Tuesday, May 31, 2016

In Which We Inject All Four Legs

So, I did end up having the vet come out yesterday morning.  The heat and swelling were gone from his fetlock completely thanks to icing and poulticing, but he still wasn't sound on hard ground.  Given that he's been not quite sound on hard ground for six weeks, I figured it was time.  

Oh boy, was it time.  After I gave her Tucker's complete medical history starting from birth, because that's what you do when you're his mom, we went out to the flat area in front of our indoor and Tucker dutifully displayed his gimp.  We did fetlock flexions, more gimp.  Blocked his right sole, no change.  Blocked right coffin, sound on the right.  Blocked left coffin, sound up front (sweet relief). 

She had me take him in the indoor so we could see how he moved on better footing, and as soon as he trotted in there she said "Oh!  He's fancy!"  Yes, he is when he's not limping along like he's walking across a mine field of legos.   My poor child.

I told her I didn't like how his right hind looked now that his front end was sound, which she agreed with (I'm either a good client or the worst one ever, I can't decide). We flexed his right ankle first and dear lord, the poor thing hobbled away on three legs.  

My heart sank, my stomach flipped, I was immediately overwhelmed with guilt.  The mom guilt is so intense when it's your own horse!  I've seen other horses flex and jog off lame a whole bunch of times, but I was not expecting my boy to be three legged lame.  She blocked the ankle so we could see how the right hock looked, and that was positive too.  A little less in the left hock, but still not great.  

Ultimately she recommended injecting both coffin joints, right hind fetlock, and both hocks.  So that's what we did.  First we sedated and scrubbed him:

The sleepiest most pathetic of Tuckers
Sorry, I didn't take photos of the actual injections.  I wanted to concentrate on what she was doing. But I did capture his various stages of drunkenness:

"I can hear you. Are my eyes opening?"
"Seriously I'm opening them as wide as I can."
His plan for the next week is two days of just turnout, Friday tack walk, Saturday a little trotting, and Sunday light hack.  No grain for the next 3 days because of all the steroids in the injections (laminitis risk) so he'll just get his soaked alfalfa cubes when everyone else eats.  Then back to normal next week.  I'm SO glad she didn't want him stall rested after all this.  Tucker does not do stall rest!

I feel a little terrible that I had to inject all the things, cause I feel like I should have had him evaluated/treated sooner, but I'm relieved that we had this taken care of and he's going to be feeling better.  I'm also incredibly thankful that the heat and swelling in his fetlock wasn't evidence of a soft tissue injury.  I was bracing myself for 6 months of time off.

He's usually so sensitive, but today the vet said he was quite stoic.  Maybe as he's gotten older he's gotten less wimpy about pain?  Anyway, given his age I'm going to make sure I have him seen at least twice a year to make sure he doesn't get that painful again (especially now that I don't have to justify the expense to anyone but my cringing bank account).  This boy is just too good to me to let him get sore, ever.

There are a lot of parallels here... Tucker and I are both took a while to figure out what exactly was going wrong, but we are both now on the path to things getting a whole lot better.  Tucker got blocked, I blocked Ethan's phone/email/facebook, so I never have to hear horrible things about myself from him ever again.  I feel free!  

Friday, May 27, 2016

When Do You Call the Vet?

I'm really curious to get the range of answers on this one, cause I constantly second-guess myself on this.

I sadly don't have the budget to exhaust every possible avenue when something is potentially wrong with Tucker.  I think most of us horse-owners are in the same boat.  Tucker has been slightly off up front, here and there, at random times over the past - I'd say - month or so.  I'm wondering if my game plan falls in line with most other people's, or if I'm more or less conservative in my approach than others are.

First, we did chiro and acupuncture.  His wither was all jammed up, we fixed it and I noticed a major difference in how he was traveling.  All of a sudden he was moving more freely and going forward and I didn't feel like I was trying to steer a lopsided surfboard around turns.

Then we had a lesson where Amy and I didn't love how he was going, so we flexed and jogged him on hard ground and noticed he was a little positive after fetlock flexion in both sides, and a little positive in the right hock.  Right hock is usually a little positive with flexion, fetlocks were new for him (not that I flex him all that often, to be honest).  The next day he colicked, so it's very possible he wasn't going well in my lesson because he was starting to get uncomfortable.

I had my farrier out on the following Tuesday, who found he was positive to hoof testers on his front heels and changed his shoes around to resolve that issue.  Great, I was hoping that would eliminate the front end ouchiness I was seeing on and off.

I had good rides last week/weekend, but I was riding very lightly and not asking for much because as I think I've mentioned, I was going through some shit.  He felt fine, but I was riding inside where the footing is softer anyway.  He did have some minor little cuts on him, which I learned was because Tucker and Goose fell in love with a mare across the fence and apparently neither one of them subscribes to the bros before hoes rule.  Mare was moved, and they stopped trying to kill each other in the name of love.

Tuesday he saw the dentist so he had the night off.  Wednesday night I had a friend scheduled to ride him and he had a bit of heat and swelling in his left front fetlock/ankle, a slight pulse in the foot, and wasn't sound on the turns to ride. We all thought it was probably an abscess, given the bruising and the fact that it came on all of a sudden.  I had my friend cold hose and wrap for the night, just so the leg didn't blow up with the humidity.

Yesterday he was a little off trotting in the field, as per my barn manager.  Last night he jogged pretty sound on the driveway and in the round pen (though in the round pen he went prancing around like a demented llama for reasons only Tucker understands, so adrenaline may have been at play).  There was a little bit of swelling, a little sensitivity to poking and prodding on the fetlock, and no pulse in the foot.  Barn manager explained that she's going to run electric along their fence line because apparently now that his lady love has been moved, he's trying to climb out of his field to find her. He's a hopeless romantic, what can I say.  [Srsly. Tucker. Stahp.]

Had my farrier out this morning, who said he doesn't think it's in the hoof.  No reaction to hoof testers.  He did say there's a bump on his ankle, which looks like he's banging it on something.  Both my farrier and my barn manager think Tucker's fence climbing activities are to blame.  

Given the on/off questionable soundness, I made an appointment with a vet for Tuesday morning, which I can always cancel.  My plan is to take it very easy this weekend, and ice and wrap him as much as possible.  Might poultice too, just to draw the heat out.  If there's still heat or unsoundness, I'll have him looked at Tuesday.  Not sure I have the finances to go full boar at addressing the situation at the moment, but at least I can get an expert eye on him.  

If it turns out he just banged himself pretending to be a mountain goat, and he's perfectly sound in two days, I can always cancel the appointment or reschedule it for later when I don't have a giant security deposit bearing down on me.  Or, I might proceed with it anyway to see what she says, given that he's had some on and off issues for a while now.  He is fourteen... it could be time to start paying attention to things like routine maintenance.

So out of curiosity, I'm polling my readership here.  Would you have already had a vet out by now? Would you try to treat this yourself for more than just the weekend with conservative work and ice/wrapping?  If your horse presents as slightly off (not head bobbing lame, which makes it a more obvious choice), do you get someone out right away in case it's serious, or are you a wait and see kind of person?  Would you have called the vet asap if your horse seemed colicky in the morning, or given him a few hours to see how things went?  

Thursday, May 26, 2016

In Happier News

I found a place to live.  I'll be moving in the first week of June.  It's on a dairy farm in the middle of horse country, and it's absolutely adorable.

Ethan is texting me hurtful things about how I should have seen this coming and I'm the one that doomed our relationship from the start, blah blah blah.  He's being petty and small as I'm trying to work out how to deal with some of the things I purchased for the house (the things I can't pack up and take with me).  He is choosing to be mean and spiteful, when I just want everything to be done. 

But I'm not going to focus on that!  I'm going to be thankful that this man is soon to be out of my life for good.   He's proven himself to be very much not worth my time and my love.  Today I am going to visualize a happy life in my little cottage.  And I promise I'm going to stop using this blog as my personal diary and stop spewing depressing crap at you guys.  We're going to go back to talking about Tucker.  I promise I'll make you laugh again!  

Maybe I need to do another Equestrian Ryan Reynolds?

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Civil War

I have been intentionally, as a defense mechanism, focusing on the awful things Ethan has said to me in the past couple of weeks when everything was going south.  The morning he woke up and the first words out of his mouth were "fuck off" because I tried to take some of the covers back.  How he told me I have anger management issues, I have emotional problems, I need medication, I think the world is out to get me.  Anything to make all of our problems my fault.  If I focus on being angry about all those things, I don't have to be sad.

I'm doing it intentionally because the alternative - to see that he was also good to me sometimes and he's not just a cruel person with a lot of issues - means that I have to admit how physically painful losing him is. When I allow myself to feel that, my longing for a chance to rewind all of this like it was just a bad dream and go home and curl up on the couch with him is overwhelming. It's counterproductive and I'm just depressing myself even thinking these things, but I promised to be honest on this blog, so there you go. Sometimes I really miss him.

But I only miss the good things.  I don't miss how mean he could be.  I don't miss the times when he was selfish and self-absorbed and inconsiderate.  I don't miss feeling like I'm crazy, or broken, or like I'm walking on egg shells.  I miss the comfort and familiarity of coming home to him, and the routine of our life together.  And I miss this girl more than I could possibly put into words.

I went back and read this post, which I wrote during the first break-up, after I left him and I was trying to decide whether I should fight for us to work it out again or just walk away.  Reading it is cringe-worthy, because I'm in exactly the same spot now.  I wish to God I had walked away, like most of my friends were hinting I should do.  I wish I hadn't become so comfortable in the house.  I wish I hadn't started thinking of it as home.  I wish I didn't miss being there.  I wish there were no happy memories with him for me to miss.  Things would be so much simpler.

I know that being on my own is for the best.  I know that even if he changed his mind, I can't go back because we all know six months from now I'd be looking back on this post, like I'm looking back on October now.  Which is why I'm searching so hard for an apartment and forging ahead, because I need my future to start as soon as possible.  I think that's the hardest thing about a break-up.  What you want emotionally and what you know you need rationally are so completely divergent.  And trying to function like a normal human being while that civil war is going on in your head is virtually impossible.  

Monday, May 23, 2016

Gorgeous Boy, Good Friends, Possibilities

Checking in.  Writing helps me, so you're getting a lot of personal crap on this blog for a while.  You don't have to read it but you guys are commenting up a storm so when you stop doing that I'll know you're sick of it.  And I'll keep talking about the Gorgeous Boy, too.  Because he's gorgeous.

I'm trying to keep my focus away from regretting three wasted years of my life and the decisions I made (dating him in the first place, moving in with him, getting back together with him last fall, moving in with him again). I'm trying not to be too frustrated by the fact that he'll never see what a giant mistake he's made. I'm trying to convince myself that he actually did me a favor, and part of me believes that (everyone around me already believes it), but to be honest it's going to take me a while to get there. Still hurts, at the moment. The comments and texts and messages and kindness of everyone else I know proves to me that there are lots of other people who want me to be part of their lives and think I'm great, which helps negate the fact that there's one person who doesn't want me around.  If I ignore the fact that I happen to have been in love with that one person for a long time, the math checks out.

All things considered, my weekend was actually not so bad.  Last week I spent some time talking about how awesome girls are, but boys can be kind of great too.  When I got to the house on Friday after apartment hunting, fully intent on packing up some things and my cat (Amy has graciously offered to provide us refuge again, blogger friends FTW), I found two of my best guy friends on the back porch with beers.  Who convinced me to stay (Ethan wasn't home this weekend), and entertained me, and generally confirmed that none of this is my fault and I took great care of Ethan and I don't deserve this. 

Guys have a way of putting things so succinctly.  I explained that Ethan thinks I get mad at him too often, to which one of them replied, "then he should stop fucking up!"  Yes.  This.  Thank God for friends like these.  My boys are both great musicians and played music for me and kept me cheerful when I otherwise would have been wallowing.  And made my last nights in the house good memories, instead of the painful ones from last week, with Ethan being cold and cruel and spiteful. And one of them has agreed to be my date for an upcoming wedding.  Good guys.

I crammed in a bunch of apartment/cottage/carriage house visits in the last few days and I have it narrowed down to three possibilities, and going to see one more tomorrow.  None of them have the perfect trifecta of affordable/cute/good location, but they're each doable.  I made a crazy Type-A spreadsheet to help me decide, obviously, because it's me.  If I can't make a decision I can put all my things in storage and stay with Amy longer, because she and her family are wonderful like that. Having options makes the future slightly less scary.  I am trying to picture myself in my own place, surrounded by pretty things and snuggling with a cat and having friends over instead of being sad and alone.  I hate sleeping alone now.  But it's better than sleeping next to someone who doesn't care.

I filled the rest of my time with horse stuff, which of course I'll continue to do.  I was invited to the AHD barn party on Saturday evening, which included a pop quiz with some AHD/dressage/horse trivia.  I had the high score (always been an over-achiever) so I won a My Little Pony and a bottle of wine.  Which is fantastic, because I needed a win.  Amy's clients are such a good group of people.  It was fun to be part of that group, and I was glad for the invite, because again, I would have been wallowing.  Sunday morning I got up bright and early and shipped someone to a horse show, hung out with an old friend, cheered, saw some adorable ponies.  

And Tucker is of course doing his part, and gave me three lovely rides in the last three days.  He was really tight and stuck and not forward at all in my lesson last Saturday, then as you know he colicked last Sunday morning, so I suspect he wasn't feeling well last Saturday too.  This week I was so distraught that my rides were basically me going through the motions and trying to turn my brain off for a while and then crying in his stall, so I don't really count them.  But this weekend I was able to do some more productive work and he felt looser and more forward and more like himself.

Mostly I just enjoyed spending time with him and not feeling at all guilty for hanging out with him as long as I wanted.  And knowing that he really is my number one priority and I don't actually want it any other way.  I mean look at that face.  How in the name of George Morris could he not be the love of my life?

I'm still not sure if there might be something not quite right with him, though. Last Saturday after we didn't like how he was going in my lesson, we flexed and jogged him on Saturday and I really didn't like how he looked on hard ground.  I had the farrier out who found he was positive to the hoof testers in his heels up front, and changed his shoeing around.  So I'm hoping he felt better this weekend because his feet feel better and his stomach feels better.  But I want to jog him again on hard ground next time I have a buddy with me so I can decide if he needs to see a vet about some maintenance.  Not that I can afford that right now because security deposit/rent/moving are taking priority.  But I still want to know, obviously. 

My entries for a show I was planning to do later this month would be due June 7th, but I haven't decided if I'm going.  It's a question of if I'm ready to go, if I can afford to go, and if I want to go. I'm leaning toward not putting anything else on my plate this month.  But I have a couple of weeks to decide.  For now I'm just going to enjoy Tucker time.  

And I'm convincing myself that the future is going to be great, which at the moment feels like a giant lie, but I hope it will end up being true.  I had conversations with two separate women this weekend who told me that they got out of relationships and it was really hard, but both said exactly the same words:  "...but now I'm really happy."  I feel like I crossed their paths for a reason.

Friday, May 20, 2016


I put the post about Mooch back up, cause at this point I don't think tip-toeing around Ethan's feelings is high on my list of priorities, and it's part of my story too so I think I get to talk about.  I mean when you break up with a blogger, you have to expect she's going to tell the whole internet about it.  Right?

I'm processing.  There was a lot of wine involved.  So now I'm also rehydrating while I'm processing.

I have read and re-read all your comments on yesterday's post.  The support is awesome, and you guys all made a lot of great points and made me feel way less crazy.  Internet strangers FTW!

I have a place to stay and some promising leads on apartments, so logistically, I'm figuring things out too.  Which we all knew I would, because I am not the type of person who goes all fetal position when things go awry.  I just figure it out.

I don't have too much to say yet about the rest of it.  Still trying to get my head around everything and getting used to the idea of moving on.  Trying not to be overly bitter about how hard I tried and how much effort I wasted and what a giant mistake it was to move back in with him.  Trying to let go and accept the fact that he's never going to get it.

I want to go back in time to the Me who wrote this post and tell her to go get an apartment and not waste seven months of her life on someone who actually does not care at all about her and is going to unceremoniously kick her to the curb.

At one point last week while I was accepting all of the blame for all of the problems and letting Ethan tell me I just need to be less upset about the shitty things he does (don't worry -- I'm not there anymore), Ethan told me that I need to study the works of the Dalai Lama.  Yes people, he actually said that.  Not that there's anything wrong with the Dalai Lama, there's just something wrong with someone doing shitty things to you and then telling you that you need to practice mindfulness instead of getting upset.

So anyway, I looked him up.  And here's the first thing I found.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Here I Go Again on My Own

So.  Ethan and I are done.  (Many of you are sighing in relief because you won't have to watch me run into the same brick wall over and over again anymore.)

(Also:  he doesn't like that I blog about our personal issues.  Unfortunately, my give a damn's busted.) 

He's kicked me out of the house, so I'm staying with one of those amazing horse girls I wrote about yesterday while I go apartment hunting.  Because, you know, he doesn't want to play with me anymore and it's his sandbox so I have to go find somewhere else to be.

The problem boils down to this.  I lack the ability to not care and not be upset when he does things that are inconsiderate, selfish, and immature.  These things upset me, because they are way below what I consider to be reasonable expectations in a partner.  

In case you're not yet seeing how that translates into him wanting to be rid of me, it's because I'm not allowed to get upset.  I'm not allowed to be "negative," "pessimistic," "passive aggressive," "dramatic," "upset," "angry," or generally express any emotion other than "fun" and "peaceful" ones.  I'm a horse girl lawyer from New Jersey.  Expecting me to have the pacifist tendencies of a Buddhist monk is just plain ridiculous. I did try going to a therapist to find ways of expressing myself in more productive ways, but it turns out that doesn't work if only one person is trying.

Since I do have feelings and I do get upset and I generally express these feelings when I have them, like a human being, he doesn't want me in his life anymore.  He wants to find a girl who is more fun and less drama.  I never thought of myself as a particularly dramatic person, but that's his assessment. Which is way easier than admitting he's treated me poorly.  I'm assuming this new girlfriend of his (now taking applications!) should also not own a horse.  Because horse girls make their horses top priority, which is also a no-no, now that the horse thing isn't cool to him anymore.

If you think I'm exaggerating about any of this, I'll give you the following vignette:  Last night, after Ethan began running through all the ways in which I've ruined his life, how I'm ungrateful for what his parents have done for us with the house (the opposite of how I feel, by the way), how I won't compromise about anything, how I'm always mad and always upset and he shouldn't have to make me happy, and how I'll see how much happier I am without him (the one thing he may actually end up being right about), I started to cry.  As girls do, when someone is breaking up with them and kicking them out of their home.  His response was to tell me to stop crying, and to point out that my tears were exactly the kind of drama that makes him not want to be with me.  

That's officially my worst break-up yet.  I knew it was going to be bad when I got home last night and heard him saying to our friends: "she's not going to be living here much longer."  I was not expecting that he was not only going to be cold-hearted and dismissive about it, but also criticize me for crying while my heart was breaking.  That's a particularly special brand of cruel.

I know what you're thinking.  I'm better off without him.  And you're absolutely right.  But my heart is still broken.  Because, like a fool, I let myself fall in love with someone who just doesn't care about me.

And this is why we have horses.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

In Praise of Horse Girls

Almost everyone who reads this blog is a horse girl.  If you aren't, you must at least like a horse girl (me), because why else would you read this?  Well, I suppose maybe there's someone in my readership who just enjoys ogling at the freak show, but I'm guessing that's a minority.

Horse girls get a bad rap.  We are constantly apologizing to the world and ourselves for being crazy. We say things like "gee these long days are great if only they weren't threatening my marriage, hahaha isn't that funny."  (It's actually not that funny, when you think about it, with my apologies to Ms. Schmidt, who is generally hilarious.)  Our priorities seem totally out of whack, we feel guilty for  all the time we spend at the barn, we worry about all the money we spend and how we are going to pay for whatever the next thing is (saddle, injections, entries, what have you), we make excuses for why we can't attend a non-horse event because there's some horse thing taking priority. We pretty much live our lives in a state of constant quasi-apology.

The thing is, there's nothing to compare horse ownership to.  Someone who restores old cars, for example, has a time-consuming and expensive hobby, but if the cars just sit in the garage for a week without getting worked on, no harm done.  Not so for a horse.  Someone who mountain bikes (don't ask me where this example came from, just a total random comparison) is gone all afternoon on a long ride, but again, the bike can sit in the garage all week.  And if the bike is acting funny, my guess is it's a hell of a lot easier to diagnose than mystery lameness.  It's impossible to relate to if you're not a horse person.  People say they understand that your horse relies on you... but deep down, they can't help but feel like the whole lifestyle is a little nuts.

So I'm going to take up a little space on the internet NOT apologizing or criticizing crazy horse girls today.  Because let me tell you, when the proverbial manure starts hitting the box fan, there is NO ONE I would rather have on my side than a crazy horse girl.

My horse girls are the most loyal people in my life.  This weekend, one of them drove all the way to my barn just to drop off Tucker's year end awards and say hi.  And she was totally happy to do it, cause she said it was a beautiful day and she was at a barn.  Last night, another horse friend stayed at the barn until O-Dark-Hundred so she could show me Tucker's hooves and explain what the farrier did differently yesterday morning.  That's right, she was there yesterday morning holding the horses for the farrier, and still met me at night too so she could explain.  She knew I was worried that Tucker seemed off up front jogging on hard ground last weekend (add that to his list of ailments), so again, she was happy to do it.  When Tucker was sick on Sunday, my horse girls were there for me.  These girls are literally holding me together.

I have had so many horse girls, near and far, reach out to me because they could sense from the post I wrote about Ethan and his horse (which I took down, because he asked me to) that things are not so great right now.  They've checked in, told me how sorry they are, given me support, offered me places to stay if I need it, and invited me over for dinner.  It ruffled some feathers, but I needed to write that post because I knew only my horse girls would understand my various emotions and thoughts on all of it.  Our therapist did her best, but she doesn't speak crazy horse girl.  Though she clearly understood the part about him withholding a big life decision from me, the rest of it was lost on her. She's good at her job, but she's not a horse girl.

Horse girls instinctively know what you need when you're going through a rough patch. They are amazing listeners. They'll debate any sort of horse-related minutia with you until you're both blue in the face. They'll sit in the tack room and run through courses of treatment and possible diagnoses and help you make a plan. They'll stand in the barn driveway and let you vent about how your life is falling apart, or make time for you on the phone, glass of wine in hand, whenever you need them. I guess it's because horse girls are just natural care takers. We take great care of our horses. And we take great care of each other.

Horse girls are each other's biggest fans. You all know what I'm talking about. Your barn friends are just as excited as you are when you have a great ride. They are encouraging, and motivating, and no one will cheer louder (or politely clap, as appropriate, depending on the discipline) for you than your barn girls. When one of my friends has a good ride, or nails a distance, or wins a class, or accomplishes a goal, or gets her horse gleaming white, I beam with pride. Her accomplishments feel like ours, together. I am so genuinely happy to help my horse friends when I can. Probably because I know they've got my back.

Horse girls are tough as nails, but also caring and tender.  We are hard-working, and fun-loving.  Goal driven, and patient.  We take big, hard hits -- to our egos, to our backs, to our wallets.  We bounce back.  We keep on going.  We struggle, we succeed, we win, we lose.  We get up at ungodly hours and do outdoor activities in the worst kinds of weather.  We text each other pictures of poop.  We help each other justify purchases big and small.  Most importantly, we understand each other.  In ways that the rest of the world sometimes doesn't.

The next time you feel an apology coming on, just remember how awesome you are.  How awesome this thing is that you're accomplishing: taking care of a horse, keeping him happy and sound, chasing your goals, making your passion such a huge part of your life.  It really doesn't matter if not everyone understands that.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Never a Dull Moment

Just while I was busy contemplating all the reasons why Tucker is and will always be my top priority, he decided to confirm that he absolutely 100% needs to be.

My heart.
There is no scarier way to wake up on a Sunday morning than your phone buzzing next to you at 7:05 am with a call from your barn manager.  7am is not a call to remind you that the farrier is coming next week or to ask if you want him wormed.  7am means something is very wrong.

When I picked up the phone, she said "I think your boy is colicking."  We agreed on 10cc of banamine IV, and I was out of bed, dressed and out the door not five minutes later.  I drove to the barn in tears.  I don't think Tucker would be a candidate for colic surgery, because I think the stall rest would torture him and his pre-existing stomach issues would complicate matters.  So colic scares me with him.  But I told myself that if today was the day that I had to make a decision to end his suffering, I would do that for him.  I would not get emotional and make a selfish choice.  And then I cried more.  

When I got to the barn, Gloria explained that Tucker ate his breakfast like normal, but then got really fussy.  She put them out in the field thinking he was just getting impatient, but by the time she brought the next horse out to turnout, he was down. Not normal for him. She got him up, went back to the barn to get another horse, and he went down again.  And a third time. She got him up, he wouldn't graze, he was tossing his head and uncomfortable, so that's when she called me.  After that, she made him trot a little bit and it must have moved stuff around because he finally pooped, and then started to graze.

I went out in his field with a thermometer and stethoscope, and took his temp (which was normal but would have been anyway after the banamine).  His gut was a little quiet for him, but not completely silent and scary.  I left him out for an hour so he didn't feel like we were disrupting his routine too much and then brought him and Goose back into the barn.  He drank a little water and then started rooting around in the shavings for bits of breakfast.  

His belly looked all sunken in to me in front of his hip.
I put him on the lunge line for a very light trot, just to move things around.  He lunged quietly, but no poop.  So, I hooked up the trailer, because he always poops the second he gets on, and loaded him up. He pooped, and seemed really uncomfortable about it, poor guy.  Then he peed.  Apparently the trailer is just a magical toilet on wheels.  While I was texting celebratory poop pictures to my friends (to which they unanimously replied "YAY!!! GOOD BOY TUCKER!!!"), he pooped again.  I did a little happy dance.

Started to become clear that this was a simple gas colic.  My guess is that he's still a little ulcery to begin with, so he's extra sensitive right now.  The weather dramatically changed about thirty degrees.  We went from 9 straight days of rain (limited turnout) to beautiful weather and full days of turnout on suddenly very rich rain-drenched spring grass.  And he over-indulged.  

Put him back in his stall then, and babysat him, literally just sat there on a stool.  And laughed because this was possibly the first time in my life I've ever been genuinely happy to hear fart sounds. He decided I looked stressed and needed to be watched over, because he's the sweetest horse alive.
Don't worry mom, it's gonna be okay.
After a bit he started kicking at his belly a little, so I got him out for more hand walking, and ran into my trainer Amy and her assistant, at which point Tucker promptly embarrassed me by trying to run backwards up a hill with his head in the air because I wouldn't let him graze.  (How do you explain: "He's totally well behaved, I swear.  I just can't remind him of his manners or discipline him right now because I'm secretly still afraid he's going to die and I don't want that to be his last memory of me.")

Alyssa came around noon and brought me lunch, and a puppy to play with.  Dawn also came to ride her horse and the two of them kept me company all day and made sure I didn't freak out, and reassured me that I wasn't crazy for not calling the vet as long as he continued to poop and didn't get dramatically worse.  (What would we do without our barn friends?)

Every two hours I loaded him on the trailer and he pooped.  I figured if I could keep his gut moving that way, it would be the best thing for him.  Around 2pm, we loaded him up and took him for a twenty minute drive, during which we got into a debate about why anyone would ever decide not to own a horse. While driving around in circles so my horse could poop.  Without ever noticing the irony.  Horse girls are CRAZY PEOPLE.  It worked though, he pooped quite a bit on the trailer.  (How many times can I say poop in one post?)  

We listened to his gut again, and confirmed that it was gurgling normally, and let him have a bran mash for dinner.  He ate normally and showed no signs of discomfort afterward.  By this point, the banamine was completely worn off, so I checked on him one more time (and he dutifully drank water in front of me, good boy) and went home.

It wasn't until I got in the car that the sheer exhaustion hit me.  Stress, anxiety, and hours of handwalking left me feeling completely worn out.  I took a hot shower, crawled into bed with the cat, and promptly fell asleep.  

You seem extra angsty, human.
Let me teach you about naps.
After a nap and some pizza, I was revived enough to go check on him one more time.  I was overjoyed to find two piles of poop and a bucket of water gone!  I kissed him and thanked him for not dying on me that day.

I joke, but that's the scary thing about colic right?  You never know if it's just gonna be a little gas or if they're going to be upside down on a table or end up crossing the rainbow bridge by the end of the day.  Giant, fragile creatures.  Designed to make us fall madly in love with them and then break our hearts over and over.  Wouldn't have it any other way, though.

My whole heart.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Goodbye to Mooch

Have you ever had to come to grips with the fact that the way you feel about your horse is not the way everyone feels about horses?  Have you ever run smack into the realization that you're actually pretty judgmental about people who don't make their horse the Number One Priority?

That's where I'm at right now.  Ethan decided to give his horse away and I'm having a hard time with it.  I've never dealt with change very well.  I don't like surprises.

First, there's my emotional attachment to the animal which is totally clouding my judgment about all of this.  I absolutely love that little guy.  For reasons I don't need to go into here, I haven't been able to spend much time with him lately, and I was looking forward to being able to snuggle him when I get home from work and get some horsey time in before leaving in the morning.  Maybe Ethan is right that it's too much for us to handle right now, but I had this rosy image in my mind of throwing on wellies with my pajamas and dumping water buckets, or investing in a good set of Carharts to get out there in the snow. Hard work, but it's what I've always wanted.  I looked forward to bringing Tucker home for the weekend so we could ride through the trails together. I have been humming along thinking this horse would be in my backyard in a matter of months, hopefully along with a mini long-eared companion or two.  Those plans have changed, and the disappointment feels like a punch in the gut.  Maybe I'm being a brat here, and I'm pouting a little because I'm not getting what I wanted.

There's also the fact that I was left out of this decision-making process entirely.  He has his reasons for this, like them or not, but I can't help but feel like the rug has been yanked out from underneath me.  It's not my horse.  I know that.  Ultimately this was his decision, and I probably would have tried to talk him out of it, and I'm sure he knows that, and that's part of why he waited until there was nothing I could do about it to fill me in.  And he knew I would be upset, and we all know that the male brain seeks to avoid these situations at all costs.  But it feels a bit like a betrayal, as much as that seems like a really dramatic way to put things.

And here's the part where I'm being judgmental.  I don't like the fact that he lost interest in this hobby and moved on to something else, and the horse has just been discarded like a pair of old rollerblades.  I would never do that.  Or would I?  I did sell a horse who was mine at one point.  I've ridden many horses that were for sale and helped them move on to other homes.  I know that not every horse is a one-owner horse. In fact, I know that most horses have several owners over their lifetimes.  And I obviously wouldn't disown any of my horse friends if they decided to market their horses for sale.  People's needs and interests change and sometimes a new home is the best thing for horse and owner.  Rationally, I know all of that.  And it doesn't make me feel better about this in the least.

Maybe part of it is that I know nothing about the home he's going to, which makes me nervous.  I have a tendency to assume the worst about the unknown.  I have been told that it will be a good situation for the horse, that his life will improve, and at the very least I can say that he'll be getting worked more consistently.  I should take everything at face value.  But there's also no contract, no right of first refusal, no guarantee that down the road this horse will have a safe place to land.  Things happen, horses get sold and resold, I've seen how the best intentions can end up going horribly wrong. Ethan's inexperience with the horse world makes it difficult to just blindly trust his judgment on all this. Maybe that makes me a bad girlfriend, but there you have it.

I should look at this as a good thing.  Now there will be no more opportunity for conflict when I disagree with some decision Ethan's made about his horse.  I won't have to step in with my two cents ever again, and he won't have to feel criticized.  Horses are now my thing, not our thing.  But part of me is mourning that.  So much of our relationship developed around horses.  Our first date was a hunter pace.  You can go back through this blog and find many adventures of Tucker and Mooch.  All of that is gone now, and it makes me sad.  I used to love that Ethan wasn't waiting for me to get home at night, because he was at the barn too.  As Ethan has ridden less and less lately, I've seen that familiar conflict developing.  I spend too much time at the barn, and spend too much money on the horse, and all I care about is horses.  I've been down this road before.  I can't help feeling like I know where this is headed.

So much of my identity is defined by my horse ownership.  If I'm not talking about Tucker, I'm thinking about him.  If I'm not at the barn, I'm reading an article and planning my next ride, or looking at the show schedule, or rolling my wraps.  I am the poster child for Crazy Horse Girl. Rationally, I know that not everyone is like that. Ethan's identity as a person has very little to do with the fact that he was a horse owner.  For him, it was just another hobby he enjoyed.  The fact that he's given away his horse doesn't change much for him.  So why do I feel like I don't even know him?

I don't expect to be able to answer any of this.  My image of what the future will be like has dramatically shifted, and it's going to take some time for me to wrap my head around it.  I expect that I'll sit with this for a while and come to terms with it.  There will be no barn in the backyard.  Our six acres of land will not be home to horses or donkeys, at least not for several years until I possibly move Tucker there for his retirement.  Life will go on.  Maybe I'll plant a garden.  And hopefully Mooch will have a happy life, wherever he ends up.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

A Little More Substance

Okay so I realize yesterday's post was borderline ridiculous, but so am I, and so is Tucker on occasion, so there you go.  I'll try to be a little more serious today.

Tucker got adjusted on Friday morning (as you saw from his texts).  Friday was also Day 10 of Abgard, which is right around when I usually see improvement (Days 8-10).  My rides last week were not explosive, but he still felt not right.  He was doing weird things with his shoulders and all of us were doing that head-tilting "is he or isn't he...?" while watching him go.  He wasn't lame, per se, but he also wasn't moving the way he usually does. 

Right there, that's the spot.
I told Dr. Lackey that I suspected something was going on up high in front, maybe in his shoulders? She confirmed that his withers were really jammed up. (I got one right!) This isn't an area that usually bothers him (lumbar is typical), so he must have done something to himself.  Played in the field too hard, maybe even got himself cast in the middle of the night?  Anyway, it definitely explained how he had been moving and it also explains why he got so upset whenever I tried to move his shoulders around.

Magic needles
Between the adjustment and the acupuncture, Tucker felt like a new horse on Saturday.  I rode outside and since he hadn't been outside in a week (because biblical rains) I lunged him first, and he bronced and played on the lunge line a bit but he looked immediately more like himself.  When I got on, I couldn't help but grin ear to ear.  My horse is back!  I didn't push him but man did he feel good.  Short video:

I love the steady metronome trot.  But the best thing about that video (besides that it's too blurry for anyone to judge my position) is that the gator goes by and he keeps right on trotting without hallucinating flesh-eating monsters and fearing for his life.

Sunday's ride was about the same, we were by ourselves in the outdoor so he was a bit tense, but that's not terribly unusual for him.  I rode with a bit more contact and asked for a little more use of his hind end and he was totally okay with it.  He had a few exuberant moments at the canter... but they felt more like he was feeling good, and not like he was panicking, and I was able to just do a transition back to trot and get him to settle back down without any fuss.  

Pleased with himself
Monday was a day off, and Tuesday night we rode in the indoor.  First of all, I want to point out that about 5-10 minutes into the ride, Goose (Tucker's best friend in the entire world) left the ring.  And there were no temper tantrums.  There was an ear flick of acknowledgement that his friend was leaving, but he stayed totally calm about it and kept right on working.  Possibly normal behavior for any other horse, but that's huge for Tucker.

I worked on some adjustability at the trot, collecting and lengthening.  Not the full spectrum of what he can do, but just to test the waters.  He was happy to do both and I even worked on my sitting trot a bit.  (Side note:  I CANNOT get the hang of the grab strap.  I'm gonna break a pinky.)  My goal was just to see if I could get him to collect and lengthen a little without creating any tension and we managed to do it.  I have to really remind myself to stay loose even when I'm trying to collect him.

When I picked up my right lead canter he was pretty heavy in the left rein/bulging through his left shoulder, and I remembered Amy's advice not to try to fix it in the canter.  So after I felt his canter loosen up a bit and felt him naturally go more forward, I said "we'll come back to this."  We changed direction, and did some leg yields and some shoulder-in and haunches-in.  I wasn't sure if I'd be able to manage these correctly without spurs on (still not wearing them for tummy-related reasons) but I'm pleased to say he did them really well and having no spurs made me use my seat and weight more, which I need to do now that he's learned to respond to those aids.  

His left lead canter was great, soft and round and not overbent, so I came back to trot, changed direction and worked on shoulder-in to renvers to the right.  We haven't figured this one out yet and he struggled and protested a bit.  I mixed in lots of ten meter circles and eventually settled for a very slight change of bend as the first step toward doing a correct renvers.  Even though we had some moments where he thought about slamming on the breaks and throwing a fit, and he did a couple of his mini-rears (which I believe he thinks are extremely intimidating), I was able to convince him to try to work it out, so that felt like a win.

He looks so good right now :) 
After I felt like I could manipulate his shoulders more I wanted to see if the right lead canter would feel better, and wouldn't you know it, it worked.  He cantered two circles right and stayed straight and even on both reins, and was willing to let me position his shoulders where I wanted them, so I quit with that.  In the future I want to be able to build from there, but I'm still taking it a bit easy and I wanted to reward him for giving me the right response.  Good boy.

Lisa Wilcox recently did a great article for Dressage Today on throughness, which talks about rider position and various aids and exercises for getting them more through, but one of the things she said that I really liked is this:  "Sometimes the horse’s body may develop when the mind is still immature and then the mind catches up to the body or vice versa."  I feel like that's where Tucker is right now.  His body got stronger over the winter and now he can physically do the exercises, and now I need to concentrate on the mental piece and get him to do them in a relaxed way, without tension.  And now that I've fixed some physical issues, I think he's capable, it's just a matter of convincing him and building his confidence.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Texting with Tucker

* * * 

In case you are wondering, "Tucker" and I used the Horsemoji App, which is available in the AppStore for iPhone and Android.  And yes, you should obviously download it too.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016


So I've been avoiding the internet because I didn't want to write what I'm about to write, which is a whiney, drivelly, angsty, really cringe-worthy read.

I'm writing it anyway.

I'm angsty cause I haven't had a good ride on Tucker since... oh... sometime in March.  He was difficult at the beginning of April.  He was borderline unrideable by mid-April.  And for the past two weeks he's been on the "nice horsie" plan.  Which means I haven't picked up my reins, worn spurs, asked him to do anything requiring any kind of effort, or set a goal other than "relax and stretch" for the last 8 rides.  I have counted them, because after the first ride (which was kind of a nice change of pace) things became excruciating for me.  

Pictured:  All of my discretionary funds 
I'm just going to say this, and it's totally fair to judge me for it.  He's making me bananas.  For some reason, his first symptom of ulcers is that he gets irrationally spooky (I've blogged about this before).  And not the usual "Tucker heard a noise and assumed the end was nigh" and then came to his senses. He does these little spooks where his whole body twitches for a second and it's just enough to make you think he might actually spin out from underneath you, over, and over, and OVER.  It's hard to "just ignore it" when he pulls a 180 spin-and-bolt over a butterfly (*based on actual events, thing came outta NOWHERE*) or alternatively spooks at nothing, steps sideways, crosses his front legs, trips himself, falls on his face, and then panics that he's going to be beaten for it while I struggle to get back in the middle of the saddle.

I haven't actually beaten him of course, because (a) that wouldn't help anything and (b) I think this behavior is ulcer-related.  I think.  I'm telling myself right now that I've seen all this behavior before and every time I've thought he was having a midlife crisis and then treated his stomach and it went away.  But last Thursday when I got there and he was spinning in his stall over a tractor outside, while all the other horses happily munched their hay because the tractor is bringing more food and is not to be feared...  I just couldn't bring myself to ride him.  I gave him his meds, tried to pet him for a minute, and when the spinning resumed I gave up and went home and poured myself some wine.  (It was a rough week.)

It's a good thing he's cute.
I'm hoping this week he'll feel more like a horse I want to ride, and less like a horse I want to give away to a good home.  Because all of this unwanted Tucker behavior has led to the following mental rollercoaster on repeat in my head, which may or may not be driving me to actual insanity:

1.  What if it's not ulcers?  What if there's something else wrong?  Or what if this is just the way he is now?  What if he's just finally lost his marbles?

2.  What if it is ulcers, but the ulcers were caused by stress due to pain somewhere and he's actually totally broken and crumbling before your eyes?  How will you pay for THAT?

3.   Maybe we should do another year at First level.  Now that you're behind a month you aren't going to be ready to move up by mid-summer.  But he's turning FOURTEEN in a few days.  You don't have an infinite amount of years with him.  Wow, he's getting old.  [Repeat Nos. 1-2.]

4.  What's the point of showing if you aren't moving up?  Isn't it kind of pointless to do the same thing every year?  

5.  But when you did the hunters you didn't move up every year.  Dressage has just given you a false sense of inferiority because it has levels instead of divisions.

6.  Maybe dressage is too hard.  Maybe you're asking too much of him and you don't know how to ask well enough and you're stressing him out.  And THEN what sport are you going to move on to?

7.  You're just over-analyzing.  You'll treat his stomach and then start showing as planned and everything will be fine.  Stop worrying so much.  Let's look at the show schedule.

8.  How exactly are you planning to finance these shows?  We selling a kidney?  [Repeat No. 2.]

9.  Maybe instead of shows you should put that money toward more lessons, so you could actually move up next year and feel like you've accomplished something.  [Repeat No. 5.]  And possibly ride better and stop stressing him out.  [Repeat No. 6.]

10. You should do a blog post about this. People will relate.  Or maybe don't.  You're going to sound like you're whining about things that aren't really problems.  You should wait until you have something more positive to write about.  Oh god it's been over a week you're going to have no readers left.

If you came here in search of the above, I'm happy to have provided a narrative of same.  Also on an unrelated note I would really like a giant chocolate chip cookie.  But I'm legit gonna freak out if it won't fit in the glass.