took a few funny steps but it felt like he was trying to push with his hind legs and they weren't strong enough to do the job. He was much more willing to work than he has been lately, and had tons of energy. So I gave him Friday off and lunged him yesterday and today. I didn't want to get back on his back if I didn't have to, and the lunging (which I don't do a lot with him) will help him build muscle without my weight and the saddle to make him sore.

Here is my opinion of what has happened with this whole lameness thing. I overworked him and aggravated his problem areas, like his left hind pastern and his stifles, but he kept working through the pain and compensated in his back. Eventually everything added up to him being lame in multiple places. Then we had to systematically eliminate the painful areas, ending with the back. Now he's a bit weak in the rear but otherwise seems pain free.

Dr. C is coming out to repeat the mesotherapy on Tuesday. Then we'll see how Kaswyn does with that. He may not need another treatment - it all depends on how he responds. Judging from how well he responded to the first treatment I'm guessing he might not need another one.

So my plan after the next treatment is to work him only every other day and lunge at least twice a week for the next few weeks. Hopefully I can get his strength up before entries for Nationals close. I need to have some idea of if he's going to be able to physically handle going to the show. I know mentally he's ready, but he'll be showing at Fourth Level and Prix St George which are pretty demanding, especially on the hind legs.

Entries close August 12. At least I know two horses will be going. I'm just really hoping it will be three.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Another vet visit? Yeah, I'm serious.

You think you're sick of hearing about Kaswyn's lameness troubles? Believe me, you're not as sick of that as I am about having the vet visits (or the bills, ugh). But I'm getting ahead of myself here.

On Sunday after the show I went to the barn to ride Albert and Kaswyn. Unfortunately I had a bad ride on Kaswyn. He took another one of those steps where it feels like he stepped in a hole with one of his back legs, and he was off after that. I started thinking that it might be a suspensory ligament injury, and that would be a very bad thing. The suspensory ligament runs down that back of each leg, below the knee or hock, then branches into two halves and wraps around the fetlock(aka ankle)to support the horse's leg. It's the ligament which allows horses to stand and be completely relaxed, so it bears a lot of weight especially during dressage training. It also takes a long time to heal, requires stall rest and hand walking (and we all know how much I hate hand walking) and even if it heals the ligament might not ever be the same. Which could mean retirement for Kaswyn.

So I made an appointment for Kaswyn to go see Dr. G to have his suspensories ultrasounded and rule out injury there. Luckily for me my trainer was going over there today with another horse, so she was able to go pick up Kaswyn and bring him along. I had to work but they were able to work on the other horse first while I finished up in the lab and flew over to the clinic.

When I got there Dr G said my horse was not lame. Gee, I've heard that before. Then he said that he's seen my horse lame on video five times but Kaswyn is rarely lame during an exam with no rider. This points to back pain, and to prove his point he went over to Kaswyn and started palpating his back.

I was surprised when I saw the reaction he was getting, especially on the right side. If Dr. G pushed just at the top of his croup on the right side Kaswyn dropped his back and I could see the muscles spasm up his back towards his head. He had a little reaction on the left side, but not nearly as much. My trainer remarked that she thought Kaswyn looked a little hollowed out in his lower back and just below the top of the croup when he jogged.

Dr. G started telling me about this therapy that one of the vets in the practice does called mesotherapy. This website does a great job of explaining it - Burlington Equine Vet Services. Basically it's injecting anti-inflammatories, steroids, and pain medication in the skin - not muscle - to help stop the chronic cycle of pain and injury thus letting the body heal itself. He said that Dr. C had specific training in this therapy, and that I should call him out to do the therapy. But for now Dr. G said that he would inject the painful areas of the back in the muscle with steriods and anti-inflammatories to help his pain.

Just as we were discussing the treatment, Dr. C walked in. Dr. G asked him to evaluate Kaswyn, and he found that Kaswyn was also sore in his neck, more on the left than the right. He also felt that Kaswyn was sore in the back. After talking with him he seemed to think that Kaswyn fit the profile of a horse with back pain that might be helped my mesotherapy. He has a lameness that is difficult to pinpoint and treat, he is at an advanced stage of training, and he is eighteen years old. He also didn't have the same desire to work that he used to. He said that it's possible that Kaswyn has some mild arthritis in his back and neck but that it's difficult to x-ray those areas so we'll never know for sure. However mesotherapy would help with the pain regardless if it's arthritis or specific injury related. It wouldn't change or heal the arthritis, it would just make it hurt less.

They asked me what I wanted to do, and I said I wanted to go ahead with the mesotherapy. So they gave Kaswyn a bit of a sedative, scrubbed up his back and neck and started injecting him. It pretty much looked like the photo on that link that I posted, except he injected Kaswyn closer together to make a larger raised area instead of rows. I estimate that he injected about 100 sites in each side of his neck and probably 150 in each side of his back. Kaswyn was really good about it even though I don't think he was all that sleepy towards the end and was flinching with each stick.

Then we talked about after care. Dr. C said to give him tomorrow off and then ride on Thursday. I should see a noticeable difference, and if I do he wants to come to the barn and do a second treatment. He thinks that two might be enough depending on the amount of improvement that I see. He might have to do a third treatment, but we'd have to see how Kaswyn responds first.

Of course then I asked about Nationals. I said that I hadn't entered yet, and that I'd be fine with not going although I'd be disappointed. He asked when I had to enter by and I told him August 12. He said we should know by then where we stood with this treatment, but if Kaswyn responds favorably then there is not reason why he wouldn't be okay to go.

So we'll see how he feels on Thursday. I'm cautiously optimistic since this diagnosis and therapy seem to fit nicely into the puzzle titled "Kaswyn's Lameness Issues". I have to say that I feel like a jerk of a horse owner not to have caught the fact that my horse's back was sore. I've checked his back for soreness, just not in the right place, and I don't think I pushed hard enough to get a reaction. Oh well, at least I'm learning something.

I should have called this blog

Sunday, July 19, 2009

July show - Sunday

There's not much to tell about the show today, except that Skyy was wonderful. We lunged for 15 minutes before I got on to warm up for the first test, and he was a little tense and rushing on the lunge line. The warm up was good and then I asked my trainer to walk beside him halfway up the show ring. Obviously this strategy worked because he had a great test.

His first test scored a 68% and a second place!

His second ride of the day was an hour after the first one, I think he was a bit tired for this one. I only warmed up for 15 minutes and no lunging.

The second test was a 62% (different judge) and a fourth place. My trainer said it best when she told me he looked like he was "a little hot and cold" during that test. Both tests had small mistakes but that's totally to be expected from a young horse who is just figuring out the show game. Still I'm super pleased that he was obedient and worked so well.

So now I have three horses to take to Sport Horse Nationals, which will mean 10 tests over 6 days. Some of the classes are split into two sections, and if I can get the section that I want I will have at most two rides a day and each horse will only go once per day. I think I'm going to be tired, but I'm really excited about going!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

July show - Saturday

Friday night Skyy's owner brought him to the show grounds and I headed over there after work. It had been raining here on and off so the footing was wet and a little sloppy, but when I schooled Skyy in the warm-up arena he was really very good. We went to walk around the show arenas and he got very nervous and upset. I kept it together until we rode by someone setting up a merchant tent for a tack store. Skyy saw that white plastic tent material and heard velcro ripping and he stopped dead. I felt him tense up even more and take a step back and before he could so anything silly I jumped off. I certainly could not fault him for spooking at the tent. I walked him over to it and got him to take a good look at it, and everything was fine.

I showed up early Saturday morning because I was the first one from our barn to ride. Now, at the last show Skyy was very good and was a bit tired by the end of the show, so I decided that I'd only warm him up for 20 minutes so that he wouldn't be exhausted for his second ride of the day. He was great in the warm-up and my trainer helped me a lot with his frame. He felt really good, so when it was time we walked over to the competition arenas.

That's when things got festive.

Skyy got very nervous and was disobedient in the test (yeah that's kind of an understatement). There were a few times when I was scared that I wouldn't be able to keep him on course or under control, but somehow we finished the test. My trainer's mom said "You did a good job keeping the horse between yourself and the ground." That pretty much sums it up. We ended up with a 49% and, amazingly, out of three horses we came in second.

After that ride I was scared. Years ago I rode someone else's horse at a show (read about that here) and got bucked off, a feat which included a free trip to the emergency room. I didn't know how far Skyy would take it if he wanted to be really bad, and I was pretty nervous about getting back on him in the show ring.

I had a talk with my trainer and she said that she thinks Skyy is naughty when he has anxiety. She suggested that I lunge him and give him a chance to buck and play if he wanted to in hopes that it would settle him down. I was doubtful that it would work, and I was afraid that he might be tired for the test, but I took her suggestion. I lunged him for 15 minutes before I got on to warm up for the next class. He had energy but didn't want to buck or run at all, and didn't seem upset or anxious. Then I gave him 30 minutes of warm-up time after that.

Like before he was very good in the warm-up. Actually, he was better and more relaxed. I spent a lot of time telling him what a good boy he was and praising him because he was being so obedient and submissive. I said to my trainer "I just hope he does this in the ring!" and she said "He will! Believe he will!"

I was very scared to ride into the show area. Luckily, as you will see in the video, one of my trainer's other students (who is also a trainer) was volunteering for the show and had to walk to the judge's stand to pick up tests. Usually I trot around the outside of the arena, but Skyy seemed very happy to walk with her. She walked beside Skyy and talked soothingly to him, and he seemed to be much calmer with someone on the ground to keep him company in the scary environment. Then we rode the test.

It was fantastic! I was so very proud of him. He listened, he didn't get upset, and didn't make any errors. After the test I was so relieved that I started crying like a big boob. Yeah, I'm a dork sometimes. Anyway, he got a 67%! Yeah baby! So now Skyy just needs another 62% or higher and he will be qualified for Nationals.

I'm really glad I was brave enough to take him into the show ring. I decided in the warm-up that I was going to get off of him if he started acting up again. That wouldn't have been helpful to either one of us but I would have absolutely done it if necessary. I know that every rider gets scared, and I don't want to do anything stupid, but I think I needed to get over the fear that the other horse put into me years ago. I'm sure my husband will disagree. And I'm sure I'll get scared on the back of a horse again. It's an awful feeling, so I hope it doesn't happen again any time soon.

So tomorrow the plan is to lunge Skyy in the morning before my first ride, and then walk in calmly with my trainer until she has to stop in the center of the arena to read my test. I think it's just a matter of him realizing that nothing bad will happen to him in the show ring. Having another good experience (hopefully two!) will be really good preparation for him for Nationals.

(Thanks to my trainer for the good advice about lunging which saved the day. And thanks to her student, Skyy's walking friend, for providing calm companionship when Skyy really needed it.)

Thursday, July 16, 2009


While I managed to have a critter-free evening at the barn, I was not able to ride all three horses. The arena was so dusty that I stopped after two. I watered only one end a few days ago and because of the groundhog and never got to the other end. It's been hot so the footing is drying out very quickly and it was just too dusty. While I was riding Kaswyn I heard horses coughing in their stalls, so I decided it was time to quit. While I cleaned up I watered the whole arena so I won't be blowing black snot out of my nose on the way home. Not having gritty eyeballs is nice too.

I'll ride Skyy and Albert tonight. Then tomorrow we're off to the show! I wish I was taking Kaswyn. I love to show him. Ah well.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


I was itching to get back to the barn after taking a week off at my parents house with the girls. So of course Monday after work I went out there to ride everyone.

I started with Skyy who was really quite good. He only had one bad canter depart, which caused him to get a little fussy when I made him trot and re-do it, but other than that it was a nice ride.

I decided to do easy rides on Kaswyn in Albert and then plan to do training rides on Tuesday. So I got out the bareback pad and rode Kaswyn for ten minutes. He felt quite good I'm pleased to say. Then I decided to ride Albert bareback as well.

As soon as I climbed on Albert he started walking with a purpose. And then when I asked him to trot it was huge and lovely! Susan had mentioned that she thought his saddle was rubbing him funny, and now I think I agree with her. He was so much more free bareback. I worked the canter, leg yields, and trot half-passes too. He felt great. I think I'll have Susan get the saddle fitter out and ride him bareback until the saddle fits properly.

So after such nice rides on Monday I was excited about Tuesday. I watered half the ring while I put stuff away on Monday so that I could water the other half after I rode on Tuesday. But before I could ride I really needed to fill in the groundhog holes. I hadn't taken the time to do it on Monday (and I really should have, shame on me) so I grabbed the rake and headed to the arena.

Marge had hired a trapper to get rid of the groundhogs, which we've seen running between the barns. They are absolutely huge and are a little too brave for my taste. The trapper had caught four of them already, but holes kept appearing. Nobody rode while I was gone so the holes were really quite big, and I spent about ten minutes going along the wall and packing dirt back into them. Then I heard a scratching noise.

I stopped and listened. There are trees along that side of the arena and when the wind blows they scrape against the siding. I thought that's what I was hearing, so I kept hole filling. Then I heard it again, and so I looked behind the kick boards. There I saw a HUGE furry back and I realized that one of the critters was sitting back there. I wanted it out of the arena so I tried to shoo it down the arena wall with the rake, but it wouldn't go. I thought that was odd, until I saw the wire around it's neck. It was caught in a snare, and was certainly not dead.

So then I felt just awful. I drove over to Marge's (she lives next door to the barn) to tell her about it, and she said that the trapper works a day job and couldn't get over to dispose of it until this evening. Well, there was no way I could ride with it trapped in a snare behind the kickboards. I could just see me riding Skyy by the groundhog just as it started to struggle and then finding myself in the dirt. I drove back over to the barn and saw Marge's youngest son outside stacking wood. I told him about the groundhog and he asked "Is it dead?" I said "No." He said "It will be soon!"

I followed him into the barn and he searched for the gun. They kept a 22 out there just for occasions like this, but he could not find it. He said he thought that Susan might have taken it to her house to do pest control over there. He said there was nothing he could do, and left.

So I walked back into the arena and took another look at the groundhog. Then I started to cry.

Listen, I know they are destructive. They dig huge holes in the arena, plus they have also dug tunnels under the ramp up to the hay barn which is causing it to collapse. They also made a huge hole under the concrete floor of Marge's oldest son's equipment building, which could create a problem if the floor collapses. So they can't live on the property, and it's illegal to capture them and release them someplace else. The only option is to kill them. I know this. And okay with it as long as I don't have it staring me in the face, and I certainly don't want to see any animal suffer. Just like I couldn't be a butcher, but I love steak, so I'm glad someone does that job.

So I pulled myself together and went home. I'm annoyed that the groundhog put the brakes on my riding yesterday, so I hope it's gone and I don't have another issue tonight. There is a slight possibility that I might have to work late tonight, so I'm a little stressed. I need to ride Skyy, and I want to ride the other two. The show is this weekend!

Don't panic, right?

Friday, July 10, 2009


I have no horse updates because the girls and I are at my parents house for a week's vacation. I know that taking a week off right before the show is not the best idea, but I made these plans back in February and there was no way I was canceling. I think Skyy will be okay at the show. Kaswyn could use the time off and I think Albert's been out and about doing parades and demonstration rides at a local large horse show.

We've been having a great time at my parent's house in Maryland. There has been fishing and boating with their cousins -

There have been ferry rides -

And, unfortunately, there was a trip to the emergency room.

While we were getting ready to go out somewhere, Macey grabbed my mom's hot curling iron by the hot end. She started to cry and I grabbed some ice immediately. I also got some Tylenol into her and tried to calm her down. In about three minutes I noticed that blisters were forming and then decided that we had to go to the emergency room. My dad drove me over there, since Craig stayed home and didn't come with us on vacation so he could work.

Luckily it was Tuesday morning so it wasn't busy so they got us right into a room. Having a screaming child helps a lot too. And I mean she was screaming, kicking, arching her back, and pounding her fist from the pain. I did my best to try and soothe her, but there was really nothing I could do. She didn't want the ice on it for too long because I don't think she wanted anything to touch it, but then when she took the ice off it started to burn again.

We got into the room and in about five minutes a nurse came in to clean it. That wasn't very fun because it hurt to touch it at all. However I grit my teeth and held my poor kid down and it got cleaned. Then they gave her some Tylenol with codeine and we had to wait for that to work.

Well thirty minutes later and she still had not stopped screaming. I kept trying to keep the ice on her hand but she didn't want it touching her, so we'd go two minutes off and then about five minutes on. She was so upset and screaming that I was putting ice and cool paper towels on her neck and face to try and cool her down. The doctor then came in and took a look at it, and said that they would get some numbing cream for it.

A few minutes later two nurses showed up with the cream. Since Macey did not want the hand touched I had to hold her arm down again so they could spread the cream on it. Then they put a pad over it and said we could put ice wrapped in a pad over that.

We kept waiting for the cream or the codeine to work, but my poor little Macey just kept screaming. She was still kicking and writhing and fist pounding an hour later, so my dad went out and got a nurse, who got the doctor to come in. The doc said that the next step would be a shot of morphine, but I really didn't want to do that since they would have to start an IV. I didn't even think they would be able to get one started with Macey in so much pain and not able to sit still. The doc said that there was one more thing they could try. It was another topical pain medication but this one was sort of a runny gel-like stuff that we could just pour over her hand.

The doc showed up in another few minutes and we poured this runny jelly stuff over her hand. Then Macey's hand was wrapped in a non-stick pad and gauze. They got ready to send her home because there was nothing else they could do for her. We tried to distract Macey with the TV or other things in the room but she was just not having it. Finally, after about two and a half hours of non-stop screaming, the codeine finally worked and she crashed. She fell totally asleep, blissfully out of pain.

We waited for them to give us the prescription for more Tylenol with codeine, and instructions to clean and wrap it twice a day. I tried not to wake the little bunny when I moved her to the car, but she woke up anyway. On the way out the door of the hospital, she had her head on my shoulder. She lifted her head and started to kiss me on the shoulder. Then, amazingly, she started to pat and rub me on the back with her good hand, like she knew the whole thing had been hard for me also. What a sweet little dear.

As you can see, she wasn't exactly a happy girl on the way home.

And her hand blistered very badly by the next morning.

Since the risk of infection is high when those blisters break, Macey can't go swimming with her cousins. I feel really badly about it because the city pool is very cool and fun for the girls. Lily has been able to go though.

Macey has been a little trooper about the hand. She's been protecting it very well, hasn't tried to use it (which is hard since it's her right hand) and has not complained about it at all. I've been letting her sleep with me, which has been hard for me because every time she turns over I wake up. And since she doesn't seem to be in pain (unless you touch the hand) I've stopped giving her the codeine, mostly because it made her sleep so soundly that she peed the bed. Well, not just the bed - she peed all over her, me, her blankie, a pillow, the blankets... you get the idea.

Anyhow, I think we're still going to have a fun vacation. At least it shouldn't get any worse.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Day off for the boys, day on for the girls

Today Craig and I took the girls to the barn to go riding.

Here is Lily -

And here is Macey. Even though she is younger she is much braver about horses.

Cheers to Albert for being such a good sport! Fantastic little boy!

Tomorrow all three boys will work. I'm looking forward to it.

Header Image from Bangbouh @ Flickr