From Endurance to Dressage
As I mentioned the other day, my farrier was able to come out Tuesday, just a few days after our visit with our vet, Dr. Tolley. I have always assumed that everyone else loves their farriers as much as I do. I don't go through farriers very often. A few have retired or moved away; that's always a bummer. One turned out to be too rough with my horses. And for about a six month period I couldn't find anyone reliable.
My last farrier and I parted ways when he disagreed with my vet's assessment. My vet thought one thing, farrier thought another, and we decided to go our separate ways. The split was quite amicable, and there weren't any lasting hard feelings. It was then that I met my current farrier, P. Mullins. He's been doing my horses for very close to 5 years.
When Dr. Tolley diagnosed Speedy with possible While Line Disease, I called my farrier a week early. To my relief, but not to my surprise, he was able to come out on Tuesday. I left him a lengthy voicemail detailing all of the concerns that Dr. Tolley had raised:
1) Speedy's possible White Line Disease
2) Speedy's current abscess - I wanted my farrier to give it a check three days after the vet had seen it.
3) Izzy's banged up hind foot
My farrier texted back that he would look at everything.
One of the wonderful things about my farrier is that he has two assistants so he doesn't need for me to be there. I would like to be there, and once or twice a year it works out, but for the most part, he just shows up on the scheduled day and texts me if he has any concerns.
The good news is that my farrier could find no hint of White Line Disease. From what I gather, a quick way to check to is to trim the bottom of the hoof to "expose" the white line. If the horse has White Line Disease, the white line will have a white or gray powdery substance. Speedy did not show any of those signs. His white line was white. My farrier felt the hole was more likely the remnants of an old bruise or "whack," which is what I had originally thought.
Either way, the hole needs to be doctored to prevent any kind of infection from forming. He agreed that the Tea Tree Oil was a good choice, but any disinfectant would work, even straight bleach.
My farrier also checked Speedy's abscess. He reported that while the abscess must have been deep, it looks like it's healing up just fine. He recommended keeping it wrapped until the hole no longer feels soft to the touch. he also suggested that I wrap until it's no longer pink. That's a hard visual to use since the Betadine stains the hoof red. It's still wrapped more than the seven days Dr. Tolley recommended. I'll reassess tonight, but I will probably leave it wrapped into the weekend.
We never even talked about the little split in Izzy's hoof. It was just a small crack where the hoof wall had sort of bent, but not torn off. It looked a lot like a hang nail. And like a hang nail, my farrier just nipped it off. I've ridden Izzy several times now, and it's not even something that I can see.
I will say that my horses have been studied pretty hard over the past week. Right now, everyone is mostly healthy and fit. Speedy is just about to get back into work, Izzy would probably like a day off, and I KNOW I need a day off.
Thank goodness for Fridays.
After Dr. Tolley worked on Speedy for so long, I think he was a little worried that Izzy was going to take even longer. Nope. Izzy is actually quite easy to treat. While he's ridiculously worried, he's also more brawn than brain. When over-faced with a a situation that he can't run from, he looks to the humans around him to fix things. In this case, it was Dr. Tolley with a cocktail. After that, Izzy was putty in Dr. Tolley's hands.
Like we did with Speedy, Izzy's first stop was the scale. If you'll remember, we recently spent four days cantering and doing some trail work at a near endurance pace. I noticed that Izzy was looking particularly lean after all that work. The scale supported what my eyes were seeing. A year ago, Izzy weighed a hefty 1,350 pounds. For this visit, he was a much lighter 1,270 pounds. Dr. Tolley wasn't worried. A week or two of lighter rides and a heavier bucket ration will put the weight back on.
Once Izzy's weight was discussed, Dr. Tolley listened to his gut sounds, read the thermometer, and gave him a once over. He couldn't find anything worrisome although he noted a chip in Izzy's hoof. I explained that it was new and was the result of trotting over some rough ground the week before. My farrier came the other, and now, you can barely even see it.
While Dr. Tolley was looking at Izzy's teeth, I had him look at a wound on Izzy's lip that has been healing and breaking back open for several months. At first, I assumed he'd bitten himself because there was a matching wound on the bottom lip. Both slowly closed over, and it didn't seem to bother Izzy. It took longer to heal that I thought it should, but I left it to heal on its own.
Eventually, the bottom wound healed and disappeared completely. The one on his upper lip came back though. I was slightly worried that it was some kind of fungal infection, but I figured it could wait until our late winter vet visit. Dr. Tolley examined it and declared it to be healing fine. It's pretty well closed up now. Dr. Tolley thought it might have been a small splinter.
Dr. Tolley took the opportunity to poke at Izzy's sheath, but I told him I had just cleaned it. He agreed that it looked fine with no beans; I am pretty thorough. After going over Izzy's teeth and giving him his annual vaccinations, that was it. Izzy was declared healthy as a horse. It was a long afternoon, but as usual, I left with two horses well cared for and a few more chapters to add to my "book of knowledge."
Thanks, Dr. Tolley and Bakersfield Large Animal Hospital, for all the work you do!
I actually like taking my horses to the vet. Not for emergencies of course, but for regular maintenance, the bill is almost worth the price of admission. I always learn something new, but that's because Speedy usually shows up with some new thing or another. Izzy, too for that matter. Saturday's visit was no exception.
Both boys loaded up without issue. As a side note, this was the very first time that I hauled my trailer on the freeway with my new truck, Newt. It was also the first time I've hauled both horses with Newt. I have to say that I was pretty happy. All of that aside, Dr. Tolley and his assistant were standing at the ready as I pulled in.
As I unloaded both horses, I started with a run down of what I needed.
Speedy: dental work, check the fit and suitability of his double bridle, vaccinations, fecal exam, check his weight, blood work to check his ACTH levels (the Cushing's Disease thing), examine the abscess, and examine the weird hole in his hind foot.
Izzy: dental, vaccinations, fecal exam, check his weight, and examine the slow-to-heal wound on his lip.
Since Speedy DOES NOT LIKE for Izzy to be out of sight, we always start with Speedy because he can stand in a more relaxed frame of mind while the drugs wear off. For the bit check and abscess exam, we worked on Speedy at the trailer with Izzy tied well within Speedy's sight. In an effort to make this marathon of a post shorter, I am grouping the visit's results by body part rather than in the order they were done. Here goes ...
Speedy's Mouth: I slipped Speedy's halter off and replaced it with the double bridle. First, it did my ego a bit of good to hear Dr. Tolley express obvious appreciation for the bits I had chosen. He thought they were really beautiful and well made. Better than that, he thought the fit was good and saw no issues. If I was happy with how Speedy was going, Dr. Tolley felt the bits were fine.
During Speedy's dental exam, Dr. Tolley gave the bits a second endorsement. He saw nothing in Speedy's mouth to suggest that the bits were harming him in any way. As he worked, Dr. Tolley also shared a "floating" technique that he felt could be related to the evaluation of bit discomfort.
As he worked the sharp edges from one side of Speedy's mouth, he asked if I had noticed that Speedy lifted his head. I had to admit that I had not. Dr. Tolley pointed out that while he works on one side of the mouth, he has to push the tongue to the other side. This often causes the horse some added discomfort because the tongue is being pushed onto the teeth that are still sharp.
To combat this issue, he works for a short while on one side of the mouth, smoothing out some of the rough points. He then switches sides so that he can send the tongue back over to the side that has had some work done. In this way, the horse isn't suffering the discomfort of having his tongue pressed into the sharp points of the teeth that haven't yet been smoothed off.
So how does this relate to bit fit and discomfort? Dr. Tolley explained that when a horse is resistant to the bit, it might well be due to tongue discomfort. I don't think that's a novel idea to this crowd, but it bears remembering. It's probably even more relevant for horses going in the double bridle as there is even less room in the mouth for the tongue to "escape" any sharp edges.
My boys see Dr. Tolley at least twice a year, so I don't worry about dental issues too much. Their teeth always need touching up in the spring, but if they need it in the fall, Dr. Tolley will point it out.
Speedy's Hooves: I pulled off Speedy's Betadine-soaked wrap so that Dr. Tolley could have a look at my handiwork with the hoof knife. He gave the abscess hole a look and seemed pleased with the job I had done. He asked a few follow up questions and told me to keep wrapping it for a total of seven days. Thursday should be the day the wrap can come off.
When I explained that I had received some criticism for draining the abscess myself, he gave me a quizzical look and asked why. After hearing my explanation, he reassured me that I am doing the work with his knowledge and guidance. That's all I needed to hear.
The second hoof thing I needed Dr. Tolley to examine was the weird hole that recently appeared in Speedy's left hind hoof. Right away he took out his Dremel. I hate that thing because it never bodes well for the preferred diagnosis of "nothing to worry about." The Dremel is actually synonymous for "start worrying as fast as you can." Then he dragged out his knee pads. When Dr. Tolley puts on his knee pads, I know we're in for a long assessment.
Weird story ... As Dr. Tolley was strapping on his knee pads, he chatted about having had to wash them recently because they were blood-soaked. From what? I asked incredulously. I was almost sorry I asked. Interestingly, he had to do an emergency C-Section on a ewe who ultimately delivered three lambs. They all survived. My next question was, Three?! How many teats does a ewe have, anyway? To which Dr. Tolley replied, "Two, and yes, that can be problematic." I told you; I always learn something new.
So here is where the whole I always learn something new because Speedy is always diagnosed with something new thing happens. The hole was a possible indicator of white line disease. When I pressed Dr. Tolley, he referred to it as wanting to be white line disease. Well is it or not? Well, without drilling even further, it looked to him like it was the beginning of white line disease. To be sure, he asked that my farrier look at the bottom of Speedy's freshly trimmed hooves the next time he was out. That happened yesterday. I'll share that conversation in Friday's post. But in the meantime ...
Dr. Tolley gave me a thorough explanation of what White Line Disease is. Here's an abbreviated description thanks to a quick Google search: "White Line Disease is a fungal infection of the white line (or lamina) on the bottom of the horse's hoof. ... This separation is then invaded by bacteria and fungi, leading to infection that progresses up towards the coronary band which produces a white or gray powdery material."
Dr. Tolley likes to treat White Line Disease by first providing oxygen to the anaerobic infection. That's why he drilled the hole. The second thing he likes to do is apply a daily swipe of Tea Tree Oil which is from the Melaleuca Tree. Tea Tree oil has anti-fungal properties and is also useful because oil is better at penetrating the hoof than are water soluble products. I now have two bottles of Tea Tree Oil in my ever expanding medical kit. Dr. Tolley also pointed out that the Tea Tree Oil will be an excellent topical to use on Speedy's abscess hole once it has epithelialized.
Once both feet had been examined, I asked the obvious question: is White Line Disease related to Speedy's Cushing's Disease? The answer is that it's not caused by Cushing's, but there is a correlation. After some discussion, we decided to put Speedy back on Platinum Performance's Hoof Support. It seemed to work quite well when Speedy was growing out new hoof when he damaged his coronary band a few years ago.
Blood Work: Which brings us to Speedy's Cushing's Disease. When we tested him last year for the first time, his ACTH levels were at 56, just barely outside of normal. A level of 50 is considered the outside of the normal range. Dr. Tolley drew blood and sent it to the lab yesterday. We should hear back in another day or two. In the meantime. Speedy will continue with the Prascend as usual.
Everything Else: I know it's hard to believe, but there's more! As always, Speedy's fecal count came back negative; he's worm free. Even so, he'll get a dewormer once he's feeling better. The vaccinations always make him feel puny. And his weight? I was very pleased to see him clock in at a solid 1,020. That's the most he's ever weighed at the end of winter. For a horse who is hard to keep round during the winter, this was great news.
Overall, Speedy is in good health. He obviously has a few issues, the Cushing's Disease being the main culprit. But for a dude quickly approaching 16, everything else is in fine shape. Dr. Tolley's litmus test for the hoof supplement is this: if there are no more abscesses, it's working. If he has two more abscesses in a year (after waiting a few months for the supplement to do its thing), it's not working. I guess I'd rather pay for something and not know if it's working than pay for something and know it's not working.
Izzy's vet visit tomorrow ...
Last week was rough, and frankly, so was yesterday, for a different reason. I think I ran through every emotion in my repertoire - anger, sadness, grief, rage, happiness, contentment, disappointment ... I don't think such wild swings are good for a person's health, so even though I was expecting it, the arrival of my package from Spirithorse Designs was a balm to my very troubled spirit.
Last month I wrote about ordering a piece of horse hair jewelry. While I was initially freaked out by the thought of making jewelry from my horses' tail hairs, I was able to reframe the idea such that I was actually looking forward to receiving a bracelet.
I sent long bundles of each horse's tail, and then waited patiently. The jeweler said that each order could take several weeks, and she was right. The order took at least three weeks to arrive.
Even though the wait was longer than I am used to, Amazon prime has ruined ordering forever, Angela, the owner of Spirithorse Designs kept me updated with personal emails to reassure me that my order had been received and that she was working on it.
As soon as I opened the shipping box I was pleased to discover that Angela had packed the box full of little niceties that made the order feel extra special. She even returned the unused hair.
Everything was so prettily and lovingly wrapped that just getting to my bracelet filled me with happiness.
The bracelet is prettier than I had hoped. With the blend of Izzy's black hairs and Speedy's white ones, the bracelet has a pretty silver glow.
At first, I was worried about what to do with the extra hair. It felt so irreverent to just throw it in the trash, but then I decided to keep it and order something else. Not today, but soon.
I love the bracelet, and not just because it's so nicely made. It arrived at a less-than-joyful moment in time which makes me even more grateful to have ordered it while my boys are still with me. It would have been be very difficult for me to appreciate it under sadder circumstances.
If you're thinking of ordering a piece of jewelry made from your horse's tail or mane hairs, visit Angela's website. I could not be more pleased with the bracelet that she made for me.
Last week, I wrote several times about taking care of Speedy's abscess myself. (You can read those posts here and here.) I didn't call my vet. I didn't call my farrier, I did the work on my own. A reader took me to task for performing a procedure that she felt fell squarely under the purview of a licensed veterinarian.
It's hard to disagree with her. I would ALWAYS rather have a licensed veterinarian perform all of my horses' treatment needs. If he wouldn't mind, I'd love him to show up every day to ensure that Speedy gets his daily dose of Prascend. I'd also like him to look at that weird wound on Izzy's lip. And if it wouldn't be too much trouble, I'd like him to dab some goop on that weird cut Speedy has over his eye. Since I am not independently wealthy nor married to a veterinarian (oh my gosh how convenient would THAT be?), I have to do most of the health care tasks myself. I am sure you do the same.
I guess the problem is that we don't all possess the same knowledge nor do we all have the same level of experience. The procedures that I find easy to do, you might feel are red alerts - something for which a vet should do. I don't even flinch at the thought of doing IM injections; I gave them to myself for several years. In fact, I still do a small, monthly injection for my migraines. Not too long ago, I did a course of B12 shots. Injections are no big deal. Administering something in the vein is where I draw the line. I've never been trained to do that, and I know that it's above my current skill level.
I know my limits. I know what I've been "trained" to do. And if I ever have a single shred of doubt, I pick up the phone and call my vet. Dr. Tolley and I have a relationship that spans decades. From the very beginning, even back to when I was about 8 years old, I've been a hands on owner. Teach me, show me, train me, let me learn ... There isn't a single part of my horses' anatomy that I don't want to understand. There are no procedures that I don't or can't watch. I even assisted when we euthanized my heart mare, Montoya. It broke my heart, but my horses trust me. I couldn't let her face that alone.
Since Speedy's first abscess in January of 2019, Dr. Tolley has "trained" me to use hoof testers and a hoof knife. He's explained what to look for and how to cut. He knows I am never going to cut too deeply since I am always yelling at him for making the hole too big. I am conservative always. I poultice longer than needed. I take my time when digging into the sole, always spreading it out over the course of days. I want the poultice to do the work for me. I bandage with Betadine longer than he suggests because I am mindful of introducing new bacteria.
A friend posted a link to Stone Gate Farm's Facebook page. On it, was a very interesting excerpt from the book, The Essential Hoof Book. After reading it, I felt very justified in my treatment. While my vet didn't do the work himself, it was still performed under my his authorization. I followed his protocols exactly. Speedy saw Dr. Tolley on Saturday. My vet looked over my "work" and said everything looked great and that I should keep doing what I was doing.
The reader who criticized my treatment strategy stated that opening up the abscess was an inappropriate course of treatment. My licensed veterinarian, who has been in practice for more than 30 years, would disagree. Poulticing nearly always helps, but it isn't a guarantee that the abscess will drain. By not creating a drainage hole, the horse will likely suffer an increased amount of pain and possibly even greater damage to the hoof.
I think the reader's main objection was that I cut the sole myself. She also seemed concerned that opening the sole created a pathway for new bacteria to enter. Even had I taken Speedy to see Dr. Tolley, he would still have a hole in his foot. Dr. Tolley would have done exactly what I did, but the hole would have been deeper. I was able to make a smaller hole because I poulticed it for a number of days which softened things up.
In either case, there would have been a hole that needed to be packed with Betadine to kill any remaining infection while protecting the exposed, sensitive tissue from further contamination. According to Dr. Tolley, once the abscess is opened and drained, the wound should be packed with Betadine for seven days to allow epithelialization to occur.
So what does all of this mean? Do the treatments that you feel safe and confident doing, but if you feel that something is above your pay grade, call a professional. I use a chiropractor, saddle fitter, farrier, and of course my vet. When I am in doubt, I call one of them.
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%