Saturday, December 3, 2016

In Which a "Blog Hop" Restarts My Writing Pastime

Okay, then. Long time no see! The ease of FaceBook has stolen me away from blog-land, but Aarene at Haiku Farm has started a "blog hop"--which I am taking as a personal challenge to re-activate Mountain Trail Music! This will also serve to update some of you that don't "do" FaceBook.

If you want to play along, I'll leave a clean copy of the questions in the comments.

Here's the directions:
  • Answer the questions (below) on your own blog, and leave a link to that post in the comments here.
  • In your post, invite readers to answer the questions on THEIR blogs, and link those blogs to yours AND to here.
  • Let's see how far this can travel!
  • Pictures!  Let's see lots of pictures of people and horses!
*  Introduce yourself!
HI! I'm Laurie and I consider myself "horsaii." Been addicted to horses for 55 years or so, doing everything from dude strings in the Sierras, to grooming for an Olympic eventer, to managing a 60-stall show barn, to breeding family/4H Paints, and most recently, offering retirement board for show and family horses. And just about everything in between!
My first horse, Shadow, 1969
"Holy Smokes," approximately 1975, Doylestown, PA

*  Introduce your horse(s)!
Kate (APHA "Canticle") was foaled in 2005, our fourth year of breeding Paints.
Raised here on the farm, I have done all of her training.
We've ridden all over the Eastern Washington Cascades.
She's a grandkid horse:
And sometimes she even fills in as a therapy horse:
Of the ten babies we bred, Kate is the one that still remains at EvenSong Farm.
She is my "heart horse" and will stay here as long as I am able to care for her.
(If she outlives me, she will go to my daughter's home.)

*  What's your favorite horse sport?
Since Kate was four, we have been competing in mountain trail events.
It's not your mama's arena trail class!


*Do you cross train in other activities?
Kate and I (and my other mare, Maddie, now in a new home)
have been dabbling in western and cowboy dressage for the last year or two.  

 I've also been know to hang out with a few endurance folks.

*  Who else in your family rides?
My grandkids all ride...unfortunately, it's only during the couple of weeks that they visit "Grandma's farm" each summer. My one Paint broodmare, Misty was who the older boys started out on, but Kate came up through the ranks to take more and more responsibility for the youngest one, as Misty's navicular started limiting her activities.
Mikey & Misty, 2005 (Maddie in tow)
Delaney & Brenden, on Kate (with Mom and Grandma), 2009
Mike on Kate, 2010

Delaney on Kate & Brenden on Misty, 2016
  My daughter rides with friends when she can.
Hubby Allan used to ride with me on occasion, but hasn't since this anniversary get-away in 2010.
*  What's your proudest equestrian accomplishment?
In spite of the fact that 90% of the photos in this post are of Kate and I (and I'm super proud of our partnership), I think I'm even more proud of the progress I made with Maddie over the last 15 months or so. 
Five years ago, after three years of successful green horse experiences, Maddie and I had a wreck, right in our own back yard arena. She bolted, and in the ensuing "unscheduled dismount" I wrenched my back, not to mention pummeled my confidence. 
For the four years following that, I was afraid of her, and she knew it. Every time I tried to start back up with her, all she had to do was pull a green horse stunt, and I would get off and not try again, sometimes for months.  I finally sent her to a trainer for spring and summer of 2015. He taught her lots, and never got any hint of a bolt, but he never did "click" with her--partly, I think, because he demanded things of her, and Maddie is the kind of mare than needs to be asked, with a good explanation of how and why. When I got her back home last fall, my goal was to ride, to quell the queasiness in the pit of my stomach and establish a partnership again. Then I would decide if I would keep her, or put her on the market. (I wouldn't sell her until I knew she was past all her issues.) 
We did several clinics, with moderate success. She was still flighty, but I was riding her through it. We didn't even try a lope until spring of this year, at another clinic, but when we did it with no fuss, no muss...I knew we were on the home stretch.  I actually took her to the Cowboy Mountain Trail Challenge, in Walla Walla in June. She did every obstacle I asked her to (I think I skipped two or three over the three day event)--she did them waaay too fast, and waaay not pretty, but she did what I asked. And I never once felt any butterflies about being on her.
With video from that event and one other, I put her on the market.  I had a local 4H senior come out and ride her a bit, as she had never been ridden by anyone besides the trainer and me, and she did well for her.  She now has a new home, with a couple who love her dearly.  They will primarily trail ride with her.

*  What was your lowest moment as a horse owner/rider?
I retired in June of 2014 in order to spend more time readying Kate and I for a competition season that I hoped would take us to the Regional and National Mountain Trail Championships in Eugene, Oregon.  Two weeks later Kate and I got tangled in some hidden barbed wire, while bushwhacking on a trail ride. (Feel free to get the whole gory story by going one post back on the blog.) Kate severed two tendons in her left hind, at the hock. It could have been career ending, if not life ending. She spent five weeks in a cast at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital of Washington State University. 

From the moment of the accident, to getting her out of the back country for emergency triage in town, to driving across the state to WSU, I was running on adrenaline and sheer determination to get Kate the help she needed. But as I drove home the next morning with an empty trailer, and topped a rise to get a panoramic view of the hills where we had been riding, I lost it.

*  What's the most important small thing you ever learned in a lesson?
That one has to support with the outside rein to gain control over the shoulders.
*  Do you have any riding rituals or superstitions?
Helmet--every time, every ride! 

*  What are your short term goals for yourself/your horse?
After WSU, Kate spent three months on stall rest here at home, then started hand walking and rehab work. Cleared to start riding her gently again the April after the accident, we did a lot of walk work and basic trail obstacles. We went to Walla Walla that June, mostly to just be at my favorite competition. Dropped down a division, and got some hesitation on certain types of obstacles. We didn't place, but we did do something much more satisfying: Kate and I were back! 

Because my focus this past year has been on Maddie, Kate has not been doing much. As soon as the weather starts improving next February/March, I plan on bringing her back into competition. The Eugene championships are back on the agenda, just a few years later than I planned. 

*  Long term goals?
I'm not sure how much longer Kate and I will compete--she will be 12 1//2 and I will be 66 by the time we get to Eugene next November. I doubt we'll make it to the "century club" (horse's age plus rider's equal 100), but I suspect we'll still be moseying down the trail for a few more years.
Teanaway River, 2010
*  If time and money were no object, what is your dream equestrian vacation?
I've always wanted to ride the Grand Canyon, as well as in the Canadian Rockies, near Banff (the latter would require getting a passport, though).

*  What kind of horse activities were you doing 10 years ago?
 We were right in the middle of our Paint breeding enterprise. Maddie and Kate were yearlings, the three geldings we raised before them were in homes, and two new fillies, both "Paints-that-ain't" were running around.
(This was actually 2007, I can tell because Kate's little sister Amy is at the center right of the frame.)

*  What kind of horse activities do you think you'll be doing 10 years from now?

The retirement farm is doing well: we're at eight retired residents, with two more on a wait-list. Because Allan and I make a commitment to keep a retiree until they pass, we have decided we probably won't take on any more after those two; possibly some short term rehab horses. As our ability to maintain the farm and horses declines, the number of horses will naturally decrease as well. We'll see...  
36 year old RT (Royal Tardez), who was part of the inspiration for the retirement business, greets "youngster," Sonny, 22

Fizz, 29, Bella 23

*  What is the quirk about your horse that you like most?
 Every year, when I haul Kate's fat, fuzzy butt out to start legging her up for the riding season, she will spend about 20 minutes on the lunge line doing airs-above-the-ground.  
February, 2011

January, 2010

But she always settles down and decides she's ready to go to work.


Sunday, January 25, 2015

Life Happens (Third catch-up post)

 This is a long post, but mostly pictures (some of which you may want to fast-forward through). 

Happier times:  Pat, on "Rambler" and me, on "Kate,"  at a poker ride in 2011.
The one bit of disappointment that came up during the spring of 2014 was that my good riding buddy Pat and her husband had decided to pull up stakes and move to Arizona to be closer to their kids.  They quietly put their farm on the market, and were surprised that it sold in just over a week!  Suddenly, Pat was in a whirlwind of preparations for a farm auction and a big move!  She had no time to ride. 
Shortly before they were to head south, but when most of the packing was done, I decided to drag her out for a "farewell ride."  Knowing she wouldn't want to lose an entire day, we chose to stay fairly close to home, and ride at the local "Wild Horse Wind Farm."  It wasn't one of my favorite spots, as there are few trees, but Pat had a little xeroxed map from the visitor center, that showed a four-mile loop that was just about right.
I drove, we got the trailer parked, saddled up, and headed out.  The so-called "trail" petered out less than a mile from the start of our ride, but we were in fairly open sagebrush and had the little topo map and the wind turbines to guide our bush-whacking, so we kept moving.
The "trail" we thought we were following started out in the trees, but soon disappeared.
 About 3/4 of the way around the loop, we were skirting a dry creek bed, headed for what was labeled "the old cow camp."  (A long time local later told me it was a moonshiners' camp, hence the name "Whiskey Dick Creek.")  We had spotted the remnants of an old fence line in the brush on the west side of the draw, so we stayed to the east, side-hilling as we scrambled through the brush.  Pat was leading, on her young horse Chief, and as she cleared the last bit of heavy brambles to break into the grassy clearing that was, we assumed, the cow camp, Kate tripped.  As she jumped forward to regain her balance, I could distinctly hear, uphill from us, the sound of old fence wire pulling through the brush.  I don't know how much of that barbed wire raked its way across her left hind hock, but after her third jump, I semi-voluntarily dismounted as she made her way down to the flat.  By the time she reached the clearing, she was free of the barbed wire, but it was obvious from the blood that we were in big trouble.
If you're at all squeamish about blood you might want to skip quickly over the next 3 or 4 pictures.

Waiting in the shadow of a turbine for Pat to return with the trailer.  (That's the soaked "dressing" we tried to fashion from a couple of kerchiefs around her ankle, not hide!)
 We tried fashioning a dressing out of two kerchiefs that Pat happened to have, but the bleeding was too much.  By the time I had it tied together, the fabric was saturated with blood and too slippery to stay in place.  Surprisingly, Kate was not lame.  I could see what turned out to be her extensor tendon loose in the wound, but it is not essential for movement.  We were maybe 300 yards below one of the ridgeline roads that service the wind turbines, so we started walking out, letting Kate set the pace, and rest when she needed to.
Cell service was spotty, but at the top of the hill we were able to get through to 911, as well as home.  We never did see the sheriff's department, but Allan was able to get in touch with folks from the riding club on FaceBook, and we had several offers to help.  Also contacted the on-call vet in town (it was 4th of July weekend!) and arranged to meet her at her clinic.  Pat walked out the two miles to get the trailer (we were afraid her young horse might not like leaving Kate, or that Kate might not like being left).  I stripped off her saddle and Kate, Chief and I waited in the shadow of the turbine--it was in the low 90s.  
Once we got to town, Dr. Samantha Howard cleaned up the wound and wrapped it, and started Kate on antibiotics and pain-killers.  Arrangements were made for a friend to haul Pat and her horse home, and Kate and I hit the road east to Washington State University's Veterinary Teaching Hospital, where Dr. Howard had arranged for a team to meet us (in about three hours--WSU is on the opposite side of the state from us).
Dr. Rund was the resident that met us, with a team of about eight vet students.  It was nearing 9:00 PM on the Sunday of a holiday weekend, but they were ready!  The wound stretched about 80% of the way around her leg--they pulled her hide up like a sagging sock to stitch it together.  But there was only a little spot, maybe the size of a half dollar, that was missing hide, so that was a plus.
That's Kate's extensor tendon sticking out.  It had been since the accident, though it would pull under the hide each time she took a step.  The extensor tendon has a redundant "twin" that can take over the job of pulling the toe up during a step, so they weren't too worried about repairing it--there was a good chance it would reattach with scar tissue.
Because the hock is such a mobile joint, the only hope for the wound to heal was to immobilize the leg.  Her *first* cast was fluorescent orange.
Dr. Rund teaching Kate how to swing the leg to the side, in order to move around, on the way to her stall.
After two weeks, the cast was removed, and the stitches taken out.  At this point, Dr. Rund had finished his residency and moved to a practice in Montana (I think), so Kate's care had been transferred to Dr. Claude Ragle, a surgeon at WSU.  Dr. Ragle assessment when the cast came off: "Looks great!  About as good as it could be!"  However, ten minutes later, after removing the stitches, Kate took one step, and the whole site opened back up like a faulty zipper!
So new stitches went in.  Also, it became clear, from Kate's ability to hyper-extend her leg to the rear, that another tendon had been ruptured, either in the original accident, or (as is known to happen) from the two weeks in the cast.  The "pernius tertious" reaches from the stifle to the middle of the cannon bone, and is part of the mechanism that retracts the whole leg, in a zig-zag scissors action, when the horse moves.  This was a more serious loss that the extensor tendon, as it might limit Kate's ability to walk normally.
This time her cast was red, and the plan was to keep it on three weeks.  This was shortened to two and a half weeks, when the cast shifted and began rubbing/irritating both the inside of her hock and the bottom of her pastern, just above the hoof, where it settled.  Also, when they took it off, they initially only removed half of the stitches.
A week later, the rest of the stitches were removed, the leg was wrapped in a bright yellow dressing, and I brought her home, five weeks after she arrived there!
"Are we there yet?"
"Yes, we're home, Kate."  Both getting into the trailer in Pullman, and getting out at home (where I let her turn around for the first time ever), Kate decided the best way to negotiate the trailer step was to "hop" on her good leg.  She would also do this when she was unsure of how to get her injured leg to do what she wanted it to--particularly for tight turns or changes of elevation (stepping over the threshold of her stall).  Otherwise, on a straight, level path, she moved soundly, if awkwardly.
Miss Saggy Britches
The biggest danger in the early months was infection.  I got pretty good at changing her dressing every 4-6 days.
Good pink granulation tissue, and, so far, no sign of proud flesh.
The rubs on her pastern and heel from the cast.
The first layer is basically a standing wrap of padding and vet wrap, which serves to keep the upper layer from shifting downwards.
Antibiotic ointment and non-stick dressing go under the next layer.
Elasticon adhesive tape over everything.
Including a good overlap of her hoof and gaskin, to *try* to anchor it in place.
Kate got pretty good at the drill.  So did I.
You can see we made use of every imaginable color of vet wrap.  Also some blue duct tape.
By October the wound was looking pretty good.  Unfortunately, on a couple of occasions Kate would get to farting around and reopen it.
She also developed quite a bit of swelling in her fetlock.  Vet assumes that is was primarily due to the lymphatic system shutting down while the leg was immobile in the cast, and to a lesser extent, in the dressings.
By September the wound probably could have gone without any covering, if the flies weren't still in residence.
Kate had been due for a hoof trim the week after the accident.  At WSU they hadn't felt comfortable making her stand on the leg for a trim for the first few weeks.  Finally, Dr. Ragle gave the go ahead for them to at least trim her fronts.  Upon returning home, in September, our barefoot practitioner, Diedra, was able to do the three other feet normally the first trim.  Kate still wasn't able to flex the injured leg very well, so Diedra just trimmed off the toe with a dremel-like tool.  This was helpful, as Kate was still dragging the toe a bit.  The next time, in late October, we tried getting Kate foot up to the hoof stand. 
What finally worked was to put her front feet up the little slope to the tackroom, and Diedra was able to trim out the sole some.
Looking good.
In October, Dr. Hayden gave us the best birthday present ever:  Kate was allowed out of her stall!  She was fairly well behaved on what hand-walks we did before the weather turned ugly.
And she now had a small pen where she could move around some more.  This additional movement started to reduce the swelling in her lower leg.
We decided to try some laser therapy, on the premise that it would help the scar tissue form is a stronger, more linear fashion.  Unfortunately, although Kate learned how to get in the trailer without the hop, the shifting of travel ended up opening up her would again.  No go!
She did get to move to a bigger stall and pen, but you can see the new blood/drainage.
She had also grown some really thick, curly hair on that leg.  In order to better keep track of the swelling, I decided in November to trim down the hair.
My clippers didn't want to cooperate.
So I made do with scissors.  It's a good thing that Kate and I trust each other!
It didn't look near as bad without all that hair! Her range-of-motion is still pretty limited, but slowly improving.
My wound care at this point consists of Desitin diaper rash ointment--basically zinc oxide with added vitamins A and D.  I have also been rubbing her lower leg down with "Sore-No-More"-- a witch hazel and arnica gel.
Due to my own medical issues, it's hard for me to be outside in the wintertime much beyond the time necessary to do chores.  But January has been unseasonably warm here this year, so last week we went for our first hand walk in awhile.
It started off calm enough...
...but as we got further from home...
...Kate felt like...
After a bit, Kate settled down and we had a pleasant, if vigorous, walk.  Same a few days later, without, thankfully, all the "airs-above-the-ground."
I have just this week gained the use of one of my boarders as a pony horse, so after I get to know him a bit better, and Kate builds a little more stamina on our hand-walks, we may start wandering a little farther afield.  Dr. Hayden believes that I may be able to ride her again by this summer.  Considering that this was not a foregone conclusion last summer, we've come a long ways.  It remains to be seen if she will be limited to local trail rides, or if I'll be able to compete her again.  She can step laterally, as required by many obstacles, but still has some trouble with stepping up and down.  Whatever is to come, Kate will always be "home" here with me.

My next, and final, catch-up post will be of some o the other goings-on in the last year.  Then I will try to keep you abreast of Kate's rehab, and the training adventure that Maddie will be embarking on next week.