Monday, April 16, 2012

Bowed Tendons

This post has taken me a little while to put into perspective. It has been a real learning experience for me. I want to share what I have learned so that others may not have to experience it first hand.

Ms. Lily is a tough mare. She never backs down from work. She thrives on it. She is like the Energizer Bunny on steroids. Turns out this is as much to her detriment as it is to her benefit. RD had Lily for 5 months when she noticed some swelling in her front legs, no heat, but some swelling she wasn't comfortable with. She called and said that she was going to lay her off for a week and just see if the swelling would go down. I was up there that weekend and we looked at it and it wasn't significant and Lily was not lame, sore or off one iota. She just had some puffiness and RD didn't want to ride her while it was there. That was fine with me. She had been working pretty hard and a week off would do her good. The swelling went down over the next few days and Lily was her usual energetic self. No unsoundness or signs of pain when her legs were palpated. So after 10 days RD went back to riding her. Her legs seem to be fine for a couple of weeks and then the puffiness came back. This happened to be the around the time I was planning on bringing her home. The day that Mr. Wonderfuland and I went to pick her up at RD's, Lily was saddled and had sport boots on, ready for me to ride. We worked some cows and loped some circles. When it was time to go home, we unsaddled her and took the boots off and started really looking at her legs. The swelling was pretty pronounced on her front right. Much more noticeable than it had been previously. And it wasn't in the same place as it has been the first time that I saw it. It was about mid way from her knee to her fetlock and protruding to the back and outside. She still showed no signs of pain when palpated and wasn't lame or off in anyway. I decided that I would take her home, give her some much deserved time off. I really wasn't overly concerned at this point because she never showed any signs of lameness or pain.

I took her home and turned her out. My pasture is on a pretty steep hillside. She had been stalled for months and now she was getting some freedom to run and play. She did just that. She bucked and carried on for a good 5 or 10 minutes when I turned her out. The next day when I went to feed, I checked her legs and they seemed to be worse. The swelling seemed to be even more pronounced in her right leg and the left seemed to be worse too. No heat. No lameness. No pain. Just lumps. I fed and went in the house to talk to Mr. Wonderful. He kind of blew me off like I was being the obsessive horse owner. The next day, I swear to goodness it was getting worse. I made Mr. Wonderful come look. And he was clearly shocked. It was worse, visibly worse. But she still was sound and no pain when palpated. What the heck?

I called RD and as we talked, she and I both suspected a bowed tendon, but neither of us wanted to admit it. The next day I called the vet to have her looked at. I decided to use a local vet because a bowed tendon is a bowed tendon, is a bowed tendon. We could clearly see where the problem was so it wasn't like I needed someone to solve a mystery of where the issue was. The vet had me work her in circles, trot and lope on the lunge line etc. and with the exception of the lumps she was fine. No pain, no lameness, no heat. She said that it looks like a classic bowed tendon but without scans we couldn't see if it was just swelling around the tendon (a wrap bow) or an actual tear in the tendon. The vet hadn't brought equipment to do the scans that day so we decided to give her some stall rest and play the waiting game. She gave me some Surpass to apply topically to try to reduce the swelling and see if inflammation was all it was. Unfortunately stall rest didn't go over well. Lily was just beside herself with the boys being on the outside of her stall. She was kicking the walls, pawing squealing and carrying on like a fool. Of course she has started coming into heat during this time so that just intensified things. I turned her out into the pasture. I was afraid that I would not only have bum front legs but bum back legs if that continued.

The Surpass helped the swelling but didn't fix it completely. The front left leg looked pretty good after a week or so, but the front right still had a pretty good bump on it. After four weeks I called the vet back and made an appointment to have her scanned to see what the extent of the damage was.

Mother nature must have been pissed off at the world the day we went to our next appointment. It rained buckets, hailed, the wind blew and it rained and hailed some more. The scanned showed that she had tears in both front legs. A small tear in the front left and a pretty good sized tear in the front right. Horses have three tendons in the front legs. She had tears in the inner suspensatory. You could clearly see them on the scans. Now what?

Stall rest. Stall rest. and more stall rest. I have since moved the boys to a new boarding facility. (More about that later.) Put Lily in the stall at home and she seems to be fine now that they are gone. No kicking or bucking or pawing. She is relaxing into her new life pretty well. Of course she is supposed to come into heat again next week so that might all change.

Hind sight is 20/20. RD thinks she knows when this happened. She was working Lily, it was a long day of riding, working cows and riding some more. The footing was deep and the horses had to really work. Lily went all day. She never backed down from her job. She is the type of mare that will go until she drops over dead. She has no internal off switch. While this makes her a solid partner when you need to get a job done, it makes her a horse that you will always have to take care with. I didn't understand this or even think about it. Remember the scene in True Grit where the horse just keeps going until it drops over dead... That is Lily. I can never forget that.

The treatment....
Stall rest, stall rest, stall rest.
For the next three months Ms Lily will be in a stall with very limited hand walking.
I will have her scanned again in three months and if the tendons are repairing nicely we will give her a small - like really small paddock to go out into. And add some more hand walking. We will continue to scan every 3 months until the tendons have knitted themselves back together. My attitude is that it is going to take as long as it takes. No hurry.

The prognosis....
The good thing is we caught it early. She wasn't ever lame or sore so that is in her favor. She might not ever be 100% back the way she was, but she could be as much as 95% or not. As long as I don't put her in that type of working environment again, chances are she will be sound for a long, long time. Again... some human athletes come back from much worse injuries and continue on their career path without a hitch. With the right treatment and a boat load of patience there is no reason she won't. The swelling or lump on her front right may never go away. That might be a good thing... a little reminder of who she is.

The lesson...
Bowed tendons don't always present with pain/heat.
Bowed tendons don't always present with lameness.
Bowed tendons happen because of fatigue and stress.
Deep footing adds to the risk of bowing a tendon.
What we did wrong was...we should have never got back on her after we noticed the initial swelling. It was so minor and went away so quickly that we were complacent.
If you even suspect a stress/fatigue injury... get the hell off the horse and stay off until you have a confirmed diagnosis.
Patience. Patience. Patience.

I used to really blame trainers for poor management of their horses when I heard stories of bowed tendons, hock injuries, torn suspensatories and the like. I used to think that they were careless and didn't have a clue about how to take care of horses. And in some cases I will probably still have that opinion.

I won't play the blame game for this injury. It happened. And hopefully we have all learned something from it. It has really made me think. It goes back to horses having huge hearts and a lot of try. This mare just wants to please. She strives to be a solid partner. We are the ones that are supposed to have a brain. We are the ones that need to know when it is time to get off and let them rest. We are the ones that need to "RIDE THE HORSE YOU ARE ON". And just because that horse acts like it is an energizer bunny on steroids, it doesn't mean that she is or that she CAN go all day long. I am profoundly sorry that his happened to her. I am disappointed in myself that I wasn't smart enough to figure any of this out BEFORE something bad happened. If you read my previous posts on Lily you will see the signs. They were there. Hindsight....

I can't go back and change things but I can move forward and give her the time and patience needed for her to heal.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Defeating myself

Saturday was the second reining show. It was a warm and sunny spring day. I got up early and gave Mr. Semper a bath with the horse melting machine. He loved it. He was so clean you could see the pink of his skin. His coat literally looked like white satin. We got to the show with plenty of time to get in a good warm up outdoors and to visit with some old friends.

I was running patterns 6 and 8. The same patterns that I ran last show only in reverse order. They are very similar. That makes me a little crazy. The first class is limited non pro. The pattern was four spins to the right, four spins to the left, left lead departure, two large fast, one small slow, change leads two large fast, one small slow, lead change, wrap around, stop, roll back, wrap around, stop, roll back, wrap around, stop and back. I trot out to the center and stop. Feeling very confident that I know the pattern. I start my first turnaround and start counting and for some reason I stopped counting at two. And then panic set in because I couldn't remember where I was in my count and stopped the turnarounds. Now... not knowing whether I did three or four, my mind is reeling. I am thinking I only did three and if that is truly the case, I should just school the rest of the class. But since I didn't know for sure that I only did three, I finished the pattern as if I had done four. But I only did three. As I was exiting I heard them say "off course, no score". Semper did a really nice job - popped up a little in his first lead change and shouldered in a little on his large fast to the left but other than that he was on. The judge marked my run and if I had done 4 spins each way, we would have gotten a 68.

Turns out it was the day for big fat goose eggs... all the four riders in the limited non pro got goose eggs. At least we were all consistant.

I come out of the arena and both my husband and daughter are looking at me with this "what the heck" look. They have no idea why I have gotten a zero, but they know it isn't good. I am disgusted with myself. Now it really starts. All the doubting, all the second guessing and fretting. Once I make a mistake, it tends to just snowball. And it was an avalance on Saturday. At the lunch break they opened the arena to all riders so I went in and practiced my large fast to fix the shouldering problem and did a couple of nice lead changes. After that I decided to leave well enough alone. I got a copy of the next pattern to refresh my memory of where to go. This pattern is four spins to the left, four spins to the right, right lead departure, one large fast, one small slow, one large fast change leads, rinse repeat... you get the idea. I read that dang pattern at least ten times and every time I put it down, I couldn't remember how I was supposed to start. It was getting more ridiculous every second. Was it four spins to the left or right to start? Did I depart on the left lead or right? I could feel the anxiety building. I started watching the other riders hoping that it would sink in if I visualized it.

Now it is my turn to ride the rookie class. I go out and do four nice spins in the right direction! And another four spins in the right direction! I depart on the correct lead! I am starting to relax and think I got this whipped. Semper decides to shoulder in just a tad on the large fast to the left. Instead of just dealing with it and concentrating on my pattern, I decide to pick him up and try to fix the shoulder problom (that probably only I could feel or see) and he thinks I am asking him to change leads and he changes. (really pretty change though) With in one or two strides I change him back but now my brain checks out. I start that an off course? or is is just a penalty? is it a half point or a five point penalty, should I just school this? My mind is racing. But in the wrong direction. Like a run a way train. Or like when they spin you around with a blind fold on in pin the tail on the donkey. Or blind folded, spinning around while on a run away train. I have no idea where I am at in my pattern. NONE. I know I did a nice lead change, and one large fast but for some reason I think that I am ready for my wrap arounds. So I do them and when I get to my last stop...(seriously that is how long it took before I realized I was off pattern) I realize I am ending the pattern headed the wrong direction. As I exit the arena I have no idea where or when I went off course or how much of the second set of circles that I did or even if I did my second lead change. It was akin to a drunken blackout. Of course I hear the "off course, no score" and get the looks again. Only this time they had an air of pity to them.

Talk about being frustrated. Semper comes out to do his job and I check out. I went home, feed the horses, tucked Semper in and left to go to Reno. Pondering my morning the entire 3 hour drive. What could I have done differently? Why did I let the "keeping score" thing creep into my mind? What happened to just riding for that 70? What happened to staying focused on the pattern and my horsemanship? I seriously have no idea what happened on the first run. I don't know when the counting stopped or why. I don't remember a distraction. The only thing that I can think of is that I was concentrating on the turnarounds and forgot to count.

The second train wreck I made so many errors I seriously don't know where to start. First, I knew I was anxious and I did nothing to ease that. Second, I thought I was good enough to school a run at the same time I was showing. I can multi task at work, but on the back of a horse - not so much. Anyway..the shoulder problem was so slight that it probably was only a problem to me. Third, I looked at the freaking scores! I don't wanna care about anyone elses score - just my own. Last but not least...I lost focus.. BIG TIME. Now that I have identified the problem areas I can start to focus on how to fix them.

I have another show in two weeks. It is a working cowhorse show. My first herdwork class ever. Should be interesting. Any suggestions of how to quell my inner Anxious Annie and Nervous Nancy... let me know.

Monday, April 9, 2012


Well... since Friday was green - today is going to be orange. My place of gainful employment is located in an industrial area. The drive to and from work usually looks like this - only browner, and dryer, and hotter. Them there rocks piles ain't no pretty place. My goodness that was a double negative...

For a couple of weeks every spring we get treated to this.

They seem to thrieve just growing out of the rocks.

This bee thinks spring is here for sure. He was the only little fellow I saw. If I were a bee I would have been all over this place. Just saying.

As the poppys age they turn from a dark vibrant orange (as in the fruit) orange...

to sunshine yellow.

I am not a photographer, don't even pretend to be one, nor did I ever play one on TV. I took all of these with my iphone... not to shabby. I was pretty proud of myself on Friday. I sure did better as a photographer on Friday then I did as a reiner on Saturday. I'll bore you with the sorted details of Saturdays reining show later this week when I can lift my head up a little.

Friday, April 6, 2012


See the dork with her hood up...Yep that is me on Scooter. The smart one in the photo with a warm vest and hat is Holly. We were out checking her cattle. We found them hanging out by the highway watching the cars go by. It was cold and kind of windy. But it was a glorious day spent with two good friends. The only problem with this pictures is that Amy isn't in it. Because she took it. I love, love love this picture. Love the green. Love the wind. Love the dog and horses. Love the sky.

I love the vastness of that area. This is the country I grew up in. Spring here is grand. Lots of wild flowers, green grass, wide open spaces. I grew up in town but this type of land surrounds us. Rolling hills studded with oak trees. And odd flat topped mesas.

And little hills that many moons ago where poking up through a vast ocean. O.K. so I don't know if that is true or not, but that is how I imagine it.

Thank you Holly and Amy for a grand day. Looking forward to many more.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Jim Paul

Last week I played hookie from work and went to a Jim Paul clinic. This is California and the end of March is supposed to be springtime. But mother nature hasn't been cooperating very well and last weeks weather was anything but spring like. It was in the 40s when I left home at 6:30am. I was meeting RD at her house and following her to the ranch where the clinic was to be held. It was about 20 minutes from her place out in the middle of no where. I took a picture of no where so you all would no I wasn't making no where up.

So no where has no indoor arena either. You all remember that I ride a desk five days a week right? Not really conditioned to be out in the rain, wind and weather for 6 or 7 hours.

Back to the clinic. RD was kind of the hostess with the mostest for this clinic. Jim was here for three days. Wed and Thur were for outsiders (me) and Friday was for RD and a couple other trainers. I had never met Jim or really heard anything about him. But when the offer came up to ride with him I did some homework. I went on line and googled him, asked a few horsey friends and the consensus was that I should go. It was a good opportunity to ride with someone who really knows their stuff.

I hadn't ridden Semper in 10 days (this is getting to be a pattern with me) and when I got there I wanted to get him warmed up before we started. I went out into the arena and just let him walk around, then we were trotting, then he went into a fast moving long trot, then to a lope.. you see where this is going? He was full of himself. After about 20 miuntes of just moving he started to settle in. Jim Paul came out and studied me. I could feel him watching me. It was somewhat unnerving. At one point he asked me if I ever showed Semper. To which I replied yes. Then he asked me if he could change leads and turnaround. I answered his questions but I was a little puzzled. Then he says... "show me". So off we go and lope a few circles, change leads a few times, stop - not hard because the ground is too deep and too wet, then did a couple turn arounds. He comes over and says "nice... no one yesterday could do that". I think that was a compliment. pretty sure. don't know for absolutely positive. He immediately started working with me. It was very nice to get some one on one time with him. He had me do some turns teaching Semper to roll over his hocks. He helped me with my hands and seat. He asked me what I wanted help with and said that when we started working cattle that he would show me some tricks.

A lot of times when I go to a reining or cow horse clinic with Semper I can feel the clinician rolling their eyes and saying to themselves... "what the hell does she think she is doing here with that big white wanna be halter horse?" I didn't get that feeling with Jim Paul.

So on to the boxing and fence work. This is what I went for. The reining comes together for us pretty well, but the opportunities to work cattle are few and far between. Unless you and your horse work cattle often, it can be a real challange. Semper tends to get a little ahead of himself and pushy when things get to moving fast. I told Jim that Semper will get pushy in the bridle, that he will get ahead of the cow when things get moving fast and that he tends to want to shoulder in to the cow. Of course this makes me want to hold him back some and I am usually behind on my cow. I was second to go to work. We started with the boxing, and I could hear Jim saying "you are behind, get up there!" He took his horse on the opposite side of the cow and had me mirror his position. This was extremely helpful for me. What I learned is when I thought I was in position I was about twelve inches or a stride behind. Eventually it should become second nature to me to know my position on the cow but for right now I have to really concentrate on position. After I got a little more confidence with boxing Jim said to take one down the fence slowly and get a turn. Semper did an outstanding job at rating and keeping himself together. We made a couple of nice (very rookie) turns. It felt good to me but you never know how it looks from the outside. I don't exactly know what I was expecting when I walked back to hear what Jim had to say. His comment was "I didn't see anything wrong with the run, good job". Then as the other rider was getting ready he looked over and said "nice horse, he is stout made and you can sure tell he is a solid broke horse". The sun wasn't out but I sure felt like we were shining!

After lunch we worked out of the herd. This is where I really needed work, experience, and guidance. When Semper walks into the herd he pens his ears and wants to take a bite out of whatever is close. So that was the first thing I needed to address. Jim had me bump him up with the bridle reins everytime he would start to move his nose out. Our first cut was deep and as we came out Jim said to keep my eyes on the cattle farthest out. When I got to the middle of the pen he said now just work right and left and keep my eyes on the cattle farthest out. The cattle all peeled off and I was left with a fugly little steer that worked pretty slow. Jim made it feel so easy and relaxed. We worked the little steer back and forth 5 or 6 times and kept it on a nice straight line away from the herd. Jim was still having to tell me - your late, get up there, go all the way to the fence, and stop straight. The other thing that I was doing was over reining my horse. I had asked Jim to watch my hands because when we were doing the boxing I felt like I may have been over using my hands because Semper was slinging his head a little. It didn't really show up in the boxing but it stuck out like a sore thumb in the herd work. Jim said to keep my hands in a 6 inch box in front of the horn and just use them to start the turn and use my legs to drive it through. The next cut we didn't make as deep and brought out a fiesty good sized animal. This steer kept us moving pretty fast, but we stayed in a better position and I concentrated on using my legs more and my reins less. When we finished working this steer, Jim said that the turns looked much better with me concentrating on my legs and letting Semper make the turns without me pulling on him. It wasn't pretty for sure. But it wasn't a train wreck either.

I watched others go and one thing that I noticed was that as people were working the cattle they would get closer and closer to the herd until the steer was back into herd. This makes it really hard to work your cow without unsettling the herd and it looks like you are out of control. So I asked Jim "how do you keep them out on that line and not let them come back to the herd?". Position, Position, Position. You have to be in that sweet spot to hold the cow out on that line. So he had me go again so that I could practice just holding that line and know where I was at in the pen at all times. The goal is to work your cow in the middle of the pen. When you are moving with the cow and things are really going fast it is easy to lose your bearings. We worked several more and really concentrated on just being in the right position. By the time we were done I was feeling pretty confident that I know where I want to be. It isn't second nature yet, but I am getting the it. Maybe if I work say... a couple more thousand cows... it will come.

All and all I really learned a lot and had a great day with a truly generous gentleman. It was a golden opportunity and hopefully I will get to do it again soon.