Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Vet Visit for Q

Back in March when both horses had their annual check-ups (vaccines, Coggins, health certs, teeth check (neither needed anything this year), etc.) I had my vet check Q's hocks as I've been concerned for awhile now that her hocks could be/become an issue down the road.

My vet flexed Q and had me trot her out. Q was grade 1-2 lame on her right on the trot away, normal by the time we turned to trot back. She was grade 3 on her left going out and grade 2 on the return.

The weather was in the single digits on this day. My vet and I discussed the potential for x-rays and perhaps other diagnoses at a later date (when it was warmer). She said I shouldn't worry greatly just yet, but be sure to monitor Q through the spring. Depending on how she was doing on training rides leading up to competition we may decide to look into things sooner rather than later. Q would tell me if I paid mind.

I noticed Q had some medio-lateral imbalance in her hooves around the time of my vet's initial visit. I focused in on this for awhile, and made effort to balance her out over the next few months.

Life plodded on. Q plodded on. She didn't exhibit typical signs that her hocks were bothering her: she was eager to work, didn't refuse work, didn't rest her hind legs any more or less than normal, had zero issue or reluctance navigating hills up or down, had no back pain, etc.

We entered No Frills. We completed No Frills. She was tired at the end, but after she was allowed to eat for a half hour upon completion she was much perkier. (She had been drinking well all day but refused to eat at the away check, so I wasn't too surprised by this.)

Training continued. Behavioral spooking issues increased in frequency, but no other signs of pain were exhibited.

Then at the OD one vet was over-critical of Q's swinging/waddling gait. Those who know my little girl know it's just her way of going. Still, we were almost pulled for it twice when the same unfamiliar vet watched her go.

We completed the OD, though Q was obviously stiff and sore through her hind legs notably the following day. It was hypothesized with Saiph, my vet, and others that it was time to look into diagnoses for her hocks.

My vet came out last night. We flexed Q again before starting anything else. She trotted out with no lameness on her right. She was grade 1-2 on her left. Intrigue. My vet was intrigued. I was intrigued. I noted about the medio-lateral imbalance and my efforts to correct that since March, wondering if that could have made a difference? My vet concurred, it may have.

We did xrays.









Her left hock shows the beginnings of some arthritis, but not bad at all. My vet said she would be uncomfortable giving injections at this point. She noted that we could, if I wanted, but that she wouldn't recommend it.

I inquired then about what could possibly be causing Q's behavioral differences? Yes, I'm certain I am an issue - I am riding her differently since she has been spooking so dirty. I micromanage more and fret more. That needs to be fixed, duh.

But couldn't she be acting out because of pain? What about her stiffness and soreness post OD? And her gait oddity? My vet answered re: stiffness with the intensity of the ride. The terrain coupled with the length of time we rode would be hard on most horses! And her gait oddity is just how she is. My vet (who vetted at the OD and vets other endurance events) noted that for every 100 horses she sees at an endurance ride, at least 10 of them have an odd gait. She said that the important thing to watch for with trot outs on horses like Q is the symmetry of their gait; the same way you'd go about watching a trot out for a gaited horse like Funder's Dixie. 

I still inquired about saddle fit. I noted that her spookiness did begin increasing after I started riding in the Ansur all the time. But she'd never ever shown issues with her back being tender or sore - I mean hell, she's done three 50s where she was examined by a minimum of 6 different vets in this time. She's had her annual check-up and now this check up. Something would have shown up somewhere in that time with all of those different eyes on her! My vet agreed with this.

In fact, my vet followed up my saddle inquiry with this question, "Think more simply."

Want to talk about changing herd dynamics?! Because my vet did. And she thinks this could be playing a much larger role into things. (She has a horse who is very similar to Q in so many ways; she's stated this from day one of me having Q. She's had that horse for most of his life. She noted that this horse's social status in the herd affects his behavior in a HUGE way.)

So, I noted to my vet that in addition to the saddle change, Q had been in the field with two VERY studdy geldings for the same amount of time; in other words, the saddle change and herd dynamic was altered about the same time.

The first gelding arrived the same time I began exclusively using the Ansur. His arrival triggered some manic heat cycles in my little girl. She was never herself while they were in the same field. Fortunately though, his aggressive displays toward humans (remember when he offered a double barrel kick at me?!) got him sectioned off into the other half of the pasture on his own last fall. His owner never came out, so being in the far field wasn't a problem. Sectioning him off helped some, but Q was still VERY drawn to him and would spend a large amount of her free time grazing alongside him on her own side of the fence.

And then, the Christmas Surprise horse arrived. He started kind at first, but with time and less of a work load (weekly/biweekly lessons were not enough to keep his temperament where it had been) he became quite studdy. In fact, by spring and the mares heat cycles beginning, he was head gelding on his half of the field, as typical head gelding Little Bit was in the far field with the other studdy gelding and three other horses who weren't typically ridden or worked with.

Drunk mare is DRUNK.
She is NOT a cheap drunk either.
Finally, this spring, the original studdy gelding left. I was thrilled. Except, then I wasn't.

This is the first formal mention of this on the blog: Suddenly, K's Xmas Surprise horse was behaving in a horrid way. He was never aggressive toward people the way the other gelding had been; he understood what "back off" body language was and listened. But boy did he love the mares. He loved the mares so much that he would mount them. He would mount them and get the job done. Stir it around and finish it off.

I flew into worrying about my little girl getting a piece of something I didn't want her to have. My BO assured me that Q had ZERO interest in that gelding. She was always aggressive in her body language toward him telling him to back off. Of course I'd always seen this at the barn when I was there - despite that gelding's manic calling and galloping toward Q when she returned from a trail ride. I worried about what was going on when no one could see though. Fortunately, the horses were still confined to the area of field within sight of my BO's house (primarily her kitchen window where she watches them as she cooks - its how she saw him "breed" her mare).

His owners called his original owner - a 71 year old man - to confirm his gelding. The guy said he'd been gelded as a yearling and "it was done right". Well, okay. But still, cryptorchid anyone?! I still worried. (And will continue to show concern until she's squealing, kicking, peeing, and squirting again haha.)

The geldings owners were less and less enthralled with him as a match for their girl, whom I'd been giving lessons to all this time. I was on board with their concerns. While the horse wasn't mean or aggressive in any way, he had learned he could get away with almost anything he wanted. His behavior spiraled downward from there.

A few weeks ago, I saw that a friend of mine was selling her incredibly versatile little mare for a STEAL of a price. She's 10 years old, Q's size, and has the sweetest temperament ever. I've known the horse for YEARS. She's shown English, western, and has been used to rope goats. She's an in-your-pocket sweetheart of a mare. I shared with K and her family, and before I knew it, she was bought and was on the property and the gelding was sold back to his original owner. He's been gone 2 weeks now.

Little Bit is back in charge. He's a terrific little leader. There are five geldings and four mares now. Q hates the new little mare and bosses her around in a bigger than usual-for-her way. The usual head mare has had some lameness issues of late that have led to her being corralled away from the others. Q was always neck and neck with her as head mare; lately Q is in a bigger role though. Neither mare is aggressive. Both tend to just give visual displays instead of resorting to physical confrontations to demonstrate their leadership.

I talked about all of this with my vet. She nodded all the while. She noted that Q's cycle may be the  biggest thing affecting her mood. We discussed regumate (so expensive. No.) and maybe trying to marble Q next spring - even though the efficacy of this method isn't very high. My vet was on board with SmartMare Harmony and the Magnesium supplements Q's getting (and has been on for about 5 weeks now).

Between the supplements and me doing what I can to micromanage her less, we'll see where we get. Our ride the other day was encouraging (details in next post). This new herd dynamic and Q's role within it may play favorably for us. (And could bite us in the butt later on if it changes again!)

Time will tell.

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In addition, to all of the hypothesizing about Q's behavior during the vet visit, we also took time to take care of Q's scratches once and for all.

I did SO well this winter shaving her legs and keeping them clear of scratches. I would have never guessed that they'd crop up like this in JUNE. UGH!!

They were about 75% better a week or so after the OD. But then I didn't make it out for a day to put on medicine and they went downhill in a big way. And I don't know (and didn't think to ask last night) if the bugs are playing a role in exacerbating it, but I think they may be. They don't leave her legs alone. The gnats especially dig on in and don't go away. They meander from one are to another on each leg.

We'd had to sedate Q to get her to stand still (she was upset about the cords and the camera for the xray process) for her xrays, so we started to remove the scabs. Well, she wasn't drunk enough to deal with that pain, so we doped her up even more! She was STILL reacting to us removing the scabs and had to be twitched on top of all that sedation! They were BAD.

I knew this, but I knew I couldn't get near her legs to fix it without her being sedated. With the impending vet visit, I just decided to be patient. Q has had a yearly battle with scratches ever since I bought her. She's much more prone to them than any horse I've ever been around.

As a result, handling her feet/legs is super tricky because she's dealt with so many bad sensations on her legs. She's the kind of horse who experiences a bad poke ONCE and then anticipates the hell out of every tiny potential movement you may be making near the area of the bad poke. She'll dance away and get herself all in a tizzy.

In fact, in writing this, I almost wonder if some of her spooking could be because in addition to seeing a potential monster, she took a misstep that caused a rock to fly up and knock her square in one of the scabs/bad spots while moving. That would certainly hurt enough to merit a big response!

My vet noted that my other endurance friend in the area, Jen, has a gelding who gets chronic scratches like what we're dealing with on Q. She's finally had to resort to keeping his legs shaved year round and washing them once every two weeks or so to really clean them up. I'm probably in that boat, too.

Just look!

You can see the areas on her legs from here. This was last week.

Somewhat noticeable here as well.

After we shaved and removed scabs last night.
Mid-way through scrubbing process with medicated shampoo.

Poor little girl. At least she was drunk?

Her left front has been the worst this time. So bad.

Hinds covered in medicated shampoo and suds.

Floppy drunk lip.

Drunken stance.

After we rinsed her off, right before I applied the steroid ointment.




Front left. =(

So you can see, it's pretty bad. I left her in a stall last night through today to help keep her legs dry (out of wet, dewy grass) and to keep the bugs at bay some. I'll apply the CK Shield balm/salve tonight, and she'll go back out. If I need to, I will reapply the steroid creme tomorrow. Otherwise, we're back to the balm for several days and another shampoo in a day or two.

Hoping to see some drastic improvement!

I'm sad that the scratches reached this level, but they were honestly much better and then got really bad again in a hurry. We'd been applying the balm daily and keeping them as clean as she'd allow us. She was quite a witch about being touched there though (with reason), so I'm happy we could finally get it taken care of last night!



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There will be three winners!
It ends Friday.

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