King. Again.

The chiropractor looked at King on Friday. He said his SI joint was out a bit on both sides, and all four ankles. But nothing radical. Just the same as it always is. He adjusted him. He figured that King could do the 30 CTR.

I went ahead, figuring that if we got pulled, at least Kathy would be there to take blood samples. I had a look and saw that there was an open time slot with Denise and her pretty little grey mare, Mecca. King loves mares, so I thought that might work out okay. And sure enough, King and Mecca fell in love. Denise was very happy with how her mare went along with King, she was happy to go behind at the start and very relaxed (for her). They paced nicely together. Though of course King wanted to canter a bit more than we should have for a CTR, which makes for a bit of unevenness in the speed. But still, he went beautifully.

It was 34 miles. Two times around the blue 17 mile loop. On that first loop, the two front running 75 milers passed us. Valerie Kanavy (I think on Spectacular Gold?), and John Crandell on Heraldic. Denise and I were joking about it. Now we can say that we’ve had the honour of being passed by Heraldic. Denise tried to explain to Mecca that she was in exalted company. But Mecca just wanted to chase them down (so did King actually).

Coming in on our half mile trot in at the mid check, I felt a tiny bobble from King when we went through a bit of softer footing. I asked Denise if she could see anything but she said he looked fine behind. And he felt fine for the rest of the trot. We got in, and he looked okay at first. We walked over to the vets, keeping the two horses together. I waited while Mecca was vetted, then took King in. I had Brooke trot him while I watched. I could see a faint bobble every couple of strides or so. Looked over at Sue (our judge) and sighed. She asked if I’d seen it. Oh yeah. I said a bad word. We called Kathy over and had her watch. This time, King was easily grade III lame. Obvious and fairly extreme. When Kathy palpated, she found tenderness in the right hind hamstring muscles. But then it shifted to the left side. And after a few minutes he had that leg waving in the air. After an hour or so he stopped favouring it. And in another two hours or so he was basically sound again. Not perfectly, but probably back to grade I.

Kathy took a blood sample within five minutes of being pulled. And then another one about four hours later. She does not believe he has an injury. Says it’s definitely muscle. So it really does look like a metabolic issue of some sort. Not tying up. But some sort of electrolyte or mineral imbalance. We are looking hard at selenium at this point.

I was supposed to stay to sponsor the girls in the ride n tie today, but elected to bring King home instead. I didn’t want him standing around in a pen all day stiffening up. So we got home last night at around 10:30. He looked good coming off the trailer, and is a cheerful mood galloping around the pasture this morning.

Just to top off my day though, it looks like my truck dumped some fluid in the driveway after we pulled in. Not sure if it’s power steering fluid or transmission fluid… or I guess brake fluid is possible too. It starts, and runs, and drives (though I only moved it far enough to get it unhooked from the trailer so it wasn’t much of a test). I will have to check all the levels and see if I can figure it out.

What To Do With King

King has been going really well for the last week. I’ve had him on Perfect Prep (magnesium and BCAAs), a stronger dose of Vitamin E/Selenium, and DMG.

The Perfect Prep is supposed to calm horses, and it may be working with him. I’m not convinced yet, at least not until we get through an actual competition with an intact brain, but he does seem to be a whole lot steadier since he’s been getting it. It’s also supposed to help with muscle spasms in some cases. Vitamin E and selenium are primarily antioxidants. King’s blood work came back showing that he was at the low end of the normal range for selenium. Endurance horses do need a bit more selenium than other horses, so I increased the dose to the maximum. DMG is dimethylglycine, which is just a derivative of the amino acid, glycine. It occurs naturally in some foods. There is a fair bit of anecdotal evidence that it helps with muscle issues. But no hard proof. He’s been on that for quite a while.

I gave him four 2-oz doses of Perform n Win for our 17 mile ride yesterday. I don’t normally give him electrolytes on training rides unless it’s really hot. And although I’ve always given him some electrolytes in competition, I’ve never given him a lot. Usually just 2-4 ounces per vet check. I am going to try giving him considerably more to see if that has any effect on this muscle cramping issue.

Anyway, yesterday’s ride was quite successful. He was a little snorty going out, but he hadn’t had his magnesium the day before, and only got it a few minutes before we went out. He was quite good after the first couple of miles though. He did a lot of cantering, and kept his brain well. He did have company of course. A mare… and she let him stay in front the whole way. That made him very happy.

He felt very strong for the whole loop, always volunteering to go forward, and nearly dropped me spooking at something along the road right at the end, so he sure wasn’t tired. He had no muscle cramps afterwards, and when David trotted him out for me, he looked perfectly sound.

Now I’m trying to figure out what to do next with him, and when. He is extremely fit. Easily the fittest he’s ever been. He’s lost even more weight, and looks much more toned. I wasn’t planning on riding him at Spring Ride, but now I’m waffling like crazy. On Saturday, I’m riding Deb’s horse Shorty in the 25 mile Set Speed ride with Deb and her new horse and Brooke on Dressy. Which is perfect… I want to ride with Brooke and Dressy to sponsor them this year. But I don’t want to risk getting pulled and having to find someone else to sponsor them mid-ride, or have them fail to finish because of me. But Sunday, I could ride King in the 34 mile CTR. I just can’t decide whether I will or not. I’m going to have the chiropractor look at him on Friday at the ride site I think. He has tripped a few times on the left hind (knuckling over apparently). So there may still be a subtle issue there.

If we don’t do anything at Spring Ride, then probably it will be Summer Solstice next. Stormont is quite a flat ride and should be relatively easy for him. But Misha isn’t taking Diego (to share costs), and it’s five hours from here. So it would cost me a lot in gas. And I don’t think I want to try a fifty for a while yet. So it would be a long drive just to do a 25 mileage ride.

Talking to A Vet

Tuesday, a racetrack vet was here (for something unrelated) and I had him look at King while he was here. He couldn’t find a thing wrong with him. He checked him over, checked his joints, muscles, watched him trot. etc. Found no soreness, and no lameness. Pretty much what I’ve been seeing too. He says it has to be an issue with the muscle, and suggested that I look at management. So calming supplements like magnesium and thiamine. He also suggested acepromazine, but I think he was joking a bit. Hopefully he was, because it’s definitely not legal in competition.

Last night I called the vet who pulled King at the ride. She’s a friend as well, and trained me when I was apprenticing as a lay veterinary judge. We discussed it, and she thinks that it could very well be some sort of metabolic problem that is triggering the cramps and she doesn’t actually think I’m crazy at all, which is a bit of a relief 🙂

We discussed some possible strategies. So, I am going to treat him as if he were a tie-up case (which he’s not… according to the blood work). Exercise every day, no grain (not that he normally gets any… but sometimes at rides I give him a small bit), DMG, increased selenium (he’s on the low side of normal according to blood work) and Vitamin E. And also, whatever it takes to get him calm at the beginning of rides (competing alongside Dressy instead of going out alone for example). We will continue to try the magnesium supplement, which may be helping his attitude, and possibly the thiamine as well at some point.

Some other stuff to try…

more electrolytes (Perform n Win)

different electrolytes (maybe something with more calcium)

BCAAs

Tums (for the calcium) if he seems to be cramping

Chromium

Calcium

It’s going to take some time and experimenting before I know if any of this works though.

The blood work did come back and I have to go pick it up. Vet says nothing is out of whack. Selenium is on the low side of normal, so at least I know I can increase the dose a little bit on the Vit E/selenium supplement.

All three vets have told me to keep him in work. So we will go back to regular (though careful!) conditioning.

Update on King

I haven’t posted much about King this week. Pretty much because I don’t even know what to think myself. I rode him on Friday for a slow six miles. He was quite sound and felt good. No lameness. Then I rode him on Saturday for 15 miles, and he came up very lame at the end. It’s a hind end lameness. Definitely something up high since it’s a hike, not a limp. He has no swelling or tenderness anywhere in his legs. Feet seem fine. His back is completely non-reactive to even quite hard (nearly gouging) fingertip pressure. The muscles in his hindquarters feel rather tight generally, but there are no particularly tender areas or knots. He had quite sore hamstring muscles on his left side after the ride last Sunday when he was pulled. But not this past Saturday. The one thing I did find was that hind leg stretches forward were okay on his right hind, but he resisted strongly on the left on Saturday evening.

Last night I trotted him out, and he again looked sound. Mind you, it was dusk and I was trotting him myself, so I couldn’t stand back and assess it as well. But I also longed him in both directions, so I should have seen something on the circle. And he was able to stretch that hind leg forward again without a problem.

What bothers me is that if he has a pulled/strained muscle, he should stiffen up the day after he irritates it. So I keep expecting to find some signs of that when I massage him the next day.

Perhaps I’m paranoid, but I do worry that this could be his old sacro-iliac injury back to haunt us again. There is no swelling showing up (as there was the first and second times he hurt it), but the lameness is similar. It’s the kind of injury that can become chronic and career ending. So that is not what I want to find out.

On another note, I am still thinking that the magnesium supplement may be working on him. He was really very steady and reliable on Saturday. What few spooks he had were mild and more like startles than teleports. He was cheerful and forward, with lots of energy. But no craziness. He was on a loose rein trotting and cantering nice and easy. Quite unlike himself really. Though of course it could have been pain settling him down rather than magnesium 🙁

If magnesium really works, then it might be at least part of a solution to his issues. Less careening should equal fewer injuries. Assuming that he recovers from THIS injury.

Blood work should be back from the vet in the next couple of days. Maybe that will give me more information.

Back in the Saddle

King has been completely sound and comfortable since Monday morning. There is no soreness or tension in his hind end at all. I’ve massaged him every day and cannot find any sign of a problem.

I had my vet come out to look at him and to pull blood. He’s sending it to Guelph to get a full set of results. Checking selenium, magnesium, calcium levels, as well as muscle enzymes. I know I’m probably obsessing about it, but I just feel like something is weird about this problem. My vet agrees that if the horse was actually injured, he should not have been perfectly sound the next day.

Yesterday (after blood sample was taken), I put him on a new supplement. It’s primarily a magnesium calming product, with some amino acids and B vitamins.The one I bought is called Perfect Prep. There are other brands that are similar (At Ease is one). Basically it’s just a high dose of magnesium oxide.

I also put him back on DMG, which he was on before. The DMG was originally for Dressy, and it did seem to help her. It’s an amino acid. Supposedly it helps muscle function. There seems to be zero scientific proof that it actually works, but a number of racing trainers use it on horses that tend to tie up. It’s cheap enough that I figured I’d put King on it just in case it helped him too. But I didn’t think he really needed it. It’s probably just a coincidence that he has had this pull for a muscle cramp after being off it for a while. But as I said… it’s cheap so it’s worth a try.

Tonight I took him out with Misha and Diego for an easy 6 mile ride. We just cruised along, allowing them to pick their pace for the most part. Lots of walking, some trotting and cantering where the footing was good. He was very relaxed and mellow. So either the magnesium supplement is working, or he’s just feeling lazy today.

He did stop a couple of times, which worried me, because he did that when he was cramping at the ride. But it turned out that he did have to pee. So that might have been all it was. I got off him at one point when he stopped and checked him over. But I couldn’t find a thing. And after we were done I spent a few minutes massaging him and he felt good. He was relaxed the whole time and seemed to enjoy the rubdown.

Much Improved This Morning

Well, King looks pretty good this morning. He was lying down in his stall having a nap when I went in. But jumped up nickering for his breakfast. He looks very comfortable, and is not favouring that hind leg. Nor is the muscle cramping or particularly tender. It’s raining, so I think I’ll leave him in for a bit this morning and turn him out after I get back from work around lunch time. Then I can watch him and see if he’s moving freely.

Too Much Careening

Brooke and Dressy finished the 25. Dressy was quite tired. Her pulse was going up and down at the end. She had two minuses on her gut sounds so got a B there. And her gums were a bit tacky, so mucous membranes were also a B. But she did get her completion, and given that she was really just barely fit enough to do this ride, that’s not too bad. Brooke had a wonderful time I think. She got her first ribbon and completion certificate. And Dressy, despite being tired, looked perfectly cheerful at the end. I think she enjoyed being back in competition.

Misha was extremely happy with how Diego did. He was very forward, and she felt that she had way more horse under her than at any of her rides last year. She said he was anxious to go for the entire 25 miles. He’s looking more and more like he’s going to be a very nice horse for her. There was one issue though… he tried to kick every horse that wanted to pass him. Luckily Misha had put a red ribbon in his tail, just in case. She also had a number of people tell her that he is looking better, with more topline this year. Which made her beam.

King was not quite so stellar in the 50 as those two were in the 25 though. When I got on him this morning, I knew instantly that I was going to have trouble with him. He bounced sideways, bucked, piaffed, and generally made an ass of himself before the start. We started after everyone else to try to reduce the race brain. But he knew they were all out there ahead of him and it just made him very angry. I’ve had a lot more braking power with the myler combo bit, but it still was not enough to slow him down today. I took advantage of his training (many years of having to walk all downhills) to get him down to a walk in a few spots. But the moment I asked for a trot, he would step into a canter, then just gradually (not all THAT gradually either!) speed up to a gallop and try to run away. I was in a tug of war with him for miles, and after only about six miles I started to worry that my strength was going to give out completely. My hands were numb, shoulders aching, and I was drenched with sweat even in the early morning cool temps. Eventually, the one horse that was behind us caught up (there were only 13 entries… very low turnout for this ride), and King settled down a lot. Towards the end of the loop though, he got away from me a bit again though. He knew he was nearly back at camp, and he just kept speeding up. He had quite a few little slips on this loop too. The footing is sand, but it’s been raining for days off and on, and there are quite a few leaves left on trail from last fall.

We passed the vet check after the first loop with no problems. The card was all A’s.  But I suspect we’d already done some damage from all the careening, spooking, and skids we’d done for that first 12 miles. His second loop was much more controlled, and he went very well for most of it. But somewhere around halfway, he started doing some odd things. He stopped a few times on downhills. Then started acting like he had to pee, but not actually peeing. Once he cross cantered for a few strides, which I cannot remember him ever doing in his life. He’s a naturally balanced horse and has always cantered on either lead equally. So the cross canter (wrong lead behind) was quite alarming. After a little while though, he seemed to sort it all out and went on pretty well. He cantered (correctly) for quite a bit of the later part of that loop. Though of course, in hindsight, I know that when he’s sore behind he chooses to canter more than trot. Anyway, I got into the check and went to the vet. As we got up to her, I stood at his head and noticed his left hind. He unweighted it completely for a moment, then touched the toe to the ground. Then lifted it again. Then touched the toe down. Then stood on it. I knew there was a problem and pointed it out to the vet. She asked us to trot, and I could see that he was lame behind even while I was running at his head. It was pretty bad. So we were pulled. Again. Argh.

The problem was easy enough to find. He is very sore in the hamstring muscles of his left hind. The vet came over and gave him a shot of banamine before we loaded up to go home. Just so he’d be a little more comfortable for the trailer ride. It did seem to help him get more comfortable. But he’s home in his stall now, and I can see that he’s still not weighting it as much as the other. So trailering was still probably a bit tough on him.

Oh and we had another boot failure. The right boot came off. Found it in his paddock this morning before we even started the ride. So at least it’s not lost. The back up was supposed to be one of my Easyboot Gloves with the new gaiter (only managed to get one, not both… the other is still enroute). However, when I tried to install the gaiter, I realized (after much struggle and angst) that the gaiter is too small for the boot. We went out with one boot on, and one off.

The new Christ saddle pad worked very well though. I used it without the inserts (tried them, but it seemed a bit unstable). King had no problems with rubbing, and the saddle sat nicely. Still love my Australian saddle too. Saved me quite a few times on that first loop as he zigzagged along.

My truck and trailer worked great. The truck tows easily. And the trailer tracks and rides very smoothly. Misha had a spare double mattress that she gave me, and it was very comfortable to sleep on. So my little cubby hole living quarters were a big success.

Obsessive

So, as usual I’m obsessing madly about everything in the week before a competition. King and I are entered in the Aprilfest 50 mile Endurance on Sunday.

The horse trailer is in getting the annual safety inspection (it needs tires for sure… hopefully nothing else!). The truck also needs it, but since it was inspected in February when it was plated, I am pretty sure it will pass without a problem. It will go in tomorrow or Thursday.

I picked up King, Dressy, and Diego’s coggins (or more correctly ELISA) paperwork this afternoon. We have our OEF, AERC, and OCTRA memberships up to date. So the paperwork is now done.

I also picked up the new Christ saddle pad from Baker’s Tack. Carmen gave me quite a good price on it actually. It always surprises me, but Baker’s often give me really good prices on special orders. I think of Greenhawk as the cheapest source for stuff. But a lot of the time they are just the source of the cheapest stuff. A slight, but important difference!

Anyway, the pad is lovely. It’s the treeless model, so it comes with foam inserts that slide into pockets on either side of the spine. The underside is full sheepskin. Top is heavy quilted cotton. It’s nicely contoured, so that it will not bind over King’s rather high withers. I’m hoping that it will work well with the Aussie saddle. That saddle was custom fitted to his width, but he’s been losing weight like crazy, and I can see the pommel dropping a bit, which is a worry. I hope I will be able to ride in it at least a couple of times before Sunday to see how well it works.

I’m making all kinds of lists of stuff to take to the ride. I don’t know if other people do this, but I always want to take every bit of horse gear I’ve ever owned, just in case. I have a wool quarter sheet that has gone along to nearly every ride he’s ever done. And it’s never been on him in his life. I end up with coolers, fly sheets, blankets, and rain sheets. Girths and reins and martingales. And I never need any of it. There are bottles of sunscreen in the bottom of some of my tubs that have never been opened (probably because I’d never find them in the bottom of a damn tub if I needed them anyway!).

I really hope that with this big trailer, I can get my stuff organized. Misha brought a big shoe organizer thingy that we’ve put up in the tack room for little stuff. I’ve just picked up some of those clips that hold broom handles. I saw a cool gadget on a trailer accessory website that was sort of like a cup holder for flashlights so that it can stay right inside the trailer door. What I don’t have is some sort of saddle rack. It will have to be easy to remove, because it will need to go in the fourth stall – which could, in theory, have a horse in it at some point. Stayed up way too late last night reading articles on organizing trailers, and browsing eBay and trailer websites.

Oh, and just because I don’t have enough other stuff to obsess over, I’m gluing boots on King for the first time at this ride. And it’s going to pour rain all week. Which means his feet will be soggy. Luckily, I poked around and found a heat gun in the farm tool room. Hopefully that will dry them out enough to let the glue set up properly.

If this post seems kind of scattered… well… that’s pretty much what my brain looks like this week!

Pictures of King from Today

I took a few quick photos of King today. Nothing fancy. But I think he’s starting to look a little less enormous. Maybe all the work is starting to pay off a little bit. Here’s a slideshow of the photos…

[vodpod id=ExternalVideo.994195&w=425&h=350&fv=host%3Dpicasaweb.google.com%26captions%3D1%26hl%3Den_US%26RGB%3D0x000000%26feed%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fpicasaweb.google.com%252Fdata%252Ffeed%252Fapi%252Fuser%252F108744253872009265607%252Falbumid%252F5599261897545206801%253Falt%253Drss%2526kind%253Dphoto%2526authkey%253DGv1sRgCJqSnsTejYTTrQE%2526hl%253Den_US]

2011-04-24, posted with vodpod

Field Trip to the Vivian Forest

Today was the first time I’ve driven the new (old) truck with the new (old) trailer with the horses loaded up. Dressy loaded like a pro. And King was pretty good too. But Diego had a little bit of a backslide today. He got himself a little wound up and it took some time and work to get him on. But eventually Misha worked through his issues and got it done.

We took the herd over to the Vivian Forest to ride. They all seemed to be very happy to be there, and to explore some different trails. It’s gotten pretty boring to go around and around the same trails at home. King was very boingy (I know… it’s not a real word) for quite a few miles. His trot was springy and he did lots of zigzag spooking at all the logs and rocks beside the trails. No stops hard enough to bend my helmet visor today though (always a good day when he doesn’t break my nose). He felt fast and forward for the entire ride.

Diego was very nervous when we first arrived. And there were a lot of people around, which he doesn’t like. He’s very shy of strangers. Going down the trail with all the families out hiking on Good Friday was funny. King would march up to anyone to say hello. Dressy would follow, especially if it was a small child. Diego would stand behind the other two horses and look distant and unapproachable. He looked fresh the whole ride though, and seems to be quite fit. It looks like he’s quite ready for the 25 mile ride next weekend.

But Dressy was the big star. She hasn’t been ridden very much over the last year or so. Brooke just started riding her at the beginning of January. So I didn’t really think she’d be very fit. But she just seemed to get stronger through the day. We did 16 miles in 3 hours, and Dressy was going faster at the end than at the beginning. No sign of fatigue at all. And she’s as bright eyed as can be this evening. Pleased with herself I think. And Brooke was VERY pleased with herself and with Dressy. She was bubbling with enthusiasm the entire ride, and all the way home in the truck too.

I had sent an entry form for Brooke and Dressy to do the 12 mile intro ride at Aprilfest (on May 1). But so far I haven’t been able to find a sponsor for them (junior riders need an adult sponsor). Today I realized that Dressy was quite capable of doing a slow 25 mile mileage ride. We’ve decided to upgrade Brooke and Dressy to the 25, and send her out with Misha as her sponsor.

I am feeling a lot more confident in King’s ability to finish the upcoming 50. All that work plowing through snowdrifts this winter really seems to have paid off. He’s cruising along very easily. Hills and deep sand are not affecting him much. I will still have to go slow, but he feels really good right now, so I think that as long as we are conservative, he should do just fine.

And the truck/trailer were great. The truck pulls easily. Has a 7.5L engine, and you can feel the power when it tows. The trailer travels well. Tracks very straight, and seems to ride smoothly. Misha rode down the driveway in it to get a sense of the ride, and she said it was very easy to stand in without even having to hold on. I think King and Dressy both liked it. They looked happy enough and ate lots of hay in transit. Diego was a bit more concerned, but he always is. And he didn’t work up a sweat, so that’s actually pretty positive.