Horses.

To put it plainly, things are not going how I expected when Nibbles got home. But that’s horses, isn’t it?

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our thoughts on how things are turning out

Nibbles has developed an upper respiratory infection that didn’t go away and required veterinary intervention. She has yet to develop a fever but she’s on antibiotics and banamine. She also got a shot of something which the name of escape me but it is supposed to boost her immune system. She was supposed to have 72 hours off from any work at all which she had. The runny nose and deep cough are improved but not gone. Anything more than a walk causes her to cough quite hard. So what I was hoping would be quick has now been lingering for more than a week. Horses.

The post-injury repercussions are ongoing. In fact, I’ve begun to accept that this is in fact a chronic hip issue and we will at least be dealing with it for months if not years to come. We are into the 6th week since the injury occurred, two chiropractic visits and two massage sessions. She’s been lunged maybe four times just to see where we are at. The second massage session happened Monday while I was at work and, while I have the write up, I am talking to the therapist this evening on the phone. The gist of things was, well, she’s not worse. In some areas, there is less soreness but only marginally. She also reported that she needs to be adjusted by the chiropractor again for her right hip. This would be the third adjustment in 6 weeks which to me is telling us something – that she cannot hold the adjustment. At the walk and trot, she is sound. She cannot physically canter to the right. She will crossfire behind for a few strides then nearly fall. Horses.

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might you have a cookie over there?

I’m not getting back on her yet. If she cannot walk, trot and canter on the lunge I do not think it is prudent to be riding her. Sure, I could probably get on and walk around but in my mind, my time is better spent doing intentional rehab from the ground. Massage will help. Things like backing up, cat stretches (where they tuck their pelvis), and ground poles (eventually cavaletti) will help. I don’t know when the chiropractor will help again (ie. she can retain the adjustment) and I do not have the $$$$ to throw at diagnosing exactly what has happened (ie. extensive diagnostics in the clinic that will likely be inconclusive according to my vet).

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freshly washed and banged tail because we really can’t do much else

I will continue to massage and rehab which I have been doing for three weeks now. Ultimately, I don’t know what the future will hold or what timetable we are looking at. This may be a case of let her be a pasture puff for a while then reevaluate.

I’m sad. I’ve fluctuated between angry and disappointed. We are investigating small claims court as the vet bills have continued to mount but it may not be worth the time/effort. She was not insured before the accident. I’m slowly accepting the new reality that I don’t have a horse to ride/train for now. Hopefully time will heal all wounds. On the positive side, we love the new barn and not riding means I don’t need a new saddle immediately… Horses.

New Digs

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Posing in the new indoor

Nibbles was moved to the new barn on Saturday, March 19. The new BO and her family came to pick us up. Nibbles marched right on the trailer and we left without a backward glance. She settled in almost immediately. This is a small, fairly private farm with a handful of boarders who found the place like me through word of mouth. They don’t advertise and they offer a very high level of care. I quite seriously asked this BO if she was crazy before making the decision. We talked at length about her expectations and mine and I feel very good moving forward into this new arrangement. I also went to look at two other places but decided this one best suited our needs. Bonus: it’s only 20 minutes from our house as opposed to the 35 minutes of the old, crazy barn.

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Love her Christmas present halter

We have one week left of no riding before we will test the waters. I lunged her for 20-25 minutes on Saturday and she looked super. She was a little sore for the mini massage I gave her but really enjoyed her stretches. I don’t have a saddle that fits so we’ll see how this goes. I have my eye on a few that I’d like to take on trial but saddles aren’t cheap and I have a small stack of vet bills lately. I know everything will work out in time. For now, I am so happy and feel like I can exhale at the new barn. The first night, the new BO sent me several photos of Nibbles in her new stall (she is going from being out 24/7 to having a stall with private turnout). The next morning, I got a video of her eating breakfast and snuggling the BO. Talk about a stark contrast between BO’s already.

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The new barn checks a lot of boxes:

  • Relatively close and in my budget (although my husband agreed that we would pay for the most expensive barn in town if the care matched the price tag)
  • Indoor and outdoor arena with good footing
  • Climate controlled, lockable tack room
  • Excellent hay and willing to feed whatever I want (bonus: they already feed what I feed)
  • Flexible turnout (they offered to let Nibbles have private turnout until the vet clears her, no extra charge)
  • Willing to trailer us around (not that I can afford any shows this year after all these vet bills) – bonus: they’re heavily involved with our local GMO which means I’d just be hitching a ride with them
  • Excellent references – I checked them out with the local community, online, and our massage therapist is the one who sent me their way in the first place
  • Nice indoor area to groom/tack up plus a lounge for the husband to watch (aka work while I ride)
  • Reasonable rules and expectations, willing to hold for vet/farrier at no cost, BO is great with texting and was super open and nice from the moment we were introduced

It does lack a few things:

  • No indoor wash stall. They are finishing two outdoor wash stalls that are very nice with the overhead hose guy and hot water. Crazy barn had no wash stalls and no hot water period.
  • Limited turnout space. They are clearing 10 more acres but for now it’s 8 horses on 6ish acres so turnout is rotated.
  • No immediate access to trails. Not a massive deal but the crazy farm was surrounded by a ton of farm land we were supposedly allowed to ride on.

The “missing” list is short and nothing was a deal breaker. I am paying more now but I think I am gaining so much more than the increase in price reflects.

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Main area of the barn, grooming stalls on the left

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Barn is connected to the indoor; small but plenty big for dressage

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Heated lounge that doubles as a tack room; you can’t see the kitchenette or bathroom from this angle

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Large outdoor arena. Fencing currently being finished but footing is well established.

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Ready for a fresh start!

Special Breed of Crazy

I’m moving barns.

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This is all the new media I have. Rehab is boring for everyone

That’s the short version. The long version is that the BO lied to me about Nibbles having another incident in the pasture and came to me only to tell me because her conscience wouldn’t let her keep it to herself anymore. Mind you she didn’t lie just by omission – I specifically asked her if anything else happened. She told me no and went so far as to have two staff members tell me no as well in a group message. This led to a conversation at the barn which she sat down and had in front of other boarders in which she told me I thought I was perfect, that I was a critical person, that my horse wasn’t desensitized enough, and that if I was a “bold rider” I wouldn’t even notice things like dirt bikes. She also defended why she doesn’t supervise her children at the barn (five of them, ages 2 – 9) and why she not only wouldn’t prevent them from riding them in the pasture in the future but why she would be letting them do it without supervision. She went so far as to bring religion into it (a special level of crazy), to try to use reverse psychology (“What, so now I can’t use my tractor on the farm if it scares your horse?”), to guilt me for not knowing enough about kids (lolz), to tell me that we couldn’t prove that the fall is actually what injured the horse, and that she’s had issues like this in the past and sometimes people just aren’t a good fit for her style of boarding.

No kidding.

I went into my conversation with her looking for resolution and to move forward with mutual respect and honesty. I left the conversation completely shellshocked at her lack of professionalism. She truly believes what she is doing is right and acceptable and that she is doing what her conscience is telling her to. She also believes this is her home first and her business second and she obviously treats it that way. I’m very proud of myself for never losing my temper or stooping to her level of name calling, guilting, and theatrics. I stayed very calm and logical and when it became clear that I could not continue to pay her for a service she wouldn’t provide, it was time to leave.

The good news is that I have a new barn lined up. Sometimes when a window closes, a door opens. Can’t wait to share more with you guys, just finishing a couple things first!

 

Massage Therapy + Video

These two videos were taken on March 7 before the second chiropractic adjustment (and before the first massage appointment). It was specifically taken to show the massage therapist and other professionals which is why I keep her going for a bit even though she’s uncomfortable. She was not on any pain meds; we quit the bute after 3-4 days and I’m holding off on daily banamine unless we regress again. She’s not head bobbing lame but she’s definitely extremely tight and short and NQR. In particular, I notice how she uses herself in transitions and how she is carrying her tail.

The massage therapist was able to come out a lot sooner than I could have hoped – the day after I posted my plan. It turns out she had another appointment nearby and was able to add us to her schedule that evening. She started by asking questions and hearing what had happened in as much detail as possible. She took notes and then asked to see Nibbles moving away from and towards her at the walk and trot. She made some more notes and then had me put her on the lunge for a few minutes. She had almost zero movement in her lumbar and her hips were very tight and restricted. She was especially reserved with using her left hind.

After her visual assessment and talking about what she thought she saw, she began the bodywork at Nibbles’ head/neck. Except for the base of her neck, the left side was in remarkably good shape. The right side had some tension midneck. Both sides were tight at the base and she showed me an easy massage that I can do regularly to help with this area.

Her withers were sore and especially tight on the left side. She felt like she was able to achieve a good release here and continue through her topline which basically had tension throughout. Her assessment was similar to mine – the saddle doesn’t fit and it caused discomfort but the reality is that that is not the reason she is in this mess. It is definitely from the traumatic fall in her pasture. She also said what I knew:  getting a new saddle will help us moving forward and she will certainly appear “better” in a properly fitting saddle but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t address the soreness and tension. In fact, just putting a new saddle on without getting to the root of the problem would only potentially create longterm damage. She said I was having her out at exactly the right time as far as how long ago the accident occurred and when the vet/chiro had seen her.

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Diagram from the ESMT illustrating what I’ve (hopefully accurately) described

As she worked across her back, it became clear that her left side was more affected. It’s not a stretch of the imagination to think she fell on her left side. Her left gluteus medius and bicep were very tight, beginning at the origin and extending all the way to the insertion (this basically means the entire thing was strained). She didn’t find any tears. The hamstring was very tight on the left, much less so on the right. She also suspects mild hock involvement on the left side but we won’t be able to really tell until she is less ouchy from everything else going on.

The right side had its fair share of tightness and issues. She is very tight in her back on the right with some wither soreness, although the latter is less sore than the left side. In particular, the right side of the sacrum was extremely tight which continued throughout the hindquarter. Recall this was the side her hip was initially out on before the first chiro adjustment. She didn’t suspect any hock or stifle involvement on this side also there was mild medial glute tension (I can’t remember the exact details on this one so I’m writing what she said in her notes). The hamstring on this side was much better but whatever homework I do on one side I must do on the other.

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The more tame rightside

Thank goodness she wrote everything down for me because boy was she thorough. She narrated the entire time and let me get hands on to feel what she was feeling and learn how to help in between her professional bodywork sessions. She said that  I am not going to do any harm by doing massages and approved stretches. I may not do as much “good” as she will do but it can’t hurt and will more than likely reduce the number of times she needs the whole enchilada.

I am to be stretching front legs and back legs forwards and backwards as well as with very minor, specific rotations. We are to continue doing our “tummy tuck” and “butt tuck” stretches plus “carrot stretches” left and right. She thought she looked quite improved from the video I had sent her. She commented that she thought she would be much, much worse based on the video. The rest and the stretching we have been doing is helping. She was also clear that this isn’t going to be something that disappears next week or even next month. Depending on her recovery and what “uncovers” itself as she starts to feel better, we could experience the consequences of her fall for many months to come.

She strongly advised that Nibbles have another three weeks off. Why such a specific number? Because she suspects Nibbles has some bone bruising, particularly on that left side. She advises at least six weeks off for bone bruises to heal and we are already three weeks in.

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Nibbles saying “oofda, that’s sore” to the ESMT

She left me with a lot of homework which honestly feels great because I feel like I can do something. I’ve felt sort of helpless until now. I understand better what the problem actually is and while there isn’t a do X and she’ll be magically better, I know what to do to contribute to her rehab. She wants to see her in another week or two week. If I am diligent in doing the massage and stretches every day, we should really be able to tell next time.

I went to the barn the next day and Nibbles was moving so much more easily. I’m not sure how else to describe it except that her stride was longer, her eye was softer and she was walking with her head at a nice, normal level instead of cranked in the air like it has been since the fall. As soon as I started the massage, Nibbles really relaxed and stretched and did all the nice things that let me know something was working (ie. passing lots of gas haha!). I repeated the same thing the next day (which was yesterday) and added in a little time on the lunge. She isn’t 100% but there was definite improvement. She was trying to stretch her neck down and the counterbend was dramatically improved. I lunged her W/T with a circle of canter each direction for about 15-20 minutes – just enough to warm her muscles up so I could work on them again.

For comparison, here is video taken yesterday after both the second chiropractic adjustment and the first massage appointment. Again, no pain meds. I think you can see the biggest different tracking right but both are better. Not where she was by a long shot but it is a start.

While all this has been happening, I’ve been having some tough conversations with the barn owner. I waited until I wasn’t angry anymore and could approach this in a logical manner. In light of the fact that this accident was completely avoidable, I wanted to address how we could make sure it was not going to happen again. What’s more, the vet was pretty adamant that he thought something had happened since the dirtbike incident. When I asked the barn owner, she told me that nothing had happened. It turns out that is not true and when I found out, I confronted the barn owner. But that’s another post…

Creating Solutions

Thank you to everyone for their words of encouragement on my last post. I definitely needed to get it out and then be kicked in the pants. Nibbles hasn’t improved yet but my attitude has.

The vet came again on Tuesday (March 8). My sister met him because I couldn’t miss more work. When she pulled her from the pasture, Nibbles was still not her normal self. She normally is very happy and snuggly and laid back. She has been and was up/tense. They waited their turn in the cross ties.

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My sister got me started with Snapchat this week…

First, he checked her head and neck. Again no issues there until he got to her withers where she was still sore and tight. He made some adjustments near the T18 again and again commented that she still very sore there. Her hips were both out this time which is incredible to me. He adjusted her at L5 and my sister said there was a loud pop this time and she immediately was dramatically happier (blinking, head down, licking, relaxing). He did the tail pulls again and also did more acupuncture. And then he said he wanted to see her again next week.

Next week? A horse who isn’t being ridden need three chiropractic adjustments in four weeks? That’s… not right to say the least. I haven’t made another appointment yet because I’m not convinced that many adjustments that close together is really what’s best for her health.

I had my sister ask him what he thinks is going on and basically he said he doesn’t know. He says he thinks she either fell again or this is chronic. I asked the barn owner and the two barn hands and they all say they haven’t seen Nibbles fall or do anything out of the ordinary. She doesn’t even run around. I also have a hard time believing my not-yet-8 year old horse who has only been ridden for 10 months magically has chronic hip issues.

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The type of snaps I get from my sister

Here’s what I think: falling in the mud from the dirtbike incident really did a number on her back and hips and she’s been so tight since then she’s not keeping herself aligned. Combined with a saddle that doesn’t fit, we have one sore lady. Of course, that’s not the scientific explanation but I’ve been doing a lot of research and I want to test my theory before shelling out more money for a treatment that appears to be very temporary by a practitioner who isn’t doing much in the way of working on solutions…aside from wanting to do the same thing again.

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Part of the research

So I am putting together what is probably best described as a physical therapy plan for Nibbles (post coming later). It’s clear to me we need to slow down and reassess what’s going on in her back and hips. Which means, for at least a couple weeks, I won’t be riding her. I’m disappointed because I had one week with my horse before the accident but I will always try to do what is best for her.

I am waiting to hear back from the massage therapist about what she thinks about the videos and then I’d like to have her out in a couple weeks to start helping me rehab Nibbles. If she needs more chiropractic work thereafter, so be it. I’m not ruling anything out and I’ll be running all my theories by health care professionals.

Frustration

I wrote this post, walked away, and wanted to delete it. However, I want my blog to be honest and real, not some Mary Sue version of my journey. This one in particular is barely coherent in some places and wildly mellow dramatic in most places. But hey, honesty means hitting publish. Thanks for following along ♥


 

And just like that it’s March. How do I feel about March one week in?

Arggghhhhh!!!!

 

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My sister and I have been watching a lot of Supernatural on Netflix during her visit

My last post about Nibbles was that she was sound and we were waiting on the vet to come out and check her and chiro her. That check happened on Monday, February 29. The vet declared Nibbles sound on trot out without further flexing or examination. But.

The chiro exam was not a little of this, a little of that – badabing – she’s ready to go. He checked her poll and neck, both apparently in excellent shape. The massage therapist who worked on Nibbles back in September said she thought she was out at her C5 but I didn’t mention this until afterwards and he said she wasn’t (he neck flexibility was too good for her to be out). When he got to her withers, things fell apart. Ok, that’s dramatic. Things didn’t fall apart but it wasn’t a good report. I need to get a written report from the vet still because he had his assistant make notes of the exact vertebrae but the gist was:

  • She was very sore at her withers
  • She was sore around and before the T18
  • She was very out in her right SI

Starting with the last one and, in my opinion, the least frightening. Lots of horses are out in the SI but his comments was she’s really out. He made some adjustments and you could see the visible relief on her face, she immediately reacted positively. He thought she could have done that in the slip/fall in the mud incident but of course there’s no way to say for sure. I’ve worked with several chiros over the years; this vet is the first for me in this area since we’ve moved. I had a hunch she was out because I knew she was sore (some simple tests for that).

But her withers and her back. Anyone else hear withers and around T18 and immediately go, “Oh God, the saddle….”?

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I knew the saddle was never a perfect fit for her. I’ve been trying to get it looked at for over a year now and I’ve had three saddle fitters tell me they won’t reflock it. One told me she wasn’t sure how because it didn’t have the “loop” in the stitching to get into the panels. Another told Elise that she thought it was not wool flocked at all but foam (again, didn’t open it up). The one saddle fitter I was present for that actually looked at the saddle on her was last April and she thought the fit wasn’t bad but it could use a reflock (this is the one with the loop thing).

My saddle is nice. It’s ~$3,000 new. I’m the saddle’s second owner although it’s older (I don’t know the exact year). It’s a monoflap without huge gussets which I love. I originally bought it for a horse I’ve since sold so Nibbles inherited it. I’ve tried contacting the company who makes it with no luck (it’s smallish).

The vet didn’t take a look at the saddle on her but he made notes to put me in touch with a fitter he knows of (that apparently travels to northern IN from Maryland? $$$$). He did some acupuncture around the T18 as I think that’s where she was the most sore. He also wanted to see Nibbles again two weeks later to check and adjust her again. She was really, really sore. Two weeks later will be today, March 8.

Not gonna lie, I am feeling guilty. But I’m sort of moving past that to frustration. Nibbles got almost two weeks off because of her injury and waiting for the vet to see her. Then he sees her and says she’s one of the most sore horses he’s seen in a long time. How did I miss that? She’s not a super stoic horse; I’ve written before about how sensitive she is.

He told me to ride her, though. He said to keep it light and easy but to definitely put her back in work and see how she did.

So naturally the next morning I woke up feeling like a Mack truck hit me. Flu. I made it through a day and a half of work and had to wave the white flag for the rest of the week. Which meant Nibbles did not immediately get back to work. In fact, I’ve been so sick, she didn’t get to do anything until this past Saturday.

In the meantime, I contacted the closest saddle fitter I could find. They’re out near Chicago and don’t come this far but offered to help me via email as much as possible. So I drug my husband to the barn and had him help me take photos and measurements.

The assessment from the fitter via photos: the saddle doesn’t fit. It too narrow and too long for her back.

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Cue despair. As a little girl, getting a new saddle sounds like the most exciting wonderful thing in the world. But we know better, don’t we adult ammys? Here, take all my money. I don’t need it anyway. Especially right now with what’s going on in my personal life, I really can’t afford a big purchase.

I’m waiting to hear back about her tracings to see roughly what size saddle we should be looking at. I know it’s much more than tree size, though, which means I have got to find someone who will come to the middle of no where to help me and look at us in person.

I have a second saddle but it’s 15 years old and tiny (it was my saddle when I was 12). It’s a wide, though, so I decided to try it on her just to see. The width was an improvement (my dressage saddle is a medium) but it bridged a bit in the middle. So I did what I thought was a good idea and tried riding her in both saddles to see how she reacted.

On Saturday, I kept the dressage saddle on her for her first time back under tack in two weeks. I lunged her for 25 minutes and she was great. I did keep having to move the saddle back because it almost immediately climbed up her shoulders (3 times in half an hour). I wasn’t planning to ride her the first day back but I couldn’t resist hoping on to at least walk around. And she was super – we walked around on the buckle for 10 minutes happily. I was thrilled! My pony didn’t lose her brain in two weeks.

Then Sunday came. It was sunny and warm (about 55* which is incredible) and I was in a fabulous mood.

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Do you see where this is going? Sigh. I tried the close contact saddle. When I went to put it on, she flipped her lid and crushed my foot (before the saddle even made it to her back). That hasn’t happened to me since I was a kid – I was so shocked I dropped the saddle. Maybe I should have seen this as a sign. On the lunge, the saddle didn’t move forward or backward – it stayed where I placed it. But Nibbles was distracted – like anything but extreme looky and counterbend was not, in fact, a thing. She even kept looking in the side reins which is normally when she gets into work mode. I commented to my sister who is visiting and was watching that maybe she had to pee. Argh! I opted to take a step back and do some ground work. This seemed to really help. I popped her over a small crossrail someone had left up and she walked over it nicely like she does this all the time. We worked on yielding the quarters and even had some nice sidepasses. It seemed like the gerbils were coming home. So I decided to hop on and see.

I saw… her poll repeatedly try to smack me in the face. Man, I have a flair for the dramatic today. But  it wasn’t pretty. As soon as I sat down, all that quietness left and she was a coiled spring. I sent her forward and got a “no, thanks.” I asked again, “nah, I don’t want to.” Finally, after I asked much more firmly, she moved off into the tiniest most tense trot. Sometimes when she’s tense, it helps her to just move out and start more in the canter. So we tried that….lol.

The canter wasn’t better.

I never felt in danger. She wasn’t being BAD – she was just utterly and completely tight and refused to let go. I rode around for 10 or 15 minutes and when we had a couple of nice transitions I hopped off. I talked to her the entire time, calmly telling her what a good girl she was, hoping I could coax her off the ledge.

Does this sound like a horse in pain to you? Because it absolutely does to me. I’m extremely frustrated because I just got my horse back and it’s like I have the opposite of the Midas touch – every horse I touch magically falls apart. I know that’s not true but I’m having a hard time.

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I’m sending the massage therapist who worked on her before video of her on the lunge. After watching it again myself, she is definitely NQR. I’m working on getting that up for you guys to see too. Maybe one of you with a better eye can give me ideas.

Bloggers, coax me off the ledge. My dramatic self dramatically thinks things will never be good again and my horse is crippled for life and I’ll never be able to buy another saddle and and and….