It’s Not Hard to Make Me Happy

It’s not. I swear.

Just give me a (shiny, new, going to take forever to pay back but that’s okay) camera to take pictures with,

Image’s perfectly kissable nose.

a horse to snuggle,

Handsome critter!

and a pony thoroughly enjoying his massage.

\
On that note, R said that he was definitely less tight in his wither area, which was encouraging to hear. He was also moving quite a bit better on Saturday when I stuffed him in the round pen to place with my new camera. He was noticeably less stiff and choppy behind. I’m at work today, but am hoping to sneak out a bit early to go up to the barn and say hello. I had grand plans to do so yesterday, but after spending most of the afternoon with K and her son (not doing anything even remotely taxing!), I shuffled home, fell asleep at 5 PM, and didn’t get up again until 5 AM this morning. I guess I was a little more tired than I thought…!

Chiropractor, Tooth Fairy and Vet: The Story of a Dwindling Bank Account, Part Two

Sunday was a relatively low-key day for Image — I rode with friends in the morning on a fabulous little Walker mare. Rose was sweet and easy to pilot, even when things like gates and scary rocks made her vibrate (seriously, that’s what her spooks felt like!). After I was done galavanting around the state forests, I headed to the barn to see my little black horse. I ground drove him just a bit to get him moving, and he actually moved marginally better (at least, it seemed so from behind!). I got a good couple of quiet, relaxed laps at the walk around the ring at the end of the little ground driving session, so I called it quits there.

Monday dawned muggy and bright, which, of course, means I wore jeans instead of breeches and roasted while I was at the barn. It was a little chaotic with 10 horses that all needed shots, coggins, and their teeth done! Luckily, Image only needed his teeth done and his tear ducts flushed, thanks to B — she had Image’s spring shots done for me, which was fabulous of her. Dr. Lennon took a look at Image’s runny eyes and agreed that flushing his ducts before doing anything else was the best idea. So, my little black horse got some happy juice. Within a minute or two, I had this standing next to me:

Feeeelin’ sleeeeeepy!

Poor guy was easy to tranq — he’d be one hell of a cheap date, that’s for sure! Dr. Lennon flushed both tear ducts. The right one was definitely blocked, but the left one flushed easily. Hopefully that helps/clears up his runny eye issue. If not, I’m to touch base with Dr. Lennon and go from there.

Shortly after, Image had his teeth done. B had told me he had his teeth done yearly, so I honestly didn’t expect anything major in there. How bad could it be after only a year?
Um, apparently, pretty bad. Poor boy! I feel like a bad pony mama. Dr. Barton was in there with power tools that made all sorts of scary noises. There were some sharp edges in there that were causing him some pain, on top of his teeth wearing unevenly, causing a wave pattern. He had given me no indication of having trouble eating anything. However, him being originally fussy with the bit could have been a sign, even though that seems to have mostly stopped, and teeth issues can influence broncing under saddle. 
Dentist work gives me the heebie jeebies…on horses or humans!
I also asked if Dr. Barton could better pinpoint his age. Without hesitation, Dr. Barton said that he was 11. I blinked. Definitely 11? Well, he mused, I’m probably not dead on, but at least between 10 and 11.
Huh. Well, okay then. So, having that bit of information, Image’s birthday is officially January 26th, 2002. January 26th is his Gotcha Day, so it might as well be his birthday, too!
As Image was coming out of the tranq, I talked with Dr. Lennon about his hind end. His suggestion was to keep it up with the chiropractor for now, and if that doesn’t resolve things, to call him for a lameness workup.
Sigh.
So, between the vet, dentist, and chiro, I would have thought there would have been a more concrete diagnosis and game plan. Unfortunately, I was wrong (yes, that does happen on occasion!). I am holding out hope that the chiropractor will be able to pinpoint the exact areas that are bugging him the most. 
The massage therapist is out again on Saturday. That should help some, too!
In the meantime, he’s getting worked gently on the ground, mostly by hand walking and ground driving. He’s being groomed within an inch of his life every time I see him, which he seems to thoroughly enjoy now. I’m sure he also thoroughly enjoys the snacks he gets when I show up…that may be contributing a bit to his willingness to meet me at the gate these days!
In other news, I bit the bullet and will be receiving a Canon 60D in the mail within the next few days. I am so excited to be back behind my camera…and no longer using my slightly craptacular cell phone camera for all of my pictures! 
Here are some pictures from said craptacular cell phone camera:
Image and Annie the goat, captured by Sarah!
Squeee adorable pony!
omnomnom graaaaassss!
This is from last month…I was sitting on the ground and he came to investigate.

Chiropractor, Tooth Fairy and Vet: The Story of a Dwindling Bank Account, Part One

Do you hear that?

That’s my head, banging against the wall. Repeatedly.
Everyone has been asking about Image’s hind issues, and if I have any definitive answers yet.
Short answer: no.
Long answer: Well…yeah, still no.
I don’t expect any quick fixes, that’s for sure… but I kind of wish I had a game plan at this point, because the “well, this is odd and we don’t really know” frame of mind drives me just a little insane. I’m not great with the unknown. I am a self-diagnosed control freak. I know, I know — things will sort themselves out, things will fall into place, it’ll be fine in the end, yadda yadda. I know all of that…but damn it, it doesn’t make playing this game any more fun!

The chiropractor visit on Saturday was…well, it was interesting, to say the least.

I ended up contacting the masseuse Friday evening to make sure we were all systems go for Saturday, and she brought up a good point: chiropractic work can make a horse ouchy, so let’s see what Dr. Crane suggests. So, instead of getting up as the absolute asscrack of dawn (okay, it was 8, but whatever), I got to wake up at a slightly less gross hour for a weekend and just meet with Dr. Crane.
I got there maybe 15 minutes earlier than she did, and was greeted with a soft eyed, mushy pony who wanted snuggles. Not to mention, he’s started meeting me at the gate as opposed to just watching me enter the paddock and letting me catch him. These little things make me a happy horsie mama. 
I cleaned him up and managed to finish just as Dr. Crane drove onto the property. Dr. Crane greeted me with a smile and a quiet, easygoing demeanor. She asked me about Image’s background, and how I ended up choosing chiropractic work to try and figure things out. She let Image snuffle her hand as we chatted. She asked me if we could watch him move, and after moving him around in the makeshift round pen a bit, she agreed that he looked stiff in both directions, and had a hint of a head bob at the trot (when he trots instead of paces or racks, anyway). He carries his head to the outside going to the left and is stiff through his entire body, while he’s more likely to relax into soft bend going to the right. 
I brought him back in and Dr. Crane started her assessment. It was fascinating to watch. I have shoulder and back issues myself, so watching Dr. Crane manipulate joints and put them back in their proper place made both places ache a little more than usual! She immediately pinpointed that his stiffness to the left was all over his body. She had to adjust his poll area, and immediately he was able to flex to the left better. She found that both coffin bones in his front legs were a bit out of place, which she quickly remedied. It wasn’t until she hit his withers that she got a bit of a perplexed look on her face.

Basically, his withers and shoulder area are so out of whack that he should be trying to kill someone for touching him there. Her theory is that he’s become so accustomed to the pain that it’s just same shit, different day for him to be sore there. She still looked a bit perplexed and said that it’s possible that it’s just not as bad as she’s feeling it to be, but her gut said otherwise.

She moved down his back and found some other “off” areas. As she was poking down his bum, she said that he was missing a piece of a bone on his left buttcheek (very technical term, buttcheek…snork!). It’s likely it was broken off during some sort of accident — if he reared and fell backwards, busted through the back of a trailer that had a butt bar up, or even if someone smacked him hard enough with a solid object back there. She had me feel it — his left buttcheek was squishy in that area and there was a slight dent, while his right buttcheek obviously had something of substance underneath the skin and muscle.

That could very well be contributing to the hitch he has on his left hind. He showed no reaction to us poking and prodding at his bum, so it’s honestly a bit hard to tell. Sigh.

Dr. Crane and I scheduled another appointment for the 3rd. She left saying that she would be thinking about Image for quite some time, as there wasn’t 100% a clear answer as to what was causing his hind end stiffness. She also said that usually, her kinda-sorta-maybe cases tend to be the ones that “clear up” the fastest…so, we’ll see!

After she left, I walked him out to a nearby clearing, sat in the grass, and let him munch while I read a book. After about twenty minutes, he moseyed over to where I was and stood next to me. I looked up at him., and he lowered his head to mine, resting his head in my lap. I about exploded from the cute factor and gave him lots of ear scratchies for his troubles. I adore this little black horse from the tips of his ears to the very last strand of hair on his tail.

Okay, long post is long so I must get to bed. Details on the vet and dentist tomorrow, plus Sunday’s escapades.

Sunday Funday

Which is not today. Today is Friday, which means it’s almost Saturday. I suck at blogging sometimes.

Ahem.

I, last minute, decided to make the trek to the barn last Sunday afternoon. I wasn’t really planning on going, because having a day to just hang out, catch up on TV, and do some chores was on my agenda. Then I realized it was Mother’s Day, and decided I needed to be with my horse instead of inside my own head.

So, up to the barn I went. I had no real plans as to what I was going to do, outside of groom him (again. HOW he still has winter fur left, I honestly don’t know…). I just wanted to be with him.

I got more happy pony faces as I curried him yesterday. He especially loves his chest, withers, and butt (sigh) scratched as hard as possible. He tends to be on the more reserved side when he’s not actively reacting to something scary, so seeing him respond to something pleasurable like grooming does my heart good. He’s always loved his forehead rubbed, though, so I always make sure to curry there for an extra long time.

I had brought a bag of baby carrots with me to munch on and share with the herd. Image, probably because he was a show horse at one point or another, has always turned his nose up at fruits and veggies. I hadn’t even really bothered with him after B told me that he’d had no interest in apples or carrots since she had them. He hadn’t ever shown interest in any apple I was eating at the barn, either, so I figured it’d just be more annoying to him than anything else to be offered a snack and have to spit it out!

Well, as I was crunching carrots and chattering at him, he kept looking at me like I had something tasty. Out of curiosity, I offered him one.

I don’t think he even chewed the damn thing before begging for another one.

Well, all righty then.

I gave him another and put the bag down. He persistently (but politely) asked for more for a solid minute, tilting his head and reaching towards me in that adorable way of his. I may or may not have caved. Ahem.

“MORE PLZ KTHX”

I decided that instead of hand walking him like I planned, it would be good to mix it up with a bit of ground driving. I tacked him up and off he went. I’m very happy to report that he was a calm, steady gentleman as we headed down to the trails. He navigated the terrain like a pro and calmly stopped and backed when I asked. The only (kind of funny, to be honest) issue he had was mostly my fault, but something we worked on: I had to stop over a log on the ground and being…well, me, I kind of tripped. He did NOT like the sudden movement behind him and scooted forward. Luckily, I got my feet back underneath myself and a solid “whoa” stopped him dead in his tracks. I experimented later by purposely jumping up and down behind him a bit and he was NOT pleased with this. Thankfully, he is extremely respectful of the very mild bit in his mouth and mostly danced in place. It took just a few repetitions before he was standing, albeit tensely, and not trying to skitter away from the crazy person doing jumping jacks behind him. Good pony 🙂

I called it a day there and let him graze. I always work with him with a halter underneath his bridle, so I unbridled him and he munched happily on the grass. We were there for about five minutes when I got a call from my sister, who asked if she could bring my one year old nephew by to meet his first horse.

Needless to say, we hustled home and made sure Image was soft and shiny for little N’s first experience with horses. My little nephew is a hurricane of a kid, even at a year old, and he had no fear of Image reaching his nose out to beg him for treats (mooch!). He bounced happily on my sister’s hip and patted Image’s shoulder with little prompting. It was painfully adorable!

Tomorrow brings another massage session and our first meeting with Dr. Anna Crane, a local equine chiropractor. Monday, Dr. Lennon and Dr. Barton are out for vet work and dentist work for the entire barn…so, basically, if I don’t have his hind end issues at least kind of figured out by the end of next week, I’m probably not going to get them figured out!

Pampered Pony

So, I’ve been trying really, really hard not to let the worst case scenario take over my brain. Some days it works. Other days, not so much.

I’ve begun trying to get to the bottom of his hind end ouchy issues, starting today with the massage therapist. This lovely lady is a friend of a friend’s, and thankfully, she is doing this in exchange for some pictures of her cute little Appaloosa gelding. I had to restrain myself from giving her a full body tackle hug in thanks…I figured injuring the poor woman before she even got a chance to take a good look at Image was a bad move.

I got to the barn and groomed Image within an inch of his life. He is finally showing signs of truly relaxing — he gave me all kinds of happy pony faces when I hit itchy spots, which he hadn’t truly done before. He especially likes having his belly rubbed, which was adorable and a little weird, all at the same time. Then again, he is my horse, so it’s not a surprise that he’s a little, uh, quirky.

He’s mostly shed out now, except for that last stubborn area over his barrel. He is such a shiny black color when he isn’t bleached. The vain part of me wants to scramble for a fly sheet to keep him from bleaching out this summer. The logical part of me knows how ridiculous that is and is forcing the vain part of me to deal with the fact that my little black horse will be a little kinda-sorta-maybe black horse come September.

I finished grooming just as R, with my coworker L in tow, arrived at the barn. They were promptly greeted by the Welcome Wagon — Bruin the little brown mutt, Angel the black and white Pointer/Heeler cross, and Annie the goat. Yes, Annie the goat. She and Bruin are best buddies and they run around the farm all day. It makes for good entertainment, that’s for sure. Annie promptly put herself in the middle of R, L and I, and started inspecting everything she could get herself into:

Helper Goat is helping. Sort of.

After letting Annie inspect her work, R had me walk Image for her. She quickly discerned that his movement was definitely off by watching his hips — his right hip dropped quite a bit lower than his left and his stride was short behind. So, she got to work, starting at his neck and working her way down his body, one side at a time. Image thoroughly enjoyed it, leaning into R’s hands and relaxing to the point that he was nearly asleep. She did find three “troublesome” spots — both sides of his wither were VERY tight, and will take a lot of work to loosen up (bells went off — wither ouchies + saddle = kaboom? Maybe…). He also had multiple tight spots on his rump area that will take a few sessions to get out, especially on his right side (compensating for his left? Not sure). Other than that, there wasn’t anything that set off warning bells for R. Image was a perfect gentleman for all of it, including the spots that were ouchy. The most he did was step away from her pressure if it was too much for him. He really is a good, kind little black horse.

After she was done, I walked him out and he was definitely freer in the hind end. Woo! I did a mental happy dance. R wrote me up a quick outline of everything we did, and scheduled another appointment for the 18th, before the chiropractor comes out.

I did ask her advice on what sort of work, if any, I should be doing at this point. She confirmed that the in hand walks were a great idea, especially because it’ll keep him from stiffening up again. She showed me some tricks to help keep his problem areas a little looser, including how to curry those areas to get the blood flowing during grooming.

It was an extremely informative session and I am left feeling much less in the dark (even though nothing was really figured out) about what is going on with this goofy little horse. He looked so relaxed after the session that I was seriously contemplating looking for a place to get a massage, myself! Then I realized: my horse has had more massages than I ever have…and he’s only had one!

We took a walk down the trails after R left, and he happily walked beside me, his eyes bright with curiosity. We even saw a deer, and he didn’t bat an eye. I, on the other hand, spooked about ten feet sideways. We must have startled it out of hiding at just the right time…I was turned towards Image, taking a picture, when he suddenly picked up his head and stared to the side. The deer ran behind me and scared the bejeebus out of me. Image looked at me like I was nuts.

Which ain’t too far off the mark. Hah!

Just as the words “what are you looking at?” left my mouth, the deer ran behind me. Aiieeee!

We turned around and moseyed back home shortly after that. One heart attack a day is enough for me, thanks. I gave him some cookies and turned him back out, where, for the first time, he chose to stay with me in the paddock instead of immediately walking off to go harass/play with/bully Gus or Rodger.  It wasn’t for very long…but just long enough for him to press nose into my cheek before wandering away. Damn horse made me tear up. Bah!

My allergy meds are kicking in, so I’m going to drag myself upstairs. I’ll relay today’s escapades, tomorrow!

Breathe

My barn owner, who is fabulous and was a vet tech for quite some time, helped me out today and did some flex tests on my silly little black horse.

Front left – 2
Front right – 1
Hind left – 3
Hind right – 2

That’s on a scale of 1-5, 1 being 100% sound and 5 being dead lame.

I feel better having some sort of confirmation that I’m not totally nuts. I feel worse knowing that I was right.

So, instead of rambling on about just how worried I am at this point (which is probably an overreaction, but that’s what I’m good at), here’s a picture of my horse trying to mooch another handful of grass out of me.

Square One

Critter is negative for Lyme.

Critter is still very stiff and ouchy behind, especially in his left hind.

Chiropractor is out the 18th, masseuse either the 11th or 12th. If there’s no improvement with the addition of CortaFlex and these med appointments, it’ll be a lameness workup.

More when I get home and have some time to reorient my brain and stop it from jumping to the worst case scenario. Hah!