Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Life is...Life.

What's the point of growing angry or falling into seductive sadness? We have to focus on putting one foot in front of the other, forging ahead even when our eyes are closed and we have no idea what might be five inches in front of our noses.

If I stop to think about it, I realize that nothing about this is fair, and I just can't understand why these things are happening to me--it's one-way street to Bitterville. And the cost of living there sucks, the nightlife is nonexistant, and the demographic is, shall we say, Peoplewhohatetheirlives-heavy, so remind me again why we'd want to move down there anyways?

Here are the facts of the matter.

Spartan did not respond to his EPM treatment, Oroquin (Orogin). Bummer.

So that leaves us with a couple possibilities of what might be happening here.

#1. Spartan has Lyme.
#2. Spartan, from the numerous (lmao, that's an understatement) injuries he's sustained (including galloping full-tilt into an electricity pole and eating major shit in Dec, and being tangled in a halter against the fence for an entire night in Feb), has injured his vertebra, and this is now causing him to be neurological
#3. The Oroquin simply did not work for Spartan and he may still have EPM

#1 and #3 are frankly unlikely, guys. It's #2 that has already become my reality. If it's such an injury along his spinal cord...it's game over for Mr. Spartan. What can I do about that? My sweet baby horse will have to be retired to a pasture, where he'll grow unpredictably worse with time, alone, while I'm in the East Coast, unable to see him...or take of him...or comfort him. How rapidly could he keep degenerating? In the span of 3 months he already falls on his face and hates cantering; only travels at a walk when he used to live for running, as fast as he could go, like he still thought he was still a racehorse beast; buckles and nearly falls at times going down hills; trips all day everyday doing nothing, you get it.  His heart is young but his body is old. What can you do? One step at a time. One day at a time.

He's officially retired, and my only goal now is to keep him going that way, as long as I can, so he can live the happiest and most carefree life possible for him, with as much time as he's got in the bank. He's staying here, on the West Coast. I hope he'll hang in there for me until I can finish up school and come back to him.

I have nine days until I leave for Virginia. What a time crunch. Talk about horrible timing for this to be happening, right? In the little time I have, Spartan has a major visit arranged with the vet.

-He will probably be put on Doxycycline for a month in case it is, please Karmic forces of the Universe let it be, Lyme.
-He will get his neck and back xrayed and ultrasounded, to look for vertebral injury or arthritis
-He may undergo a myelogram to check for spinal compression from injury
-maybe we will test or treat again for EPM, this time with Marquis...

This horse made my dreams come true, just by being mine. I've been taking lessons since I was 9, and I got Spartan when I was 21, my very first horse! When I first set eyes on him when I got out of my car at Golden Gate, I literally burst into tears like a freak because I didn't think he could be real, and that he could actually be mine. He was so stunning and serene--he was perfect. I don't regret a day of our unconventional partnership. He's basically my 1200lb Labrador. On that note for now, here are cute pics of the fellow from yesterday.

Hi, my face is gray because I rub myself in poop. :)

SorryI'mnotsorry, lulz.

Wreaking havoc is a perfectly acceptable pastime.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Word You Never Want to Hear...Neurological.

So it was on May 23 that I first mentioned suspicions of EPM on my blog here to you guys. And I must have been noticing subtle signs here and there for a couple weeks before that that made me scratch my head and start idly speculating. Let's say, in that case, that it's been roughly 2 months between the time Spartan first began manifesting symptoms (of something) and now, when I've called out the vet moderately freaking out.

Here is a progression of his symptoms, in case you guys are ever faced with something like this and can cross-reference what you're seeing with this:

-Mild, very subtle NQR behaviors
   *more reluctant than usual to walk down hills and up hills, regardless of how shallow or steep
   *one of his back feet randomly slipping while I lead him on gravel, whether it's completely flat or uneven
   *more than usual lethargy
   *occasionally tripping while I walk him undersaddle

-Developing symptoms:

   *tripping occasionally when free-lunged in roundpen
   *for no apparent reason going from angelic undersaddle to difficult.

<Aside> I remember getting off of him in tears not once, but twice, because out of nowhere he seemed to have started regressing rather than getting stronger and more adjustable. He was struggling giving me a 30 meter trot circle that was light in the bridle, even though he'd been able to do it the week or two before just fine because I'd conditioned him up to it. At the canter, he would would randomly start cutting all the corners and cantering bent to the outside so he didn't have to carry at all. He also started launching himself into a totally downhill gallop instead of cantering whenever asked, and basically tried to drag himself around on the forehand with no more respect for my half-halts--it was so bizarrely rude of him.

Here's the thing--I was in tears because I didn't know if I was just ruining him the more I rode, OR whether he was genuinely starting to struggle while being worked. Because at that point I had already been suspecting something was going on, but his only symptoms were so mild that nobody but mom would have ever looked twice.  He really wasn't being that bad undersaddle either, he was just harder than before. Was I going crazy? Was my horse going crazy? SO I STOPPED RIDING HIM. This is my unpopular opinion of the day.

Horse =/= behaviorally himself and/or horse=/= right undersaddle =>  I do not ride until I figure it out because I would hate myself if I were asking him for something he could not do. So Spartacus went back on the joyful vacay that is his entire life. </aside fin>

~~~~this is where I called the vet, btw~~~~~

-Symptoms become obvious

   *trips when free lunging become more frequent and big, to the point that I no longer think I'm hallucinating (e.g, 3 big trips in a 20 min lunge)

-WTF Symptoms

*when playing in the lower arena, Spartan can no longer gallop as fast as he can properly; his hind legs can't seem to keep up with his front, and they keep whacking into each other and he also bunny-hops. He finally almost fell on his face and called it a day.

*became pissed when I asked him to sustain canter in roundpen, like it was really uncomfortable for him

~~~~~this is the part I began inwardly hyperventilating because I knew something was very very wrong and getting progressively worse, and left 500 voicemails on my MIA vet's phone, who never called me back and who I will never use again thanksverymuchvetwhoobviouslycared.~~~~~~

Goofy moose.

This is also the part I moved Spartan to his fabulous new home. In desperation, while I was hauling him out of his hellhole I frantically called a different vet and she, bless her soul, immediately called me back and set up an appointment the very next DAY to examine Spar and draw blood for an EPM test.

She performed a full neuro exam and here is an overview of what she found (yes I'm obsessed with lists):

-abnormal walk
-overreach with the front legs
-lame at trot
-weak hindend in canter
-freakin failed failed failed the tail-pull, his butt flew all the way out both ways with no resistance
-fine spinning in both directions
-looked drunk when I led him downhill; ataxic

Unfortunately, he didn't do any of his tripping or krazy-cantering/gallop while she was there so she missed an opportunity to evaluate that. Honestly, he was on a good day during that evaluation so I think her verdict was on the generous end of the spectrum.

She rated him a 1 1/2 out of 5. I rated him a 2 out of 5 personally, from having experienced firsthand how his symptoms matured. But she said he is definitely neurological. Sigh. We drew blood and sent it to Pathogenes to be tested for EPM, and I'm praying to god that it turns out to be that, because at least then we would have a chance of treating and resolving it.

In the week that I've been impatiently waiting, Spartan has gotten worse, I would say 2 1/2, getting closer everyday to 3. He is a horse who loves to gallop as fast as he can when he's turned out, but now he literally physically can't do it anymore. I saw him try and fail a couple times, and now he starts to think about it but always decides nah and just walks. Oh, and his walk looks like he's swimming across the ground, it's so ridiculous looking. Hills are still horrible. Today I was leading him down a microscopic hill and he buckled down and landed straight on his nose for no reason....He never trots or canters anymore. It's depressing, and I'm reaching the limits of my "play-it-cool" facade.

It's truly been problem after problem after problem with my sweet boy, and I'm just hoping he'll get some damn respite for 2 seconds without something else catastrophic happening. He is the cutest.

What makes me upset is that if it is EPM, it is something irreversible. Muscle wastage and neuro deficits can't really (or remotely reliably) be reversed unless the disease is caught in its really early stages. And I did catch it in its early stages...yet doubted myself and listened to other people's placations for a month. Then my [ex] vet delayed my horse getting medical attention for another month. A successful EPM treatment is declared if the medication moves the horse's symptoms one grade down the scale. I can't help but wonder what the outcome could've been if I had acted when he was just a .5 and 1 on the gradient, instead of now when he's obviously worse. Bad mom :(

He says he doesn't mind vacation forever. 
(look at how much better his weight looks!)

Friday, July 4, 2014

The Story of How I Packed my Shit and Left + Complementary Rant About Maddening Lack of Professionalism in the Equine Industry

Okay, so I finally caught enough of a break today to regale you all with a tale--a wondrous tale about a girl who misplaced her final Fuck for a certain BO's feelings, and then realized belatedly that she probably should've given that useless sucker away lightyears ago.

As you all are aware, I've been struggling with Spartan's weight for months now, which has actually been slowly but surely deteriorating, to the point that I've been having five barn people a day tell me my horse looks like shit (95% of who I'm sure walked away muttering under their breath about stupid newbie horse-owners who don't realize you actually have to feed your horse on a semi-regular basis for it to survive and stuff). The worst was when a trainer at my barn who I respected and who had helped me with Spartan's myriad issues since the very beginning called me out on his weight. It was a little bit crushing, since people don't realize how hard I've been frantically working to figure out my horse's issue and how well-educated I am on the feeding front. Let's review the shit I've done to try to fix my horse's weight issues over the past 5-6 months:

-moved him from pasture to a stall, where the subsequent daily & twice-daily turnout and graining need cost me hundreds $$$ extra every month
-bumped up premium grain amount to 11lbs per day
-added 5lbs of alfalfa pellets to feed per day
-conducted TWO full treatments for ulcers
-put horse on U-Guard
-tried 3 different kinds of $26 per bag of premium grains/feeds
-wormed with Quest Plus to knock out possibility of infestation
-had vet come look at his teeth & declared fine
-went through 2 different people to feed his grain/meds/supps because his complex feeding regimen has become a huge pain in the ass
-spent literal hours soaking and hand-crushing alfalfa cubes because they're supposed to be helpful for "ulcers"
-$$$$$$$$$$$ for days
-stopped riding the horse I had been peeing my pants over finally being able to ride because he's too thin

I could go on for pages but that's boring so I'll stop--you get the gist. I've been trying hard, and his weight would in fact improve to a degree, but then it would also drop again, in an endless but unsustainable cycle of weight gain and loss. WTF, right?

Guess what, guys? This is the best part. Turns out, even though my trainer had expressly told the BO that she could not under any circumstances feed my hardkeeper 5yo TB less than 4 flakes a day and the BO in writing replied that she would ensure 4 flakes were being fed, SHE NEVER ACTUALLY TOLD HER FEEDERS TO FEED MY HORSE 4 FLAKES AND INSTEAD THEIR FEEDING LIST FROM HER SPECIFIED THAT HE ONLY BE GIVEN 2 FLAKES A DAY. Two flakes. Per day. Only. For my 16.2 OTTB. Who's In. A. Stall. Yep. And I was paying an extra hay surcharge for the drought. While my horse's feed had been secretly halved. Lolz.

But guess what? This is not the end. This is the fourth time she has been dishonest about what my horse is being fed in the past 5 months. Let's review the past damage:

1. Horse is in retirement pasture, where he's supposed to be fed 4 flakes of (albeit low quality) hay.

=> Reality: He's "secretly" given 0 flakes a day because there are microscopic sprouts of grass and spiny weeds in there because it rained for 1 day that he can surely live off of, lol.

2. Horse moved to regular, more expensive pasture because owner (i.e me) says hell no to her hard keeper TB being fed nothing but weed scrub, and horses in here are supposed to be fed.

=>Reality: Horse is again "secretly" fed 0 flakes because there's microscopic weed and grass tufts from a couple days of rain in here too on which my horse can heartily subsist while in full work

3. Trainer and I both remind BO that there is no way in hell she can feed 0 flakes and needs to feed my horse 4 immediately, and BO says will do!

=>Reality: My horse is "secretly" given only 3 flakes for no reason, despite being told explicitly and fifty times and by multiple people that he needs to be fed 4, like I'm paying for, period.

4.  Horse is moved to stall at owner's expense because he looks like shit, and he should be getting 4 flakes a days, as per duh.

=>Reality: Horse is "secretly" only fed TWO FLAKES per day.

5. I freak out, and both trainer and I tell BO once more, wtf this horse MUST BE FED 4 FLAKES woman, and BO agrees and says she'll ensure it's changed.

=>Reality: She never gets it changed, and the feeders feed my horse 3 flakes of their own volition because they see my horse is skinny and feed bad so give "extra."

Wait I guess that's five--oh well!

All this while, I'm freaking out trying to figure out what's going on with my horse's condition, not expecting the issue to be how much hay he's being fed, since the BO assured that he would be fed the correct amount pronto. Months pass. My horse's weight deficit grows and grows and I spend $$$$$$$$$ trying to diagnose an issue that doesn't exist.

So this time, when I found out from the feeders that Spartan was again not being fed what I was promised, I had this novel thought. All my Fs were gone. F you very much barn. You suck to extremes I can't even quantify.

I picked up my phone. I packed my shit. I put my horse (on the second attempt, after he decided to break loose twice and otherwise act like an asshole non-OTTB) on a trailer. And I said, peace out beautiful but incomprehensibly terribly managed barn. I will never come here again.

Here are some pics from how "glorious" Spartan looked the day I decided my Bullshit Buffer was completely expended:

I have to link these pictures in a second post later, because their size doesn't quite let you see how his skin is literally sucked into his bones like a skeleton--you will be outraged, seriously. The new BO who came to pick him up said, quote, "Wow, I'm shocked at how bad he looks. I know you told me his weight was really horrible, but I honestly didn't expect it to be true."

Ugh. So angry. 

On a happier note, look at Spartan's new digs! His stall is basically a mansion, and he's looking better already after only days at the new barn: (also keep in mind the lighting in here hides how bad his weight is)

The hole was patched an hour after this picture, lol.

meeting friends.

oh merg gawd, no way, must roll in freshness!

Yum, food!

Nom nom nom, must eat all things.

Omg, fat horses and so much food--who would've thought!

And a vanity shot that hides Spartan's crappy wight because he's embarrassed.

Anyways, back to story. Let's just say much drama occurred and is occurring with old BO, but like I said, I'm hardly sympathetic. We shall not discuss the bulk of that here. 

What did happen though is that I called the vet out the very next day after moving Spartan, and had her give him a thorough once-over. She said his weight must just be the result of months and months of not being given sufficient hay, with the deficit just piling up over time. She also said it would take at least 3 months for his weight to be back to it's former glory. 3 months. I'm supposed to be leaving, WITH SPARTAN, the first week of August for our cross-country trip to UVA Law in Virginia. What is a girl to do? It seems he very well might not be healthy enough to travel on such a long and stressful journey? So will I have to leave without him, leaving me horseless and him owner-less for months? How will this work? Thank you, old barn, for messing up my long-standing, eagerly anticipated life plans. That is so cool of you; I'm thrilled. 

It doesn't end there though. Another reason I called the vet out was for her to either corroborate or put  my EPM suspicions to rest. Unfortunately, the verdict was not good. :( But I will discuss that story in a separate post, despite my misleading Complementary Equine Industry Rant blog title. This post is already a megaladon by itself, so I don't want to irritate people's aesthetics with a mega-megapost. 

Stay tuned for a bummer vet update that will literally be posted in another few hours--lol. But not lol. :/

Friday, June 27, 2014

Stay tuned for major drama and huge changes

Sorry for the silence guys, but I've been out the last few weeks on various mini-vacays, including EDC this whole past week. I'm D-E-A-D, to say the least, but have to road trip to SoCal this weekend for an engagement, so can't update just this minute. I apologize for not being able to get back to all your comments and be able to comment on all your blogs (though I read them every day without fail because we're all horsey crack addicts here). Speaking of which, are you guys getting my mobile comments?? I've been commenting a lot from my phone but I don't see them pop up on your guys' blogs after I hit submit? I really hope they're not being devoured by a mobile bug... :(

Anyways, a huge update will come between mon and wed, most likely the latter, and I can assure you it'll be filled with drama galore enough to last you through the work week. What can I say, my horse-life is perpetually a Korean soap opera meets championship MMA ring. Le sigh.

Thanks again for the support and suggestions guys, and I hope you've been receiving my comments as well!

Sunday, June 8, 2014


Thank you guys SO much for any advice you've offered about Spartan and his current situation--it's great when you can rely on other people's experiences too, especially when they bring up things you didn't even think of initially :)

The good news is, at Day #10 the Omeprazole is working (cue church choir and random dancing) and Spartan has definitely gained weight. In celebration, here is a video form April 2013, aka, "The Last Ride" before pony spiraled into indefinite lameness. We are not quite here yet today, in terms of the quality of our rides, but this is not a horse race. :)

**Note: excuse the horrifyingly rigid elbows at the canter in this video--that was a nervous habit because Spartacus loved nothing more to turn the canter into a gallop, and still feels the same to this day, hah. Also, keep in mind this is only 1 month into undersaddle work.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Knowing there is something wrong with your horse.

So Spartan has, in fact recovered from his mysterious dead lameness, and I am grateful. He must've knocked and banged himself up somehow goofing off, as horses are like to do, and the paranoid owner of a ticking-time-bomb-horse part of me that is constantly braced for impact freaked.the.shit.out.

The thing, though, about knowing pretty much everything about your horse down to the most minute detail due to spending an entire year on the daily nursing them from one problem to the next, is that you just know when something is wrong. And you just have to trust your gut and call out the vet. Just do it. Because no one knows your horse like you do, and it's so worth the risk of looking like the crazy, overbearing horse-mother than regretting not diagnosing something early-on when you could've done something about it.

There is just something off about Spartan. Whether it's the lethargy, the constant slipping with this back feet, his hatred of going downhill, our failing battle with weight loss, the fact that he essentially looks like shit. Look at this comparison of him 3 months ago vs now.

These are videos of him when I cam back from India in March. He looked like shiiiiiiieeeeeetttttt. But  it only took me 10 DAYS of personalized attention to get him from looking like aforementioned shit to these videos:

Shortly after these, Spartan was put in Castro's pasture and the whole pasture/no eating/ulcers fiasco ensued. Spartan lost crazy weight and I'm sure re-inflammed his ulcers back to life, but okay it's been almost 3 months and I've literally made zero leeway with this weight. Here are some fairly recent pics of him and an accompanying video:

The lighting is hiding his ribs here, & this is after he GAINED weight.

Chirpy, but afflicted with Giant Moose Head Syndrome because of how slim his body is.

Okay, so where did all his weight and muscle tone go??? I get ulcers, but man, he looks pretty damn bad compared to before, when it only took me a week to get him to look good and now it's been almost 3 months. Is it all ulcers?

Also, keep in mind the March videos are after he came off of 3 months of strict stall-rest with no hand-walking whatsoever. Yes he spent a month or month and a half in a pasture where he ran around and was able to get some nice muscle tone back, but why in the world would he have worse muscle tone now when he's been ridden (albeit lightly) for 3 months, vs farting around a pasture with zero work for only 1-ish months? Yes he's in a stall now, but he still gets turnout 4x a week and ridden like 3-4x so...

What about it being just ulcers, you say? Okay, he's been on the real-deal meds for several days now, we'll see if there's improvement once it hits the 10 days mark, cool. But what if it doesn't really fix the issue? Worms? Would that cause muscle loss though? That is why the vet is coming out, goddamit, and listening to my paranoia rants and running an EPM test or whatever else needs to happen here folks. Because my spidey senses are way past tingling by now. He is standing weirdly in the back too a bit in all the versions I took of the pic above that shows his bad weight, but okay I think I'm just way reading into things now so I'll stop, lol. 

Why can't horses talk again? 

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Just when I thought this day couldn't get any worse...

Surprise surprise. I got to wake up today to news about the shooting in Isla Vista, the college town by UCSB that I lived in during my entire undergrad last year. I had just been in IV last weekend. That could have been me, or my friends. The BMW even crashed just a few houses down from my oceanside apartment...it's so hard to explain to anyone what a small, tight knit community that is, and how this so deeply affects every one of us. Today sucked. So much. My heart goes out to all the families and friends who have had to endure this tragedy, there aren't really words right now.

I thought I'd drop by the barn since I was feeling so crummy, only to realize that Spartan is once again off (i.e short) on his infamous left hind, the fracture/arthritis leg. Great. Awesome. He's been sound for 3 months and now that we're finally 2 weeks away from being back in full work, this happens.

Even worse is that there is something wrong with his hind end. Tracking left the shortness of his trouble leg is obvious, but tracking right he has a different issue entirely. He resists trotting in that direction, losing his hind end and moving in a shallow stabbing motion with his hind legs. If I push him to give me a regular, reachy trot he breaks into a canter. This is a horse who tracks up like nobody's business at every single gait and makes dressage people swoon. Not good.

I'm freaking out a little bit. I keep thinking EPM, and I'm not sure I can handle infectious disease, lameness, and ulcers in one fell swoop. I think the stubby hind end issue has been going on since Tues, now that I think about it, and I want to facepalm for writing it off as soreness until now when it's gotten worse. I'll check him out again on Monday, but it looks like it may be time yet again for the vet to come visit. I guess I should be pleased that this 2 months is the longest he's ever gone without killing himself--small victories, right?