Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Shaklano's portrait and catching up to speed

Here is the first of two prizes for the Horse Shaming Contest:

Crystal's horse "Shaklano"
In preparation for Lucy's sessions with a couple of trainers that I am having come out, she is getting her feet done tomorrow, then the saddle fitter is coming out on Friday, and the chiro is coming out on Sunday. I want to make sure nothing physical is going on before I have a trainer get on her. I don't think it would be fair to the horse or the trainer if I didn't double check all this stuff.

I had a pretty good ride yesterday, which I appreciated because it was my birthday :) She still felt quick but was happier going forward and didn't give me any sass.

I hope the trainer(s) will help me lengthen her stride and slow her trot down.

I've had a couple of comments asking for a recap of what I've done with her in terms of diagnostics. I will write a basic list; if you want more info just search through the entries via the tags. There is a "vet" tag that should bring up any physical stuff or injuries.

-I had her feet and ankles x-rayed when I bought her (no issues)
-Treated her for Ehrlichia in 2010
-She had an impaction colic in 2010 that I caught super early and the vet was able to clear it out
-I have a lyme titre pulled every year, has never been positive
-She sees the chiro every month or two, as I can afford it
-Also sees the massage therapist as I can afford it, though my MT got hurt in the fall and hasn't been able to come out in a while
-Saddle fitter appt every six months
-Teeth every six months
-I treated her for ulcers in 2011 successfully and she gets dosed with GastroGard any time we go off the property, starting three days out from the date of travel. If you look at videos of her before the ulcer treatment and compare them to videos of her today, she is 100x better, believe it or not.
-When she was injured in November I had the vet x-ray her ankles and her injured stifle. All x-rays were clean.

She does not have kissing spine per my vet.

She could probably go on ReguMate but a) I don't want to deal with that and b) I cannot afford it. Depo is a possibility.

I am not interested in spaying her.

She is hot and spicy whether she is in heat or not. She gets better in warm weather; she hates the cold. Her attitude depends very much on whether she *likes* what we are doing at that moment.

She is on three supplements: SmartHoof, SmartMare Harmony, and E/Se/Mg. I just recently took her off TractGard after being on it since I bought her in 2009.

What I really do not like in the horse world is the automatic assumption that if a horse is bad, there must be some physical reason behind it. Quite honestly, Lucy is very hot and very opinionated. I have spent a good amount of money treating and testing her for various ailments, and more time than I care to admit researching these types of things online, and I have a very good relationship with my vet, who is the same vet who did her PPE four years ago. My vet understands what is going on and is totally on board with me looking into things as I can afford to do so, without going way overboard on the diagnostics end of it.

In other words, I could x-ray her entire body and send her to Tufts for a $2000+ bone scan, but I personally do not feel those measures are necessary at this time.

Hopefully that brings everyone up to speed.


  1. What I don't like in the horse world is that other people who know next to nothing about your horse suddenly think they are an expert and therefore jump to exotic and ridiculous conclusions.

    You've clearly looked into any possible medical issue that could exist. Some horses are just "hotter" than others. I think people need to just realize that.

    1. I think everyone means well but it does get old. I made the mistake of posting on COTH about her once and the thread was about five pages long and chock full of recommendations for expensive and unnecessary medical tests. I am not rich and though I wish I could explore every possibility, I have to be a little smarter with how I use my resources. I do think this horse gets everything she needs and if my vet told me that I really needed to do something, I would find a way to make it happen.

    2. I have found that there area soooo many things that can be going on either medically/physically or emotionally/training-wise that can cause the apparently same outward symptoms in a horse or other animal. Plus nothing is ever black and white: when you have "C" it's not always the result of "A + B" (it could easily be C=A+B when D<E but not when D=0 in which case C actually equals A+B-E+F/G* get my drift).

      What happens in most cases in my experience, unfortunately, is that when one treatment or diagnosis works for an animal their owner then thinks that is what must be occurring in ALL cases presenting in the same way. I value and appreciate personal accounts of what worked for one person's horse (to a degree) but Doctors and vets are doctors and vets for a reason: they went to school for many years and are able to see the whole picture while noting the fine ins and outs of very similar-appearing cases and approach these cases with such a wider and more well-rounded knowledge base. They are able to take the whole gamut of possible situations and compare them to each other to tell you which ones are more or less likely and which diagnostic path YOU should pursue based on your particular case. It's frustrating hearing so many different ideas from the general public, some of which have value and others that don't (and many that feel like they undercut your experience and judgement regarding your horse). I would stick with keeping your trust in the true experts and take everything else with a grain of salt. (And here I am giving you advice lol)

  2. When you ride her and keep her pace to you what you want and make her come up to the bit instead of trying to keep up with her quick steps, she looks fantastic. Breeeeeaatthhheeee! :)

  3. Wow! I so totally agree with you about horse people automatically saying that a horse being naughty has a physical problem. You can spend tons and tons of money and come up with nothing. I think it's great you are checking things out just in case. Good luck with the trainers. I can't wait to hear about it.

  4. Thank you very much for the catch up post, I completely understand that horses can be hot & opinionated without there being a medical reason for it. My farrier kindly tells me my older girl has 'character'.

    Two things I want to pick up on from your above post, you mentioned that Lucy has a short choppy stride when trotting. My Kika had quite a choppy trot as well, myself and my friend L (who helps me) worked a lot when lunging her to get her to lengthen her stride. I don't know if this might be a possibility for you & Lucy? Kika's trot is still a work in progress, but the lunging has helped. She also used to be barefoot and we've noticed a marked improvement in her striding since putting back on front shoes. Probably doesn't apply here though.

    Another point I want to pick up on, which I'm sure you know already, is that Lucy is smack bang in the middle of her "teenage" years. People told me that if I could weather the storms of 5-7/8 years of age I'd find a better horse on the otherside - it was far from smooth sailing and there were many times I questioned my sanity in persevering in trying to ride Kika - but with the right eyes on the ground - we have come out the other side. I honestly didn't think we would at times.
    Turns out though that Kika's problems were partially pain related as despite having bought a saddle fitter approved saddle - I don't think it ever fit and things snowballed from there. Her defence coping mechanism or bad behaviour crutch became rearing - but we tackled everything with help and *knock-on-wood* have come out the otherside. She also required more turnout then she was getting - but as you have said in previous posts none of these things are relevant to your situation with Lucy - so I apologise for waffling on about my previous issues here.

    Of course you are doing everything in your power to do the right things for yourself and Lucy. You have done amazing work with her and as you have noted she is a fiesty female - that is part of what makes her so loveable and individual. However it also makes her testing and sometimes difficult. Finding a trainer/someone to help you be eyes on the ground who understands what you are working with is the best thing you can do. I hope that the search goes well and that you find that invaluable somebody to help you both out. I'd be lost with L, who I call my Guru - she has been the saviour of myself and Kika as my confidence had hit rock bottom.
    I hope you find someone to be that person for you!

    Sorry, I hope that this comment doesn't come across as condescending or preachy or something! I really just wanted to say that having a horse with character myself - i feel your frustrations and worries. Keep keeping on *hug*

    1. It absolutely did not sounds preachy :) And I didn't intend for this post to be defensive but I knew that if I didn't really go into everything I had done and what I hadn't done (and the reasons behind those decisions), I'd get a bunch of comments listing out further testing to try. Why? Because it has happened numerous times.

      I try to be 100% transparent on this blog. I don't keep a blog to sugar coat when it sucks, I say, hey this sucks! lol. But having a blog like that opens me up to a lot of criticism and sometimes I just don't want to hear it because the fact is that this horse wants for nothing.

      I live in one of the smallest states in the country and we have very limited turnout space at my barn. That is just the way it is. The horses do go out around 6am and come in when it gets dark, so they spend a lot of time outside.

      I do appreciate that your horse is a little spicy herself ;) so you get it. Generally I find that the people who are like, you need to have a body scan done! are the ones with dead broke angelic horses who never put a foot wrong (usually geldings). I agree with you 150% on the teenage syndrome. The good news is that over the time I've had her, each year has gotten significantly better. There was one winter where she was flat-out unrideable. She was so bad that it was scary. At least now I can go trot around on a fairly loose rein. We may have issues at the canter and those may be pain-related or they may not, but that's why I am getting a trainer in to have a look.

      I even tried a communicator once to see if Lucy would "tell" me what is going on, but all she really said is that she [expletive] hates my dog hahaha. Oh well, can't say I didn't try.

  5. Wow, I'm really sorry, I didn't mean to make you upset by telling you that I had recently found out about kissing spine. My friend's mare was exhibiting the exact same attitude issues Lucy has and that's what it came up as. She had seen the chiro and vet her entire life and after the X-rays the vet was absolutely shocked. If I had a horse like Lucy I would appreciate any new knowledge I could get, I simply didn't know if it had been something you looked into it already. I had never heard of it myself until my friend's mare. Of course you could spend millions of dollars figuring out what her deal is- we all could. But of course it's unreasonable, most of us aren't loaded.

    We read your continuous frustrated posts about spooking, getting thrown off, time after time having horrible rides due to her attitude issues, and from a person who has three normally behaved horses and has been around plenty of OTTBs who don't exhibit any attitude problems, it's not normal and it totally sucks you have to deal with this. I honestly would have thrown my hands up long ago as I'm not willing to risk myself being hurt over a hobby and you've stuck out more falls than I hope to ever see in my lifetime.

    Nine times out of ten, horses that exhibit intense behavior problems like this end up having something physically wrong and that is why the horse world automatically assumes that and tries to help you by letting you know different things to try out or check on. It's to our disadvantage that the animals can't speak and tell us exactly what they are feeling. When we as your far-removed readers watch your videos we look for signs. We aren't watching your videos to laugh and point our fingers at your issues. You can't fault us for pointing out general signs of Lucy indicating pain. Because it's there, in almost every video.

    In my honest opinion, the amount of years you have spilled into her and the fantastic work you've put into her, teaching her manners, working on ground work, working under saddle etc etc etc (I don't have to tell you everything you've done!) doesn't typically correlate to just an attitude problem. And in that case, it would be unfair to Lucy to assume that it is only an attitude problem.

    I think I can speak for everyone when I say we wish you didn't have to go through this. You have done anything and everything in your power to improve the situation you are in and we all wish you were having a better outcome. We all wish you were having the same positive experiences most of us are having with our horses and that is why we comment and try to help and try to give you new knowledge, etc etc. No one is trying to make you mad or upset and I truly apoligize that I've (we've?) made you mad. Rest assured I won't give you my opinion anymore :-/

    1. Hey, you did not make me upset at all. KS is a totally valid possibility but it has already been ruled out by my vet. As I said above, I didn't mean to sound defensive but wanted to clearly outline everything I had tried and what has been ruled out.

      Trust me, I would LOVE a diagnosis that would help me make her a nicer horse to ride, but I fear that this is really just her! :)

      Anyway, I am not upset at all, just trying to be very cut and dry about this whole thing. One of the reasons I am having a trainer come out to work with her is to get their opinion on what I am missing, either training-wise or physically. I am getting pressure from my family to sell her and get a horse that is less of a PITA, but I do not want to give up now after sticking this out for so long if the answer is simply a training issue that can be fixed with some help.

    2. Just FYI, I've been reading you blog for over a year now, and have read all the back posts, and in no way did I interpret this post to be even remotely defensive. However, I take very little personally and have developed this crazy ability to simply read what people write without projecting any of my stuff onto it (maybe this came about from a decade of reading scientific journals and study outcomes, lol!Remain objective at all costs!! :-)

      And I totally agree that not EVERYTHING is physical. I think that is the first place to check, but horses are unique beings with the capacity to express themselves. My horse went through a head tossing phase after nearly 3 weeks off due to rain. Of course I was all like "He's hurt, he's sore, my saddle sucks, he has ulcers, etc etc..." but my AMAZING trainer with a lifetime of experience said "Hey, he really enjoyed that time off, and is trying to bargain with you for more!" One ride with a crop tap to the shoulder and a press of my leg to move forward with every head toss, and Mr. Man figured out his ploy wasn't going to work. We are back to our usual awesome rides and happy days. I'm glad he has a personality!

      That is where a great trainer comes in really handy :-)

  6. Your horse wears shoes and sometimes she's naughty.

    Does this mean you actually ride your real, actual horse instead of abiding by the all-knowing-internet-horse-forums? COTH help us all!

    Haha. I've mentioned it before, but my mare had perfect turnout, perfect pasture, perfect health, and would still be a wench.

    Admittedly, I went the gelding route, but my mare does well with a firm hand now.

  7. Mares are ... mares! I agree sometimes it has absolutely freaking nothing to do with their physical condition but more with the mind. My horse tends to be very very good when he is NQR and an absolute ass when he's feeling fine and dandy!

  8. The drawing is lovely!

    My mare has her moments and anyone who rides her has to be confident or she will take advantage of them. I don't think that is your issue with Lucy - you always seem very confident. Hope you find some answers!

  9. I'm having a very similar thing with my hot and sassy mare, at the moment. My trainer was concerned that it might be a 'mare' problem, with hormones or a possible ovarian tumor. I think she might need a supplement like SmartMare to keep her hormones in check, but I think she's just a hot and sassy mare who likes to be a brat if she can get away with it. While I understand physical problems might contribute, I don't like throwing away money on tests unless it seems necessary.

    Anyway, hope you figure your girl out!

  10. Happy Birthday, kiddo!
    Lucky Crystal! You are so talented.
    I hope Miss Lucy finds her happy place soon.

  11. Ha, even after all that too, it always a guessing game. Stick with your gut, it often leads you in the best direction. I had my Chiro out for Laz today and we talked about his 'kissing spine' and he looked at me, and said "Uhhh I never said he had that...and u would need xrays and even IF he did have that, it's fixable without surgery" (short version). So, we have the go ahead to move forward too (HOORAH)! I think what you are doing is more for your peace of mind and knowing you are setting her up for success. Kudos!!
    Also--does she seem to stretch out more in bit less vs bit?? Just curious if she holds her 'stress' or anxiety if that's it, in her poll/jaw/mouth....

  12. I'm sorry if my comment hit a nerve. I don't follow COTH so of course I had no idea you'd already been bombarded with suggestions or I never would've spoken up. I follow several blogs and rarely comment. I wasn't suggesting you spay Lucy either; I was just wondering about ovarian tumors. Removing the tumor doesn't involve spaying the mare.

    The only reason why I offered a suggestion is because I'm a licensed vet tech working ER and critical care, and I know vets are not infallible. I worked at the 3 best specialty hospitals in South Florida, and am currently working at one of the top 2 in Maryland, and even boarded specialists will miss signs/symptoms. My own equine vet back in FL, one of the best in our area and whom I trusted blindly, misdiagnosed my gelding. I offered a suggestion because I care-you have an awesome mare and you are a terrific rider, and I would hate for you to go through what I did.

    My gelding was rescued from a Miami slaughterhouse, and was an angel when I went to try him out. However, within 2 weeks of having him, he became so spooky and out of control on random days (he didn't even have the excuse of hormones!) that eventually I realized I was forcing myself to ride him. I became terrified of taking him outside the arena. Then I was afraid of riding him in certain parts of the arena. Yet he would still explode, buck and bolt. Like you, I had farriers, vets, saddle fitters, trainers, chiropractors, dentists, look at him-it was an endless list of professionals overseeing his care. I was spending $120 a month on supplements for him that did nothing. I paid for him to have stifle surgery, and it made no difference. I would stay on during his explosions, like you with Lucy. Until the day he seizured mid-spook and fell with me on him, injuring me and causing an extended lay-up that caused a monumental financial strain. He was a grade 2 neurological, and he had been all along, yet my vet, my farrier, the chiropractor, my trainer and myself had all missed the signs. Regardless, 22 years of riding and training experience were shattered during the time I owned him, and I didn't realize the enormous damage he'd done until after I had re-homed him. Almost 2 years later, I still brace at the sound of birds flying when I'm riding-this was one of the many, many things that would set him off. He was the first horse I ever worked with whose problems did not stem from a training issue.

    Of course, I don't think Lucy has the same problems as my gelding. I really do hope this is all just a training issue-it would be an easier fix than having to continue guessing.

    Like the others who have written above, I'm not preaching either, I'm just telling you my experience-believe me, I know how it feels right now, and I have 2 decades of experience working with abused horses and retraining OTTBs. I purchased my current mare for $1 after she had been declared too dangerous to ride by another trainer who repeatedly whipped the crap out of her. She is tremendously sensitive, THE most sensitive horse I've ever worked with-I've had to re-learn the way I handle myself around horses with her-, and when she's in heat, she is 100,000 times more sensitive still (to the point of ridiculousness) and it took me almost 2 years to get her to the point where most of the time she does not have flashbacks and explode. So no, I'm not the owner of a dead-broke angelic gelding. I have never owned such a horse (ALL of them have had issues), and when I had the opportunity of trading Lily for such a horse, I turned him down because he was too boring.

    I'm sorry I upset you. I think you are doing an excellent job with and for Lucy, and you are a exemplary horse owner. I really do hope that her problems are just a training issue, but was putting my 2 cents in in case it just so happens to be something else.

    1. Honestly, none of what I said was directed at anyone specifically :) I was just trying to lay it all out on the table. I love that my blog has such knowledgeable readers and always appreciate feedback or ideas.

  13. Like with children, people always mean well but offer up only what is within their realm of knowledge (or what they can Google). Personally I grew up around rent string horses. After seeing a lot of horses come and go, I think like people, horses have personalities. Some of us are just darn sassy and speak our mind more than we probably should. You from what we can all read and see, are an excellent owner, and if she does have a physical problem then it is on top of her nature. I've seen horses with clear pain, plod along willingly, and some throw a fit. I think you are doing what you need to do , in the right order, and only hope I can be as diligent of an owner as you are.

  14. Replies
    1. ok, would you like to guess where? or is x-raying her entire body my only option? lol.

    2. My horse is TB/TrK cross and has it in his neck, which is a pretty crummy place to have it. Hard to diagnose and expensive to treat (he gets injections) Have you tried a butte trial? The thing about arthritis is that it doesn't always show up as an obvious lameness. It just hurts. Maybe if she is 'better' on butte for a week you'll have some 'proof' that it might be a pain issue. Then maybe you could talk to your vet about shooting pictures:) Sorry, I know it's frustrating.

    3. So I was just watching the video of your friend C riding, have you noticed that Lucy is just a lot more bothered going right than left? It looks like she doesn't want to let you have access to the left side of her neck/shoulder. I'm not an expert, and you obviously know your horse better than anyone. Also, I realize that once you've had a problem with a horse you are apt to think that everything is 'that' problem. But it might be worth considering that there could be something (like arthritis) going on in that left shoulder/neck region.

      So sorry if I'm out of line! I really enjoy your blog, you've brought up so many interesting points and I really appreciate you sharing your experience:)

  15. Well since everyone is chiming in I would just like to add that I think your biggest issue with Luce is that you just have not had anyone show you how ride her the way she needs to be ridden. I've been through it with Archie, then I finally found someone to help me and wow look at us now. He's a rideable fun horse.

    I think you have been a great owner and I can't wait to see how well you two do with some professional help.


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