Ava Update – After the vet appt

Last Wednesday the 22nd I took Ava to the vets for a full lamness exam:

The vet was very thorough. He hooked Ava up to a bunch of sensors to measure head bobbing, and measure the force of push off and force of landing of hind hooves. Then he had his assistant trot Ava up and down the parking lot a few times to get a baseline reading. He did flexion tests and again trotted Ava up and down the parking lot. Then had her trot in a small circle on the pavement, and in deep sand. A few other tests on different surfaces. The sensors showed their was a big variation between left and right hind forces in the stride.

So then he did ultrasound on the suspensory ligaments. He said they weren’t smooth, but it could be nothing and suggested nerve blocking to rule suspensory ligament injury out. He did two types of nerve blocks on her suspensory ligaments (below the hock). There was no change in lamness. 

He still had the sensors hooked up so we could see the graph of abnormality of her gait. And nothing changed after the block. 

He did ultrasounds and xrays of her hocks. He said they looked good, with no real signs of arthritis. There were thinning of the spaces between the bone but no arthritic changes. Then he did a nerve block on her hock. And he retested using the sensors for change in gait. He said normally once the hock is nerve blocked it’s like night and day if it’s arthritis in the hock. There were no changes in the degree of lamness.

So he did an ultrasound and numerous xrays of the stifle. He said the Intracondylar fossa(?) didn’t appear to look correct, not how he expected it to look. It’s a small hole in the middle of the stifle and should show up as a dark hole. Hers had some grayish spots on the edges. He sent the xrays to an equine surgeon at MSU to get their opinion. 

He did a nerve block on Ava’s stifle and her lamness decreased drastically. She was almost sound at that point. 

We then waited another 10 minutes and redid the trot test and she looked sound to me. The sensors said it was almost equal between to two hind legs (the differences was barely registered by the sensors).

He said it doesn’t appear to be arthritis in the stifle either. That other than that spot everything looked great. No lesions, no cysts, no bone changes from arthritis.

So… I waited on the MSU guy to get back with my vet. Waited… waited… I started calling the vet the following Monday, and Tuesday, and finally got to talk to my vet a week after the exam.

The MSU vet said some the xrays were inconclusive. There may, or may not, be a cranial meniscal tear. The next step is having the stifle scoped. My vet said he would’ve expected the pouches in the stifle to be distended if it were a tear, but it may have been long enough after the injury for them to have gone down. He did say he didn’t believe it was a torn cruciate ligament – which would’ve taken forever to heal.

When he blocked the stifle he blocked the 2 joint pouches (outside and knee cap). I wasn’t sure what that actually meant though.

Here’s my main issue right now… other than putting Ava on stall rest for 30 days I have NO IDEA what she needs in order to heal. The vet won’t give me a plan of action without a definite diagnosis and it’s going to be a bit before I can get Ava scoped (if I do it).

I don’t know about doing the scope. On the one hand, I want to know what’s wrong. On the other, I’ve already got $900 into getting this diagnosed… are they really going to have anything else to offer in the way of fixing this other than rest? I don’t know.

Any suggestions? I’ve never dealt with a stifle injury before. What do I do?

Ava update

Still lame. Very lame. I haven’t been able to ride for over a week because she’s in too much pain. She doesn’t even want to trot on the lunge, nor does she do her usual kick up her heels and act like an idiot for 5 minutes when we start.

Vet appointment is Wednesday. I asked for the works. I’m taking hubby, who is extremely skilled at motivating people to do things they wouldn’t necessarily deem profitable. 😉 People tend to treat me like those tiny yippy dogs… ignore or talk down to.

I’ve prepared myself as best I can for the worst, but I’m still too hopeful that we can fix this. Considering I only have money for one horse, and I don’t have my own place to stable her at home, this creates an issue if she’s permanently disabled. It’s a big issue specifically because I can’t bare/bear to part with her, but storing her at someone’s house like an broken toy is unfair to Ava.

I want Wednesday to come quick and end with a positive outcome.

Wishful thinking….


I like to listen to NPR on the drive to work… A writer was talking about his new book. At one point the author says, “I don’t want to say don’t get too caught up in your dreams, don’t get too involved in things not real, because I think that’s where all the treasure lies. I get as caught up in imaginary things as I possibly can and stay there as long as I can”.

For some reason this immediately makes me think of dressage. I guess because the logical part of my brain understands that my concept of dressage is imaginary.  I’ve known that higher level dressage for me is mainly a pipe dream, but it kind of struck me today why I need that dream. The question that has been nagging me was why do I continue investing so much  into dressage when I know the likely hood of reaching anything past Third is next to impossible.

But I am obsessed with it. I still want that dream.

Maybe I need that dream. Getting caught up in that dream silences that horrible inner critic that only chants “you can’t”, because in my dream higher level dressage is possible.  I think I need that self-deception in my life right now.

Staying in the dream lets me pretend that I can eventually compete Grand Prix. That eventually I’ll be able to sit so elegantly that it’ll appear as if I’m doing nothing at all. And eventually I could train a horse to perform brilliant, expressive movements with just a whisper of an aid.

If you listen to the podcast with the author, he’ll go on to say that the characters in his story run into trouble because the lines of imagination and reality blur.  I think you’ll have to ask me in another 20 years whether I lost touch with reality, but I think that perception depends on which side of the line you’re looking from.

But the bigger picture is, it’s not really about dressage. The dream is about having hard work pay off. It’s about really investing yourself in something, hitting your goal, and seeing the results. Because honestly, that is the *big* dream, isn’t it? If I just work hard enough, for long enough, then I’ll earn the rewards. Whether it’s work, or dressage, or well.. who cares about anything else.. no matter what it is, the belief that hard work pays off has got to be the biggest dream there ever was.

Maybe I just shouldn’t listen to NPR before my second cup of coffee… 😉

It keeps getting better

Today I get to the barn at 10 am with the plan of possibly riding (if Ava’s not too sore), and then going to the GMO meeting (which I’m a board member on). I get to the barn and the girl doing chores tells me Ava got out last night and went hog wild on the grain bag left in the aisle.

I had an instant heart attack.

No one knows how my horse got out. Her gate was open in the morning and Ava was found gorging herself on grain in the barn aisle.  No other horse was out. Everyone swears the gate was chained securely as of 6 pm last night. No one checked the horses after 6pm.

Ava was obviously not feeling very well, so I called the vet. He told me to give her PeptoBismol. Have you ever tried giving nasty tasting, chalky liquid to a 1,100 lb animal without a delivery method? And I’m not talking about just a wee bit…  I tried everything I could think of to get it in her.

I had the bright idea of filling a plastic water bottle and squirting as much in her mouth as possible. I thought this was a brilliant idea. I’m all congratulating my self for my genius, feeling smug… I get the mouth of the bottle into the corner of Ava’s mouth and squeeze as much into her mouth as possible.

This is when I suddenly see the flaw in my plan.

Ava, having decided this crap is vile, is trying to spit it out while vigorously shaking her head.  I grab her under the jaw and try to lift her head up to try to keep it in. It took 3 seconds for Ava to prove that she is indeed the stronger of the two of us and pink goo goes flying.

At this point Avas entire front is coated in pink. It’s dripping off my hands and running down my wrists. I kept trying to wipe it on my pants to get the worst of it off my hands, but now my pants have pink streaks running down them.

Ava gives me this “I hate you” glare while sporting the prettiest, bright pink lipstick. Maybe horse lipstick could become ‘a thing’? This could be my ticket to making the big bucks… selling designer horse lipstick.

Anyway, Ava didn’t feel all that great most of the day, but didn’t appear in pain. By supper time she was acting like her old self again. She’s on hay only rations the next few days, which she is very angry and confused about.  I’m hoping the worst is over.

I was spitting mad this morning when I found out about this. Not only did my horse get out, but that the barn carelessly left the grain out. This is the second time this month (within 2 weeks) where horses have gotten loose in the barn and eaten large quantities of grain that was left out.  The grain room (with a very nice door on it I might add) was less than 6 feet away from the bag that was left out.

I’m thinking I need to push my departure date up a couple weeks.

Finding a new barn…

Well, I think I’ve found a barn to move Ava to. It is too expensive, but we’re going to try to make it work through the winter. I’m thinking that if I can move her in the summer to a cheaper facility than it will offset the increase over the winter.

Hubby seems optimistic that we can afford this. I’m a pessimist…. so we’re going to go broke, lose our house, and have to sell the horse. Haha :/

The new barn seems nice. I’m super excited about the trails. 200 acres of land, plus it butts up against a preserve, and another farm with even more trails. I’ve really missed trail riding this year. Plus it has a heated lounge and heated bathrooms which will be very appreciated this winter.

It was pretty deserted when we got there though. I found that a bit depressing. And it’s basically a jumper barn. Jumps are set up year round. They seemed to have it set up well so that there were large patches for flat work. There were also clear diagonal lines available and the BO said she tries to keep it set up so dressage riders can get their work done without too many hassles.

I don’t know…. we’ll see. But if this place won’t work then it’s getting pretty late in the year to get a spot in a barn with an indoor. Most of those barns are full, or close to it, by now (the decent ones are).

Heaping pile of crap

My barn told all the boarders this evening that they are no longer going to be operating a public boarding facility. This is effective as of December 1st. The six current boarders were given the option to stay, but board will increase from $400/month to $500/month.

I’d been looking for a new barn anyway. I’ll leave it at that instead of going into all the boring points on why this place isn’t worth the $400 I’m paying now.


Tomorrow I’m going to go look at a barn about 20 miles from my house. The board is significantly higher than what I pay now. I think its $525, but it has a lot of amenities. Personally I’m sold on the miles of trails they have available. Huge indoor, good farrier and vets brought in often, quality feed, a heated observation room, and heated bathroom right in the barn (no more intruding on the barn owners by entering their house).

There’s another barn a smidge closer to my house that is cheaper, $350, but the indoor is really small, no trails, a smallish outdoor, and a huge long drive way that made us wonder how well the snow removal in the winter was. I went and looked at it last year, and I don’t remember what exactly turned me off from the place, but at the time I wasn’t all that enthused about boarding there (other than the small arena and the lack of trails). I may have to rethink that option quickly though.

Ava’s still gimpy on the left hind. As soon as I start trying to work a bit of collection she’s ruined for two days. I’ve been trying to schedule x-rays (and possible treatments) for Ava, but I’m hesitant to set anything up when our bank balance is hovering at $40. We can’t even pay for the gas to get to the vet’s office at this point in time. It’s been a bad couple of months money wise…

And to top it all off, I am one lesson away from finally learning flying changes. I cannot express to you enough how badly I have wanted this day to come. Except, I can’t afford that last lesson, my horse isn’t sound, the trainer leaves next month until April, I have to find a new barn for Ava, I’m worried about my dad because he has no Charlie, and the little dog we adopted is peeing on the carpet when he thinks no one is looking (the little rascal!).

So that is my life in a nut shell. I hope you and yours are faring better.

Watching the Catherine Haddad Staller Clinic

I went to watch the Catherine Haddad Staller clinic this morning. I had desperately wanted to ride in it, but in hind-sight I’m very glad they didn’t pick me. It sounded as if the riders had all ridden with Catherine at least twice in the past, so at this point they were simply fine tuning their riding.  In that situation it’s sometimes hard to be the newcomer who is picked apart with that first ride under a new clinician.

Anyway, I was surprised by how funny  Ms. Haddad-Staller was.  It was usually a subtle humor, but enough to send a ripple of laughter through the crowd. However, at one point one of the barn dogs made it into the center of the arena and was excitedly staring at Catherine. Mid-instruction Catherine bent down and said, “What is it boy? Did little Timmy fall in the well?”  Then immediately carried on with the instruction.

Catherine has a very clear way of explaining concepts and is a fantastic instructor. She is definitely a good clinician to audit if you ever get a chance.

I watched one rider who was struggling with changes in some combination of strides (Either 3’s or 4’s). They worked a bit on single changes, a few 3’s, but the horse looked hollow/braced. After a bit, Catherine got on and  schooled the horse for a bit. It was quite the lovely picture when Catherine was finished. Very round, over the back, and flowing. Such a transformation. It was neat to watch.  Catherine had explained that the main issue had been the horse was allowed to move his head/neck too much randomly and it was not only throwing the horse off balance some, but also allowing the horse to escape using itself correctly. So as soon as the head/neck became a fixed point, and the horse was ridden from behind, everything fell into place. The before picture was a flabby, short-strided, lateral mover with some meh gaits. The end result was a round power house with huge, ground covering gaits.

One of the big things Catherine was stating was to ride the hind legs. That the riders job was to ride the back end. She was saying that being able to feel what’s behind the saddle was what separated the men from the boys.  She repeated it several times, “Ride what you can’t see” (meaning everything behind the saddle).20141003_094431

The other thing she said was “ride them expressively forward. The horse should be allowed to express themselves through movement. Teach them from the start that this is where they can move freely forward with joy”. I liked that idea a lot.

And last, riders were having issues with going from rising trot to sitting trot. The horse would be beautifully forward and round, but the second they started to sit the trot the back would hollow and the head would come up. Catherine was saying that you have to sit on him with a “going” seat. The horse shouldn’t change frame or speed when you sit the trot. You should have absolutely no change.

This is just a short clip of one rider at the clinic. This is just to give an idea of the quality of horse/rider and the instruction. All of the horses were amazing movers.

I was a little disappointed in that my body sabotaged me by making my back hurt immensely soon after arriving at the clinic. It got so bad that I left after only 3 hours. I had tried standing for a while, but whether I sat or stood it hurt terribly. So I quietly snuck out the back and went home before the lunch break.

Oh, interesting conversation with a fellow auditor though. Apparently she rode with Catherine last year, and Catherine had suggested she ride without stirrups to improve her seat.  My fellow auditor was saying that she’d been told it would take one full year to improve her seat with no stirrups. She said the first month was terrible and she wanted to quit. By the second month it was better. She said it’s been one year now and she rides like she’s glued on the horse.  I was impressed. I’ve made it three days with no stirrups before and given up. A full month?!  And here was this regular, normal looking (she didn’t appear to look crazy), woman who’s been riding stirrup-less for a full year now. She’s my new hero. The sheer will power and perseverance that must’ve taken is mind-boggling.

** I’m tempted to try it… my seat could really use a lot of work. Anyone want to try it with me?