Wednesday, March 2, 2011

All My Dreams, Torn Asunder....

Laney and I on Storm and Pip. Hard to imagine BOTH are KMSH... so different...yet so similar in many ways! :) It was SO fun getting to ride together!

And now for the serious part first... always best to start with the bad news...
I got back from the Eastern Mojave Scenic endurance ride over a week ago. I have struggled with how to write this blog, writing a paragraph here and there, then going away for a day. I just couldn't get it done... All of my hopes and dreams that all you, dear readers, were going to follow here, have likely just ended. Maybe, maybe not, but statistics (and a very empty pocket book on my account, not allowing for 'fancy treatments') seem to pan out on the less than optimistic side. Some of you will have already seen on Facebook or one of the email lists I am on, what has happened. But for those who haven't, here is the sum up.
Basically, Firestorm is broken. His right hind suspensory ligament (and to some degree his superficial flexor tendon as well) is damaged. He likely also has damage to his left hind too (from external exam...we only ultrasounded the right as that was the leg he'd been lame on, and either way treatment would be the same for both, so pocket book said to skip USing the left). There was some scarring in the there already (from the timeline and 'age' of it, all I can guess is maybe when he got in a fence right before going to Kentucky, or something that happened in Kentucky right one will ever know, since the horse can't tell us of course) and there were all sorts of 'build up' things in there. IE: something stressed the leg (see last sentence?) and it never healed right or just wasn't fully injured to show. Then it was stressed again, and again, and again... (he was subjected to who knows what in KY, and beings they were labeling him as a 'rank and bucking stallion', those gymnastics themselves may have hurt something in there). Then add stressers from endurance conditioning and riding onto already 'weakened' legs, and you have of course a recipe for disaster. Eastern Mojave was the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back (and I think I even know the very moment that straw was laid down, as my ride report will tell).
Added to this, he "may" (SO many gaited horses have this and are tootling around happy and sound into their 20's, even having been broke as 2yos, that I kinda doubt it is the real issue) have been "predisposed" to this happening. Vet says he is slightly sickle hocked (as most gaited horses are for greater reach...and I looked at a ton of photos of him and watching him in his stall, it really is 'slight' you have to go looking for it when he is standing 'square') and this straightens him through the stifle, which............causes locking stifles in him. WTF? NO ONE else has EVER pointed this out to me, and he has been through how many vet checks now?? Sighhh... wish it were told to me sooner (I didn't really see it before this, though am told a horse 'dropping out the hips' while ridden is a common sign...he does do that occasionally, but all my horses have over the years and never did it seem horridly out of order, so wasn't a red flag to me...sighhh). I may have had several choices to fix this before it 'may' (or not) have led to this issue. This didn't really clear up any cause/effect questions (again, no real knowledge of all his past, and TONS of gaited horses are built, some even to a 'bad conformation' degree, like him and never have issues)...whoopie. I just love having tons of room to second guess how horrible an owner I may or may not have been for doing e-riding on him...or not... GAH!
At any rate, what it now all boils down to, is 2 months stall/paddock rest and walking, then USing again and evaluate from there, and LOTS of time off (a year is best) to heal. Then see what happens. Vet seems to think trail riding soundness will be just fine (and maybe something like Trail Trials or other less taxing endeavors), but for long term endurance riding soundness, he is much, much less optimistic. Great...

Anyway, back to EMS....We DID have fun while the fun lasted :)
Got there a day and a half before the ride started. Had Storm's daughter, Ari (see some past posts on the blog about her) in tow, as her NEW OWNER was going to pick her up at the ride (Congrats to ANNIE GEORGE on her new Glide Ride endurance is a perfect match! She loves em tall, I don't...she likes starting youngsters and has the time and skills for it, I just no longer care to...etc). I have known her for a while now, and she rides like I do (ie: is in it for miles and longevity, not speed) and she takes GREAT care of her horses. So I am confident Ari will be in a very safe and loving home. :) So she got to come and camp with us at EMS for a few days.

It sure made life interesting, as Storm was a tad obsessed with her (very odd, as he usually is good about ignoring mares...but he really WANTED his little girl...damned pedophile! LOL) and we had to juggle going in and out of the trailer on the way, how to camp, and listen to him 'talking' all day (thankfully he settled down at night). When she was picked up, he just had the BIGGEST hissy fit. I had to hobble him AND tie him to the trailer, so he wouldn't rear and jump around and basically mess up his bad leg more. SO weird...never seen him act this way with any mares before (and I even have had mares in heat trailer and ride with him!). But once she was gone, he went right back to his 'normal' self.

Anyway, got to the ride and set up in record time. We now have three Hie-Ties on our trailer. It was SO easy to just flip out the arm, hook up a rope, and set out buckets and hay nets. Much easier than the old electric fence (though that is still nice for a grassy camp, to set up a 'pasture' for them to eat on). Here is the setup:

The two boys did great on it next to each other. I doubt anyone in camp that didn't know us, even realized that a stallion was on the trailer next to Oli. They shared food nicely and never got into a tussle. Though on the day we were leaving camp, Oli apparently was recovered from his hard riding and bored....he thought it would be fun to goad Storm into some 'boy games' (ie biting and rearing at each other). He does this at home or in other camps, over the tops of electric fences. Or turned out with Storm in an arena. He doesn't realize that Storm is way bigger than him, and that REAL boys often play rough. So we usually break up the game before they get into trouble. And the highline is NOT the place to do that! Storm popped a front leg over his rope rearing, came down, and then was loose (luckily no one else in camp anymore)! The velcro gave (good to know it will with enough force) and then I had to round him up, before he went running around like a nut case (he was way too full of it, after 5 days at the trailer). Since I was right there, I followed him to the nearest hay pile he found to pick through, and caught him back up.
Oooiii...least they waited for trouble til after the ride :) Other than that, it worked flawlessly!

Our friend Laney came not long after we were set up. She brought HER 'new' (had him maybe a year now) Mtn horse, Pip...for his first rides.
Pip at Laney's trailer on the snow morning...he's so cute!

And that night our other friend Carla pulled up behind us too. Along with lots of other ppl we knew in camp, it was making out to be a fun ride week. :) Oh and Becky Lange and her Mtn Horse Mocha Jack were also we had a great Mtn horse showing there.
Becky and Mocha... another short, cute Mtn Horse that kicks butt! :)
Here are all three of use together :) This and the last pic are by Laney's friend Patty, who took lots of great pics of us. :)
Two nice ones of Storm and I....

And a few great ones of Laney and Pip :)

Since Laney hadn't done any rides on Pip yet, and he wasn't in condition yet, she wanted a nice, easy ride. I was fine with that and we decided to ride together. This meant that I was riding even slower than I already do (go figure that he 'breaks' at a ride I am taking it as easy as possible at, and still finish in time!) and just walking or slow gaiting a lot.

Here we are on trail... (Photo by Steve Bradley)

It was GREAT, as finally Storm was matched with a horse that went the same pace he did! With trotters, and even some other, faster gaiting horses, he just can't keep up in a good gait. So he tends to step pace a lot. When I ride alone, he gaits much better, but he dislikes...and I mean HATES...that, so I just don't do it often anymore. Just not much fun for either of us. But Pip was the PERFECT speed...we did some slow Runwalking, or picked it up just a tad and did a beautiful rack! It was SOOOOO fun!
And again.... note the footfall is NOT his usual step pace :) (Photo by Steve Bradley)

I am so sad now, that I won't be able to spend many miles of the Big XP trail, riding with Pip! It would have been a blast. Oh well :( I likely still will on Eowyn, as she is a slow trotter and won't be in great shape yet. But it's just not the same as gliding along on the big boy!
And the last...let's hope they are not truly his LAST endurance photos... (Photo by Steve Bradley)

Pip behaved himself fairly well, only getting excited and acting up a few times when we picked up some speed, at which point I would slow back down and all was well. He has the usual 'ho-hum' mellow Mtn Horse attitude in so many ways though... right at the start, his girth was a tad loose and we were handwalking, and Laney tells me to stop...I turn around, and here is Pip, big old Tucker western saddle, hanging off his side.... like almost under his belly! And he is just standing there waiting for Laney to fix it (which took a bit, as the girth billet strap had tightened way up from the pull of the saddle...). Later, he decided to walk over the top of a nasty Cholla cactus hidden in some scrub grass, and got a BIG stick of it on the front of one of his front legs. Again, he just stood there patiently, while we tried to figure out how to get it off. Laney finally had to take her rumprug (had a nice, thicker goretex-type material on the outside layer) of the saddle, and use it to grab it. Then I pulled some remaining spines out of his leg, while she hooked everything back up. I so love these horses!
We had seen Terri a few times earlier in the day, but couldn't ride at her pace, so she'd get up ahead agian. We thought we were last, when HERE COMES TERRI behind us...huh?? LOL. Turns out she missed a turn and had to backtrack, and then got behind us. So again we had to separate (which every time, Storm had wanted to go with of course, since Oli was his buddy). Oiii... This time Storm was ok with it though! Guess he finally figured out Pip was his buddy for the day.
Onward we went at our easy pace, until the vet check. And just as we saw the VC pop up, there was Terri again too! Kinda good though, as Laney had decided Pip had done really well so far, but was getting a little tired. And she wanted him to have fun and also do a few more days. So she was going to pull at the vet check and just ride 25 miles (or whatever it was to the VC) every day, instead of forcing a full 50 on Pip. I thought that was a fabulous idea and he'd probably do great that way, for his first rides. :) So Terri and I hooked up again at the VC. Since we were the last riders, Annie wanted us to pull some ribbons off a section of trail that wasn't going to be used the rest of the week. That was fine with us, as it is always fun playing 'get that ribbon' (trot/gait by and grab it, if not, the other person gets a shot). Course what we always forget, is that Mojave plants are very prickly! And of course whoever marked it, sure LOVED putting ribbons in Joshua trees... So we often had to stop and ccaaarrreeefully pluck the ribbon out of the spines. LOL... Still was fun, and not a long section, so it didn't cost us any time.
We kept a fairly mellow pace back towards camp, walking, occasionally cantering up a slight incline, and sometimes gaiting along. Storm was feeling great and we were all having a grand time.
In one of the washes, headed for the road crossing, we were up on top and out of the wash (way too much deep sand down below) on the nice, single track trails up there. Just tootling along, winding between the Joshuas. Oli was flying in his trot, and Storm couldn't really keep up as cantering would have been too fast in there and his gait was too slow. So he kept falling behind and then getting really mad at me. He decided to solve that problem by spooking sideways and then throwing in a little buck (not anything serious, in fact I laughed at him and told him to knock it off, and kept going). In retrospect, I think THIS is the moment he hurt himself. Coming out of the buck, he landed in a discombobulated mess of legs (ie he couldn't figure out if he was gaiting, cantering, or what...legs were going every which way, in forward motion, but that was about it) for a few seconds. So I pulled him out of his weird gait and brought him back to a 'normal' gait, then caught up with Terri. About 45 mins to an hour later, was when I first thought something 'just ain't right'. Nothing specific even then, just that he wasn't giating quite rite. But it was getting late into the ride, so I figured he was just tired. Another 15-20 mins later, and then I felt the "OH CRAP!" of a dropping hip...down...............down.............down... It wasn't consistent with every stride of the bad leg, or in general (like he'd stop for a while, then there it would be again) but it was there. I had Terri look too when I was sure it was there, and she saw it too! Funny thing, we both swear it was on the LEFT leg (my left hip dropped as his did), but at the VC it was the right leg (though the next day another rider watching him walk around, also thought she saw the left leg hitch...which also lends credence to the theory of my vet, that likely BOTH legs have issues, not just the right. Ick!)
At this point it was late, sun had gone down, and we were maybe 5 miles from camp. So mostly we walked. Storm would try and catch up with Oli at a gait (Oli walks FAST), and it was like he would 'warm' out of the offness when he did that. First few steps off, then back to an inconsistent thing. This made me think that maybe he was just cramping up from the cold, like he did at Desert Gold. So I really wasn't all too worried. He was totally willing to go (he was asking to catch up, and when we turned onto the road for home, I kept having to rein him back as he wanted to gait back home, not walk) and didn't feel bad or anything.... Course looking back, I should have likely gotten off and walked back or found a place for the trailer to pick us up, or something.... But he was sound at a walk, and not really that off at a alarm bells had gone off making me think I had a lame horse! So I just slowly road him the rest of the way to camp.

Back in camp, it was really dark now and cold. We were the last riders of course, and while we stood just a little for the vet to come over and then do vitals and such, Storm cooled down and stiffened up (I was standing in front of him, holding him, and then in front for the trot out, so didn't 'see' how he was standing/moving). I told the vet that he felt off out on trail and see what she thought. Went to do the trot out, and he was really off (didn't want to gait)! Turned him around, went the other way, and he warmed enough to gait (so I STILL hoped 'cramp', since he was warming out of it). She says right leg (which of course was news to me, as Terri and I thought left), went to look at it, and it was already puffing up in the high suspensory area and was sensitive to palpation. She gave me that news, along with 'It will likely look worse tomorrow' and that we should ice, bute, and wrap if we can. CRAP! As we turned to walk back to the trailer, he had really stiffened while we talked things over, and now he was REALLY gimping at a walk I felt bad I didn't think it was 'serious' on trail (note: if you think the horse is even SLIGHTLY off, treat it as if it is dead lame on trail... unless you find something obvious like a rock, rub, or cut or something). Course if the horse doesn't act that lame, you don't generally panic...
Back at the trailer, I iced (really wished we had ice boots...course we don't have a freezer, so the boots wouldn't stay iced for more than half a day anyway!) by making a loose wrap around his hock/upper cannon and shoving crushed ice in it. Had to hold it on though, or it would keep sliding down his leg. Then wrapped with a clay poultice. Wrapping that high up is do it right, you need THREE polos/standing wraps... one on the leg like normal for a poultice, then a second that starts midway up that and goes to just below the hock, then a third that goes up and over the hock and around below it, midway over that second wrap (think a figure 8). THEN you have to figure out how to get the wrap tight enough that it supports and stays where it is (liked to slide off the hock), but loose enough it doesn't bind the tendon/lig that is over the top of the hock (and that one tenses differently, then the ones that tense below...sighh... so I had to make him stand a certain way to see where it was at the tensest, while wrapping it). Let me tell you, by the end of the ride week, I really got a handle on how to wrap a rear leg up high, LOL :)
He got bute and while Terri went to the ride meeting, I sat around second guessing and feeling sorry for my (his too) self, LOL. Nothing like having a broken horse! But eventually got over that bit. Kinda :)
The next day Terri went off on Oli (she went to finish all four days on a sound and happy horse as usual...we all need a horse like Oli...he just simply won't quit or break!) and I spent the day taking care of Storm and getting Ari out of my hair. Annie had arrived the prior evening, while we were still on trail, but she was so whooped from the drive (and the tail end of a bout with pneumonia), that she had gone straight to bed. So when she was able to crawl out of the next morning, she took a look at Storm (and was quite delighted with how magnificent he was in person) and then Ari (who she also remarked on as wonderful, of course.. even better than their pics, both of them). Then we did all the paperwork and horse sales stuff over coffee. Soon after we loaded up Ari (who loaded real well, even in a totally unfamiliar trailer and configuration... she'd never been in one with a rear tack) and off she went (She had a LONG two day drive to get home again). Storm pitched a TOTAL fit when we loaded up Ari! Never saw him act like that. Screaming his head off, dancing around on the hie-tie (I then tied him to the trailer), and even trying to buck/rear. I had to hobble him to keep him quiet, so he wouldn't hurt himself more! So bizarre...guess he was saying DON'T TAKE MY DAUGHTER! He really never was around her while I had them both...last he'd seen of her before this trip (and of course both were tied on opposite sides of the trailer in camp, so he never 'saw' her much there either, really), was once on a mutual trailer ride to the vets for vaccinations, and other than that, a glance in the 'baby pasture' when she was a foal and both were at Amber's. Makes one wonder, eh? Since he sure hasn't acted like that with any other mares I have had around or out of heat.

Anyway, that day was spent icing and wrapping him periodically, then later in the afternoon when the vet got back from the lunch stop, I took him up for a re-evaluation. She was pleasantly surprised at the change. Swelling/sensitivity was gone, lameness mostly improved, and overall a totally different picture than the night before. Had her (and me) hoping that maybe things were NOT that bad. After talking about it and reminding her that he was going on the Big XP, she did say we should have him checked out in a good lameness exam/ultrasound evaluation. See what was going on in there, instead of guessing. Meanwhile, we'd treat as if it was a messed up ligament just in case. So bute, ice, and stall (trailer in this case) rest til we got to the USing vet.
This pretty much was how the rest of my week went. Wrap, ice, wrap, leave wrap off a while, ice, etc... In camp, it was COLD and WINDY most the time. So in between taking care of Storm, I huddled in the camper reading and trying to stay warm. Whoopie, fun weekend.... The only fun part was crewing for Terri :) I'd get all of Oli's stuff ready for her when she'd come in (one day VC was in camp) and then help get him all set up for the night. Clean and organize camp, etc. If it had been sunny and warm (well, sun was out most the days, just not warm cause of the wind), I'd likely had enjoyed sitting out and relaxing. Next ride I suppose!
One nice thing: After a week in the dry sand, the boys had great looking feet again. Here are some shots of them on the last day hanging out in camp.

Down in tandem....the hie-ties seem to be working great! I think we have the length down.

Back hoofer on Storm...

Back hoofers on Oli...

Both on Storm...dirty :( But at least you can get the idea...least his feet aren't broken :)

Front hoofers on Oli....

Both on Oli....He had Easyboot Glueons on all week (5 days with the day we glued them on) and we used the Vettec Adhere. Pulled them off the night of his last ride day (night before the pic). They are SO easy to glue on and take off now. And the feet looked great when I pulled them!

At the end of the week, we stayed an extra day, then packed up and headed home. The ponies spent the day sleeping and eating and just enjoying the day off (Storm hadn't done much that week, but was unhappy that Oli was on trail every day, so didn't rest as well as he could have). He made up for it this day, sleeping along with Oli most the day :)

Storm 'eating dirt'...totally out and drooling ;)

And then down for the full nap.....

Looks like he's giving me the hoof...well, it IS the middle digit... doesn't like all the picture taking interrupting his beauty sleep I guess! :)

It was a two day drive and the first night we stayed at a new place in Bakersfield. Marci Cunnigham was kind enough to open her home and barn to us, and let us stay with her for the first night. We went out to a great little pizzeria/Italian place for dinner and the next morning she LOADED us up with citrus of all kinds from her trees! MMMMMMM.. THANKS for having us! :) Then for the second night, we stopped at one of our usual places. Horse Motel Waltenspiel in Healdsburg, with Ruth W. As always, this is a great stop over for the boys. Thanks!! And the Souzas were there as well, on their way down to 20 Mule Team. Their daughter, Jennifer was there as well when we pulled in (D and J were already to bed I think in their trailer) and helped us shuffle horses around, so Storm and Oli could have nice, dry, inside stalls, so Storm would stay confined and quiet in a smaller spot.
"Dude....this reminds me of Kentucky...Let me out, man! I'll behave, I promise!"

"Can't help ya there... not my fault you are broken... Get used to this!"

She also told me about her horse that had a similar (and also in varying tendons/ligaments and I think also both legs?) injury and what they did to get him over it. She says 'he'll never do 100's again, but he is now being ridden again'...well heck, except Tevis and it's prep, I really wasn't planning on 100's anyway. So maybe there is hope? Who knows! :)
I had made an appointment with the vet for the afternoon we got home, and we timed the drive to just drive on by there on the way back to Terri's. At this point I was still hopeful he had just smacked himself (in the buck/spook episode), and hadn't actually pulled anything, since he looked so good in camp and on the trip. But no, that was not to be, as the beginning of the blog all describes. :( When one is in the vet's office, and the 'hmmm, that's not good' type comments start happening (along with LONG silences while looking at the US screen), your heart just sinks to your feet. And then when you get to see the happenings on the screen with the accompanying explanations, it just gets worse. So that was definitely a downer day.
We went home, Terri dropped me off at my place and then she took Storm and Oli back to hers. For the night, he'd be locked in one of the smaller pens, since no mares (those pens are adjacent to the main pasture, in which we often have mares) were at her place right now. Then the next morning I would pick him up after I got my truck back (which was also broken, and in the shop while I was gone...sighhh... STILL not working right either, as it never acted up for the mechanics, so they were a tad baffled), and take him to Tracie's place (where Ari lived) and put him in Ari's old stall. THAT was a turn of luck...we really don't have a good place to lay him up at Terri's, since his stall floods in bad weather (and of course we are now back to a month of RAIN...sighhh...). This makes it much easier on me to do all the icing/walking/stall chores, as she only lives half a mile down my road. MUCH better than driving up to Trinidad several times a day, and if the truck did break again, I could always walk if I had to.
So now here we are, about a week into his layup. Life in that department is getting to be routine and he seems to be adapting well to stall life. The stalls look out onto the pastures at her place, so are well lighted and he can watch the other horses all day. I have him set up with two full hay nets with those small mesh holes, that he has to pick at. So it takes him a long time to finish them (I fill them once a day, and they still have a few handfulls left at the next feeding) and it is just boring grass hay. It gives him something to do and keeps his tummy happy. He likes his walks, though seems bored with the same old walk around the arena. If I can figure out how to wrangle the girls (has to go through two paddocks with mares to get to the 'outside' of the property), I want to start taking him on walks around the neighborhood (rural horsey area here, not a ton of traffic, and lots of side dirt roads) instead to liven things up. I'll keep some pics and updates going too, though nothing much will be all that interesting until we get to the 2 month re-evaluation and eventual riding rehab down the road some ways.
Dozing away in camp on our last day...dreaming of future rides? Nahhh...just some pretty girls most likely :)

Watching Laney and everyone else leave on the snow day...he's not happy having to stay in camp all week :(....


  1. If it helps any Nat, I don't see a single point in the entire Storm story where I would've done something different and changed the outcome. You conditioned him slowly, rode him on different terrain to build up his tendons, didn't go too fast, etc. Before I read this, I don't think I would've even gotten off to handwalk in if Dixie came up intermittently mysteriously lame - I'd just ride her in slowly like you did Storm. (Now of course I have new levels of paranoia!)

  2. Ah Natlie, I am SO sorry that your boy is hurt. Sometimes these crazy things just happen no matter how diligent one is in conditioning and prepping for ride conditions. Hope he heals up fast and is back on the trail with you.

  3. ooops, that last comment was from Cherie at HRHR ;)