Vet Visit Wrap Up

I am going to fully admit that most of the below is for my own notes and recollections, as joint injections are something that are still relatively new to me, and I like having detailed notes about my vet visits outside of regular shots and coggins. There is a TL/DR section further down this page in bold, if you don’t want to read the whole post.

HOuse XC

One of the joys of living within an hour of Churchill Downs is access to some amazing racehorse/lameness vets, and at prices that strongly undercut their NY/NJ counterparts. A few factors led to me looking for a vet to come look at May to discuss what (if any) maintenance we should be looking at:

  1. May had her hocks injected in October of 2016. She was showing some lameness and the vet at the time prescribed this course of action. Both hocks showed changes at the time, but I was never really certain that the improvements I saw were due to fitness or the injections.
  2. May’s job was fairly mild in 2017. If she jumped 6 times, I would be surprised. Between having shoes off, my wedding, our lack of jumping saddle, and zero competition goals, she was never really pushed in 2017, so I wanted an experience eye to look at her before I really started jumping or added in any heavy Dressage work.
  3. A couple of times, May has shown some weakness behind. She tracks up normally, but would be VERY sluggish going up hills and doing any lateral work that required her to rock back. One or twice, I swear I could feel one hip coming up a bit uneven vs. the other hip, but I could never recreate it near the mirror.
  4. While May is not a “high performance horse”, she is a horse that I need to stay very happy in her job. Ideally, she could continue to work and maybe even pack some kids or a timid AA around starter well into her late teens and early twenties… or do some lower level Dressage. As her owner, I think there is an ingrained responsibility to helping your horse be comfortable and happy in their work for as long as possible.

Originally, the workout was supposed to be on 17th, but due to the banamine in May’s system and the subtleness of what we were looking at, it was decided to wait a week. Good news, May’s eye got a thorough recheck and is healing even better than the vets had hoped for. Yay! Bad news, they definitively identified some lameness.

The way this vet practice works is there are two vets that come out for these types of calls, and they bring one helper to jog horses, hold horses, and basically just make it easier for the vets to do their jobs. The appointment started with the vet going over May’s entire body, utilizing acupuncture spots to see if any soreness jumped out. They also utilized hoof testers to make sure we weren’t looking at hoof pain, and they checked teeth. (May’s need to be done… not surprised, but something I am going to have to wait a few weeks to do. I had to prioritize current pain over a developing issue in this case.) They didn’t check eyes because… they had stared at her eyes a LOT lately.

Unsurprisingly, May reacted to none of their tests. Everyone kind of shrugged and acknowledged that she’s a pretty stoic girl, who would rather you stop poking her. Thank you very much! So we moved on to jogging her on hard ground. The vet explained that, if we didn’t see anything jogging on hard ground, we would move to small ground, and then to seeing her under saddle if nothing showed up. Fair enough to me.

Here’s the interesting thing. The hard ground (pretty much the only hard ground left in this part of KY… pretty much everything flooded this weekend) that we jogged on is on a slight incline. Going up the hill, May had a slight head bob and irregularity in the hind end. Heading down the hill? She looked totally sound. Huh. Ok. (Below is from before I injected her hocks the first time, you can see the lameness the most when we change directions)

We flexed the back end, first targeting hocks, although any flexions you do on the back end will stress both the hocks and the stifles. It’s not like the front end where you can clearly isolate a knee. However, the left hock showed a bit more positively than the right side. Then, we tried irritating the stifle a bit, and she looked a bit off on both sides. Then, we tried one last stifle flexion, and it really made no difference in the diagnosis. So what to do?

Again, we went back to the fact that I wasn’t really confident that the hock injections made a huge difference in 2016. The vets indicated that I had the decisions to only inject hocks and then decide on the stifles, but they were fairly confident that the stifles were also a problem and that I would just be calling them back again to do the stifles anyway. Given that I don’t take putting a horse under sedation lightly (especially not a draft cross of unknown breeding), I decided it would be best to do both sets of joints. She was testing positive both ways and showing clinical signs of issues in both joints.

May was put under fairly light sedation, again due to her assumed draft breeding. (Draft horses are often “light weights” when it comes to sedation and are more likely to have severe consequences from sedatives). She was sedated so lightly that, a few times, she picked her head up to stare at some noise she heard or some animals in the woods outside her stall. (yes, the below is the only media I got)

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#drunkpony status 😂

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We decided to do the procedure in her stall since there is a step up from the aisle to her stall that would be difficult for her to navigate while drugged, her stall is large enough to allow everyone to move around comfortably, and there are lights in her stall. I acknowledged my concern with joint injections and infection, etc. I am not sure if that is why 2 people took nearly a half hour to fully clean and scrub down the area, or if that was their general procedure, but I was thankful to see it. I held May while they did the procedure, not because their weren’t enough hands, but because she is better behaved for me than strangers.

Both vets were great about explaining to me what they were doing, why, and what their opinions were on what they were seeing. We first injected the right stifle. While a good amount of fluid did come out and it was clear, it was noted that the fluid was on the thin side. A good indication that this joint would actually benefit from these injections. May continued to watch the world around her, unconcerned as a needle was shoved into that joint.

Moving on to the right hock, the vet had a difficult time getting a need. into the joint. Since this was the less positive (less lame) hock, we discussed the possibility that it was fusing. Everyone seemed to agree that it was likely and that next time we looked at injecting the hocks, it might be worth taking X-rays. (I had gotten them taken with the last set, so I knew we already had changes there.)

We moved to the other side. This stifle showed a bit more normally upon piercing the joint, but there was still some liquid. (of note, neither stifle palpated like it was full of liquid, but given the size and location of the joint, no one was really surprised.) The other hock, which flexed positive and was the one where I had felt the “offness” earlier, was clearly not as close to being fused at the other. It had a fair amount of liquid of the thin variety, and we were happy to get some relief in there as well.

TL/DR – Injecting both hocks and stifles was clearly necessary, but she was only showing the worst of her symptoms in there right stifle and left hock. 

I was very happy to have decided to go with the whole round (although ask me next week if it made a difference). I do believe that doing one set would not have resolved the whole issue and that soreness in one area was likely making soreness in the other area worse.

We then rechecked the eye (easier to do under sedation), and everything looked as it should. I stayed with May for another hour – hour and a half. I wanted to make sure she came fully awake before she was fed, and I wanted to talk to the afternoon barn staff about not turning her out.

Around an hour and half after the original sedation (remember this was a very light sedation), May took a loooooonnnnnng pee and got the bright look in her eye. 30 minute later, the afternoon staff arrived to feed and turn out. May was nickering and banging against her door, asking for dinner. I watched her eat her (very very small) amount of dinner (probably unnecessary, but I am a worrier and it was only another 15 minutes anyway) and gave her one last brushing over before heading home.

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When you overdo it on a #monday #dogsofinstagram

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When I visited her on Sunday, she was laying down, but she quickly popped up and said hello. She got a ton of cookies (and more goop shoved in her eye). I gave her Monday off too, and haven’t decided yet if I will begin her back in super light work on Tuesday, or if I will just wait until Thursday. Either way, I won’t really see results until a solid week.

All in all, happy I did this, and it gives me a bit of confidence knowing that I am helping May feel her best as we enter this competition season.


Thankful Thursday

Amidst all the driving back and forth to the barn, I have had an opportunity to reflect on what I am more thankful for in my riding career. However, the thing I am most thankful for, is the mare that turned out to be much more than she was ever supposed to be.

I have talked a lot in the past about how May was a complete impulse buy. You can read the full story here: A May As Well Purchase However, I am not really sure I ever explained what I was expecting. Originally, when I bought her home, we joked that I had overpaid for her. After all, she couldn’t even do a 20M circle before she popped her shoulder and ran in the opposite direction, a canter took nearly 20 steps of trot to pick up, and I quickly learned that she had never seen a gymnastic.

To be honest, my original thought for buying her was that, if she didn’t work out, I could recoup most of my money and just sell her as a trail horse. She was sane, and sensible, and had color. All the things trail people want. Right? I mean, she could comfortable carry a larger rider for miles without discomfort. Then, we went to our first CT. It was a W/T Dressage Test and 18″ stadium round.

And we had SO MUCH FUN. She was a champion, and I finished with a giant smile on my face. I was hooked on competing this horse, and I think the man in this situation finally understood what it was all about. She never was supposed to be as cool as she is, but gosh… she is really cool…


I think she has turned out to be really cool… And I can’t wait to see what more she has to show me.

Plans & Horses

Remember that cool calendar I made at the beginning of the month? And the vet appointment I had set for Saturday? We make plans and ponies laugh. This weekend was going to be the perfect weekend to get I all done. The forecast called for warmish weather and some rain, I had a three day weekend, and May had been in fairly steady work for a few weeks now.

Then, I got the call from the barn at 3:30PM on Friday…

May had a small ulcer and significant scratch on her eye. Instead of my lameness evaluation on Saturday, we got a stain and recheck of the eye. As you can see, that damage took up a serious amount of stain (but swelling an general pain seemed to have eased).

The green part is what needs to heal...

(The green is the damaged part of the eye) Saturday, it also snowed…

MMMMMMK! So instead of working, May got the day off. Not a huge deal. Unfortunately, I had already planned on Sunday being a day off because I had things to do related to real-life and not-horsey life. However, I still made multiple trips to the barn to give May her eye medication. (Glad we moved a lot closer because 15 min 3x a day is a lot easier to swallow than 45 min 3x a day… and the barn is mostly on my way to and from work this week)

On Monday, I awoke to a 65 degree day… a day that was going to get up into the 70s. May still has her winter coat. Immediately, I knew that we would be having no heavy workout. Instead, I opted for a long, forward walk with some hills it in. May got warm and a little sweaty, but never to the point where I was concerned for her. She still has a heavy coat and trot & canter sets after the weather spikes are definitely not what the doctor ordered. The long walk encouraged her to drink some water, but she cooled out really quickly.

I even got the opportunity to wash her legs and tail. I know her legs will be covered in mud again almost immediately, but I couldn’t pass on the opportunity to get things cleaned up and to make sure I wasn’t missing any sores/scratches/irritations/etc. All checked out, and as a bonus, May’s farrier showed up clean legs and feet! He was, understandably, pretty thrilled. (He even texted me about her eye, as I hadn’t thought to warn him about it.)

The actual lameness evaluation will take place this Saturday, as long as everything clears up with the eye. Since she got banamine for the swelling in the eye on Friday and Saturday, the vet didn’t feel like it was worth doing a lameness evaluation, as it would be too easy to miss something. Since they’re coming to recheck the eye this Saturday, there is no harm in putting off the exam an extra week. (May’s eye was fully open and she was doing much better as early as my late check on Friday night)

How are your Spring plans going with your horses? It seems to be a totally mixed bag of people getting things moving, and other people just praying for winter/mud season to be over! I guess we are officially in the latter camp on this one.

30 Facts About Me

I saw this on a youtube video, and I thought it would make a fun blog topic!

1. I’ve been riding since I was 6 year old (nearly 22 years ago!)

2. I didn’t ride at all when I was at college, but I did ride 6 horses, 6 days a week each summer I was home.

3. My first horse was actually a buckskin, QH type. Unfortunately, we only had her for a year before we found out she had fairly serious bone cancer and needed to be put down.

4. I didn’t start riding with an eventing trainer until 2014. Before then, I had only ridden hunter/jumpers.

5. I received my bachelors degree in Economics Finance.

6. I work in the Hedge Fund world… doing compliance and operations.

7. My favorite colored horse is black… with minimal chrome

8. I rode one horse for more than a decade. He was an OTTB, and the first horse I got on after I recovered from breaking my hand and getting surgery. (Even before I got back on my own horse at the time)

9. My favorite breeches are the Romfh Sarafina breeches… I just can’t justify more than 1 pair for shows and clinics.

10. I have worn some of the most expensive helmets on the market… and I still prefer my OneK. (although the new technology in the Back on Track helmets make me think twice.

11. I have no desire to ever go beyond Training level eventing… The upper levels just are never going to be my cup of tea.

12. My favorite horse I have ever ridden was a fairly poorly trained Irish Sport Horse, who could jump the moon.

13. I am a dog person… but I do give the barn cats love whenever I am at the barn.

14. I hated Stubben saddles growing up… and now own 2 that I really like.

15. Both my left ankle and my left wrist suffer from the remnants of some old ligament injuries.

16. The only bone I ever broke around horses happened on the ground… lunging my old horse.

17. I almost took a job out of college that would’ve forced me to spend a year and a half out of the country. It was a higher salary than the job I ended up taking by $12,000, but it was completely the right move.

18. I hunter paced about once a month each fall and spring while I was a young teenage. I keep trying to get back to it, but haven’t found an opening. (Totally different leopard App below)

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when I used to jump spotted things in the woods all the time #tbt

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19. Some days I seriously consider quitting eventing, buying a western saddle, and just trail riding. May wouldn’t care much either way… as long as we don’t go straight Dressage.

20. I used to play Eventing 2001 with a friend of mine… religiously.

21. The only time I have ever fallen off of May was in front of Marilyn Payne in her clinic. It was nearly 2 years ago, and I haven’t written about it yet.

22. I worked in NYC for nearly 3 years. It was a 3.5 hour commute to the barn to ride my horse at night… and then a 45 minute commute home… all to get up to catch the 6:14AM train the next day… but NYC is an experience.

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Sometimes NYC shows it's pretty side. #nyc

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23. I have one, older sister.

24. My mom lives in Florida… but about 3.5 hours from Ocala.

25. I drive a Subaru, and it has gotten me out of some seriously icy and snowy situations. I wish I had it when I was going to school in MA!

26. My favorite saddle I have ever ridden in is a Butet… but I have never owned a horse that one would fit.

27. I might have a serious chocolate addiction.

28. My favorite non-horsey store is Lush. (Can I count this as a horsey store if I say their bath products are my favorite after a long day in the saddle?)

29. If I could live anywhere in the U.S., it would be PA in the summer and Aiken in the winter.

30. I would love to try fox hunting, and I think May would really take to it. She has no issue with dogs whatsoever, and tends to be very logical in a big group of horses.

All that being said, May is doing great with her fitness. I have a new vet coming on Saturday to do an evaluation and recommend if there is any maintenance we should be doing. (May had her hocks injected in Summer 2016, but hasn’t seemed to need them redone until recently.) Do you do any maintenance with your horses?

Some (Free) Tech Upgrades

In a lot of ways, riding has stayed relatively low tech. There are really no substitutes for sitting on a real live horse, in a field, doing basically the same thing thousands (millions?) of people did hundreds of years ago. However, we are in an age where nearly everyone rides with a cell phone in their pocket, or at least nearby. (just check out those new USEF rules about headphones in the warmup ring!)

There are a lot of REALLY EXPENSIVE upgrade options that I would love to own, but cannot justify the price. A clinic or a Solo Shot? A show or a Equisense? Fun fact – the training will always win out. BUT I have found some free options that I am finding are really making a difference in my rides. Of course, neither of these things are horse-specific (or I am sure they would come with high price tags!).

Google Sheets

Remember that nifty calendar from the beginning of the month?

February Schedule
This one!

Well, it came from Google Sheets. Completely free, completely editable, and, best of all, easily accessible to me on my phone. Why is that important? Because I am often in the saddle and completely at a loss for what was supposed to be on the calendar that day. I can pull up the calendar, check my schedule, adjust if needed, and get on with my ride… and all before my 10 minute walk warmup is over.


Now this one took a bit more research. For Christmas, I got a very inexpensive stopwatch. While the big, eventing watches are cool, they are also far too big for my wrist and tend to just roll around throughout a cross country course. A smaller, and cheaper, runners watch should do the same job, and just as easily.

So when I wanted to start timing the intervals of my rides, I pulled it out and set to work. And then I realized how much trouble it is to set up more than 10 intervals on a watch… Back to the drawing board. Then I figured, there should be an app for that!

(Pic of my absolute favorite eventing app, courtesy of my previous trainer’s instagram)

Eventually, I found “IntervalTracker” on the Apple App Store. It allows me to quickly and easily set up training intervals, and I can even set them to different noises so that I know when I am supposed to walk, trot, and canter, without interrupting my ride at all.

To decode this for everyone… a 10 minute warmup. Then it does an interval of low followed by an interval of high and repeats for how many sets you have. In this instance, you have 3 sets of trot with 3 minutes trotting and 1 minute walking. (Low is Trot and High is Walk). Then 2 sets of canter (Low is Canter and High is Walk). Then, I added one more set of trot (3 min trot and 1 minute of walk) before a 10 minute and 25 second cool down. Walk is a “Ding, Ding” noise, Trot is a single “Ding”, and Canter is a “Whistle”. All in all, this is working really well!

This is what the app looks like when you start. Obviously, you can choose to play music if you want too. (Thomas Rhett is a serious favorite right now)

What about you? Are there any cheap (or free) technology upgrades that you use to make your rides and horse life better?

On a totally unrelated note, has anyone ever worked with a nutritionist? I have cleaned up my diet (more vegetables, no red meat, no added sugar etc.) and have been really, really struggling with feeling normal (lots of nausea, headaches, etc).

You Know Nothing, Adult Amateur.

The wisdom of ignorance is a ridiculously important part of doing this thing we call “learning to ride”. I think many of us that rode as kids can think of a time when we really felt like we knew how to ride… like if we had the right horse and enough money of COURSE we could make it to Rolex or the Olympics or wherever. Then, we get a bit older. We get introduced to the “greats”. We read books, we watch clinicians, we LEARN. And somehow, in learning, we learn how little we do know.


Recently, I was reading one of my favorite blogs. I real OG in my book. A Enter Spooking (If you EVER had a clinic in KY, I need to be there.)

I am not a Dressage rider. My only real Dressage training has come from Eventing riders and that only began in late 2015. During my first Dressage lesson, the trainer asked me to ride the horse into the contact, and I couldn’t do it properly. It was the first day in many days in which Dressage makes me feel like a total fool.

However, I had felt like I had started to grasp how this whole Dressage thing works, at least on a basic level. Then Megan makes a comment about how “the rider should kneel into their thigh”. What…. WHAT? I stopped. I blinked. I read it again. Dressage riders should not sit on their butts. They should kneel into their thighs. Oh… Oh well… That actually makes a ton of sense. So now I was staring at my screen, and I realized that I didn’t even know how to properly sit in a saddle, much less ride in one.


But riders do not let our inability to do something stop us from trying. The first time you sat in a saddle, I bet that you couldn’t even make the old schoolie trot… or even turn. The first time you jumped, you probably had no idea where your horse would takeoff. And the first time you went a trail ride, I bet you had no idea how to get your horse through that one damn puddle. However, you worked at it. You read books, you tried different things, you sought instruction, and you got better.

Each time we peel back another layer of the “riding” onion, we realized another skill (or set of skills) we do not know. But now, we have something that we know we can learn to make us better. So we try, and we get better, and we master more skills… and learn how much more we don’t know and can’t do. 🙂


Deal With It

Riding at my barn is typically a very standard affair. I can pretty much rely on the fact that there will be no more than 2 other people riding at any one time, and in winter, there are never any lessons going on. Things tend to be quiet and calm and all that. (Seriously old media this post, sorry everyone)

Then, I showed up to ride on Saturday. Due to the weather, May didn’t get the ride I was planning on Friday, so she had a few days off. Either way, I was expecting to find my horse wide eyed and looking frantically around the outside of her stall… cool. Some deer came flying out of the woods, and I figured that was the end of it.

(Side note – how did I ever think the chair seat my old saddle put me in was at all acceptable?)

My plan was to just get the first day of our fitness plan started. I hopped on, and the ground was frozen enough to allow us to go on a walk through the adjacent field. It has a small hill in it, and it seemed like a good place to start our ride. And it was. And then we started heading back toward the main ring. Then, she saw it.

Recently, a horse owner with some disabilities moved into our barn. She uses a wheelchair and enjoys her VERY CUTE Morgan gelding by driving him. The cart has been hanging out in the indoor, which May hasn’t objected to, but seeing the cart chasing a horse around the outdoor arena was too much. We pranced, neck arched, and nostrils snorting. She threatened to spin and take off on me, and of course, I was using the mildest bit I had in my arsenal. Great.

There are two ways riders react to these situations, and I have been on both sides of both options.

  1. Freak out. This is always fun. I once rode at a barn where there were several older riders. One had a horse who had a nasty habit of bucking and breaking parts of her body. So when something spooked her horse, her reaction was to get off, start slamming things, and screaming at whoever DARED to spook her precious Pookie. I understand where this behavior comes from. She was scared. She had been hurt. She did NOT want to be hurt again. However, for the several years I knew her, her horse’s behavior only ever got worse because he never actually had to deal with anything.
  2. Just Ride On. I own a horse that I know I can handle. I specifically own her because I know that I can comfortable and capably handle her even at her worst. So I sat deep, kept reminder her that walking was what she wanted to do, and I continued our ride in the dressage arena. I didn’t push the issue by forcing May to work in the same space as the cart. (Partially because the lack of prep was unfair and partially because I have never actually seen this person drive and I wasn’t going to try and play dodge ball with something my horse is afraid of) Instead, I modified our trot sets. They were no longer about anything other than relaxing over her back and coming forward into the bit, and you know what, it took her all of 2 full 3 minute trot sets to relax into real work.

For our finishing walk work, I walked back to the main outdoor arena where the horse and carriage were now cantering around, and we walked outside the arena. May pranced a bit, especially when it came rolling up from behind her, but she was significantly more obedient than the start of the ride.

You can bet the next time I see that cart, I am going to ask if I can ride in the arena with them. (also, how cute would May look PULLING a cart?) How do you handle unexpected changes to your rides?

And for the record, May thinks all’s well that ends well, as long as it ends with cookies.

Creating a Plan

Back from our honeymoon! It was AHMAHHHHZZZIIIINNNNG, and I promise I’ll post some pics for you all this weekend.

However, I now have a pretty daunting challenge – Getting May back into shape. I rode her on Sunday, after getting back in the country around 1AM, and she was fantastic. We did a lot of walking, then ran through both BN tests for funsies, then more talking. She, fitness wise, seemed fine with it. Tuesday, I showed up to ride, and she was a bit stiff and sore. I am not sure if it’s from starting back into work or from all the mud KY.

Either way, I decided it would be good to set a pretty strict fitness plan for the next month. I know that she does need her hocks done, but I would prefer her to at least have a solid basis of fitness before we inject the hocks again. Last time I did them when she was still fairly unfit, and it was difficult to tell if they helped or not.

With all the hill work and strengthening we did last year (and almost complete lack of jumping and competing), she never showed any signs of needing her hocks done again. Now that I am looking at a competition calendar again, I think it is only fair to call in a vet before the season really gets rolling and get some serious eyes on the whole picture. First though- FITNESS!

February Schedule

Whew! It took actually longer to build this than I thought it would. The rides of walk-heavy, which I think is totally appropriate, and I try to build time before building intensity. Given that February continues to be an unpredictable kind of month, the schedule is flexible. (i.e. today was supposed to be raining and frigid, but temps might be warm enough for a ride tonight instead of Friday)

Of course, I also forgot my stop watch today, so we will see. There isn’t a whole lot of tracking this first round anyway, so I will probably just stick to it as best as I can with my phone.

Since I have never created a plan like this… ever…, I know it will probably take some adjustments along the way. Have you ever laid out a fitness plan for you and your horse? Or are you more of a “let’s see how it feels today” type of rider?