Friday, May 6, 2011

Another Ride and Lots of Pain

You wouldn't know it by looking at this picture, but this trail ride ended with me in bed for the rest of the day and sitting here now with a hot pack against my spine. Ouch.

My Mysterious Issue:

From this picture, back up a few hours to when I woke up. My neck was sore on both sides and my lymph nodes were swollen. I emailed my husband, who was at work, and told him how odd it was and asked for suggestions. He didn't take it serious, since I didn't have any other symptoms, and emailed me back a joke, so I continued with my plans and got ready to go.

After arriving, we warmed up the horses in the arena at the trail head with a little walk, trot and canter work. It was overcast, but really, a beautiful day. I could ride in weather like that all year. I'm guessing it was 55--no wind--and cloudy.

Cowboy's Mysterious Issue:

During my arena work, actually, during the bending work, Cowboy started to toss his head. Weird. He hadn't done it at home in the arena or much on our ride the day before (he did do it a little on the ride the day before), but this head tossing started in earnest. Midway through, he was tossing it so hard he threw one rein clear over to the other side of his head and it got twisted with the left rein when we were standing on the cliff side. (It's always perfect timing, isn't it?)

There were three of us riding together, so I tried taking the lead and that put a stop to it--I think because his attention was more focused on the trail. But after a couple of hours, when we turned to go back in the direction of the trailers and turned instead away from them and headed to the Southern portion of the park to add another hour or so onto our ride, Cowboy resumed the violent head tossing. I rode for a ways with them, but decided to let the rest of the party go on without me and rode Cowboy back to the trail head, unloaded and went home.

I'm trying to make an appointment for Monday to get his teeth floated. While I'm at it, I think I'll ask them to take an x-ray of his front foot where he broke his coffin bone. I hope to narrow the problem down step by step. 1.) Teeth, 2.) Different bit, 3.) Foot. I hope step 1 solves the problem.

The issue I didn't mention, but that was going through our minds, is anxiety. First rides of the season away from the herd are always anxiety provoking. Cowboy used to jig, but it made me wonder if he's head-tossing now instead. I'm still hoping it's teeth.

So, why am I convalescing? First, I've never had a bad back or really, any reason to complain about pain after a trail ride, but after I slid out of the saddle yesterday, my back was OUT. I could barely get the 70 pound saddle off his back and into the tack room, him loaded and unloaded, trailer unhooked and walk back to the house. When I did finally accomplish all that, I walked straight to bed. Today, I'm feeling a little better, but confined to my chair.

My husband thinks I've contracted a virus that attacked my spinal column--which would explain the swelling in my neck lymph nodes. I don't have a fever or any other symptoms, and I sure hope he's right. Back pain stinks. I feel very sorry for people who have to live with it and I do NOT want to be one of those people.

Today's beautiful and I hate to spend it in a chair. Here's hoping the mysteries are solved and resolved and we can be back on the trail by next week.

More pics from the trail.

Since I mentioned the joke, here are the transcripts of my husband's and my email conversation:

My email:

Hi sweetheart. I'm heading out for a ride, but my neck is a bit sore around my lymphs--a little swollen, too. Is this a common thing?



45 Minutes Later...his answer:

Very common problem. it's Caused by a lack of "necking". Your husband needs too spend more time kissing on you.

Haha--hard to feel too bad about my back pain with a TX like that!

**Update: Kate suggested Head Shaking Sydrome, and, though I'd never heard of it, after reading up on it, I think it might be the case. Here is an article: Head Shaking Syndrome. As for me, I'm starting to feel like I have a head cold, but my back pain is much less now, so I'm going to go out and lunge Cowboy and see if he does the head shaking without the bit. I made our appointment for Wednesday (the earliest we could get in) to see the vet. He needs his teeth floated anyway and, if nothing else, his Dr. can give us what we need for the head shaking.


  1. Back pain is the worst! I hope this clears up for you quickly.

    I'll keep my fingers crossed that the float clears up Cowboy's head tossing issue.

  2. Could be a kidney infection - doesn't sound like it's just your back - or who knows?

    Cowboy's issue could be head-shaking syndrome - it often comes on this time of year - has he had it in years past? If that's what it is, cyproheptadine (I think I'm spelling that correctly), an anithistimine, may help.

  3. Kate--I immediately looked it up and found this info right off. Cowboy was trying to put his head into the tail of the horse in front of him, so it makes me wonder if you're right. Do you think I could ride him on the trail with a sun-blocking face mask? It wasn't actually sunny yesterday, but who knows.

    "A great study done at UC Davis found a link between headshaking and photic sneezing in people (sun sneezing). In this study it was shown that bright sunlight, usually in the spring, caused these horses to show headshaking and even go as far as to put their heads in open barrels or in the tail of another horse to shield them from the light. These stimuli appear to hyperactivate the trigeminal nerve resulting in a nasal irritation. This is believed to be similar to the photic sneeze syndrome in humans. The light or sound-induced headshake is a more violent and irregular, snorting toss, compared to the more rhythmic traditional head bobbing or nodding seen as a classic stereotypy. The horse may appear to be trying to scratch its nose on a foreleg or even on the ground as it snorts, even going along at a Trot. This form of headshaking almost always worsens under work, and immediately subsides as the animal is returned to the quiet and dark barn or rest, so is easily misinterpreted as a purely behavioral problem. In most cases, light-induced headshaking is seasonal, and will stop immediately when the eyes are covered or the area is darkened. Dark goggles or sun-blocking face masks may be all that is needed for some individuals.

  4. "Cyproheptidine, an anti-histamine that effects serotonin levels has been the best" it also said what you did. I'll talk to my vet about it Wednesday (the soonest they could us in.) :(

  5. Awhh, your husband is so nice! I hope it all works out for you!!!

  6. Now I'm curious. Are you saying that just merely being away from its regular herd will make a horse anxious, with the head-tossing and jigging? That they take that much comfort and security being around their familiar friends and truly want to be back with them? It almost sounds like a human characteristic, not the jigging and such, but missing the family when away from them, almost a homesickness.

    And I hope you're feeling better as the hours pass. You mentioned lifting a 70 lb saddle, could you have pulled a muscle in your back maybe?

  7. I've never heard of head shaking syndrome. Very interesting.

    Hope your back is better and you get to the root of Cowboy's issue whatever it might be.

  8. I hope you get to the bottom of both your mysteries soon. I would def'n look at every option for the head tossing.

    I have had mysterious back innings and outings once in a while. You are right, it's incredible how much it can incapacitate you.

    Your husband sounds a lot like my husband. :-)


  9. Joanne--I'm starting to think the back issue is related to the ride in some way--maybe the saddle lifting. I am feeling better--thanks!

    Horses get very herd bound after winter since they're used to being together all the time. The herd is extremely important to a horse. Some horses have bigger issues with this than others. (Beautiful scaling her fence last month.) Cowboy is actually not much of a herd bound horse. He's pretty independent, but this was his first trip out with new horses. I've noticed he's tossing his head a bit out in the pasture, the two are probably not related either.

  10. Thanks for the link and info on head tossing; thats a new one for me- probably because I don't own geldings.

  11. Hope your back pain goes away soon. Loved the message from your husband!

  12. It could be head shaking syndrome. I'd have the vet check it out when he comes for the teeth floating. One of my horses used to do this in the spring then would stop as quickly as he started it once all the trees were done budding, the grass was up etc.

    Hope your back feels better. I was wondering if you have Lyme ticks in your area. That could be a possibility. Hope you feel better soon. Sitting in the house on a beautiful day is no fun.

  13. He did it last year, too, but only in one place--a pasture in an open field at the end of the trail. We'd ride through that pasture to get to the trailer and he'd start bobbing his head. This year we were in the same basic area when it started, but not in the pasture. This is so weird--I'd never heard of Head Shaking Syndrome. I'm still hoping for an abscessed tooth!

  14. Just checking in to see if the back is doing better...and the head tossing. Have you been able to deduce if it is from sun in the eyes?

    Sure wish I could reply back to you when we get email notification of your comments. I don't seem to be too timely this way. Oh well...

    Feel better soon.

  15. Thanks, Juanita. Unfortunately, I haven't found the answers yet to the head shaking thing. My vet can't float his teeth until Wednesday and I leave for my nephew's graduation in NE on Thursday. I might take him out for a ride anyway and ride him with his fly mask to see if it helps. I'm going to start researching better fly masks though--because I think he needs his ears covered, too. Since he's partially a bald face with blue eye--I wouldn't be surprised if he has light sensitivity and some allergy. :/ He's such a great horse--I will get to the bottom of it.

    As for my back--still hurts. I guess I strained it on that ride. See, you turn 44 and all it goes to hell. I knew it!

  16. All I can tell you is that I know what it's like to have back pain and never be able to ride again. Hopefully, yours is just temporary. I had to sell my horses, and, man, do I miss them.
    By the way, that Cowboy is one beautiful horse.
    Marsha Hubler, author of the best-selling Keystone Stables Series

  17. Hope you and Cowboy both get sorted out soon and start feeling better!


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