Sunday, March 21, 2010

I've got bad news, more bad news...and even more bad news

Today, Dr. Bob came out to work on the horses that were scheduled for Thursday. He is an awesome vet -- he went to Cornell, does chiro and accupuncture, and is so good with his patients. I really appreciate how he explains everything, tells you what your options are, and goes over the costs of each. And he definitely made the last six weeks of Mac's life much more comfortable. At our barn, we are not afraid of showing our affection for our fave vet --

Yep, we're a bunch of 12-year old girls. :-)
(Please also note that Salem is a member of "The BFF Club," of course.
That was written/drawn by Sage, an actual 11-year old girl.)

OK, so...on to the bad news. Dr. Bob started adjusting Salem and, at first, everything was great. He adjusted Salem's head and neck with no problems. Then he moved on to his back and everything went downhill. Salem's lumbar area is incredibly sore -- he started bucking like crazy and pinning his ears when Dr. Bob applied pressure to it. Even after he was sedated, he was cranky and bucking. It wasn't until the last ten or fifteen minutes of the adjustmnet that Salem actually started to relax.

So, what does this mean? I, of course, told Dr. Bob about our recent saddle-fititng debacle and how he had a week off, a professional massage, and is now ridden in a saddle that fits him and a Thinline pad. However, the good news is that the pain in his lumbar spine has nothing to do with saddle fit, because it is far behind where the saddle sits. Dr. Bob assured me that nothing I did/didn't do caused this. His exact words were, "He has major underlying back issues that are completely unrelated to saddle fit. He's had this for a while. And I'm not just saying that because you made me baked Brie." :-)

He can't diagnose what it is without taking X-rays. It could be arthritis, it could be kissing spines, it could be issues in his sacro-iliac joints. It could be a combination of things. Salem could need lots of chiro, accupuncture, injections, etc. Dr. Bob was not impressed that this was not picked up on Salem's pre-purchase exam, as it has most likely been there for a while.

Oh, and all that was just Bad News #1. Let's move on to #2, shall we? Dr. Bob did some flexion tests on Salem to see if hind-leg lameness could be contributing to his back issues. And, guess what? He classified him as a 2 on a lameness scale of 1-5 on the right hind. He said it could be hock or stifle issues. Again, not impressed that this wasn't caught on the PPE.  I do realize that flexion tests are a highly-debated issue, so I'm not sure how I feel about this. But it does mean that his right hind might need to be carefully scrutinized.

Last but not least -- Dr. Bob looked at Salem's teeth to make sure they're okay. And he said, "How old did you say this horse is?" I told him that Salem was sold as a 5-year old in October, so he's either 6 or coming-6. He told me, "Well, his teeth are telling me that he's at least 7, possibly 8." Oooooh, my goodness.

Dr. Bob working his magic

So, where do we go from here? Dr. Bob said that Salem was so misaligned that, ideally, he would be adjusted once a week for the next three or four weeks. And, of course, diagnostics like X-rays would be a great help. Unfortunately, I do not have a bottomless pit of money. Don't get me wrong -- if Salem was my horse, I would sell my soul to make him as comfortable as possible. I guess I have to hand this mess over to Ruby and let her deal with it as she sees fit. At least she knows that he has back issues, and she'll have to decide how to go about treating them.

For tonight, Salem got two grams of bute to help him feel better since he had such a major adjustment. Tomorrow, he'll get the day off. I actually asked Dr. Bob if Salem needed any time off of work and he said no. But I think I might call him on Monday and ask him if riding Salem will cause him pain. I love that horse like crazy and of course I want to ride him -- but I also don't want to cause him any undue pain. I'll keep ya posted.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Snap, Crackle, Pop

Just a drive-by post to say that I will soon be heading out to the barn for Salem's afore-mentioned appointment. Dr. Bob was already scheduled to come out, so I added Salem to the roster for a chiropractic adjustment. The poor boy has always been soooooo stiff to the right, and I really feel that he has some major alignment issues. I'm sure it makes him uncomfortable, so I decided to just cough up the cash and get it taken care of now. I am really working hard to make him as comfy and issue-free as possible before he leaves me.

OK, I'm off to make some baked Brie for Dr. Bob. I'll take some pics of the adjustment and write up a full report later. Cheers! :-)

UPDATE: No Dr. Bob today because he got an emergency call. :-( So, Salem Pony will have to wait until Saturday to get adjusted. I'm sure he'll live.

On the other hand, we had a lovely ride today, despite numerous distractions. There were four other horses out in the field with us, it was windy and cool, one of the farriers was there clanging away, and the neighbor's dogs were rustling around in the leaves by the fence. Even with all the ruckus, Salem hacked around all soft and quiet and focused. Such a good pony!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


Since I only have 45 days left with Salem, I have gone into Crazy Picture-Taking Mode. Yes, I am going to document absolutely anything and everything. Seriously. :-) Today, we have a lovely selection entitled Salem Eating Hay In His Paddock Whilst Wearing A Halter. It is truly ground-breaking, as you will see:

Blurry, but still cute

This is actually only one of his three hay piles.
The horse eats aaaaaall day long

Look how thin his tail is! It was all thick and luscious,
but then he ripped out several big chunks of it in his water bucket. Booo!

What is that giant spot on the pic??

I also wanted to show Salem's Salt-and-Mineral Bar. Since I'm a huge nerd, I read a lot of articles about horse-y stuff, and I've read several which state that salt and mineral blocks are not ideal for horses because they were actually designed for cattle. Horses use their tongues differently than cattle and it's difficult for them to get enough salt or minerals without hurting their tongues. Also, most mineral blocks are mainly (like 90%) salt, so the horse can't get enough minerals without overloading on salt. My solution is to have one bucket of loose white salt and one bucket of loose free-choice minerals (if you get them, make sure they are specifically free-choice and designed for horses!). I don't know why, but I get a huge kick out of him eating out of these buckets.


Salt (yep, there's some hay in there, too ☺)

In an ideal world, I would either:
A) Have Salem's hay tested for minerals, have an equine nutritionists find the holes in his diet, and then have a custom mineral blend created just for him
B) Have a full Mineral Bar of individual vitamins and minerals (look at the Complete Diagnostic Free Choice System) for him so he could pick and choose which ones he needs
Unfortunately, I am not independantly wealthy, so we'll just stick with the salt and mineral buckets! 

He even glows in the dark!

I got a super cute video of Salem munching on his hay, but for some reason I no longer have an "Insert Video" button on my blogger compose-y thingy. I also don't have a spell-check -- WTF?

Lots more Salem news, so I'll definitely update tomorrow. We've had some interesting rides the last few days! And Thursday, he has an appointment with someone who is going to make him feel soooooooo good. And, no, he's not getting another massage. Any guesses?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Six Week Countdown

In the comments of my last post, I tried to clarify something that some of you might not realize. Unless you've been reading since day one, you probably don't know that Salem is not my horse (you can read about it by clicking here). I know, I know -- I do write like he's mine, and I certainly treat him as if he's my own. That's just the way I've always been; every single animal that is under my care is going to get the best of everything that I can provide.

I've known Salem's owner Ruby since I was nine, and she's seen me "adopt" so many horses. Any horse that was given to me as a project always got spoiled within an inch of its life. I would buy supplements and treats and spend hours grooming and working. I suspect that this is a big part of the reason that Ruby felt comfortable having Salem stay with me. She knew that he would want for nothing and live the life of Riley. I pay for him to have the stall with the 1/2 acre paddock attached, I buy him tons of extra hay, supplements, flax seed, treats, products, massages, etc. He's definitely living the good life!

Saturday night, I got a text message from Ruby asking for the address to Salem's farm. She wants to set up the date for his shipping. Of course, I've always known that this day would come, but I tried to push it out of my head and focus on the moment. Ruby said that she's always planned on bringing him up May 1st, but it's news to me. I feel like time has flown by at mach speed.

So, I have six more weeks with The Boy. I'm sad because, of course, I will miss him like crazy. I've seen him every single day since he got here in October, and he's always my favorite part of the day. He's such a huge puppy dog and a total sweetheart. I know Ruby is going to absolutely fall head over heels in love with him. That makes me happy...but the fact that he will be leaving is also heartbreaking.

In addition, I feel like he hasn't progressed as much as I would have liked. And there are so many things that I wanted to do with him that might never happen. We've had so many setbacks along the way -- he had major tooth issues, sore/messed up hooves, muscle issues, and most recently saddle fit/back issues. That's a lot of issues to deal with! Of course, he also had a body-wide case of fungus and an abscess along the way, as well. All of that stuff took away from our progress.

That's not to say that he hasn't come a long way. He's certainly a much more mature horse than the one who arrived in early October. He's learned a lot and really developed physically. Of course, with horses you can never really have a timeline. You can have an idea of what you would like to accomplish, and goals to reach for. But you can't say, "OK, in X amount of time, such-and-such will be perfect." I actually felt a lot better when Heather (who's an awesome rider) told me that it took a solid year to really teach Sid to halt. In light of that, I think that Salem has really come a long way.

So, for the next six weeks, I am going to take advantage of the time that I have with Salem. Obviously, I don't need to buy a new saddle, so I am going to take the money that I have saved up so far and use it on Salem. We're going to take lessons, he's going to get massages and special horse cookies and maybe even a chiropractic adjustment. I am going to ride out as much of the "green" as I possibly can so that he will be ready for his new life in Chicago.

*sniff* I knew that I would fall in love with Salem and be heartbroken when he left. But it was too good of an opportunity to pass up. I'm grateful for every single second that I've had with him, and I'm going to cherish the few that remain.

Friday, March 12, 2010

An $8000 Saddle On A $3000 Horse

I got the pics that Gigi took of Heather and me riding yesterday -- and, wow, she's a great photographer! As you can see, I'm using draw reins on Salem right now. I'm still a bit on the fence about using them, but I do see that they're an effective tool in showing Salem what I want from him. I just don't want them to become a crutch. Oh, and yes, I am riding in the lovely $8000 Devoucoux saddle. OK, enough blithering -- on to the pics! (Please disregard my horrid equitation and hunchback-ness!)

It looks like Salem is biting Sid here, but I assure you
that he is not quite so ill-mannered

Gah! The dreaded Hunter Perch!
(Just focus on Salem's bulging muscles and shiny coat :-P )

This one is my personal fave -- love it!

Thursday, March 11, 2010


Just a quick post to report that Salem is feeling better. He's still starting off a bit stiff, but he loosens up and works through it eventually. I've been massaging the muscles in his left hind with liniment and doing lots of stretches, so hopefully we'll get all that scar tissue worked out soon.

Monday was the first "real" ride we did since the whole saddle-fitting debacle. I had done a few light walk/trots, but Monday I put him through a full hack and he was an absolute peach -- quiet, responsive, and perfectly happy. He picked up the right lead on the first try and cantered both directions just as quiet as you please. Progress!

Today, we met Heather and Gigi for an afternoon ride. It was blustery but sunny, and Salem was a bit "up" since he had Tuesday off. He was also a little bit riled up by having other horses out there with us, since I usually ride him alone -- but he certainly needs to learn to mind his manners even when in company. We had a few bratty moments where he did some minor testing (moving sideways with ears pinned at the trot, leaping and bucking at the canter), but it was pretty minor and we worked through it. He was very forward, so I just worked on staying quiet and trying to slow my seatbones.

Of course, since we rode with Heather, I obviously couldn't ride in her saddle. Lucky for me, another boarder had offered to let me ride in hers if I needed to. Her saddle is a Devoucoux. An $8000 Devoucoux, I might add. And, let me just say, I absolutely loff that saddle! It is comfy and squishy and my leg felt like it had finally found its home. Even when Salem went leaping and cavorting around, I felt like I was superglued to that saddle. *sigh* How can I ever go back to a craptastic saddle when I have ridden in the Golden La-Z-Boy of saddles? (Seriously, does anyone need to buy a kidney? I have an extra one just layin' around...just sayin')

Gigi snapped some pics of the beginning of our ride, so hopefully I will have those to post soon. In the meantime, I am off to look for spare change under the sofa cushions.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Thank Goodness They're So Forgiving

Yes, our lovely equine buddies certainly do forgive us for so much. We're lucky that they live in the moment and don't hold a grudge -- because if it was any different, a lot of us would be screwed, quite frankly. :-)

Last Monday, Salem had an appointment for his second natural barefoot trim. The good news is that his hooves are coming along very nicely. His White Line Disease is completely cleared (yay!), his bars are straightening out, and he has a very tight connection in all four hooves. And, they're so tough that Candy had to sharpen her knife twice during the trim! Woohoo! Tough, rock-crunching super hooves!

These pics were taken about 9 days post-trim (because I am a procrastinator!)

So, if there's good news, of course there's some...well, let's just say not-so-good news. As Candy was working on Salem, she placed her hand on his back and he flinched and pinned his ears. She said, "Hhhmmm, he's very sore here," and started giving him a mini-massage (she's also a certified equine massage therapist and a saddle-fitter). Salem let out a big sigh and relaxed after a few minutes. Candy stepped back and looked at him for a moment and then told me, "His muscling is uneven, and he has no muscle on his topline. Let me see your saddle on him."

Well, of course, the Pessoa that I've been using on him does not fit him. In fact, it is extremely narrow and way too small, and it has been making him sore. When I heard that, I turned into a little Jewish mother and started getting major guilt pangs. I've been hurting Salem with every ride! Cruelty against ponies -- somebody call the ASPCA! I was even making things worse by adding a big thick sheepskin pad. I thought it would make things all comfy for Salem, but it was actually just making the saddle fit even tighter.

At this point, I was feeling horrible. I asked Candy to look at my Collegiate to see if it was a better fit. Nope. Of course not! It's equally narrow and has probably been making every horse that I've ridden for the past however-many years sore. Super. My stomach acid at that point was so high that I probably should have given myself half a tube of GastroGuard. There might have been some mild hyperventilating involved. This was just getting worse and worse.

As a last resort, I asked Candy to look at Heather's saddle. She had let me ride in it during our last lesson, and it seemed to fit Salem very well. I figured, what the hell? Let's give it a shot. I placed it on Salem's back and, after a few minutes, Candy announced that it's a "near-perfect fit" that could be made perfect by some minor flocking adjustments. Of course it is. It's a $36000 saddle.

(Anyone have some Xanax?)

The Beautiful Magical Uber-Expensive Saddle

So, I have started saving up for a new saddle, as I realize that my saddle is far too narrow for any horse that I would ever ride or own. In the meantime, Heather has been gracious enough to let me borrow hers, as long as I clean it and put the stirrups back to her setting. Fair enough! I also ordered a Thinline saddle pad and booked an appointment for Salem to get a full-body massage.

Since he was so sore, I gave Salem a week off from under-saddle work and just did a lot of longeing, ground work, grazing, grooming, back massages, liniment rub-downs, and of course treat-giving and major apologizing.

Yesterday morning, Candy came down for Salem's massage. He loooooooooved it! He kept yawning and rolling his eyes back, and he even did this really weird/cool back stretch that I have never seen a horse do before. And it was interesting that Candy could tell so much from his muscles -- she said his right side needs to be developed more and he's stiffer on that side (so true!) and that he has sore muscles in his left hind (which is why he rests his left hind all the time).


That is one relaxed pony

Chunky Monkey!

This was meant to show Salem's stripey, sun-bleached tail

After his week-long vacay and hour-long professional massage, I'm pretty sure Salem has forgiven me. I think all the extra treats helped, too!

Thank goodness for Candy -- if it wasn't for her, I would have never found out about the saddle fit issue. Hindsight's 20/20, and looking back it all seems so obvious. On the longe, Salem was all stretchy and floaty, but he was always a bit short under saddle. All of my barn-mates thought his feet were sore and I should put shoes on him, but I knew that he would be short on the longe if he was foot-sore. I'm just grateful to Candy for getting to the bottom of the issue. How many farriers would have noticed a back-sore horse? Not many!

OK, I am off to the barn. We'll see how the lad does now that he's all loosened up and comfy. Fingers and hooves crossed for a big, swingy trot!