Tuesday, July 31, 2012


A couple months ago I  noticed that Cowgirl was a "little" off and I put her on stall rest.  Everyone around me thought I was nuts because they couldn't see it. They thought I was overreacting.  After a couple of weeks, she did look better, even to me, and when the farrier came, he couldn't find anything wrong.

Then, about three weeks ago, I noticed she was lame again and put her back in the stall.  Again, she didn't look lame to anyone else.  We had the trip to Washington DC planned, and since it's my daughter's horse, I asked her to observe and make a decision.  She reported back that she didn't detect any lameness.

Let me backtrack. 

When I spotted the lameness, I did an all-over body check for heat, swelling, abrasion, tenderness--anything that would pinpoint the problem.  I found nothing.

When I got back from DC, I asked my daughter to come out to the barn with me.  I wanted to test each hoof and then have her take her through the different gaits so I could observe from a distance.  She didn't want to let me pick up her hooves--especially her front left.  She also had a hard time taking up the lope on her left lead.  We suspected some tissue injury in the left shoulder and put her away to rest again.

This week, however, things started to get worse.  It began to look like the problem was in her right hind (which made sense--left front to right hind) because she was acting like she didn't want to use her back legs.  She was walking goofy.

And, actually, now I should switch to the present tense because she is acting the same way today.  In fact, today she is acting like she is disengaged form her hind legs.  She can stand fine and eats fine...doesn't seem like she's in any pain, but when it comes to walking, her movements are uncoordinated. 

I put a call into my farrier last night and he'll be here tomorrow at 8, and I'm going to arrange an appointment with my vet directly following it.  I want to first rule out any hoof problems and then go from there. 

However, I'm starting to highly suspect EPM.  Makes me sick to think it, but all signs are starting to point that way.

List of symptoms as they progressed:

1. Slightly off, almost undetectable. (2.5 months ago)
2. Return to soundness
3. Slightly off, almost undetectable again.
4. Unwillingness to pick up hooves for cleaning. (3 weeks ago)
5. Difficulty maintaining left lead.
6. Slow, uncoordinated walking. (3 days ago)

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.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

No Headshaking, No Bad Cinch Memories

Just a quick little update from my blogging break:

I've spent the summer adjusting Cowboy's dosages for the head shaking.  So far, in pasture, we've been able to completely end it--sunshine and all--and if I give it to him two hours before a ride (10 x 200 mg carbamezepine) no head shaking during riding.  I tried a lower dosage for a while (8 pills) and it didn't do the trick.

However, when I knew I'd taken care of the head shaking, I was left with some other problems that were residual from the head shaking last year.  One, was when he acted like he couldn't see me coming--like something was wrong with his eye--he'd pull back hard when tied.  Knowing this might happen again from a learned-behavioral perspective, I switched to a Blocker Tie, and oh my goodness, did that come in handy!  First day--pulled back--blocker tie gave--he stopped (I LOVE Blocker ties).  Also, last year under saddle he developed a weird fear of being fly sprayed before rides, but I couldn't work him through it due to the head shaking problem.  This year we spent a lot of time spraying and running in circles until he stopped and relaxed.  He'd really developed a phobia.  Odd, especially since I can approach him in the turnout (untied) and spray him all over.  It's only under saddle that he would be so fearful.  (Habits: easy to make, difficult to break!)

My other equine issue was Cia and her cinch sores.  They took a long time to fully heal, and at first she wouldn't let me anywhere near them with salve or brushes.  But after a while, I discovered they were itchy, and she absolutely loved for me to just stand there and itch on them.  She'd get that face like they get when you're scratching their withers and find their sweet spot.  I did it every day hoping to turn bad memories to good. 

When I went to saddle her I treated it as if it was the first time ever, introducing the blanket first, then the saddle, off and on, and much later actually cinching it up.  No problem.  So, I figured I might as well bridle and get on, which I did.  She was great.  She was actually much better in every area, probably because of the two weeks of training she did get. 

It's hot here--about 100--so not much else going on.  We're all trying to survive the heat.  Cowgirl has a mysterious lameness--it has been on and off all summer.  Today we're going to go out and try a few things to pinpoint where it's coming from. 

Happy Summer Trails!