Monday, April 23, 2012

Cowboy and Cia Update

This is why I love this horse.  He followed me to the front of the house, front pasture where I needed to do some gardening....



and left his herd a mile away.  (picture from side of house looking to the back of the barn where his herd is grazing--you can't even see them they're so far away.)


You may have noticed my blog has been quiet since I started the meds.  That's because things were going so well I didn't want to jinx it by speaking too soon.  And, luckily, I didn't, because things did take a turn, but at least I can't blame it on bad luck.

First, I missed one of his dosages.  The next day he was head shaking again.  I started him right back up, but  there was some more of it today.  Milder than before, but enough for me to mask him again.  Is it that delicate a situation that I can never miss a dose?  Is his dose not high enough?  Does he just need a mask in conjunction with the meds?  (He isn't head shaking right now as he grazes in the front pasture.  I'm looking at him through the window from my desk as I write.)  More later.  I consider this an experiment, and after this whole regimen is completed I'll consult with my vet again and decide the next step.

As for Cia, we definitely took a few steps back.  She had always trusted me and came to me whenever I'd show up with a halter and lead.  Not so now.  She runs from me.  All week I've worked on catching and releasing her.  She is definitely catchable with a little effort, but I'm not used to having my horses "leave" me. She's telling me, "No, thank-you," and "I don't trust you anymore."


Of course, that makes me sad, but I'm not worried.  I know she'll come back around and be where she was with me.  She's already following me along the fence line again when I leave.  It was just a scary experience and she's having to re-acclimate to our ways.  She also doesn't want me to take her off or hurt her.  When she remembers that fly spray, grooming, and masking don't hurt, but help, she'll be on the road to remembering I only ask her to do safe things.  Today, however, she is going to get a little lunging and working on the lead.  More on that later...

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Day One After Meds

Sunshine.  No mask.  No head shaking.

One point for us.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Cowboy Starts His Meds, Cia Rests

Cowboy started his medicine regime today--carbamazepine twice per day--10 pills which we'll reduce to 6 pills when he shows improvement.  For now, the mask is coming of so we can tell if there actually is an improvement, but we'll also have to have some sunlight.  My veterinarian spoke to some other veterinarians who treat more of these cases and they said they've had remarkable results--even curing it completely--with carbamezepine.   We're going to start with that and then add in cyproheptadine with it--only if necessary.  At the highest dosage it costs about $25.00 for ten days.  The cyproheptadine is much more expensive, but my vet has found a way to bring the price down.

Cia is in her stall resting.  For some reason the other horses acted like they'd never seen her before and the mares were horrible to her last night.  She had a big bite mark on her hind end this morning.  I put her in her own stall today and made many trips back and forth to just be with her and soak her girth area in warm water.  I won't be putting her out with them for a long time.  I just want her to rest and get used to being home again.  I've started doing some of the TTouches to help her relax--mostly massaging around her neck and shoulders and face (as much as she'll allow).   I'm not going to rush her back into training, but when the opportunity is right, I do want to move quickly and keep her going.  I'll probably start with light ground work and go from there.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Cia Is Home, But Will She Ever Be a Trail Horse?

Yes, you read the title correctly, Cia is home.  Training was cut short.  She flunked out of kindergarten.

It wasn't entirely her fault--because of her shedding, she got some cinch sores, and was probably experiencing pain.  She needs rest to heal up, so I decided to bring her back and do some other stuff.  

After two weeks she wasn't settling down and since she's being trained 2.5 hours away, it was difficult for me to assess why.   

One way of looking at it:  A lot was thrown at her.  As my sweet-never-failing-hard-working-willing-to-drive-six-hours-to-get-my-sweet-horse--husband and I were driving to pick her up today, we ran into a cattle drive right along the rode.  Yep, a full-fledged cattle drive--people on horseback, 4-wheelers, trucks--herding hundreds of a cattle down the road where we were driving. (These were Cia's new friends from the ranch where she stays) We had to stop and let all the calves and their mamas pass by us.

Maybe Cia is more of a city horse than a country horse and all those cows were just a little disconcerting.  Add to that a couple of stallions stalled near her, spring fever, and some of the rockiest, steepest terrain you've ever seen, and you can see why, maybe, she was a bit frazzled.

The question now is whether Cia will ever be a "trail horse". 

The negatives:  When she was scared, she was really scared.  She didn't care where she placed her feet.  She didn't care who was in front of her.  She was dangerous.

I have never seen any of this out of her, but then again, I've never pushed her outside of her comfort zone.  

Where do I go from here? 

I'm going to let her heal up, and I'm going to think about it.  I will probably attend some clinics with her and continue to ride her here at home.  I'll also trailer her with me whenever I go on outings so she can get used to leaving home and herd.  And, I'll wait to fully assess all of this until spring fever is over.

My gut instinct is that she's a better horse than that.  I've been riding her for three years and never seen any of this.  Maybe she's a sensitive horse who needs to be trained by her owner.   Maybe with enough exposure she can desensitize.

On the other hand, I know what all those signs mean, and I don't want to get hurt on a horse.  I want a horse who will be my partner out on the trail and not put me in danger when a herd of elk come crashing across our path.

So, one step at a time.  She'll have to prove herself to become a "trail horse."

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Update On Cia

I got my first week progress report on Cia yesterday.  Unfortunately, she was pretty hyper and herd-bound to start off with.  I imagine that comes from never having been taken away from her home here.  Apparently, she also tried to go sideways when she was tired of going forward, something I've never had her do, but may have become an issue with harder work.  The good news is she's doing better this week.

None of this is very surprising.  The first two weeks of training where they're getting used to a new place and a new person often makes them nervous.  And with this being her first time ever away from home, it's probably just magnified.

I wanted to go down and see her Monday, but opted not to because the price of gas ($70 round trip), but I'm definitely going to go down next week.  Hopefully she'll be more settled and have a good, solid work week under her belt.

She still has a long way to go.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Red Scare

I thought we might lose Old Red on Easter.

Last night he laid down in the sun and didn't get up.  When I went out to check on him he did jump up, but laid down again.

We took him to a stall and gave him water and food.  He ate and drank, but since he's so old, I didn't know if he'd survive the night.

This morning....

He is risen.

He's out in the sunshine, eating and bossing Beautiful around.  (She deserves it.  She was taking advantage of him last night when he was in the dumps.)

Lucky us, we still have Old Red!  Don't know what was bothering him last night, but I guess it could have been anything.  We'll keep watching.

It would NOT have been a happy Easter without him and we need our happiness today.  We have a lot planned--lots of family coming over and a huge Easter egg hunt for the kids AND adults!

Happy Easter, everyone!

PS. Ordered a 70 percent block out mask from Cashel--ears, eyes and nose coverage--tried it out on Cowboy in the sunshine yesterday--no head shaking--stayed on.  Keep your fingers crossed!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Funny Looking Mask


This seems to help a little, but I can't wait until his meds come in.  The sun came out and so did the head-shaking.  He seemed to do well all morning with his mask on, but the mask came off and he started the head bobbing and nose scratching.  I put the mask back on, but it hasn't gone away.  I'm watching him now.  If it doesn't go away soon, I'll put him back in his stall.  He gets 100 percent relief in there.

This is a funny looking mask, isn't it?

Monday, April 2, 2012

Getting Cia to the Trainer


What a great day!  It started with my pathological fears and ended with none of my pathological fears being realized!

9:00--Going to get Cia loaded--falsely assuming she's done that recently and it will be easy.  (In fact, she hasn't been loaded without a buddy in four years.)  She loads right in, but looks nervous.  I back her out and try to load her again to show her it's okay, but she balks.  I begin to wonder if that was a big mistake and will make me late for my 11:30 Estimated Time of Arrival.  However, the god of horses is watching over me, and Cia decides to trust me once again and reload.  I shut the divider and exit as quickly as I can, hoping her good brain and calm personality will win out.

9:15--Fifteen minutes into the drive, I begin wondering if she's broken her neck or legs.  Has she hit her head?  Is there blood back there?  Is she still alive?

9:20--I get a phone call from my sister (on bluetooth) and tell her ALL of the horror stories I've heard about trailering green horses.  Effectively, I transfer worry to her mind and calm my own.

11:27--I pull up at the ranch passing hundreds of cows who are lounging in the pasture.  

11:30--I jump out of the truck to inspect Cia.  She's in one piece (not a scratch) and looking with wide-doe-eyes at the beautiful stallion in the roundpen.

11:35--I walk her to her stall and she immediately begins to eat as if she's lived there her whole life.

11:35-1:30--Iget to relax and hang out with my friends over lunch.

1:30--We head back to the ranch to see the horses and Cia is still calm and happy.

My trainer, who is also a good friend, was showing me her husband's newest horse after we'd gotten back from lunch.  It was a beautiful, large-boned, muscular gray mare.  She told me how once it had been starved, completely emaciated and covered in lice.  It had been rescued by a woman (she gave me the name) and...more of the story.  My mind had stopped at the name of the woman.  It was my brother's fiance's name.  We compared notes trying to figure out if we were talking about the same person, and sure enough we were.

After calling my future SIL, sure enough, it had been her horse!  What a story.  She and her sister had rescued 11 horses from utter filth and deprivation.  What had happened to those horses was nothing short of HORROR.  What a happy ending for that mare.  And such a small world.

Anyway, despite my many fears, it was a wonderful day with no mishaps.

Oh yeah, I forgot...

2:30: I call my sister from the truck (bluetooth). She has anxiously been waiting to hear if Cia has broken her neck or legs and died in transit.

Oops.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

My Boy and #@##!! Head Shaking Syndrome


For the first time since last July 2011, I'm starting to have hope again that I may, in fact, still have my horse Cowboy as a trail riding partner.

The very knowledgeable and astute Kate, from A Year With Horses, first threw out the term Head Shaking Syndrome after reading a list of symptoms I'd posted.  I'd never heard of it.  At first I didn't even take it seriously.  All I could think was that an ill-behaved horse also throws its head around.  Was I dealing with misbehavior....or a real thing?

In fact, it was a real condition--and nothing to take lightly.  After seeing Cowboy thrashing at his own face one day, I was struck to the core about how serious an issue it really was and, I was soon to find, impossible to cure.

(A very disturbing video of Cowboy at his worst.)



This blog became a real depressing place to hang out as I alternated between false hope and despair.  I almost lost all interest in horses--something I see now as part of the process of letting go of Cowboy--depressing my emotions for him, but also depressing them for the others.  I had to let go, but not say good-bye and, in many ways, it was worse than him dying.

I'm glad I did (let go of him) because even now things are uncertain and it was time to move forward with my other horses--no matter the outcome.  And, I'm doing that--Cia is off to training tomorrow and I have a new plan of action with Beautiful's saddle-training which I'll talk about in an upcoming post.  Hint: It has to do with a Julie Goodnight technique.)

Two months ago I started a wonderful new treatment with Cowboy--TTouch--which I've talked about ad nauseum since then.  He had reached a point of frustration.  His broken-but-healed-front coffin bone-displaced-into-the-coffin-joint was showing minor signs of arthritis (last spring's x-ray) and he was often standing with that foot placed out in front of him.  Also, when his symptoms were at their worst and he was still being tied up, saddled and ridden (due to my ignorance falsely assuming it was largely behavioral), he worked himself up, for good reason, and became a more high-strung, reactive horse.

TTouch helped me bring him back down and work from his calm, non-reactive mind and it did wonders for his body.  Since we started I haven't seen him stand with his foot out once--not one time.  (Fingers crossed).  Today we had a horrible wind/rain/snow storm and all the horses were batty, but I haltered Cowboy with his TTouch nylon halter (light touch) and he walked out of the stall as docile as a kitten and let me do all  my crazy TTouch work--shoulder, face, mouth, ears, tail, legs--without a bleep.  He was Mr. Cool.

Yet, on the two sunny days we've had this spring, I saw him tossing his head again out in pasture.  It was that vertical jerking that we all now know as Head Shaking Syndrome.  For that reason, he is now stalled most of the day and on sunny days will wear his Guardian Mask with the big goggly eyes which block out 90 percent of the sun's rays.  Makes me think Cowboys and Aliens!  (picture coming soon.)  TTouch did not cure his HSS, but I do think it treated many of the symptoms--elevated fear, tight muscles, and overall pain.

By now you're probably wondering why I started this post so optimistically.  Well, the answer is because my veterinarian did some research and found that carbemazepine (anti-seizure meds) in conjunction with cyproheptidine (anti-histimine) have reduced symptoms in 88 percent of head shakers by 80-100 percent.  It's not a cure, but sure has shown some promise for helping them live better lives.  My husband says that the carbemazepine is also used in humans and can cause drowsiness, which may be why my veterinarian says it should be administered 6 hours before a ride.

This is going to be extremely time-consuming.  The meds have to be administered 3x per day during the spring, summer and fall, which is quite a time commitment and there is no guarantee how long it will work, if it works at all, since horses and humans can develop a tolerance.  Still, it's given me something to hope for.   Now it's just a matter of waiting for the meds to arrive and getting him on the program and wearing his space alien mask.

And though I have high hopes, I'm moving way ahead with my other horse's training.  It really is a new chapter...no matter what happens.

***My blog posts were few and far between after Cowboy showed his severe symptoms.  I was just reading over them and realized I hadn't even responded to many of your extremely kind comments back then.  Thank you so much for stopping by to cheer me up even if I was completely checked out mentally and emotionally.  Here and here.