First cookie and there’s an app for that

Earlier this week, I wrote the MS blog that I’ve been wanting to write for, oh, about five years.  After getting that out, I just sort of went into a writing stupor, and now, dear friends, I am back.

Howdy’s eye continues to improve and the thrice-daily (ooooh, getting Biblical!) treatments continue in earnest.  Though I have ridden him, I am spending a lot of time on lunging because he needs:

  • the help in going to the right
  • more ground work in general
  • to stop overreacting to every cluck or kiss

A little back story I got from his trainer at the track – they sent Howdy to a guy to break and condition him.  The guy was supposed to be galloping him under tack but it turns out that after he broke Howdy, he was just ponying him from another horse for conditioning.  When they raced Howdy, he didn’t have the under-tack fitness to do well and his owner said that it broke the horse’s heart to lose so badly to the other horses.  It was so profound to hear this gentleman say that – so dear to see how much he loved his racehorses.  He said Howdy never made him a dime, but that he also didn’t like to see the horse’s heart broken.  <sniff>

So now Howdy hasn’t had much success in his life, and I think that horses know when they are “successful” by human standards.  They read us better than we read each other. (Have you ever had a horse not like somebody that you thought was just fine and later you found out they were not?)  At any rate, if a horse hasn’t had much of a feeling of success around people, it may take a while to help them understand that the game is fun.

6_pyramid_training-300x169He skitters at a cluck and jumps in the air into a canter depart at a kiss.  Some horses just do this. I’m not blaming anybody, in fact, I don’t think it is all bad.  At least we have forward.  Alois Podhjasky would approve!  But we want him to go forward in relaxation.  Why look, that is near the bottom rung of the dressage training scale.

I have no problem spending the time to get him to settle and to learn that everything we are going to ask of him he can absolutely do.  It may seem like I have been just “chasing a horse around in circles,” doing eye treatments and paying vet, farrier, chiro and feed bills with this horse so far, and I suppose, objectively, that is true.  But just like it is winter forever until one day it is spring, all of this time and attention to detail will put things over the tipping point, and the sun will come out and the birds will sing.

He’s getting there.  Today was the first day he ate a cookie from my hand.  That’s a good sign.  And now he can do big circles to the right in a trot on the lunge.  He even cantered a few times today to the right on a right lead of his own accord.  Yay.

Tomorrow the chiropractor comes out to see if we can get him more comfortable going to the right.  I’ve had some good experiences with having horses adjusted.


These are my big silly Bravado ears

Meanwhile, two other items of note: Bravado did his second hunt on Sunday and represented himself pretty well most of the time.  There might have been a small anxiety rear once or twice, but he was much better at staying in trot when he should have been (horses new to hunting tend to want to canter rather than trot to get from point A to B, but honestly, most of hunting can be done quite well in trot) and he stood at checks pretty well.

And the other thing is that I found the coolest app and I hope it will be really helpful to me in my meal planning and execution.  Maybe you are looking for something like this too.  It is called  Mealime and basically it provides recipes and the corresponding shopping list for four meals at a time (you can also choose different numbers of meals, but four is what I chose).  Brilliant!  You can choose how many people you are cooking for, whether you want Traditional, Easy on the meat, Vegetarian or a couple of other options.  You can tell it what ingredients not to include in your recipes and you can sync your phone to the online app.

Not having to think every day about what is for supper?  Smashing.  Eating healthy without stressing over it?  Brilliant.  And absolutely horse-related.  Did I mention it is free?  Double bonus technical merit points from the West German judge*. A rider who is not worrying about what is for supper is a happier rider.  Nom, nom, nom.  🙂

*an obscure reference to ice-skating judging in the 70s.  Those West German judges were so cranky!


My Journey Through MS

IMG_1044[We interrupt the Howdy RRP blog for a moment about Real Life.  I’ve been meaning to write this blog post for a while and today it got done, so here it is:]

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) seems to be a relatively common diagnosis among horsewomen of the mid- and northern latitudes.  Seriously.  I know at least four professional horsewomen who are diagnosed with it.  I’m sure there are a lot more that I don’t know about.  After all, what horsewoman wants to admit she needs help?  We don’t need help, we are horse trainers, we are riding instructors, we are the care-givers to our horses.  We clean 10 stalls a day, ride the babies and teach the students.  We gallop, we jump, we ride!

Well, I’ve got MS.  These days you would not know it.  I am symptom-free, and officially in remission.  I have a lot of energy, and I am not on any MS drugs.  Maybe it is luck.  Maybe it is research.  Maybe it is middle of the night prayers.  I don’t know.  But I have learned a lot and continue to learn and maybe it will help someone else.

I have Relapsing-Remitting MS (the most common type).  There are other types of MS that are worse than RRMS, and this blog post is not about them.  I have no direct experience with those.  RRMS basically means that you have MS exacerbations (flares) that can affect you for a period of time and then you heal from them entirely or almost entirely and carry on until the next flare.

Briefly, my story:

Woke up one Saturday with no color vision in my left eye.  Everything else fine.  Go to ophthalmologist.  He seems nervous and sends me to a neurologist.  On the way out of that office and walking to the parking garage, I remember something I’ve read somewhere, sometime and in a bolt from the blue, I realize that the ophthalmologist thinks I have MS.  Some weird thing in me clicked and I felt sorry for him knowing I probably have MS.  What a difficult thing to know that about someone you have been treating for years!  (I have no idea where that thought came from at that time, but it saved me from feeling sorry for myself, for which I am grateful.)

I went to the neurologist and we did an MRI.  That was a pretty scary thought, but he wisely advised me to bring my favorite CD (this was back in the day, no mp3s), and they played it LOUD and I didn’t listen to the clacking hulk around me.  I knew later that day that I had 4 lesions.  “Not enough for an MS diagnosis,” but definitely CIS – Clinically Isolated Syndrome – which could develop into MS.  Scary.  I start catastrophising (apparently that is not a word, but it should be.)

“I’m going to end up in a wheelchair.  What a burden I will be to everyone who cares about me.  Will they still care about me if I change so much?”  All of that and more.  Six months of occasional therapy to help me deal with it.  Great investment, that.

And then I had another flare.  I went to Heritage Park Horse Trial in KC, MO, and woke up with double vision on XC day.  Not possible to ride xc with double vision and, though I was confused with why I had double vision, I have to admit, I did not want to ride that course that day because I was honestly afraid of my horse stopping at the trakehner and me getting hurt.  I wasn’t just worried about it, or not sure about it, I was afraid to ride THAT horse to THAT trakehner.  It was very stressful.  Stress is a major factor in MS.

I went to my neurologist that Monday and we agreed that I should go on some immune modulating drugs – daily shots.  This is where things got real.  You can’t be in denial if you have to give yourself a daily shot.

I had to take about a week off of work until my double vision righted itself.  I remember the moment my double vision faded.  It had been five days of lying on the couch listening to the radio or music or books on tape because looking at a tv made me woozy and reading was not possible.  Finally it was a nice enough day that I could sit on the deck in the afternoon and when that went well, I decided to go out to the barn and brush Eddie.  Everything was slow.  Walking was slow.  Finding the right brush was slow.  Forget picking hooves because bending over made me think of tossing cookies.  As I was grooming Eddie, Jay came out and said maybe we should go for a walk ride in the pasture.  Oddly, I was dubious about riding, even on good Eddie.  Sudden double vision is debilitating and demoralizing.  But I was there and so was Eddie and Jay would help so I decided to do it.  We put a saddle on and I got on Eddie and he rode Elliot.  We walked.  I was looking down because looking with double vision at the horizon or another person moving on a horse is a sure way to get woozy and remind yourself how weak and helpless you really are.  As I was looking down, all of a sudden, his withers came into focus.  A few steps more and I could clearly see his mane halfway up.  Then his ears came into sharp focus.  It was so fantastic that I could not breathe or talk.  I didn’t even tell Jay at the time because I realized that I really couldn’t describe it as fast as it was happening, and I didn’t want to jinx it by trying.   After we got off, and I was sure that the 5′ around me of clear vision that I had been given was not going to dissipate, I told Jay.  Over the next few days, my circle of clear vision got wider and wider.  I remember the first time I was sitting in a car and I could clearly see a distant woods and tractor and how miraculous it seemed to me at the time to be able to discern something that is not touching you – what a wonder vision is.  MS gave me a real appreciation for the sense of vision.

I recovered fully from that and then had another relapse a few months later that involved double vision and exhaustion.  I was on the couch for 17 days, and there was one day where I literally had to concentrate to breathe.  I actually thought I would die because I would stop breathing from not having the energy to do it.  It was an odd feeling.  Something in my brain told me that I would not just stop breathing from being tired, so I guessed that I probably wouldn’t die that way, but it felt like I could.  During this time I developed a huge craving for broccoli and kale.  I’m not kidding.  Like overwhelming.  So when I was well enough, I went to the store and bought everything they had that was fresh and green.  I made amazing, wonderful things that we all should be making every day and I felt better and went back to work and riding and found it hard to believe a month later that I could ever have lost 17 days of my life.

But then I realized that, yes, I did lose 17 days of my life and I quite thought that was BS.  I decided that I was going to read up on everything that anybody credible has learned about MS. I can be like a dog with a bone, and I was google searching and pub med stalking, and consuming information like a woman possessed.  I figured no one cared more about my health than I did, so, in the words of a coach at a basketball camp I attended as a kid, “If it is to be, it is up to me.”

The first credible thing I came across was the Swank Diet, and I still use some of these tenants to this day.  Basically, Dr. Swank taught people with MS to follow a low saturated fat diet and it reduced their exacerbations.  He followed their progress for years.  The people who stayed on the diet did well, and those who did not, did not.  The general plan is this:

  • First year, no red meat
  • Lots of fresh greens
  • Chicken, fish
  • Add monounsaturated fats and long chain fatty acids
  • Cod liver oil every day

This actually worked for me, and after a year, I felt really well and my neurologist and I  thought it was reasonable for me to go off the daily shots.  (Yay!)  I did, and did fine.  The hardest part was the cod liver oil daily, but I figured I could handle that if it meant I wouldn’t have to think to breathe ever again.  (We all have our own motivations.)

[Side note about going off the shots.  The decision to quit using Copaxone (there I said it) did not make the pharmaceutical company happy.  When I called them to tell them to cancel my next ($1k per month) shipment of shots, they used outright scare tactics to try to get me to continue.  I laughed at them and threatened to record the call and ask a lawyer if these tactics were legal, as they certainly weren’t ethical.  There was a lot of back-pedaling, though I noticed, no apology.  After that, they sent me letters twice a week, proclaiming how I was going to have exacerbations and horrible things were going to happen to me.  Had I cared enough, I would have sent them a nice flowery “Get bent” wallhanging.  I might have learned needlepoint for that.  After a few letters, I asked Jay to throw any letter from them in the garbage on his way from the mail box, which, bless him, he did, and I never even heard that we received them again.  I can not to this day understand how a company whose literature claims they are in support of “Your MS Journey” could justify attempting to dramatically increase the stress on someone who has a disease that they are well aware is stress-related.  Methinks they did not think that one all the way through, if they really cared about “My MS Journey.”  Just perhaps they didn’t actually support me not having MS symptoms anymore, because a disease in remission doesn’t make them $1k per month.]

Back to the Swank diet.  The thing that stuck with me about the Swank book was the studies he shared in the beginning – some information about MS.  The first thing was that MS is more prevalent at high latitudes (north of 40 degrees N latitude or south of 40 degrees S latitude.)  What happens at high latitudes?  The sun shines less directly.  So what?  People’s bodies don’t make as much vitamin D. (In case you missed it in science class, human bodies make vitamin D when sunlight strikes the skin.  I don’t mean to be snarky there.  Some people don’t know that, and that’s ok.)  Vitamin D is involved in many chemical reactions in the body, can turn genes on and off, and much more.  Anyway, you don’t get enough of it from sunlight if you live in the northern latitudes.  hypo

I was intrigued by that, so I did a search on prevalence of MS in the US:


This is a pretty crude map, but it shows, in a general sense, how location is a factor in MS.  So then I really started thinking about it.  And reading about it, and pretty much being obsessed by it.

I joined the Vitamin D Council and read everything they had about vitamin D and MS.

And then the day came when I could feel my next relapse coming on.  Just a distant sense of “not-rightness” along with some passing moments of exhaustion.  These symptoms were the bellwether for an exacerbation and started happening about three days before one started.

I was in a panic.  I did not want to go there again.  Who knew if this would be another 17 days, a month, or the one that turns into Progressive MS (which would be seriously Not Good.) Then I saw this video.  It is 8 minutes long, the lighting is bad, and it is just a guy talking.  It changed my life.

After that I googled Rheinhold Vieth and read all of his work – formal and informal.  The man is a genius.  If you do nothing else, watch the above video.

So, feeling the flare coming, I went home and (I do not recommend this. You should not do this) took 70,000 units of vitamin D.  The next morning I felt a little better.  I then took the same amount for the next five days, (no, don’t do that either) and my impending flare just dried up and died.  I was so happy!  AND, I was so embarassed!  What a stupid thing to do without medical supervision.  I went in and fessed up to my neurologist.  He was briefly annoyed and then he asked me how my experiment went.  We laughed.  He said we needed to do a vitamin D level check on me and then we’d work together to develop a dosage to keep me at a good level.  (‘Good level’ is higher for MS people than for people without, and can vary individually even among MS people.  I can’t give you a number, other than saying it is higher than 50. One thing MS does is it teaches you to pay attention to your body.  This is another hidden blessing of MS.)

Meanwhile, some other information has come to light which supports the importance of vitamin D to MS.  Birth month: a spring-born baby is much more likely to develop MS than a baby born in another season.  Mothers who give birth in spring have gestated their babies in the months when the lowest levels of vitamin D are circulating in their bodies.  I was born in May.  My sister, who also has MS, was born on June 1.



A look at vitamin D levels as they vary seasonally


That’s a pretty impressive sine wave, ladies and gentlemen.  Vitamin D levels crash in September, October and November; and this is the time of year that I had all my flares.  Apparently for me it is the change in vitamin D level that caused the most difficulty.  That is just me.  MS is different for everybody.  As a result, I now supplement just a bit in summer and quite a lot in winter, starting in September.  I used to supplement a lot in summer too, but I was monitoring my levels with my neurologist and my levels got a little too high.  Ok to do that short term, but the long term repercussions of very high vitamin D are somewhat unknown, so I just don’t go there.

Other things (besides eating well and managing my vitamin D) that have been useful for me in managing MS:

  • Kefir – get the gut right, the body follows
  • Actively find relaxation:
    • Sure, go and do.  Then pause and breathe and appreciate. Then go and do again, if you like.
    • Do yoga
    • Meditate (Bhuddify) 5 minute of daily bliss
  • Make better decisions: Stop consistently putting more energy in than you get out. (of relationships, of your kids, of volunteer commitments, of tv, of whatever)  If it doesn’t build you up, limit it.  Note the energy sinks in your life and make decisions about them to free up some self care/attention/love time in your life. Notice what makes you truly feel good/blessed/loved and do that.
  • Take at least twice weekly epsom salt baths.  Seriously.  These can be short, yet effective.  Epsom salt is magnesium (Mg) sulfate (SO4) and it can be absorbed transdermally (through your skin). Studies have shown that as little as 12 minutes in a hot epsom salt bath can increase Mg levels in subjects, and Mg is probably  important in MS.  Sulfur (from sulfate) is handy for a body too. Grandma was right – go take an epsom salt bath, you’ll feel better.


“Void of Speed”

There’s this thing called Equineline, which is a website run by the Jockey Club (JC, the studbook for thoroughbreds in the U.S.)  On Equineline, you can buy race reports for every JC-recognized race run in the U.S., pedigrees and a whole bunch more stuff.

So let’s take a look at Howdy’s race report:screen-shot-2017-01-25-at-8-30-36-pmIt has a bunch of cool stuff on it, no?  Owner, trainer, year, DOB, color, breeding, earnings, length of race and a whole bunch of stuff I haven’t figured out yet.  What I do know to check is the penultimate right (Ok, I love the word penultimate, it means “second to last” and is just so British, that it makes me giggle, so please just humor me.)  Anyway, the comments column way on the right.  The most recent race is on the top of the list, so the last race he ran he was “outrun.”  Before that it was “inside, no bid,” then “outrun,” “never menaced,” “retreated,” and in his first race, “void of speed.”

Now “void of speed” is a turn of phrase!  I might have to see if that name is available for USEA registration for eventing.  Can’t you just see it?  Ok, well, maybe not, but nevertheless, I think it is hysterical to say that about a race horse – it is basically the racing equivalent of the mountain climber sailing off the end of the cliff on The Price is Right .  Just, “Aint gonna happen, thanks for playing.”

At any rate, a horse with comments like this is just the kind of horse I want to work with.  He’s had some training, he’s galloped a bit, he’s been in a start gate, he’s trailered, he’s seen a thing or two, basically.

Speaking of seeing, Howdy has seen exactly how the flash works on my phone and he knows how to time his blink so that I get images like these three different takes:

Ha!  I did manage to get one half decent but out-of-focus one, but I think that is going to be it for using the flash.  The good news is, I think it is a sign of his pupil actually responding to the atropine and really opening, so bright lights are not comfortable – so I’ll let him alone about it.  This is the best one I got and it’s actually quite useless.  Ha! Howdy eye day 15

But I did shoot one without the flash and I think you can see that the eye is starting to look a little less grey.  Go steroids.


Meanwhile, we had a stellar session yesterday when he relaxed and decided it was perfectly ok for me to be on his right side, and got right lead canter on the lunge four times  in a row.  I think his new friend Bravado told him that if he is good he might get to do this cool thing called foxhunting where you get to see all sorts of new things and meet new horses.  And now that Howdy has a friend, he has all those endorphins that will help his eye healing.  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it, anyway.

img_8952And finally a bit of, “hey, that’s not a bad trot” for the dressage geeks in the group.  I suppose the galloping, sliding stop, and rollback won’t go over as well, but we take what we can get.  LOL:

Eye treatments and Bravado’s first hunt

The story with Howdy is all about eye treatments.  Four times a day to be exact, so we are seeing a lot of each other.  This is pretty ok.  Oddly, I’m learning that he really doesn’t like to be handled from the right side.  I mean really objects to it, so you know what I am doing – handling him from the right side as much as possible.  I lead him from his paddock on the right side, I fuss over him on the right side and on an on.  Despite the daily treatments, the eye has not changed much and I admit I am getting a little frantic about wanting to see a positive change.  The steroids should help and it has only been 3 days.  I have faith, but I could use a little show for encouragement.  Here’s your daily eye picture:

Howdy eye day 13

I’ve been continuing to work Howdy in-hand and on the lunge.  Much work to the right.  It is coming along.

Meanwhile, Bravado, the other 5 year old OTTB went on his first hunt on Saturday.  (Technically hunt number 1.5 because he did one a few weeks ago but it was cut short due to baby horsie Bravado becoming a bit overstimulated.) Here is a picture of his ears on the hunt. Jay is the guy in red on the bay horse – and the bay horse is the magnificent Eddie:


The fact that I was comfortable enough to be riding one-handed snapping a picture is an indication that things went pretty well.  That is not to say that there were not some exciting moments.  For instance, at the first real check, he was behaving beautifully, just standing and being relaxed – enough that I decided to have a beer from the whoopi wagon.  Apparently, I have never opened any sort of beverage while near him as he found the sound of the popping top quite alarming and sort of ballooned from a relaxed halt to a moderate canter in about 5 strides.  I had taken a glove off to pop the top, and now I had a loose glove, an open beer and the buckle end of the reins in my hands and the 17-hand OTTB was ramping to something close to a gallop, and the conditions on the wet gravel road were most decidedly fast.  So I ended up unceremoniously jettisoning the glove and the can in order to get my reins in order, and hopefully get him back.  This took a little while, so Bravado covered a good bit of ground on the gravel road before I had much influence.  He was pretty relaxed, he just happened to be cantering, of his own volition.  My friends were car following, parked at the check, and saw the whole thing and mused that it brought to mind the OJ Simplson car chase, “I think she is getting run away with.  Or is she?”  “I can’t tell, he’s sort of just cantering along…”


Thanks First Whip Bre Orsborn for the photo!

If you look closely at the picture, you can see the awesome sticky velcro strip on the top of my helmet.  I meant to wear the helmet cam, but the chance of rain argued victoriously against it.  The OJ Simpson Mini-bolt would have been great video.

On Sunday after I worked with Howdy, in-hand, I introduced Howdy and Bravado to each other, and the budding bromance came into bloom.  Not one squeal, and two minutes after I set them loose together they were mutually grooming each other’s withers.  It was darling.  You may want to light some candles and play some Barry White while you view the following pictures:

img_8952Howdy and Bravado

And then an afternoon of hay munching and sharing the run in.  Awwwww…

Howdy and Bravado

Coincidences, disappointment and friends

img_8872 The other 5 year old off track tb, Bravado, (who is not Thoroughbred Makeover eligible because he hasn’t raced since 2014, when he was three) was having drilltec put on his front shoes this morning in anticipation of going on his second hunt, this weekend.  The first hunt, a few weeks ago, was at times very good and at other times very tense. I’ve done some more work at home so I’m hopeful that the next hunts this weekend will be better.  He was getting drilltec (aka borium) put on his shoes for traction in case frozen conditions develop within the next shoeing cycle.  This weekend’s footing will mostly be mud, and drilltec is helpful for that too, so all good.

img_8915As I was walking back out to the barn with a cup of coffee for the farrier who had just arrived, I noticed that he was mentoring a young man.  Turns out that the young man is Angel, who worked for Bravado’s previous owners.  Angel put the first few months of riding training on Bravado.  Nice guy who was glad to see Bravado doing well.  Small world.

Then it was off to Howdy’s eye appointment with the ophthalmologist at Iowa State.  I am so grateful to be near the U’ with so many specialists.  Huge veterinary brain trust, and affordable to boot.

I dropped Howdy off and went to work at my job in the Office of Biotech on the other side of campus. I could not be there for the exam, but the vet school vets always write a report and Dr. Wehrman was kind enough to call me afterward with a synopsis.  Long story short, Howdy’s eye has improved, but there is more work to do. The ulcer has healed (yay!) which means that we can use steroids to help with the uveitis, which we need to get a handle on.  The downside is that I now get to do eye ointment four times a day and keep track of giving banamine and atropine as well for the next two weeks.  I had been directed to give treatments twice a day prior to this. I am grateful that we are on the right track, and for the medicine that is available, but I have to admit, I’d hoped the next part would be easier.  I gave myself a little time for an internal whine about Howdy’s having to go through this and about me having to treat him so often. I had some moments of real malaise while I hung out waiting for Howdy’s meds to arrive from the pharmacy.  The vet students put a serious damper on my whiny mood by showing up with a bag decorated like this:


Gotta love vet students.  That’s good stuff there.

Your daily Howdy eye picture.  Not much change to report.  Hopefully, with the new meds, things will pick up soon.Howdy eye day 10

In the evening I taught a dressage lesson at Hickory Grove in Madrid, and both of my students and both of their sweet horses did excellently.  Then I rode an old friend of a horse who is with a new owner. Then the new owner got in the tack and I had the pleasure of explaining to him where the buttons were.  Pretty fun. To top off the night, my friend gave me a belated Christmas present, and the sentiment could not have been better-timed.

Thank you Megan camie

New toys!

I’ve been waiting.  And watching.  And it finally happened.

_57Helmet cams got small and cheap!  This is a Mobius Action Cam and it measures something like 1.5″ x 2.5″ and sells for less than $100.  I bought one knowing that:

  • It may or may not work well because nobody I know has one, so I have no real-life recommendation.  It got decent reviews on the site I bought it from, though, so it wasn’t a complete shot in the dark.
  • Attaching it to a helmet is done with sticky-backed velcro – which sounds like a dubious plan to anyone but Red Green.
  • Downloading or editing the video is unknown territory.  No fancy software package comes with the camera. This actually may be what attracted me to it – the thrill of unknown tech challenges.  I’d like to say that I am not being serious here, but um well, I’m being serious here.

So, tra la la, I went ahead and bought it.  After the initial trial when I stuck it on the side of my helmet and recorded sideways video of me ponying Elliot from Sammy in their tendon rehab walk workout this afternoon (you’re welcome for sparing you having to see that.  It is stomach churning), I subsequently dropped my new camera on our grill (which was closed and off, thank you Universe) but the impact still managed to ruin the plastic thingy it is supposed to rest in if you want to attach it to a tripod (as if – this 2″ thing on a 4′ tripod would be such an embarrassment that it begs a Donald Trump small hands joke, but I digress.)  So, instead of attaching the sticky velcro to the tripod holder, I white-trashed it and slapped that sticky velcro right on both the camera and the helmet, joined them up and voi la!  helmet cam.  You will see the downside of this plan momentarily.  

Experimentally, I took the dogs for a walk at dusk with my helmet cam, which, yes, means that I, like a huge dweeb, walked the dogs wearing a riding helmet.  Rockin’ it loud and proud, I was.  But the brilliance of living in central Iowa is that the likelihood of seeing another person when you don’t want to see another person actually approaches zero.  Cheers to living in a state with a declining population.  At any rate, during the dog walk, I learned that the camera doesn’t work that well when I am scanning forward into the sunset at the young dogs tearing off, and then looking back, away from the sunset to keep an eye on the one-speed newf bringing up the back of the pack.  Maybe that test would be a little hard for any camera. So I threw the data from that failed experiment out.

I got back home and settled the tired dogs (“A tired dog is a good dog” ~ Kate Hladky) in the yard and set about working with Howdy.  First I let him prance about the arena a bit.  Now, before you look at the following clips, note that I didn’t see any of them until I saw all  of them.  I didn’t know that:

  • The music sounds egregiously loud.  It really wasn’t that loud, this camera just picks up everything.  (That’s my story anyway.)
  • The camera is aimed too high.  You will get to see a lot of horse body and very little of horse legs.  Sort of like watching a duck on a lake.  This is the downside of the white trash-esque attachment of the camera to the helmet – you have to do some experimentation to get it right and how I am going to reproduce it when I do get it right remains mysterious to me.  So I have that to look forward to.
  • I cluck and kiss at horses a lot and I have no idea why I apparently have begun to think that the word “trot” has two syllables.  Oy vey.

He doesn’t have bad movement for a horse with a slight club foot, an osteochondroma and stifle effusion.  No horse is perfect and if you look hard enough with enough technology and quality vets, you can scare yourself silly.

Then I put him on the lunge line and went to the left.  During the first minute of the video there are a couple of somewhat exciting horse antics.  Wheeee!  5 year old thoroughbreds.

Now if you are looking for some fun, compare going left to going right.  Also, side note, the dogs are apparently not that tired, since halfway through this video they start barking/howling with the local coyotes. Pfffft.  Not a-one of them would survive two days in the wild, but, like a 40 year old man who stumbles upon a high school basketball open gym, they’re gonna put it on and throw down what they got.

And then there is your daily eye picture.  Recall how it started out and you’ll see that it is improved today.  And thanks to the miracle that is Mac Photos and the included extension Markup (did I mention I’m a techie girl?), I present this: Howdy eye day 9

And tomorrow we’re off to ISU ophthalmology for a check up.  Wish us luck, please.

Moving in the right direction

We only made it to around 19 degrees today, and with relatively high humidity for winter, it was a day for doing indoor tasks.  That’s ok, because Howdy has some healing to do with his eye yet and I want to give him time to work into his new hoof angle on the right front, and maybe get over some of the RF heel soreness we found on Monday in his PPE.  I got out a winter blanket for him, as this was the first day that he mentioned he might need one.


With his super mask and blanket, striking a pose in the run in.

The eye treatment continues and he is being good for it, but he also mentions that it kind of is not fun.  But the results are encouraging:

Howdy eye day 4

ISU Opthalmologist Dr. Rita Wehrman was happy to see this picture.  Yay!  Good to get confirmation.

Meanwhile, the other resident 5 year old bay off track thoroughbred gelding has developed a bromance with Howdy. They have adjacent stalls on nights that they stay in due to weather and apparently Bravado has recognized a kindred spirit.


This is Bravado’s expression when he looks at Howdy.  He’s like Joe Biden looking at President Obama.


And the way my day ended: an evening dressage lesson at beautiful Irish Run with Maddie Woodham and her wonder horse Kidron.  Mom Leah Woodham and sis are there to support despite the cold weather.  These people are proof that there is authentic  good in the world.  They make me smile just thinking of them.

Before and Afters

Above is Howdy’s eye on day 0, this Sunday, the day I brought him home. His pupil displays miosis – constriction. I learned this week that horse pupils are rectangular or a bit oblong oval unlike human eyes and I’m slapping my forehead that I never gave that much thought. At any rate, here we can see that his pupil, the sort of yellow area, is nearly constricted to a single line.

Then, of course, on Monday we went to ISU and, among other things, saw the opthalmologist who prescribed atropine, topical antibiotics and banamine.  The concern was that if the pupil didn’t move soon, the lens would stick to it, and then the horse loses some of his sight.  Whatever could be done to get that pupil dilated, I was in.  I was on the mission with twice a day treatments and asking the Universe to bring goodness.  The progression went like this:

A little opening on day one, 24 hours after treatment started

Day 2: Not much change, but not going backwards either

A very hopeful breakthrough on day 3. Not entirely open, but much better!

Meanwhile, I’ve been reading a lot about club foot, hereherehere and here; as Howdy is slightly clubby on his right front. Today my farrier came out and had a look at him.  This, after I had emailed him and asked him for his opinion on the wisdom of buying a horse with a club foot.  He said, “I do a fair number of them.  They’re not my favorite, but they do pretty well.”  So, my farrier arrived and looked at Howdy and shared that he was not very concerned about his hooves.  (This is a good thing indeed!) He said he thought we could work with them without much trouble and he had a lot of horses in work with worse clubs than Howdy’s.  Glorious joy to hear!Howdy had a trim.  Here are before and after photos.

Monday in the stocks at ISU.  The right hoof (on the left side of the picture) is the one with the slight club stance. The blue line highlights the broken line between the leg and the hoof wall. The left leg has a more correct line.

Today after the trim. The leg/hoof line on the right leg is much better! I like it a lot, and I hope he does too. Care must be taken not to produce too much change in the hoof angles because of course that affects the bone column of the leg. We’ll watch and see how he does!

The Ophthalmologist

The start of the PPE had been in the morning, when the vet also looked at my other two horses, who are recovering from tendon injuries.

Sammy got the green light to go slowly back to trot and canter work (File picture with Megan Clements)

Elliot (above) is at least off stall rest now, but it will be at least 6 months until he gets the green light for anything other than walk under saddle.  His injury was both more recent and more serious than Sammy’s. Things don’t look rosy, but we are an optimistic and determined tribe.  🙂

Back to Howdy: My vet reviewed the ra

Back to Howdy: My vet reviewed the radiographs we took of knees, hooves and hocks and there was quite a lot to talk about it.  Some of it was very good news: clean hock and knee joints, no sign of navicular – a good start. The new words I learned were crena and osteochondroma.  The first one is just kinda cool and the second one could matter.

This is a shot of looking straight down on a hoof.  Howdy has a large crena, the notch in the bone in his hoof.  Not indicative of anything, just kinda cool.

Above is where things get a little dicey. That very tiny shadow is a cartilage covered bony protrusion. It could interfere with the deep digital flexor tendon of the distal radius. The little circle thingy that is labeled is literally a remnant of a digit. Horses are really walking on their middle “fingers”. The other digits are fading away, but Howdy is apparently getting in touch with his eohippus side. Taking “old school” to the next level.

After seeing the rads, there was a long wait for the ophthalmologists to see Howdy about his eye.  They told me in the morning it would be around 5 p.m. by the time they could see me, so I left the horses at the vet school, went out to lunch, took my dog for a short, cold walk, did my year end books on my computer and bought me some new barn boots on sale at a store nearby.  Woot.

Duggy got cold in the truck, so she rocked the babushka!

And then she got to come in to the waiting room and hang out with me and pilfer cookies from Becky the ISU Vet School receptionist/scheduler/miracle worker.

End of day finally came and so did the ophthalmologists.  They dilated both eyes and peered in, and bottom line is, yup, horse has an eye infection, a good deal of pain and a miotic (constricted) pupil.  Started topical antibiotic and atropine and banamine.  Even if I don’t buy the horse, I’m not letting an eye infection get out of control on my watch if I can help it.

Howdy behaved well all day, and it was a long one.  Jay helped me settle the horses into the barn and we had a little supper and went to bed.  I sent up a prayer that Howdy’s eye would heal and went to sleep.

On-going Pre-purchase Exam

Waiting for the ophthalmologist

We radiographed everything except possibly his ears.  I did this partially for myself and partially for a baseline in case I decide to market him.  Hooves looked good other than that I was right about a slight club foot on the right front.  Dang, hate being correct that way.  But she said it was mild and probably could be managed with shoeing.   Hocks looked clean – yay.  Stifles looked clean – yay.  Left knee looks good – yay!

But there are three ‘howevers’.

  • However, he has an osteochondroma (little bony protrusion) above his knee that may or may not have caused his left front knee to be positive to flexion.  If it proves to be the problem, it can be removed for about $1,000 and a week or two recovery time.
  • However, we don’t know what caused the slight effusion on the right stifle (though sound as he is behind, and as many bite marks as he has from pasture life, I’m guessing it is a pasture bonk)
  • However we don’t know what is going on with his eye, though it appears to be an infection.  Ophthalmology is coming to look at it this afternoon.

Any of these things separately are probably not a problem.  All taken together, they might not be a problem.  Or any of them singly could be a deal breaker.  This is where a bit of faith and luck, tolerance and being real come in. Horses have a lot of moving parts, both literally and figuratively.  The question becomes, “How tolerant are you to risk?”

For me, I don’t have to answer that question right now.  I’m still waiting on the ophthalmologist.  They’ll call me when they get to him.  I think I’ll go barn boot shopping here in Ames.  Weeeee!