Endings Mean New Beginnings

I don’t have eloquent words for this. I apologize in advance.

After much thought and a lot of alcohol (I don’t handle these things as well as I probably should), I have made the decision to let my sweet, funny, smart and willing little black horse go before he gets stuck in a body that doesn’t respond the way he wants it to.

I did not make this decision lightly. I am not making it because I feel I have no other options. I am making this decision because it is the most logical one for all involved parties. Image has neurological disabilities — ones that have presented themselves in very small ways that now make sense — that are dangerous to himself, his herd mates, and the people that handle him on a regular basis. I don’t want anyone else getting hurt, and I especially don’t want him injuring himself in any way.

My heart aches. The temperamental, reactive side of me is pitching a fit over just how unfair life can be. I am angry at the fact that we won’t get to explore a future together, one that was shaping up to be very promising and full of fun adventures for both of us. I’m even more angry that this has happened to such a wonderful critter, who has just had the shittiest hand dealt to him far too much in his short life. It seems like he was just figuring out that people were okay again, between myself and B being people he could trust…and now this? It’s just. not. fair.

However, the logical, rational (er, mostly rational) side of me knows this is the kindest thing I can do. The past six months have been amazing. I’ve learned a great deal about myself and about horses in a very short period of time. Our story will be short, but it is rich with love and adventure. I don’t regret a single second spent with him, or taking a the plunge into horse ownership.

Neither of our separate stories are ending here, either. I don’t have a specific set of spiritual/religious beliefs, but I’m pretty sure all that energy has to go somewhere. So, Image will go and romp, pain and worry free, with GP over the Rainbow Bridge. Hopefully he’ll get to say hello to my mother, father, and grandparents as well. As for mine? I think both Image and GP would come down a give me a double barrel kick if I didn’t pursue another horse. Not right away, unless something falls into my lap…but being critterless all around just doesn’t work for me. I have to believe that with every ending, there’s a new beginning waiting to be discovered.

So. That’s that, I suppose. The tentative date as of right now is July 26th. I’ll spend the next month spoiling him, snuggling him, having a session in front of the camera with him, and making sure he knows he’s adored.

I don’t know what’s going to happen next. I’m not up to thinking about that. I’m just going to enjoy things in the moment and love this silly black horse with everything I’ve got.

Lameness Workup…Except, Not

Yeah.

Today was Not Fun. At all.

I got to work today a quiet mess. My worst fear when I left the office today to head to the barn? “What if he doesn’t find anything and we’re back at square one?”

I take that back. I take it all back.

Chad McGee and his wife Lauren (both vets, and both super cool) showed up on time and ready to get down to business. They are a very capable team who work in tandem with one another. If one was working with Image, the other would be explaining things to me. I thoroughly appreciated having someone to ask questions to while the other was performing the test.

They took a short background on him, and then wanted to see him move. As we were walking towards the the dirt road, Chad, who had been assessing Image’s hind end in the barn, warned me that he was going to walk behind us and pull Image’s tail. I was facing forward, so didn’t get to see much of it…only Image’s very concerned face as Chad pulled to the right. Chad switched sides, and I heard Lauren’s sharp “be careful!” as Image almost toppled over. That was the first indication that they had something other than general lameness on their mind.

Once we got to the dirt road (flattest and in the shade…holy hot, Batman!) and I jogged (er, huffed and puffed, rather) back and forth. Chad flexed both Image’s hind legs, and the conclusion was that he is definitely lame on his right hind. Okay. Interesting. However, Chad had started rearranging Image’s hind legs. I looked to Lauren, who explained that when his hind legs are crossed (literally, his right hind was pulled in front of and across his left hind), he should be going “wtf” and righting himself.

He didn’t. He stood like that, legs crossed in an awkward, uncomfortable looking position, for quite some time. I kept willing him to uncross his legs. He only did because he wanted to shift more towards me…not because he was uncomfortable. Chad repeated the process on the other side, crossing his left over his right…same result. I was not liking where this was going. I looked at Lauren, who quickly explained that a neurotypical horse would have righted himself immediately because they could feel something was out of whack. If they stand like that, it’s likely they’re unable to feel where their legs are. Well, shit.

Chad took Image from me, and began turning him in tight circles. He was off balance and swung whatever hind leg was on the outside, in a wide arc that was not typical movement. Chad then walked Image with his head up, so Image couldn’t compensate for the lack of feeling in his legs with his eyes…he was a stumbling, unbalanced mess, his legs striking out stiffly and hooves hitting the ground harshly. I had to bite back tears.

We headed back towards the barn, and I hooked Image back up on the crossties. By that point, both Chad and Lauren were more concerned about the neurological side of things. As we were talking, Chad was up near Image’s face. He began poking and prodding around his nostrils, and asked me if I had noticed any decreased sensation in that area. I honestly couldn’t be sure…I’ve only had him for six months, and he’s never minded his head being fussed with.

Chad brought out pinchy-thingees (okay, they’re called hemostats, but pinchy-thingee is just so much more fun to say!) and began testing his reaction around his muzzle area. Chad was NOT being gentle, and Image wasn’t even flinching. Hell, there were marks on my horse’s nose, so it’s not like Chad was pussyfooting around. Chad tested all over his face and head and down his neck…and finally got an appropriate reaction behind Image’s shoulder.

By this point, I had already decided to pull an EPM test, which was the vet’s suggestion. Neither of them really wanted to go into other possible diagnoses, as there could be hundreds. EPM is possible, but neither of them wanted to say for certain without a concrete diagnosis in front of them. I understand that completely and I appreciate them not bullshitting me.

I was watching Chad test Image’s reaction on his off side, when I noticed his tongue was sticking out a bit. I pointed it out, and Chad took the opportunity to pull it out of his mouth. Image didn’t fight, and Chad was able to see that there were small, involuntary muscle spasms going on in his tongue. Talk about effin’ weird to look at! If that wasn’t disturbing, watching Image fight with himself to get his tongue back in his mouth, was. He did this on both sides and it took him about 30 seconds to get his tongue back into his mouth.

Both vets agreed that something neurological was going on, and that needed to be addressed before anything else. Chad took some blood for the test and they gave me a bit of bute to see if it helps anything. I have to pick a probiotic up from work to make sure the bute doesn’t cause any further issues.

I skipped out on the rest of work (bless my supervisor, she is a sweetheart and “gets” it) and hung out at the barn the rest of the day. I made some calls and talked with some people (including D and the chiropractor, who is still coming on Wednesday…more on that in a minute). Posted on Facebook and got an outpouring of support.

If it is EPM, there is still a chance he will not be neurologically capable of handling a rider. However, that doesn’t mean I’m not going to try. I will treat him and hope that, against all odds, we’ll make it out the other side, and I can try and fix his hind leg soundness issues. If I treat it and he is still neurologically unsound, I will make a decision then. If the vet thinks his neurological state will stay stable, I will see if B will take him back. If, for whatever reason, she can’t (and I say “can’t” and not “won’t”, because I don’t think that B would turn him away unless she had no choice), or the vet says that his neurological condition can still worsen, I will put him down.

If it isn’t EPM…well, I’m up a creek without a paddle. I will be back to square one, and tests from here on out are going to be invasive and expensive. I won’t do that to him, and honestly, I can’t afford it. I love him more than life itself at this point, but if he is neurologically unsound without a curable reason, he is just going to worsen. I’ve born witness to horses that are neurologically unsound, and it is dangerous and scary. Someone will get hurt — be it Image, myself, or someone else handling him — and I won’t have that. His body functions will deteriorate, but his mind won’t…he will be scared, in pain, and unable to control his body. I won’t have that. He could go back to B’s, but I’m not sure I could be comfortable knowing that his condition could deteriorate rapidly, to the point where he injures B, her husband, or himself. It’s likely that I will give him a week or so of total spoiling (and, hopefully, a session with a photographer friend so I have pictures of the two of us), and put him down while he is still relatively pain free and happy.

Could it potentially be something else? Maybe. Could that something else be fixable? Maybe. However, after what I saw today…? Even without having much experience with vet issues…what I saw today was Bad News. I was scared a few times that my horse was going to hit the ground. I don’t know that I’ll ever be comfortable getting on his back, and that’s something I need to seriously think about right now.

This could very well all change if something different crops up in the next few days. The chiro, Anna, is still coming on Wednesday. I called her this afternoon to let her know, and she, with a bit of surprise in her voice, said that she had just finished a four day seminar on neurological chiropractic work. Intrigued by the potential diagnosis, she offered to come take a look at him and see if she could help in any way. So, she will be coming on Wednesday afternoon to talk and explain to me what she’s learned, and go from there.

So. That’s the update. Holding steady for now to see what happens next. I hate, hate, hate to say this, but I am not feeling good about any of this. It’s going to boil down to what’s best for the horse in the long run — even if it’s heartbreaking for me. He deserves only the best, and sometimes the best is not any fun at all.

I’m going to go finish my drink and curl up in bed. Tomorrow is another day.

Liebster Award!

I was not expecting to be awarded this, as my follower base is teeny tiny! Big thanks to Hannah at The Longest Format for thinking of me!

HOW TO ACCEPT THE AWARD: The Liebster Blog Award is a way to recognize blogs who have less than 200 followers.  Liebster is a German word that means beloved and valued.  Here are the rules for accepting the award:
    Thank the person who nominated you and include a link back to their blog.
    List 11 random facts about yourself.
    Answer the 11 questions given to you.
    Create 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate.
    Choose 11 bloggers with 200 or fewer followers to nominate and include links to their blogs.
    Go to each blogger’s page and let them know you have nominated them.
RANDOM FACTS:
1) I have a mild case of tryptophobia…also known as the fear of clusters of holes. It’s ridiculous, but even typing out the description is making my heart rate go up.
2) I don’t like condiments. Mayo, ketchup, relish, mustard…ew. No thanks. I eat my fries plain and really would prefer my burgers without anything but cheese. Ranch dressing, however, is good on almost everything!
3) I identify as pansexual — basically, I like people, not what’s in their pants. I tend to lean more towards women than men, but that’s because I get along better with women. Also, boobies. Cannot go wrong with boobies.
4) If I won the lottery, I think I’d still work at Dover. Just for funsies.
5) I really hate repetitive noises. Like, I have to resist going into a homicidal rage over someone chewing too loudly. 
6) I LOVE to sing. Love. I am always singing in the car. I will sing in stores if I know the song. But I am Terrible, capital T. I probably shouldn’t sing in public…but, um, oh well.
7) I’ve owned 5 cars since I bought my first one in 2009. I haven’t owned one longer than 2 years, though I’m praying my current car goes longer than that. My favorite was my little Ford Ranger. I miss that truck!
8) I won a scholarship in high school from the Greater Boston PFLAG for an essay I wrote. I got to go to big fancy party in Boston and everything. I have a giant cardboard check floating around somewhere, too.
9) My horsey bucket list includes running a reining freestyle, galloping down the beach, riding a cutting horse, riding a Friesian, overcoming my intense fear of jumping, raising a foal, and riding in Ireland…just to name a few.
10) I have a low tolerance level for people who lack common sense. I also have a low tolerance level for people who can’t at least attempt to figure something out for themselves. That probably makes me a bad person, but oh well.
11) I’m spooky. Inexplicably, over the top spooky. Loud noises do me in, usually, but if someone comes around a corner and I don’t expect it, that can cause a pretty major spook. Sometimes it doesn’t even have to be loud. My spooks can be anything from a slight shudder to shying sideways. I joke that it’s because I’ve spent too much time around horses, but the various psychiatric professionals in my life claim it’s an effect of PTSD that I’ll probably never get rid of. Awesome.
11 QUESTIONS FOR ME:
1) Why did you choose your current horse sport or discipline?
It was actually my lovely aunt D who got me into gaited horses, many years ago. After she lost her warmblood gelding, she switched to a Rocky Mountain horse. I was intrigued (and a little jealous!) as I watched her glide down the trails in front of me. I started reading up on the various gaited breeds and was even more interested. It wasn’t until a kind person at an organized trail ride let me hop on her Paso Fino that I knew I was in trouble. So, I knew that my first personal horse was going to be gaited…
and Image has a beautiful little rack 🙂 I love to dabble in other disciplines, but my heart is on the trails. I don’t think I really chose my discipline — pretty sure it chose me!
2) What is your horse-related Big Goal, if any?
Ride my horse without him bucking. Seriously. That’s all I want right now. Because if we’re even able to get to that point by the end of the summer, I’ll consider our first year together a huge success.
But, after all is said and done, I want a forward but sane trail horse who wants to go out and play…and isn’t worrying about when the proverbial other shoe is going to fall!
3) Pick a horse-related thing about which you have changed your mind.  Why?
Horse slaughter. I was your typical “omg no save the pretty ponies!” type person for a very long time. Then, as I thought about it…if I was getting so upset over horse slaughter, shouldn’t I be getting upset over cow, pig and chicken slaughter as well? Logic tells me that despite the fact that most of us view our horses as companion animals and partners…they’re still livestock. Many people enjoy horse. So, good for them. I’m not going to ship my critter off to the slaughterhouse, but with such a huge overpopulation problem (because of bad breeders and bad owners), they have to go somewhere. I wish it were a more humane end, but at least they’re not suffering, and they’re contributing in some way. Circle of life. I understand why people get so upset over horse slaughter, but logically, it makes sense to have it, provided it can be properly regulated and the horses humanely slaughtered.
4) Favorite apocalypse?
Tough one. Zombies, I think…if you’ve got some common sense and adaptability, that can be survived.
5) Horses and riding as social outlet: pro, con, or it’s complicated?
It’s complicated. I love having horse friends, don’t get me wrong. I spend all day with horse women at my job. But, horse people (and horse women, in particular) are kind of insane. We’re all pushy, opinionated, somewhat controlling and most of us are carrying some kind of emotional baggage. Too much of that together can mean bad things. 
6) What’s the oldest piece of tack you own?
Errr…probably my saddle. I believe it’s a 2004 model Bob Marshall Sports Saddle. I adore it, as it was gifted to me (that is a whole separate post I need to make). It doesn’t fit Image, but I’m keeping it because of the emotional value it holds in my life.
7) Is the glass half-empty or half-full, with what?
Half full of Mike’s Winter Blackberry. Yummmmmm.
8) Time to colonize some other planet!  It’s a one-way trip.  Do you go?
No…but only because there is no mention of whether or not horses would be able to go. Need my pony fix! I’m still not sure I’d go even if I could bring the critter. Too many variables for things to go catastrophically wrong.
9) What’s the best horse-related time- and/or labor-saving trick you know?
I’m not sure I really have one…just being efficient and multitasking seems to do the trick. 
10) Recommend me a poem.
I don’t read poetry (bad English major, bad!) so I will recommend a song instead: Once Upon Another Time, Sara Bareilles.
11) What’s on your keychain?
Just a cute horse head carabiner clip that we got from Purina after their vendor demo last week at work.
11 QUESTIONS FOR YOU:
1) Why did you start blogging?
2) If you could be anyone for a day, who would you be?
3) You have just won the lottery. What is the absolute first thing you do once you find out?
4) How old were you when you saw your first horse?
5) What is your biggest horse related fear?
6) Do you participate in sports outside of the horse world?
7) What song would be played first on the soundtrack for your life?
8) Do you consider yourself a lucky person?
9) What is one thing you’d change about your current horse?
10) What kind of car do you drive? What kind of car do you WISH you drove?
11) Who is your go-to person when you need horse related advice?
11 BLOGS TAGGED:
I don’t know that I actually follow 11 blogs, so I’m just going to go with the ones that I’m not sure I’ve seen tagged:
and honestly, anyone else who wants to!

Oof

Yeah. That’s kind of how I’m feeling right now. Just…”oof”. Lots of things going on, lots of things to think about!

So, with the lameness workup looming in our immediate future, I’ve decided to work Image as if he was not lame in any way, shape or form. I’ve taken him off the CortaFlx for now so when Dr. McGee comes on Monday, we’ve got the full effect of whatever the hell is going on back there.

So, with my plan firmly in place, I was all set and ready to go to the barn and ground drive him on Monday afternoon. I left work and it was sprinkling a little. Oh well, no big deal. It’s warm enough out where it wasn’t going to bother me.

…except, when I got to the barn, we were in the throes of a full fledged thunder storm.

Eff.

I darted into the barn, drenched from the 30 second sprint across the grounds. Image was smart and was stashed away in one of the sheds, and all I could see was his tail. I took a minute to chat with L, before booking it out to the paddock. With all the rain we’ve gotten, the middle paddock was mud soup. I sunk nearly to the top of my muck boots. Squishing and sloshing across the mud was super fun. Image peered at me skeptically from underneath the shed: “You’re sadly mistaken if you think I’m coming out of here.”

Well, cookies and snuggles overrode his desire to be dry. We jogged back into the barn, where I stared forlornly at the ring. No ground driving for us, I guess.

Instead, I threw his bridle on with the Herm Sprenger d ring, which he seems to prefer over the thinner Myler d ring. I really wanted to work on his reaction to the bit — he really, really is not thrilled with anyone being “in” his mouth, so to speak. So, I spent about thirty minutes flexing him back and forth in the bridle. He learned VERY quickly that if I pick up a rein and he softens his face, there’s no more pressure! Ta-da! Now, I’ve been flexing him side to side in the halter and bridle for quite some time, but now it was working on finessing the response.

From there, I started asking, from the ground, for him to drop his nose when he has equal pressure on both reins. This was a little tougher for him. His immediately response when there’s any sort of pressure on his mouth, is to throw his head up. If throwing his head up doesn’t immediately resolve this issue, he will sometimes pop up in front. Yeah, that ain’t gonna fly. So, I figured fixing this response on the ground first was the way to go.

It didn’t take him long to figure it out. With gentle pressure on both reins, he was beginning to soften his jaw, drop his nose, and flex at the poll. Good, good critter! I ended it on a good note and shared half a bag of baby carrots with him. He loves his horse cookies, but he begs so hard for the baby carrots that he practically turns himself inside out. The only other thing he begs that hard for is my Nature’s Valley crunchy granola bars! Mooch!!

Handsome critter! 

Yesterday I made a last minute decision to hike down to the river with him. L and fellow boarder R made the last minute decision to come with. We were a very interesting group…R on her quarter horse, Foxy, me walking Image, and Lwith her pointer/cattle dog cross running about between all of us…and Annie the goat. Yup, Annie the goat came with us! It was a good half hour hike down to the river, and it was mostly uneventful. L and R went off up ahead…L likes to jog and R and Foxy were toodling along at a nice trot. Image and I were a bit behind…sorry, buddy, but your mother is a liiiittttllee out of shape!

R and Foxy, L and Annie, and Angel in front of L!

When we got to the river, he didn’t hesitate to plunge into the water. The river had a slightly stronger current than the last time I was there, but nothing that was unsafe. Image playfully splashed in the water, blowing bubbles and pawing hard enough to send cascades of water over my head. L and Annie the goat splashed around on the bank, and R and Foxy went to the deep end to play.

It was shortly after this that the combined commotion from the various parties got the little black horse a little more revved up than I’ve seen him on the ground. He stood at attention and danced excitedly in the water.  When we went to shuffle out of the water, he tried to barrel past me. I moved to get out of his way (and preparing to reprimand the crap out of him for even THINKING that this sort of thing was okay), and, ungracefully, slid in the mud. Shit.

I went down practically underneath him, and my honest but goofy critter threw his legs in odd directions to avoid stepping on me as he bounced up the bank. I sat on the ground and he stood, legs splayed and not moving a muscle. I carefully handed L the lead line before struggling upright.

Needless to say, we had words. He was high as a kite and spent a few minutes doing very impressive flying pace circles around me. Once he asked to stop, I pushed him forward a little more, and then allowed him to stop. This continued for about five minutes. L and R were getting eaten alive, so I waved them off while I dealt with my overexcited, thousand pound critter.

Oddly enough, the second the rest of the crew was out of eyesight…he snorted a blustery sigh, dropped his head into my chest for a moment, and then began searching the ground for tasty things to eat. The crazy look in his eye disappeared and he was back to his usual, level headed self. Goofball. I usually do these treks alone, so in hindsight, it doesn’t really shock me that he was practically levitating, with the added noise and commotion. Just add that to the list of things to work on, because group trail riding is hopefully in our future!

We waded back into the water so I could try and get the rest of the mud off of me. He was a perfect gentleman, including standing stock still when I told him to “whoa” so I could get out of the water first.

Our walk back was entirely uneventful, with him walking energetically by my side. The mosquitos were vicious, and I’m sporting the proof of that today. Must. Not. Itch!!

Today was a break for all parties (I am so happy to be sitting on the couch at 8 PM and not driving home from the other side of the state!). Tomorrow I will be headed back to NH to house sit, and only mere minutes from the critter. Hopefully, I will be able to trailer Image off site and work with him in a real round pen…and stuff him in my friend’s front paddock in the late afternoon so I can get some fabulous, end of the day light pictures in a very pretty, grass filled front pasture.

Then, Monday is our lameness workup. I am scared and excited, all at the same time. I am hoping, praying, and begging for the best outcome possible…hell, I even made a leap of faith and purchase as lower end but function Australian saddle for the two of us to try out with the idea that we will be working on his under saddle issues in the next month. I’m hoping optimism works in my favor.

We shall see!

Lameness Workup

Lots to say and update on, but my life is ca-raaaazy right now, with house sitting and work and other various things. One thing I did want to put down is to let it be known that on Monday the 24th at noon, Dr. Chad McGee of McGee Equine will be headed over to eval Image.

So.

Here we go! I will have more to say this weekend when I’m settled in at my next house sitting location and have a minute to breathe!

In the meantime, here’s a cute video:

Friday Fun

I’m a mean pony mama.

I do things like confuse my horse entirely by plunking a mounting block behind my (very patient, very tolerant, very kind) horse to take pictures of his back for a saddle fitter…and then hugging his bum ’cause every inch of him is huggable! This was the look I got:

“What the actual hell are you doing?!”

Then today, after begging off of work early, I scraped the mud off him that he so kindly caked on himself after yesterday’s monsoon, and then did this:

I shouldn’t ever be allowed within 50 feet of a bottle of Twinkle Glitter.
Tomorrow, provided the stars align correctly, my friend L is going to come pick us up and drive us a whole five miles to her farm. I’m curious to see if he moves better in a larger round pen with decent footing. Since he last chiropractic appointment, I’ve noticed his stride has improved greatly. I haven’t pushed him much as we don’t have a fence arena or a round pen big enough for him to be comfortable in right now, so tomorrow will be interesting.

I may also re-glitter him and take more pictures.

Mwahahaha!