Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The King of Comebacks

Originally published 10/2/12

When my farrier was out today we were talking about the miracle that is Cowboy--he called him "The Comeback King".  He survived being orphaned, breaking his foot, and a serious case of Head Shaking Syndrome.  Always, when I was about ready to give up, some miracle would come along and save him, and here he is today. 
I took profile pictures this morning in hopes of practicing and coming up with some that are good to blow up, frame, and hang in our Living Room.  I largely stopped taking pictures and photographing the horses a while back--something in me just did not want to chronicle the journey.  I'd consciously think that I should be taking photographs of rides, but I just did not want to, and I wouldn't.  I wish I had, because I missed some wonderful photos of the grandkids riding this summer. 
I guess I needed to live it and enjoy it and not analyze it for a while.
But now I'm thinking again.
And I think I need to get my butt in gear with Beautiful and Cia.  My rider/trainer was supposed to come out at the beginning of September and help me put some more time on them, but he was too busy and won't be out until April. 

So, that leaves it up to me and, frankly, I've been lazy.
End of story.
If you see me writing again on the blog, it means I'm going to address the elephant in the room, my young ones.  If you don't see me writing, I'm probably still avoiding it.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

I Wouldn't Have Believed it! (Equine Head Shaking Cure)

Last year, about this time in the summer, was so heart-breaking for me when I realized how bad Cowboy suffered from Trigeminal Neuralgia--or Head Shaking Syndrome.  I didn't know what to do for him except keep him in a dark stall with a mask and wait for winter or a cure.  I didn't want to start throwing things at it until I knew what I was doing--mostly because everything I read about had some side effects. 

During winter I did take the T-Touch lessons privately here at my home, and they did a lot for getting Cowboy back solid on his four legs.  He rarely, if ever, stands with his previously fractured P3 out in front of him anymore.  It also helped to reduce his stress and give him a relaxed frame.  But when the sunny days of spring came, so did the head shaking.

If you've followed the blog recently, you know that the carbamazepine (2000 mg 2X a day for 2 weeks) worked for him and I was able to ride around the property here and begin to work on the other behavior related issues--pulling back and fear of being approached from the right side when tied.  All I can say is thank goodness for Blocker Ties---I LOVE THEM. 

But if you'd told me last year I'd be riding Cowboy on the trail again this year, I wouldn't have believed you...but I did. 

We took our time and kept it as relaxed as possible and it all went wonderfully well.  I even rode cliffside--something I hadn't intended to do, but after a couple of hours of him doing so well, I trusted the situation enough to do it.  I was lucky to have a great riding partner who understood the seriousness of his first ride going well.  She was more than happy to stop and let them relax in the shade (half falling asleep) a couple of times along our route.

It felt so good to be back out with him again...like I was given a second chance.  Needless to say, I'm very happy.

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.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Keeping Him Going

I didn't get my TTouch session today; the practitioner wasn't feeling well.  A couple of friends did come over, though, so it was a fun day anyway, and the practitioner is going to try to make it over tomorrow morning, if she's feeling better.

Yesterday, in the pasture, I did notice that Cowboy was doing a little of the involuntary head bobbing and his ears were down in a look I identify with discomfort.  Now that the days are getting longer and there's more sunshine, I have to be proactive in my plan from last fall.  I'm going to call my vet tomorrow and discuss medication, and I'm going to order his darkening mask.  I've already separated him out into a stall during the day.  I'm going to go out in a few minutes and release him for the night.  I want him out as much as possible, so I'll start there and see how he does.

I love this horse so much, I've decided as long as he's happy I'll do whatever it takes to keep him going.  He's an important part of my life, and he has such a great personality--a real entertainer and sweetheart.  I have to do anything and everything I can to keep him from getting much worse; basically, I need to keep him from becoming a danger to himself and others.   

Oddly, I'm starting to dread the end of winter and beginning of spring.  

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Our Herd Takes a Run With Their Neighbors (Video)

The sun is out, the temperatures are headed up, and the herd is feeling feisty!  Here's a little video of them running together, and with the neighboring herd, and a little of Beautiful being the sweet-brat she is.    Even Red, our 31 year old, is getting in on the running action!

My TTouch practitioner called me this morning to check-in.  With the weather getting warmer this week, it's the perfect time to do another session with emphasis on the leg work.  She's coming over Thursday for three hours--two for me and one for any of my horse friends who want to do a hands-on clinic.  I'm excited!

You can see in the video that sometimes Cowboy favors his bad side (rather than foot).  However, since I started TTouch, he hasn't stood with it out in front of him at all.  I think the getting out and running and rolling is going to help him strengthen those muscles and align his frame.

Cia, my filly, is going to my trainer April 1st, so I'm going to have the practitioner assess her and give me a program to work on until she leaves.  She said it's GREAT preparation for them before they go into training.

Hope it's sunny your way!