Howdy Goes to Burwell

Howdy camie beagle hunt

We pilgrimage to Burwell, Nebraska twice a year to pay homage at the alters of foxhunting, karaoke, cowboys and rodeo.  A strange combination to be sure, but there it is.  Howdy got to go along so that I could take him beagling on Friday.  Beagling is foxhunting’s much slower little sister.  We use “beagles” (ok, in our case various dogs who are interested in chasing rabbits) and they are easy to keep up with from horseback, so the pace for riders is much slower than foxhunting.  It is a great way to start young horses for eventual foxhunting and is a great introduction for future human foxhunters too.

Howdy got off the trailer, tied well, was polite for mounting and walked around flat-footed before the hunt.  This is not always the case with horses, so, Nice!

And for most of the beagle hunt, he was pretty good.  Managed not to buck, most of the time walked flat-footed when asked, and slowed down politely when asked. These are the hard things for foxhunters – going fast is easy.

Walking late in the hunt.  This is wonderful.  Doesn’t look like much, but it is everything for young foxhunters:

And some random shots of the hunt, including a marriage proposal between two of our hunt members!:

After we settled the horses back at the rodeo grounds, Jay and I went to Dry Creek (the tack store in town, which is nearly bigger than the grocery store) we bought a Guardsman mask for Howdy.  The Guardsman mask has a UPF of 25 which means that it lets in 1 of 25 units of the UV coming in.  That means this mask has 96% UV coverage.  I like its appearance much better than some other high-UV blocking masks too.

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The next day I fox hunted with Bravado, who did really well.  In this cool helmet-cam video shot by my friend Kristen Welch, he is the tall bay with the white socks on the left in the beginning.  I dropped out of the video because I got worried about us being to close to the hounds.  I do not like scaring hounds by galloping near them with horses, let alone stepping on them.

When we got back from the hunt, I quickly tacked up Howdy to go for a hack with my friend Holly.  The footing on the sand roads is awesome for horses!

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We came back and Howdy and I attempted 20 m circles in the rodeo arena.  As you can tell from our tracks, we have some consistency problems to work out, but he did really well.  We are fairly sure that we are the only ones ever to have attempted dressage in this arena, so we have that going for us.

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So, enough with the dressage girl antics – we decided to take a Cowgirl Queen canter around the outside of the arena.  I would have worked on my wave, but I had to hold the camera.  The bobble in the beginning is just operator error.  Howdy was great.

And then it was time to bid a fond farewell to Nebraska’s Big Rodeo grounds!  I’ll miss the October Burwell trip because we will be doing eventing and working ranch at the RRP!

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Iowa Horse Fair and Howdy’s People

So, a long time ago in Cedar Falls, Iowa I gave a demo with Fabulouso, aka Elliot, the imported Hanovarian who came into our lives through the benevolence of Susan Brigham.  Elliot is the result of a couple hundred years of German breeding and culling and he’s proof that God is benevolent.  He looks like this:

So, when asked to do a clinic, of course I took him as a demo horse.  He jumps around like the dang rock star he is, does some lead changes and basically grins at everybody like the goofy German he is.  (And as a Stockhausen/Steinke, I can say that with impunity.)  And I thought the clinic went well.

Wrong.

The overwhelming feedback from the crowd to the organizer was, “yeah, we know she can do that, and that’s a pretty horse, but how do we start to do that with our horses that are sweet and lovely, but not 17h warmbloods?”

Point taken.  The next year I came back with two 3 and 4 year old PMU horses and let them make every mistake in the book in jumping and showed the audience how to help the horses learn and the essential skills for staying in the tack.  The loved it.

So, at the Horse Fair 2017, I decided I was going to bring out the young tbs and teach them to jump live and in-person in the Stock Pavilion.  (Yeah, I’m not that smart, but I can be amusing to watch anyway.)

The first seminar was on Saturday at 11 a.m. and I had texted his breeder and former owner and asked him if he might come and watch.  This is the same guy who, when I told him we were doing the Retired Racehorse Project Thoroughbred Makeover and that he could follow my blog about it, he said he didn’t have much interest.  Ok, I accepted that, but I sent the text inviting him to see Howdy at the Horse Fair anyway.  He didn’t respond, so I figured he wasn’t coming.  Ok.

So, I started the demo with Bravado

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and I don’t have any pictures of Bravado’s part of the demo, which is probably a good thing.  It started out pretty ragged and that is glossing over a lot.  His heart started pounding when we entered the arena and he was seriously on his toes.  There was head-throwing, there was the occasional idea that he might just leave the arena, there was a back so tight you could bounce a quarter off it, and there was some serious sewing-machine-style trot.  I never thought he was going to buck or rear, but anything else seemed to be on the table as an option for him.  Through the grace of God and some serious cajoling, by the end of our 40 minutes he was jumping 2’6″ and making a pretty good show of it.  So that was very satisfying.  (Especially since about ten of my good foxhuting friends were in the audience ostensibly for support, but it might have been partially for the beer and the potential stories when I swear into the mic or fall of or some other such brilliant thing that could definitely have happened.  God love my friends – fun-loving free-spirits they are! )

My premise throughout the time with Bravado was that as riders, we have to lead the dance.  If the horse is nervous and we follow him and become nervous ourselves, then the horse is leading the dance.  If, however, when the horse is nervous, we purposefully relax our bodies and breathe and stay elastic in our connection, as well as give them a simple job to focus on, we can lead them to more relaxation.  Then we have led the dance.

I should say I am very grateful that the Rawhide and Dusty Show, which was right before us, ended a bit early, so I was able to snag another ten minutes in the arena for my demo, which Bravado definitely needed.

Then it was Howdy’s turn.

IMG_9459My friend Sabrina Wright brought him into the ring and he walked nearly flat-footed in, stood for mounting, let me adjust my stirrups from the tack, and pretty much aced the whole thing.  He was a little tight and very green to jumping, but with the crowd now really rolling into the Pavilion because the Parade of Breeds was next up, I’m stunned he kept it together.  This is video Sabrina kindly shot of Howdy near the end of the demo.  He had not jumped before that day.

Obviously, I was pretty pleased with that. But then an added treat was that his breeder/owner met up with us on the apron outside when we left the arena!  He came to see his ol’ boy Howdy.  Since I didn’t expect him to be there, it actually took me a minute to place him when he walked up, but then he was so obviously proud of Howdy and affectionate to him that it helped ring some bells for me.  We had a nice chat and I was glad to see him out and he was clearly glad to see Howdy do so well and be loved.

The next day a woman I did not know walked right up to me and asked me if I was Camie Stockhausen.  I almost said, “That depends,” but before I could get too funny, she said, “because I used to groom Howdy at the track and my daughters are here and could we see him?’  Well of course!  I opened the stall door and the mom threw her arms around his neck and one of the kids was hugging his leg and Howdy was grinning.

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It turns out that Mr. I-don’t-have-that-much-interest  😉  had texted Howdy’s groom and said she had to come out and see him go because he couldn’t be there on Sunday.  So good.  Well, then we go to do the Sunday demo and who shows up but his track trainer too who also got a text!  It was old home week for Howdy and we all loved having them around.  I hope they all will plan to come with us to the Kentucky Horse Park on October 5-8 of this year.

I snapped this picture of his groom and his trainer leading Howdy and Bravado back to the stalls after the Sunday demo.  It was wonderful to meet them and great to have them along for the ride.  What unexpected fun!IMG_9536

Equine Recurrent Uveitis

We interrupt the recount of the Horse Fair with a report of today’s events at the ISU Vet Hospital.  You may recall that when I went to look at Howdy on December 23rd, 2016, I noticed that he was holding his left eye just a little funny.  If you look closely at this picture, you can see that his eyelashes on his left eye are at a different angle from his right.  He is holding his left a bit closed.

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I was able to pick him up on January 8th, and by that time, his pupil had closed.

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The part that is green in the picture above is supposed to be a large oval, like this:

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This is a picture of his eye after his first visit to ISU Ophthalmology and treatment with a  lot of good drugs, including atropine to dilate that pupil.  Yay, we were on the right track by the second visit.  He had a few non-vision-affecting cataracts, but not a big concern.

Then I went in for the third ophthalmology appointment and the eye was worse again, though I could not tell by looking at it.  The cataracts were stable, but he had had “a flare,” and this time it included a little inflammation in the right eye too.  I started reading about Equine Recurrent Uveitis, though the doc had only mentioned it, not given it as a diagnosis.

The fourth checkup was today and since I could still see just a hint of inflammation in that left eye, I was pretty sure they were going to definitively diagnose him with ERU.

ERU is much more common in appaloosas than all other breeds combined, but it is not unheard of in tbs.  It just so happens that I had an appaloosa who had it when I was a 4-H-er and he went blind, despite my best teen-aged efforts at treating it.  The only treatments at that time were topical and keeping a mask on the horse.  I was pretty good with it, but it wasn’t enough and Johnnie went painfully blind by 20 years old.  I cried a lot over that.

So ERU scares me silly and makes me feel like that helpless teenager again, watching my good friend hurting and losing his sight with me only able to wring my hands.  And what I do when I am scared and a little torqued at the injustice of it all is RESEARCH.  Knowledge is power and research is what got me to the other side of My Journey Through MS.  If I did it once, I had a good shot to do it again.

So, I cranked up Google and the first thing I learned is that it is an autoimmune or immune-modulated disease.  When I hear that, it makes me think microbiome, primarily because the microbiome is so important in the treatment of MS, and it is an autoimmune disease.  That may be a little simplistic, but there it is.

Then I ran across this scholarly article that said ERU is not an autoimmune disease, it is an intraocular leptospirosis infection.  The research was done in Germany and those doctors recommend vitrectomy and replacement of the intraocular fluid with a gel.  Yikes.

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But the leptospirosis idea made sense to me when I learned about cyclosporine implants deep in the eye.  These little beauties were developed at NC State University and have a pretty good track record for stopping or slowing the inflammation process.  Cyclosporin is effective at suppressing T-Lymphocytes, the most common infiltrating cell in the ERU eye.  So yay, that’s a very good potential tool.

The T-Lymphocytes apparently come from the gut.  There are some problems with the idea of the gut microbiota being involved in inflammation in the eye, the major of which is that the eye has a pretty good wall between it and the rest of the body that keeps things that are “other” out.  But then I ran across this article, which, unless you are pretty hardcore into science you might choose to skip.  But their premise is that some T cells from the huge number of microbials that live in the gut can, under special circumstances, acquire the key protein needed to cross the blood/retina barrier and then get in and cause inflammation in the eye.

Yikes, no bueno.  And totally weird, friends, totally weird.

So maybe a horse gets acute leptospirosis, recovers from it, but there are still some reservoirs of it in the gut that fester and occasionally from that reservoir some of these activated T-cells are let loose into the blood stream and they attack the eye.  That seems to be what all this is pointing to.

So that’s just what I am thinking as I lead Howdy into the stocks at ISU.  I am very dubious about my ideas because I am fully aware that I know just enough about it to be dangerous.  Vets are way more educated than me on these topics, so even though (and maybe because) I have my own thoughts on ERU, I am planning on doing a lot more listening than talking.  I put the horse in the stocks, tell them what meds he is on and how he’s been doing and literally step out of the room to let them loose to do their exam.

IMG_9551I got back before they were done and there was a pall over the room that wasn’t there when I left.

They tell me the inflammation in the left eye has improved but remains.  The right eye is inflammation-free. The cataracts have grown slightly.  They are not wanting to say ERU, so I asked them if this meant we had a diagnosis of ERU and they said yes.  Ok, say I, is there anything that can be done about it?  The first thing we talk about is cyclosporine implants, which I am not averse to.  In fact, I’m damned glad it is an option.  I’ve read that there are limiting factors regarding which horses it is recommended for, so I’m glad that is still on the table.  The cost is $2,500 for one eye, $3,500 for two.  Yes, yikes, but could be worse.  I’d have to give up some things for sure, but if it meant he doesn’t have to give up his eyesight, I can deal.  I’m very pleased this option exists, but not enamored of it because it feels to me like treating the symptoms rather than getting to the bottom of the disease.  Treating the symptoms is a Good Thing, absolutely, but addressing the cause is THE Thing.

I ask about whether we should do a blood draw for leptospirosis (yes) and ask a few more questions and I think for a bit about whether I should bring out the short, scientific articles I brought for them.  I decided that yes, if I was respectful, it was a reasonable thing to do.  So, I showed them the research I’ve come across and asked them what they think about going after the ERU with massive probiotics for a few months while I  monitor the progress with the help of the ophthalmologists.  They listen respectfully and are thoughtful and amenable to this and think it could be a sound course especially since it is early in the disease process and if it doesn’t work we have other options.  They also suggest that we could do a gentamicin injection into the eyes (yikes!) which has been shown to quiet ERU.  This I had not found in my googling. One of the problems with using the eye-injected gentamicin, they say, is that the process by which gentamicin works in this application is not known.  (Aside: which makes me wonder who was the first person who said, “Hey, let’s inject gentamicin into his eyes and see if it helps!”) Scientists and doctors aren’t ok with not knowing the basic science of why and how things work, but when I am considering my horse, I’m ok with not knowing how it works as long as it does.  Though I’m as curious as the next non-pro scientist, when it is your horse or your kid or your life, it isn’t how it works, it is that it works.

So we had a plan.  Then the docs tried to actually inject the gentamicin into his eye and Howdy was a ‘No’ about that.  Even under sedation.  The doc explained that the problem was probably that they had sedated him for exam and he came half out of it while we were talking, and then they put him back in sedation again and that just doesn’t work as well.  So we have an appointment next Tuesday to try again.

Meanwhile, I am sent home with a bunch of drugs again.  Every time I whine to myself about having to treat him again, I remind myself that I am dang lucky to have ISU with several ophthalmologists less than 15 minutes up the road and that the medications are nearly miraculous and that, with the benevolence of my husband Jay and giving up a few things here or there, we can afford them without too much trouble, for which I am also grateful. Plus Howdy is a very easy horse to treat.  Very sweet and relaxed.  He seems to know I am on his side even when I come at him with more stuff to put in his eyes.

So on to the probiotics!  The ISU ophthalmologists are going to talk to the internists about what they would recommend in the coming week.  Meanwhile, I’m like a dog with a bone on researching it.  And lookee here:

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I kid you not.  We’re starting with Bovine Colostrum.  It has more good stuff in it than you can shake a stick at, and cows are universal donors for colostrum.  By the way, the calves don’t suffer.  Cows make a LOT of colostrum, enough for two calves, and they usually only have one.  I read this article and I am convinced bovine colostrum can not hurt and should help.  I ordered six doses from Valley Vet and that should be here by Thursday.

And tonight he got his first dose of kefir mixed with molasses for palatability.  I mix it together and send it down his throat with a dosing syringe, like dewormer.  I make my own kefir, which is simple.  Contrary to common belief, you can feed kefir to horses even though adult horses are lactose intolerant.  The kefir grains consume effectively all the lactose, so it is not a problem.  Also, kefir contains Bacillus subtilis which has bactericidal action against the agents of leptospirosis, which happens to be exactly what we want.  And “lysis” is my new favorite word.  It means disintegration of a cell due to rupture of the cell wall, and that is what B. subtilis in suspension does to leptospirosis.Kefir-Probiotic-Facts

Go Science.  🙂

The Iowa Horse Fair Adventure

On Thursday morning I was greeted by this on the dashboard of our truck (with a trailer on and three horses on board):

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I did not want to deal with that the whole weekend of driving back and forth from the Horse Fair in Des Moines, so I cranked up the air compressor and pumped up the tire, then put in a call to Trickle’s in Ames, who are awesome by the way.  They said, “Sure, we can get you in,” and by the time I drove the 20 minutes to get there, they had a mechanic freed up and got me in immediately.  They found this in the tire:

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A self-tapping phillips-headed screw! Excellent.  Not really, not really.  But what was excellent is that they were able to patch the tire and I was in and out in less than 35 minutes (just enough time to walk next door to McDonald’s and have hotcakes and sausage which I have not done since I was about 12 years old, and, incidentally, it is still a sugary, fat-loaded festival of nutrient-void deliciousness [that I will probably have again about 12 years from now, because unless I am killing time waiting for a tire to get fixed or something similar, a sit-down breakfast at Mickey D’s is a No, just no.  But I digress.])

The horses (Howdy, Bravado and Sammy) waited patiently on the trailer while the tire was fixed and I got my hotcakes fix, and then we were off to Stagecoach Stables in Ames where they were kind enough to allow me to bathe all three horses in their fabulously huge and neat-as-a-pin wash rack.  It can be completely closed, so with three horses in it and warm water in use, it got toasty fast.

I squeegied them and wrapped them in wool coolers and loaded them on the trailer and drove south to the State Fairgrounds.  I set up the stalls and settled them in.  Then it was time to hack around.  It was a pretty surreal to have the fairgrounds pretty much to myself.  I got on and rode Howdy to the Stock Pavilion.

He walked around fairly relaxed and continued with some pretty decent trot and canter work.  He walked flat-footed around the park other than a few reasonable shies at manhole covers.  Pretty good!

Then it was Bravado’s turn, and unfortunately for his peace of mind, a lot of people and animals arrived while I untacked Howdy and tacked Bravado. Bravado’s ride included trailers driving everywhere on the way to the Pavilion, and children running up and down the bleachers in the grandstand of the pavilion, which he actually dealt with pretty well.  Then there was a racket outside of the Pavilion – of trucks, and hooves on aluminum ramps.  Rodeo stock?

Almost.  When we left the arena, we were greeted by these two beauties, members of The Rawhide and Dusty Show.  They were in a paddock and they were being pretty sedate.  I really wondered what Bravado would do when I asked him to walk by them, and he surprised me by doing pretty much nothing.  He gave them a glance then walked right by them.  What?  Good man!

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Then we continued on:

These are pictures of the Pulver East Arena, which is a spectacular venue.  I actually prefer it to the Pavilion.  It has arguably better footing and a vastly better sound system.

Then it was Sammy’s turn.  Sammy is 15 years old and has a lot of experience.  sammyyellow

I rode him in the pavilion and he was spot on.  He was moving beautifully and on the aids.  Then I petted him and let him walk on a long rein and he was looking around and finally allowed himself to enjoy this:

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Stick horse race practice!  What a fun way to end the day!

That was day one of the Horse Fair Experience, and there were three more days of the Horse Fair.  The days were entirely too long for me to write anything sensible in the blog.  I’ll do installments on them in the upcoming days.  Stay tuned.

Bending Right

Last time I rode Howdy, I noted to myself that standing still was not really his thing.   So today, I sat on him while I taught a lesson.

IMG_9421We stood still a while, then walked in circles a lot and did some more halting and did some bending.  Actually, I wasn’t paying that much attention to him.  I was mostly focusing on Jean and Sammy as they worked on cavaletti and transitions.  This morning I read this very nice blog post about Will Faudree and young horses on the USEA site and it got me to thinking about bending in general and the inside leg to outside rein connection and I was just fooling around with it.

Meanwhile, Jean and Sammy had some nice canter work:

Toward the end of Jean’s lesson, Howdy figured out how to bend right.  All of a sudden he noticed he could shorten the right side of his body and lengthen the left half.  I should mention that I’m actually quite stoked about this.  As you may know, Howdy has a slight club foot on his right front and often horses are not as handy at bending toward their club foot side.  Knowing this, I was prepared for it to be a long, slow process.  Turns out, to get a good start on it, it took about an hour of just playing around and allowing it to happen.  Huh.  There’s a nice surprise.

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Well, its not a right bend, but its kinda cute anyway.

The Cheeky Monkey

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Howdy in a cheeky moment

The Iowa Horse Fair is next weekend and I am going to present several sessions whose topics will be jumping, eventing and foxhunting.  Fun flyer.  I’ve presented jumping seminars before and I’ve learned that while it is interesting for people to watch an example of very good jumping, they are fascinated, entertained and amused if you present them with an imperfect horse and show them how to react to mistakes and how to train the horses.

And so Howdy and Bravado are going to the Horse Fair to learn how to jump, in public.  Both horses were racing at Prairie Meadows last summer and Bravado has started the very basics of jumping.  Here’s his big accomplishment for today:

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Yep, those are 1′ jumps with placing poles.  Wheeeee!

I spent a pleasant hour today helping him to learn how to navigate these jumps in a relaxed manner, and at the end we were both grinning.  Now mind you, plenty left to learn at the Horse Fair.  We never were balanced enough to do two jumps in a row.

Meanwhile, Howdy and I yesterday started with simple poles on the ground between standards.  We started out walking over them and the first few times were actually quite dramatic, with crookedness and a bit of balking and then some over-exuberance.  By the end he was trotting over them in a relaxed manner, about which I was very pleased.  I untacked him and left him loose in the sandy indoor to roll.  I came back from putting his tack away and he was on the other side of the arena.  He was just shaking off from a roll and when he saw me he put his ears up and started cantering to me.  I thought that was charming, of course, anybody would.  But he won my heart, the cheeky thing, when he altered his course so that he would canter right over one of the poles on the ground on his way to me – ears up with a “look what I can do” expression.  This one’s gonna be fun.

Back to our regularly-scheduled Thoroughbred

Howdy had his fourth eye appointment at ISU (wheeeee!) and needed to have more eye treatments, three times a day.  We decided to take him with us to the Flint Hills of Kansas where we were joint meeting with several other Midwest foxhunts.  Foxhunting is always very serious business.

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Um, ok, maybe not always serious…

I rode Bravado on the hunts during the weekend and he was great.

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Jay is riding Annie, the grey horse and I am to his left on Bravado.  Our friends MFH Monte Antisdel and HRH Diane Antisdel are to my left.

Meanwhile, Howdy hung out in his stall while we hunted.  He was completely unfazed by the other horses leaving their stalls and getting on the trailer.  He looked up from his hay, watched the other horses walk away, mumbled, “Have a good day at work, suckers!” and put his head back in the hay.

Much to his surprise, despite the fact that it was snowing when we got home from the hunt, it was his turn to go out for a hack.Howdy

It was a beautiful snow, with huge flakes and no wind.  We went out with our friend Holly Barrett and her horse.  They gave us several leads through creeks and Howdy did fine.  He led, he followed, he left the other horse, he stopped well, he went forward well and just didn’t have much of a problem with anything.  What a fun horse!

Our goal is the RRP in Kentucky in October, but the next outing is the Iowa Horse Fair next weekend.  I’m speaking there and he and Bravado will be demo horses.  Gonna be a good time.