Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Great Turnout Debate

Kaswyn has been on stall rest (plus handwalking) for the past month while his lateral collateral ligament in his left front leg heals. I've been hand-walking and grazing him every day, and he's out of his stall for 45 minutes to an hour. He's used to being out either during the day or all night in the summer, and it really sucks when the rest of the horses are out and he is cooped up in his stall. But, he needs to heal, so it's necessary.

I wasn't expecting to have Marge, the barn owner, approach me and ask me what my plans were for Kaswyn. Keep in mind that I've been friends with Marge for 18 years, and she knew Kaswyn as a 3 year old when I bought him. So not only do I have history with Marge, but my horse does too.

I told her that my plan was to get him sound and then ride him again. She said she really wanted to see me retire him. Her reasons -

He is 18
He has done everything that I have asked
He is a multi National Champion
He keeps injuring himself, which she thinks is from the work (but I think he does it in turnout)
His body is not built for dressage
It's time for me to just turn him out and let him be a horse, and if he gets hurt then it won't matter.
I've spent so much money already on his injuries.


I knew she felt this way, because she had hinted about it before, so I was not totally shocked to hear her say it. But this was the first time that she came right out and said "I want you to retire him." It was very direct, but that's the way that she is. I took a deep breath and explained why I wasn't going to just retire him from riding -

My plan is to ride him, because his injuries have not been career ending.
Three vets have said that it is not time to retire him.
He likely has arthritis, so not doing any work will actually make him stiff and be in more pain.
I have no goals for him, other than to keep sound and be ridden.
If, through our riding, he gets back in the show ring, then great. If he never gets there, at least I still get to ride him.
If I'm paying board every month, and he's ridable, I'd better be riding.
He loves to work, loves to be ridden, and loves to make me happy.

She agreed that some of these points were valid, but would be much happier if Kaswyn could get turned out. She didn't want to see him standing in a stall for the rest of his life. I told her that he'll be able to go out again eventually, when his leg is healed, and I brought up the round pen again.

Susan, Marge and I have all been searching for a round pen to use, with the plan of putting Kaswyn in a small round pen in one of the pastures so that he'd be out but couldn't run around and delay his healing (or hurt himself again). We have not been able to find an affordable one, so we've kept looking. I hadn't considered turning him out without one, but then Marge made a suggestion.

She asked if maybe Kaswyn could go out for an hour or so with Fire, his pasture buddy. At first I said no, I think it's too soon. Susan agreed, saying that Kaswyn would just run and that it would be a bad idea. We agreed to keep looking for a round pen and not do turnout at this time. But the more I thought about it, the more I thought that it might just work out, with some stipulations. I called my trainer and asked her, and she seemed to think that he'd be ok if he were monitored.

I called Marge and told her I'd like to try it, with a couple of conditions. Fire would have to be put out first, then Kaswyn would have to be walked over to the grass part of the pasture, with the chain over his nose, and allowed to settle down and graze. Then he could be unclipped from the lead rope and be free to be out for an hour, provided that he stays quiet. I'd do this for the first two times, staying for an hour to watch him. After that, he should get the routine and be fine with it. She said ok, and to let he know how it went.

I put fly spray on Kaswyn, so that the bugs would not make him crazy. Then I put Fire out in the pasture first, and went and got Kaswyn. He was pretty excited, and when we got to the first gate he was sure I was going to just turn him loose so he tried to take off. I had the chain on him, and had to stop him a few times. He pranced a bit as we got close to the second gate, which leads into the grass pasture. Again he thought it was time to get turned loose, but I hung onto him. Seconds later he had his head in the grass, just eating.

I waited for a minute or two, and when Fire was also settled down to graze I took the leadrope off of Kaswyn. For a minute he just grazed, but then he picked his head up and starting trotting a big circle.

My stomach sank. If he was going to trot around, or run, then this was not going to work. But he trotted one circle, did three canter strides, then stopped and ate. I watched them eat for ten minutes, then went back to the barn to clean some stalls.

I left them out for an hour, checking on them every five minutes. They did nothing but eat. Then I brought them back in to the barn without any issues. I repeated this the next day with no problems.

So it looks like Kaswyn's going to be able to go out on grass for an hour every day. Right now I'm allowed to ride him at the walk, and in 30 days I'm allowed to start riding him at the trot too. Probably 30 days after that I can canter, and I figure if I can canter him in the arena then he should be ok if he canters outside. As long as he's not running like a lunatic, he should be fine.

I know it's hard to find the balance of "a horse should be outside and be a horse" and "equine athletes need to be protected from hurting themselves and should not be turned out", but I'm always so much happier when my horse can be outside. Who says you can't have it both ways?

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Step it up

So at work there is this fitness contest thing where groups of people are signing up in teams for weight loss, healthy eating, pedometer steps, stuff like that. So just for fun I signed up and got myself a pedometer.

Now you're only supposed to walk with it, and most sources say that it won't be accurate for anything other than walking. However, I decided to wear it riding just to see how many steps the pedometer said that I took.

I got on Albert, and timed my ride from start to finish. I only rode for 20 minutes, and did walk, trot and canter. Then I checked my steps. I did about 2400 steps.

Then I wanted to know how many calories I had burned riding. I found a website where you could find out how many calories you personally burned for each step you took. It's different for each person becasue your height, weight, stride, etc all play a part in how many calories you burn. So to personalize it you had to walk a mile, and time yourself, a plug it all into a formula. Blah. Too much work!

So instead I checked out another web site (I know, not the most reliable sources here, but this is just for fun) where it said that the average person burns about 0.04 calories per step. So, at 2400 "steps" while riding, I burned 96 calories.

To check this, I went to, yet another web site (here) where you could put in how many minutes of an activity you did and see how many calories you burned. There were slots for horseback riding at the walk, trot and canter (well it said galloping, really). I just entered 20 minutes trotting and came up with 112 calories. When I broke it down with 5 minutes of walk, 5 minutes of canter, and ten minutes of trot it came to 101 calories.

I played around a little with the calculator, and it seems that 20 minutes of galloping burns more calories (140) than 20 minutes of trotting (112). I'm not sure I really agree with this estimation. I think that trotting, and especially posting trot, burns more calories than cantering. However if you're really talking about galloping, like on a race track or even in a field, I'll bet you would burn more calories. But I'm not really sure that's what they were getting at.

Based on the website calculator, whether completely accurate or not, it seems like riding for 20 minutes will burn about 100 calories. And the steps that the pedometer said I took while riding for 20 minutes translated to about 100 calories (based on the average person's calories burned per step).

So I would say that the pedometer, for me, was pretty accurate while riding a horse. Has anyone else tried this? I know you can get pedometers for your horse to wear to measure miles ridden, but I'm talking about the rider wearing one.

Anyhow, I've decided I'm going to wear my pedometer when I ride, and report those steps. I think every one of those steps is well earned! And it's exercise that I enjoy and actually accomplish, and I think that's the whole point.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Dressage Mom is now on Facebook

I finally bit the bullet and made a Facebook Page for this blog.

Find me here - - and send me a friend request.

Then you can follow the blog on Facebook, using this link -

You can also follow the blog by looking to the right sidebar under "Follow Dressage Mom on Facebook" and click the "Follow this blog" button.

I'll be posting smaller snippets of info about what I'm doing at the barn, along with the longer standard blog posts.

Thanks! Stay tuned!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Live From Lexington!

The World Equestrian Games (WEG) is coming to Lexington, KY this fall. This huge event will feature riders from all over the world competing in dressage, eventing, driving, jumping, vaulting, reining, and endurance. This year, and Purina has teamed up with Active Riding Trips and to run a contest where two winners are chosen to be blog-o-spondants for this international competition.

Since I would completely be in heaven at the WEG, I decided to enter the contest. I think this blogging at a horse show thing is right up my alley. There are two components to the entry - a video entry and an essay portion.

Here is a link to my video entry -

And here is my essay portion -


Sheri Israel is Dressage Mom, and wants to be A World Equestrian Games Blog-O-Spondant!


I've been riding since I was 12 years old, and have shown Arabian horses English, Western, equitation, halter and side saddle. Although I’ve only owned two horses, I’ve ridden dozens more, and each has given me experience for which I will be forever thankful. For the past 14 years I've concentrated exclusively on dressage training, and my horse (FM Kaswyn+//) and I have had great success at the FEI levels, winning three National championships, three Reserve National Championships, several National Top Ten Awards , United States Dressage Federation All Breeds Awards, and Arabian Horse Association Year end awards. This riding and showing experience gives me extensive knowledge of the true sprit of the WEG - the partnership between horse and rider as a team.


I write about my horse experiences on my blog,, where I have been blogging since 2006. I have hundreds of visitors to my site daily, and many followers. Oftentimes it’s a "slice of life" blog, where I explain the struggle to fit in family, a full time job, and riding and still try and keep my house clean (I confess that my tack is usually cleaner than my kitchen floor!) Sometimes my blog is all about horse information, most recently about the persistent lameness issues of my horse and how I am dealing with them. I have also written several in-depth stories in which I include photos and video (much of which I shoot myself) to illustrate my experience. My 2009 trip to the Arabian Sport Horse Nationals in Lexington, KY is a good example; I wrote a post every day and included commentary and videos of my rides at the show, plus my show results. Dressage Today features my blog on their web site, and I was invited to be an Equestrian Collections Facebook Team Member, where I also publish blog posts.


As an FEI dressage rider who has shown dressage through Intermediare I and has trained Grand Prix movements, I have perspective on higher levels of competition. I actively seek to better my riding with my trainers help through lessons, frequent phone calls, and by reading classical dressage texts and good dressage magazine articles. However, I'm not a professional, and can look at world class riding from a different point of view. I blog about this as I see it, through the eyes of an adult amateur. My insight, along with my ability to blog on the go, will make the WEG come alive for those horse lovers who want to know what it's really like to be at an international competition.


So that's it! In June they will pick four semi-finalists, and at that point the internet public gets to vote on their favorite semi-finalist. The two people who get the most votes will win trips to the games and blog live from the World Equestrian Games at the Kentucky Horse Park.

I hope I can win this and win a trip to the World Equestrian Games! So if I make it to the semi-finals, vote for me, huh?
Visit for more information.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Clinic Visit - Part 4

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

My friend Z brought me and Kaswyn back to the clinic four days later for the MRI. We had a wait a bit while they finished up with the last MRI. Then they doped my poor pony up and brought him into the MRI suite.

It's a really cool setup. Here is the outer room. The floor is all rubber matted, and there are warning signs all over.

This is the MRI machine. The whole room is temperature controlled because changes in temperature affect the machine.

The metal cuff thing is what goes around the horses foot, and the leg is positioned between the two blue padded sides.

This is not part of the MRI suite, but it's a recovery room with a hoist in it. From the outside it just looks like a room where naughty ponies are sent to have time outs.

We were not allowed to watch the MRI process, because Kaswyn would remain standing but needed to stay absolutely still. If we were in the room or even looking through the window we could distract him and make him jump or twitch, which would make them have to start that series of pictures all over again.

Z and I went out to get some mexican food (which turned out to be very good!), then headed back to the clinic. When we got there, Dr. G and Dr. B were discussing the results of the MRI. Here is what Dr. B wrote down.

LF Foot:
1) Large cystic fluid accumulation of the navicular bone at the doistal aspect.
2) Injury to the lateral collateral ligament of the distal interphalangeal joint. There is bone resorption at the insertion of the later collateral ligament. Done adema is detected in the laster aspect of P3.
3) Injury of the lateral aspect of the impar ligament.

RF Foot:
1) Focal area of fluid accumulation at the distal border of the navicular bone.

Diagnostic Exam Notes:
LF Foot:
1) LargeLarge Cystic accumulation distal aspect of the navicular bone
2) Injury of the lateral aspect of the impar ligament.
3) Bone adema involving the proximal lateral aspect of P3. This inflammation of the subchondral bone adjacent to the articular surface of the later aspect of P3.
4) Injury of the later collateral ligament fo the distal interphalangeal joint.

RF Foot:
1) Focal area of fluid accumulation at the distal border of the navicular bone.

So basically Kaswyn has two different ligament injuries, and some bone swelling. Both vets think that this is completely recoverable from. However, the navicular changes are an unknown. The tendon injuries are causing deep foot pain, which is not covered by the current neurectomy. Further changes in the navicuar bone could also cause deeper foot pain, which the neurectomy would not cover either.

So here is the treatment, as written by Dr. B.

Sugery, Therapy, and Expectations
1)2000 hits LF foot later collateral ligament of the DIP joint every 14 days for a total of 3 treatments.

1) April 27 to May 26 - stall rest and handwalk only
2) May 27 to June 26 - can ride at the walk
3) June 27 to July 26 - can start adding yrot 3 days a week
4) July 27 - slowly return to normal work

1) Bar shoe and raise heels 2 degrees. Achieve medial to lateral hoof balance.

1) Give 15 isoxsuprine orally am and pm for 120 days
2) Give 2 grams of bute orally once a day for 10 days, then 1 gram once a day for 10 days, then 1 gram every other day for 10 days.

I had to ask again if it was time to retire my horse. Again, Dr. G said no. The ligaments are not badly injured and they will heal, and if that takes care of the lameness then great. If it does not, then we have to assume it's the navicular changes that are making him hurt. In that case Dr. G will have to decide if he wants to repeat the neuroectomy or not. He would rather not, so we'll treat the ligaments and see.

The bad thing is that Dr G said he should not get turned out in the big pastures for quite a while. I don't know if that means while he's healing or ever again. I will clairfy this when we take Kaswyn back over for his second shock wave treatment.

Here is Kaswyn getting the shock wave treatment on his lateral collateral ligament. He got 2000 hits with the machine on the ligament.

Dr. B also said "Lets put 1000 hits on that navicular cyst and impar ligament, going up through the frog. I want to see if I can reduce or eliminate that cyst and treat that's worth a try!" They didn't bill me for that part of the shockwave. Yay!

Then I paid my bill (huge OUCH!), and we got Kaswyn back home. Fourteen days from that day we'll bring him back for another shock wave treatment, then another two weeks after that. By that time he'll be on light riding duty, at the walk only.

So right now I just have my little Albert to ride. And Kaswyn to hand walk, which we both hate!

To be continued...

Monday, May 03, 2010

Clinic Visit - Part 3

Part 1
Part 2

This is the video of Dr. G analyzing the x-ray images. He compared the images took this year in 2010 to the images we took in 2006. This is just part of the reason why this man is so amazing.

Since I'm suspicious of the left front splint bone, I had Dr. G take some images of that area too. He compared them to the 2006 images. I don't have video of that analysis (I'm kicking myself for not getting that video!), but the end result was that the bottom part of the splint bone has fused to the cannon bone. This is both a good thing and a bad thing. It's good because the bone can no longer move and cause pain. But the bad thing is that if the bone can't move on the bottom, but can move on the top, it could possibly fracture if there is excessive pressure on the bone from the top. Everything looks fine now, and there is not much that can be done about it at this point, but it's something we need to be aware of in the future should Kaswyn come up suddenly very lame in the left front.

Here is the deal - changes in the navicular bone could be causing pain. Or there could be injury to one of the tendons in the foot. From the exam and the x-ray Doc has no idea of knowing what exactly is the source of the lameness. He gave me three treatment options, and one more diagnostic option.

Treatment Option #1 - Assuming the navicular bone is causing pain, treat with corrective shoeing and medications while continuing moderate work. This did not work last time, and if it's actually a tendon injury this could make the tendon worse.

Treatment Option #2 - Assuming the navicular bone is causing pain, repeat the neurectomy procedure, this time a little higher up to take care of any nerve regrowth in the area. This is not something I want to jump into quickly, or will take lightly. I already feel I was too hasty with the first neuroectomy. And this will not solve a tendon problem.

Treatment Option #3 - Assuming it's a problem with a tendon in the foot, put Kaswyn on stall rest and allow the tendon to heal. This would be very hard on my horse to be stall bound, and wouldn't be the best option for his arthritis. Keeping him moving keeps him from getting stiff, and a horse his age is better off working, at least lightly, than they are standing around. However all that time off will not help navicular pain, and would just result in Kaswyn simply standing in his stall for no reason, getting stiff and having his foot hurt.

Diagnostic Option - MRI

Yup, I could repeat the MRI. This would tell me exactly what's going on with the tendon, and therefore helping to decide what treatment option to choose. I'm not really gung-ho to spend the money, but it's important to do the right thing here. One good thing is that we have MRI images from 2006 to compare them to, if that will be helpful.

As we were discussing the MRI, Doc said "I know MRIs are expensive, and if this were just any old horse I wouldn't be recommending it at this stage. But this horse is special, and it's clear that you have a very special relationship with him. He's given you a lot, and he loves you, and I know that he's not just a horse to you. He means more to you than that. So I think the MRI will give you the best chance for success."

He almost made me cry right there.

We also discussed the fact that we had to heal the back, then the hocks, and then we were finally able to find this foot pain. I said "If he would just limp when his foot hurts, then I would know about it. But instead he manages his pain so he can keep working, and eventually he hurts his hocks, then his back, and that is when I finally feel it."

Doc said "That's because this horse has a lot of heart. Let's schedule that MRI."

So we did. I had my blacksmith pull his shoes the day before the MRI, and we went back to the clinic four days later.

To be continued...

Part 4

Header Image from Bangbouh @ Flickr