From Endurance to Dressage
We went back to the vet last night for our fourth vet visit of 2015. Izzy's first visit was without me, but the last three have been with my regular, awesome vet, Dr. Tolley. The $$$ are accruing ...
The calcium alginate pad (the link shows a smaller version of what we used) didn't perform to our expectations. After only six days, a layer of granulated tissue had reformed. The calcium alginate pads are around $15.00; for the price, I was hoping for a clean wound bed. I went though three bandage changes in six days. Since I'm going to be wrapping for several months, a $20 bandage change every two to three days was going to get rather pricey.
But then again, maybe the $45.00 (plus other material) I spent on the pads was worth it. Each time I changed the bandage a fair amount of goopy drainage had to be cleaned away. Dr. Tolley explained that this goop is evidence of proud flesh that was "melted off." Those are totally my words. I can't remember the terms he used, but basically, the goo was tissue that sloughed off. So maybe the pads slowed the granulation more than we thought.
Once again, my best friend, KG, met me at the barn to accompany me to BVH. It's a good thing she was there because Izzy gave an emphatic No way, José when asked to get in the trailer. I don't blame him for not wanting to get in. So far, he hasn't been trailered anyplace fun. Either, way, I still have to be able to get him in by myself, so KG coaxed as little as possible.
When he refused, I sent his hindquarters spinning a few times with a sharp flick of the tail of my lead rope. That got his attention. He knows when he's in trouble as he gets this horrified expression on his face. Once he's busted though, he doesn't quite know what to do. I lined him up with trailer door and gave a sharp tug. He hopped right in, but I get the feeling there may be some schooling in his future.
Unfortunately, the drive to the vet hospital wasn't as smooth as I like to give my horses. We were driving across town in the late afternoon, so the traffic was pretty bad. Even though I was going less than 50 mph on the freeway, the two right hand lanes of traffic came to a sudden stop, and I was forced to tap my breaks pretty firmly and swerve into the next lane. By the time Izzy unloaded, he was pretty sweaty.
I stood in the trailer with him for a few minutes just patting his neck and reassuring him that everything was okay. He backed out quietly and walked into the exam bay without any issues.
After Dr. Tolley had again debrided the wound (that procedure creates alarming puddles of blood), we discussed our next course of action. Due to the cost versus benefit of the calcium alginate pads, Dr. Tolley opted to use the White Lotion, a lead-based product they make there at the hospital.
The protocol will continue as before: re-wrap every other day. I am to saturate a telfa pad with the white lotion and apply it directly to the wound. That gets wrapped with brown gauze to hold it firmly in place. That is followed with cotton sheeting and a firmly applied roll of more brown gauze. A roll of vet wrap (or cheaper brand) binds the whole thing together.
At the end of the week, I am to call Dr. Tolley and let him know if more proud flesh has developed. He's hoping that we have it under control now and that a visit won't be necessary. I am certain that we'll need to debride the wound again, but hopefully it won't be every week.
There was good news. Since I see the wound every other day, I haven't been able to gauge it's size very well. Luckily, Dr. Gonzalez was there with his iPhone. As I was watching Dr. Tolley work, Dr. Gonzalez was comparing the photos that I had sent two weeks ago with the wound as it appeared on Friday. When he showed me the difference, even I could see that the wound was shrinking.
The first photo was from the day Izzy came home, four days after the initial laceration. The second photo shows substantial proud flesh. In the third photo, you can see that the wound is much narrower at the top and that it is much shorter. When Dr. Tolley first told me that it would take ten weeks to heal, I was horrified. That long?!?!?! Now, I am praying that it heals in ten weeks.
Until it's healed, I'll continue hand walking and teaching Izzy how to be a model equine citizen. I really like this horse and feel confident that things will just get better and better.
Oh, one more thing. While at the vet hospital, KG was once again on hand walking duty while I took care of the bill. She was all smiles when I went out to meet her. She can't quite saying what a great horse he is. She might like him even more than I do!
Daww ... Seriously, what's not to love here? Cute guy, handsome horses, and a puppy so doggone cute you can't help but to root for him. We have labs, so I might be a bit partial though. Enjoy your Superbowl weekend!
I should have known better, at least for the sake of my wallet, but once Dr. Tolley was done with Izzy's leg, I asked if he could check Izzy's teeth.
Having brought up more than one youngster, including Speedy, I know how important early dental care is for a horse, especially one who is just starting to pack a bit. Izzy's first owner had already had his wolf teeth extracted, so I knew I didn't need to worry about that.
Dr. Tolley is well-known for being an excellent dentist, so when his arm was buried in Izzy's mouth and he gave a few dissatisfied harrumphs, I knew I was adding a few dollar signs to my bill. Izzy's teeth were definitely in need of work. Both the tops and bottoms had sharp edges from front to back.
While Izzy's teeth needed work, particularly if he is going to start packing a bit around, there was nothing out of the ordinary. In fact, the whole visit went really well considering that just a few weeks ago I was receiving emails suggesting that he was proving to be an "unmanageable" horse.
Dr. Tolley sedated him for the leg procedure, but only lightly. Izzy offered zero resistance to anything that we did. He was given a little more sedation for the dental work, but I have had horses that were still terrified of the procedure even with sedation. This boy took everything in stride.
When we finished with the dental float, I carefully escorted him out of the stocks and into the yard. My friend KG took over and spent the better part of an hour hand walking him while I went into the office to discuss our next step and take care of my bill. She said that he was a very polite drunk, and even as the sedation began to wear off, he behaved like a perfect gentleman.
Izzy is proving himself to be a thoughtful youngster who trusts people. I simply couldn't ask for more.
I took Izzy to the vet on Saturday for his end of week two exam. While it's not horrible news, we didn't get a "woot woot" from the vet either. Although, the thought of Dr. Tolley woot wooting anything does make me laugh.
Best friend, KG, proved her worth yet again by meeting me at the barn on a ridiculously cold and foggy day to spend her Saturday afternoon with me shooting the breeze at Bakersfield Vet Hospital (BVH). We both agree that being at BVH is far more interesting when it's not your horse being examined or your wallet that's being emptied.
As I knew he would, Izzy hopped into the trailer fairly quickly. I did have to give him a few tugs and make a second run at it, but this horse is not a fighter. He does express a mild opinion, but ultimately he is easily persuaded to follow my suggestion. He unloaded quiet pleasantly, and even though he was in a strange place, he followed me willing into BVH's exam bay and stocks.
After unwrapping the wound, Dr. Tolley gave a bit of a frustrated sigh. Far more proud flesh had developed than he had hoped would. It seems as though my intuition had been right; we should have gone to the vet hospital last weekend. He said no harm had been done, but the healing had been put on hold.
For those who haven't dealt with proud before, basically, it's what happens when the inside tissue grows faster than the skin that covers it does. Proud flesh will continue to grow and mound, even growing over the edges of the skin. When this happens, the skin can't knit the wound closed.
Fortunately, proud flesh can be stopped with pharmaceutical assistance and bandaging, but it takes vigilant care and frequent debridement. When the vet debrides the wound, he literally cuts away the flesh that has over-grown its area. In Izzy's case, Dr. Tolley used what looked like a razor blade and simply sliced away the excess tissue until it was level with the skin. While I did watch the procedure in its entirety, it was pretty gross, so I refrained from shooting pictures.
As Dr. Tolley removed the excess tissue, the wound bled profusely. He staunched the wound as well as he could, but then wrapped it as I had been doing for the past two weeks. Izzy has another appointment on Friday. Dr. Tolley wants to keep checking on the wound as often as possible to ensure that we stop the development of proud flesh.
We are also going to try a different treatment from what he usually does. While he admitted that he hates change, he is curious to see if a new product will control the proud flesh more quickly than his own White Lotion. Instead of just using the moist pressure bandage, he applied a medicated pad that contains a calcium/something else mixture.
I teach a small amount of chemistry to my students and am more familiar with the periodic table of elements than most people, but he lost me as he rattled off the chemicals contained in this product verses those in the "White Lotion" that BVH makes. Both products are astringents that irritate the flesh, which slows the red blood cells from creating new tissue. The White Lotion that BVH makes is lead based which means it poses some health risks. This new product is calcium based and less of an irritant to the skin cells.
According to the creator of the medicated pad, it will more dramatically slow the growth of proud flesh which will enable the skin cells to do their work. At $14.50 a medicated pad, I hope they work pretty fast!
So our current plan is this: Dr. Tolley wrapped the wound with the medicated pad, covered that with brown gauze, added a telfa pad to cover the lowest part of the wound that the medicated pad couldn't cover and then topped that with more brown gauze. A roll of cotton sheet was then added. Topping that, he applied a pressure bandage of more brown gauze. He sealed the whole thing with a roll of Vet wrap.
I reapplied the same bandage on Monday night. We'll re-evaluate on Friday. One advantage with this calcium pad is that the bandage doesn't need to be changed every other day as with the moist bandage or white lotion. As long as Izzy doesn't damage the bandage, the medicated pad will work for four days. We shall see!
Since Izzy was already there, he also got a dental exam. More on that tomorrow.
Speedy and I have had some really interesting rides this past week. That last lesson we took with JL must have had something to do with it because our canter work to the right has improved dramatically.
One thing I've been working on is keeping my legs long and loose without pinching my knees and thighs. Since my knees aren't pinched tight, I am finding that I am able to drop my heels as I post. The benefit of that is that I now have more control over which seat bone I am weighting. I can actually step into my inside stirrup.
The last time I rode with Dr. Christian Schacht, he worked on me a lot, and one thing he kept saying was to drop my weight through my heels in the up phase of my posting. As I was trying to lengthen my spine, rock my coat buttons, and not fall off, I simply couldn't understand how my heels could go down while my body rose off the saddle.
A few weeks ago, as I was allowing my seat bones to rock back and forth in the walk (as instructed by Chemaine), I started to feel how much tension I do hold in my lower back and pelvis. For weeks I have been focusing on allowing my pelvis to move no matter what my arms or leg are asking. I discovered that when Speedy gets "sticky" - won't move off my leg for example. I freeze my core while I am focusing on "fixing" something. Now, I keep it in my mind that my pelvis MUST move. When my pelvis doesn't rock or swing, Speedy can't move freely either.
When I rode with JL last week, she even commented that my position was much better. I explained that I had been working on letting go with my knees to get a longer leg.
My rides are also taking longer because I spend so much time suppling Speedy at the walk. I looked at my watch the other day and realized that we had been working on the walk for more than 15 minutes. I am asking for a lot of counter bend and walk to halt where he needs to soften through the poll before we walk on. All of these suppling exercises are definitely helping as we move on to the trot or canter work.
So how has all of this improved our canter work? With JL, I worked on developing a better feel for pushing Speedy into the outside rein, especially to the right. With a more relaxed seat and the ability to more correctly step into my stirrup, I discovered that I can actually feel his inside hind leg stepping more deeply.
We've been doing a lot of trot to canter transitions to the right. The first day that I felt the difference, I literally felt his back come up under me. It was the first time that I've felt him lift his back at the canter to the right. With his motor totally engaged, I could move in and out of the canter without him hoisting his front end up. He pushed into the canter with his hind end. It was a remarkable feeling.
We're not getting things perfect every time of course, but I feel as though we've pushed through to a new level of understanding. I have definitely felt a change in my own position, and most importantly, it's a change that I know how to influence and recreate.
Show season is about to start. While funds may be a little tight this spring, I an definitely eager to get out there and see what we can do at First Level.
About the Writer and Rider
I am a lifelong rider.
I began endurance riding in 1996 where I ultimately completed five, one-day 100 mile races, the 200-mile Death Valley Encounter, and numerous other 50, 65, and 75 mile races. I began showing dressage in 2010.
Welcome to my dressage journey.
About Speedy G
Speedy went from endurance horse to dressage horse. After helping me earn a USDF Bronze medal in the summer of 2020, he is now semi-retired. Speedy is a 2004, 15'1 hand, purebred Arabian gelding. His Arabian Horse Registry name is G Ima Starr FA.
Izzy was started as a four-year old and then spent the next 18 months in pasture growing up. I bought him as a six-year old, and together, we are showing at the lower levels. He is a 2008, 16'3 hand warmblood gelding. His Rheinland Pfalz-saar International (RPSI) name is Imperioso.
National Rider Awards
State Rider Awards
State Horse Awards
CDS Sapphire Rider Award
Third Level: 63.514%
Third Level: 62.105%
2023 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
2023 Show Schedule
*** SCEC 10/15-16/22
2022 Completed …
(*) Tehachapi 5/22/22
(*) Tehachapi 7/24/22
(***) Tehachapi 8/28/22
2023 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
Qualifying Training Level
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%:
Score 1: 62.115%