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.

Sound

I didn’t make it to the barn on Tuesday because we were getting blizzard-like weather and roughly a foot of snow. It continued until Wednesday afternoon and they had all the main roads cleared. BO told me they had plowed the road the barn is off of but I know they usually don’t salt or plow it more than once. One does not simply leave one’s lame horse at the barn for more than 24 hours if there’s a chance your tiny car can make it.

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I made it.

Nibbles met me at the gate and we walked through 3 foot snow drifts into the barn. She wanted to stick her head in the snow on the way on. Memories of growing up on the snowy hills of Montana? Idk.

Got her in and right away I notice her legs look much tighter. Thaw out my hands and brush her off. Check her legs: no heat. I try not to celebrate. I haven’t trotted her out yet.

The vet told me I should be hand walking her given her tiny turnout space (which is intentional until he sees her). So I threw her cooler on and brought her in the indoor. After a couple laps at the walk, I took a deep breath for the moment of truth and started to jog….

And she was completely sound.

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Begging for carrots. Notice the lips hahaha

Angels sang. Or was it my bank account? Either way, I did it again. Still sound.

Hallelujah!

Of course, I’m firing off texts to my mom and friends I’ve been lamenting to. (Everyone does that, right?) I guess I was paying too much attention to my phone because Nibbles nipped my hand and gave me the Mare Stare. Princess hadn’t had enough pampering yet I suppose. That or she takes her hand walking very seriously.

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Sorry for the blurry boring photos, such is February hand walking

I’m definitely keeping the appointment for Monday and I’m going to play it safe and continue hand walking only until then. God knows I can wait a couple more days to make sure a professional declares her good to go. Best case scenario, he signs off and chiros her. Crossing everything he doesn’t see something that makes me gulp.

 

Murphy’s Law

Alternative Title: How a dirtbike makes my horse go lame

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So grateful to have this nose to kiss

I’ve calmed down since Saturday when it initially happened. I had a pretty icky ride on Thursday and intended to ride Friday… only we ended up having 35mph winds so I didn’t. Our lesson that night was canceled. I was definitely riding Saturday, although a series of unfortunate events prevented me yet again from seeing my horse in the daylight and I made it out there at almost 8pm. I was supposed to have a lesson Sunday to make up for the miss on Friday.

Here’s the setup to help explain the situation and what I think happened.

Nibbles has been in a tiny quarantine pasture since she arrived on 2/12. That’s standard protocol for 10 days which I appreciate. Temperatures were actually above freezing last week which means the ground became extremely muddy extremely quickly. Not ideal, but I figured she only had a couple more days left and she’d be introduced to the small mare herd.

On Thursday, Nibbles was completely sound. I always check legs when I bring a horse in and she was clean and tight. On Friday, I didn’t make it out but the farrier trimmed her and I’m assuming he would have noticed if she had heat/swelling in any legs. I suppose that’s a big assumption but it doesn’t seem unreasonable to me…

On Saturday, it was 55 degrees and sunny. Lately, if it hit 35 degrees, that’s considered a heat wave. One of the barn owner’s children (their family lives on the property) decided to ride his mini dirt bike around the horse pastures.

Let me stop there. Does anyone else have an issue with that? Because I  do. I understand, you live there, your kids want to play outside… but in what universe is it a good idea to ride a dirtbike in and around horse pastures?

So apparently the barn hands saw this and saw Nibbles running around her paddock. Mind you, this paddock is tiny so she really couldn’t canter more than 4 strides fenceline to fenceline. Again, we have several inches of mud. What’s more, the kid continued to ride his bike and my horse ended up slipping and falling in the mud. No one called me, no one checked her as far as I know.

I get there at 8pm and bring her in to the cross ties. At this point, I have no idea about the dirtbike or running or slipping. No one has said anything to me. She was a little sluggish but not lame so no alarms were going off. Like I always do, I check her legs. Three legs are warm and have minor swelling. No bows or malformations but clearly inflamed. It’s at this point the barn hand (who is a young girl, maybe not even in high school yet) tells me about the dirt bike and the slipping. I’m dumbfounded.

My husband came with me to the barn so I had him trot Nibbles out for me. She was sound albeit a little pokey. It was cold at this point and there is no indoor washrack so I opted to rub her down and have them bute her. Needless to say, I didn’t ride or even lunge her. I put her back out in her tiny pasture although I wasn’t happy about it.

I go out on Sunday afternoon after an extremely busy morning. I bring her in and her legs are slightly cooler and definitely less swollen. So much so that I honestly thought maybe I’ll do some in-hand/lunge work today because I didn’t come dressed to ride. I bring her into the indoor to hand walk and my heart sinks. She has a head bob. Not bad, but you can definitely see it. The BO was in there cleaning up and agreed with me; she saw it too.

I’m bummed and unwilling to put her back out in the mud. The BO says I can put her in a different quarantine pasture. This one is bone dry, has virtually no grass, and has no run-in. Not ideal but was better to me than 6-8″ of mud. I slathered her in Sore No More and put her back out (mind you, she’s on 24/7 pasture board). I asked them to give her another gram of bute with her breakfast and explained I would be back out on Monday after work to check her. I told her that if she was still off, I would be calling the vet.

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LF on Monday. Do you see swelling? Click to enlarge

On Monday evening after work, I check her again. Swelling is almost non-existent, head bob is gone at the walk but present ever so slightly at the trot. I slather her once more in poultice and decide to go ahead and call the vet. I highly doubt she’ll even be off by the time he gets here next Monday but I explained the situation. I wanted to have him out to adjust her anyway so I need the appointment even if she’s sound by then.

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LH on Monday. Tiny bit of swelling in the suspensory IMO. Click to enlarge

Obviously, this puts a dent in our riding plans, hopefully only for the short term. Mostly I’m just glad she’s gradually improving and there doesn’t appear to be any acute injury. I can pick up all four legs, stretch them, flex her joints – no negative reaction. Long story short, she’ll be fine. (knocks on every piece of wood)

Am is it unreasonable to think dirtbikes should not be a thing in close proximity with horses? Of even if they are, if you see horses running, shouldn’t you be stopped by the adult who should be supervising you?

Riding Journal: Feb. 14 – Feb. 18, 2016

I’m taking a page out of Austen‘s book and taking a stab at journaling my rides. After writing about my lesson with Elise in depth, I know I want to capture what we work on in this blog. Sometimes they may be long, sometimes short. Perhaps I’ll play with formats. I suppose that’s the way of the amateur rider blogger.

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Blurry iPhone pics for everyone yay

Sunday, February 14th

Had it’s own post here.

Monday, February 15th

Nibbles was much less tense and so was I. My goal was to reduce my tension, stay in the middle of the saddle no matter where she went, and send her forward. And that’s exactly what we did. Lunged for 25-30 minutes WTC both directions. Side reins still not short enough in spite of the new holes. There were ground poles out so I left them and let her navigate them; completely a non-issue although she wasn’t super confident cantering over them and wanted to break to a trot afterwards.

No one to take pictures so you get selfies

No one to take pictures so you get selfies

I rode with a whip. Mounting, she wanted to walk off right away and we practiced standing. She’s fine as soon as I tell her no, you’re waiting for me. Right away I set off in the trot, wanted to see if I could get her on my aids without the serpentines and lateral work. It was OK but she preferred to stay above the contact. Again, much less tense this time. With the whip I wasn’t afraid to really send her forward and make absolutely sure she was in front of my leg. It got a bit rushy at times but when I gave her contact to move into, we had really nice moments. Also cantered, felt great, not super through her back but 20m circles were nbd. Shoulderfore was nice, leg yields a struggle. She was wiggly. I’ll take wiggly over tense for our second ride “alone.”

Takeaways:

  • Forward is always the answer
  • She wants to counterbend tracking left

Thursday, February 18th

That was a learning experience. I showed up feeling confident and determined to be less tense. And I thought I was until my big fat tattle tale of a horse told on me. Lunged for 30 minutes WTC both directions, side reins with second set of new holes worked much better. She is going much better to the right than the left; to the left, she really wants to counterbend. She took a solid 20 minutes to settle in. The barn had a horse tied in the corner of the arena and he was trying to dig his way out through the arena wall which basically made the loudest banging known to man… nonstop. Nibbles no likey but she eventually began to care less.

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Blogging honesty: this was what the low point looked like

I rode with a whip and spent the first few minutes with a crop behind my back and through my elbows. Woah, that was tough, I clearly normally stretch them way out in front of my torso. Nibbles was being fussy about the contact so I ditched the crop because I felt like I was really bracing. I rode for about 20-25 minutes and all but the last 5 minutes were a pretty hot mess. Nibbles was very spicy and, as Elise would say, demonstrating her “yoga in action” moves. We were above the bit 95% of the time in the trot and canter. Cantering to the left she even had a couple of baby bucks which is uncharacteristic for her. I think she was protesting to me sending her forward any time she tried to fuss. Overall, I’m proud of myself for riding through her sillies but I was definitely disappointed that we struggled so much. I didn’t think to put her on a 15-20m circle until the end of the ride and I think establishing that bend really helped get things back to earth. I had been trying shoulder-fore and leg yields which only seemed to create more sassiness. I walked away disappointed but definitely not angry, saying “Well, tomorrow is another day.”

I think part of my tension comes from weakness in my core. My legs are pretty strong from lifting weights for a few years now but I’ve never focused on my core. I think this really shows. I’m hoping that as I get stronger, I will be able to brace less (even when I don’t realize it) and really open up through the crown of my head. If I can be patient with Nibbles, I can be patient with myself.

Takeaways:

On Friday, Nibbles had her toes done.

On Saturday, I went to ride only to discover my horse had heat in three legs. More to come

To Pull or Not to Pull

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silky

At least once every year, I get the itch to pull Nibbles’ mane. There are a few considerations for me:

  • How easy is it to maintain?
  • How does it look every day?
  • How does it look braided?
  • How hard is it to braid?

Those aren’t necessarily in order which is sort of the hard part. Longtime readers will know I started riding on Arabs (before moving on to an OTTB’s and others) so I’m used to long manes and running braids. But I was also showing on the Arab circuit back then and really didn’t know much different.

But now, considering I want to show USDF, I’m tempted to polish my button braiding skills and pull that sucker.

Muddy mane

couple years ago…are you kidding me

How easy is it to maintain?

Long manes are sort of a pain in the butt in that they get dirty and tangled (see post-mud-roll photo above). Nibbles isn’t took bad about this but witches knots are super annoying. They try my patience to pull them apart slowly rather than take a pair of scissors to them. I can afford pretty sparse boarding amenities at this point so it’s been several years since I’ve boarded at a barn with an indoor washrack that had heated water. This means, in the fall/winter, the long mane gets a brushed and detangled and that’s it. It can get pretty gross.

Pulled manes have a whole different set of needs. They don’t get near as icky as long manes but you have to keep pulling them or at least touching them up. I haven’t had a horse with a pulled mane in like 9 years so maybe I don’t appreciate how annoying it is to have to keep up with but it sounds awfully good compared to the long mane right now.

How does it look every day?

Long manes are something I think you either love or hate… unless you’re me and you can see the case for both. Ha! Pulled manes look very tidy and sporty which I love. It’s annoying when they flip and they also look really junky too long.

How does it look braided?

This is the one where pulled manes get a solid point in my book. I love the look of button braids. I love the different styles of braids for pulled manes.

hearteyes

hearteyes

For long manes, I don’t mind running braids…done really well. There’s nothing sloppier looking to me than a loose or poorly braided running braid. Frankly, I don’t really like long manes done any other way. Personal preference but I just don’t.

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nice and tidy braid on miss nibs

How hard is it to braid?

This is the one that gives me the most heartburn. I’m really good at running braids. I can french braid anything, standing or squirming, tall or short. I love braiding. Therefore, with a long mane, I know I can whip up a nice looking braid without much trouble or even time.

It’s been almost a decade since I had to do anything but a running braid (where did time go omg). While I dream of a pulled mane, what if I can’t braid the dang thing? What if my button braids look like crap? What if it comes show time and I can’t get them right and we look like crap going down the centerline and the judge laughs us out? Oh wait, that’s not really a thing? Oh, well… but what if we look sloppy? I don’t like sloppy.

Drying in the sun. Not bad for just shampoo and elbow grease.

can you imagine this with a pulled mane?

What do you think? Pull it or keep it long? What advice do you have or what factor am I not considering?