From Endurance to Dressage
Facebook reminded me of this picture the other day. I don't take regular conformation shots, mostly because neither of my horses will stand still. If I am messing with the camera, they always walk towards me, so any conformation shots I do get are of a moving horse looking for treats.
I don't see a lot of changes to Izzy's outline except for maybe in the neck. There is one thing that I am delighted to see changed though and that is his left hind leg. When I first bought Izzy, he suffered a pretty nasty laceration to the leg while at a trainer's barn. It was a long, long process to get it to heal. He still has a thin scar, but the wound site is clean and tight now.
When I shared the first conformation photo, I added this comment, "that hind leg looks terrible (left hind). I am hoping that the lumpiness of the wound eventually goes away." Two years later, you can hardly see it.
Sometime after Izzy's leg was more or less healed, someone suggested I work on the scar by applying Vitamin E oil. For a few weeks, I applied a small bit each day, but when nothing dramatic happened, I fell off the routine and only applied it when I remembered, which has become several times a week. Even so, I do think it has helped the scar to shrink. And if the shrinkage is just natural and would have happened anyway, at least I didn't do it any harm.
While I was using the vitamin E oil on Izzy's scar, I discovered that it works really well on a variety of skin blemishes. Izzy gets a mild form of "scratches" on his lower legs. You've probably seen them yourself. They start out as a tiny scab that you can pick off with a sharp fingernail, but if you let them go too long, they get rather big and a lot harder to pick off.
Since I had the Vitamin E oil, I started rubbing a small bit on the scabs each day. In no time at all, the scab was soft enough to pick off. Once the skin was scab-free, I continued to dab on the oil each day until the skin looked healthy and hair started to return.
I also found that it works great on hock and hip sores. Izzy's are now mostly gone, thanks to the Vitamin E oil, but Speedy just started a new hock sore the other day.
One caveat: oil doesn't look good on gray horses. In fact, it make wounds look worse initially, so don't be surprised if people start pointing out all of your horse's booboos to you. I've also read that you should use caution if applying it to the face or other areas that get a lot of sunlight as the horse could get a sunburn.
To apply, I simply snip off the tip of the capsule with a pair of scissors and gently squeeze a bit onto my finger. I then dab it wherever I see dry or damaged skin. It helps to loosen crusted on dirt, like in the photo of Speedy's hock, and seems to promote healthier skin. If I apply it for several days in a row, hock sores disappear quickly and healthy skin is left behind.
As far as price, I know I paid no more than ten bucks for a bottle of 100 capsules. If the wounds are all small, I can treat all four legs with one capsule. I know Vitamin E oil also comes in a liquid, but the capsules seemed cleaner without so much cross-contamination.
Since this bottle is almost out, I replaced it with coconut oil which is touted as having anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties. Coconut oil also contains Vitamin E which is an antioxidant. It came in a glass jar, so I poured about half of it into an empty plastic container. I left half at home in the refrigerator and took the other half to the barn.
I actually like the coconut oil better. It's thinner and lighter and seems to absorb without as much oily residue. And even though I bought the refined version, which is supposed to remove the odor and taste of coconut, both of my boys were very interested in the jar and eager to get a closer look.
While there isn't much clinical evidence supporting the health benefits of Vitamin E and coconut oil, I saw benefits of using the Vitamin E. And since both oils are fairly cheap and won't do any harm, I am keeping them as a go-to for minor wounds and skin ailments.
What's your experience with using oils on your horse's skin?
On this day last year, I brought Izzy home from the trainer who was supposed to give him a green bean "refresher" course. Instead, he came home with a gigantic gash in his hind leg. That's an old story that you can read by clicking here (you'll have to go through a lot of previous posts to start from the beginning).
When I unwrapped the wound that very first time, I was more horrified than I have ever been in my life. I had never actually seen a wound that deep on a horse before. For a brief moment, I wondered if he could even live through it. I seriously wondered if he would have to be put down. It truly looked as though half of his leg had been ripped away from his body, and this was four days after the initial injury.
In case you're relatively new to my blog, here's the photo from the day I first saw it (prepare yourself as it is quite graphic).
I have a wonderful vet. He's quite knowledgeable when it comes to sport horses, and he recognizes that in order to perform at the highest levels, they often require very specialized care. He is also an excellent field vet with decades of experience. He knows that cutting edge isn't always better, and that tried and true, get in up to your elbows treatments are often what is called for.
For Izzy, he laid out an initial ten-week treatment plan that called for old fashioned pressure bandages and frequent debridement of the wound to remove the over-granulated tissue, otherwise known as proud flesh. To hear it now, ten-weeks would have been a gift, but last January, ten weeks sounded like a death sentence. How was I ever going to make it through ten weeks? BWAHAHAHAHA - insert maniacal laugh here.
It took ten weeks all right, and then a few more. In all, I wrote at least twenty-five posts detailing Izzy's recovery process. And now, here we are - exactly 365 days later. To be honest I've kind of forgotten about the wound lately. The last time I blogged about it was right after Christmas. Over the past few weeks, I've just brushed it off and checked for any splitting or filling.
On Friday afternoon, we had a little bit of late afternoon sunlight, so I snapped a few pictures hoping to get one that shows that the wound has finally, finally knit all the way closed and is now hardened with scar tissue.
Most of my friends say that I did an incredible job helping this wound to heal. I don't know if that's true or not. I didn't do anything special or particularly time consuming other than wrap every other day for a very long time ... months and months. And even when it seemed as though it had healed, but then it burst open, I wrapped it again every other day. And when it finally looked like it had really healed for reals, but then it cracked open again, I wrapped it every other day for several more months.
If that's an incredible job, well okay, then I did an incredible job. I don't look at it that way though. All I saw was a horse that needed his leg wrapped - a lot, and so I did.
Want to see it again? Here's the before and after with about 150 bandage jobs in between. Maybe more.
A Mexican friend of mine has the perfect Spanish idiom ... ésta arroz se coció. The English translation is "this rice is cooked." I think something gets a little lost in the translation. Let's try this one - stick a fork in it 'cause it's DONE!
I've got a bunch of little things to share that aren't enough to warrant their own blog posts, so I present 5 mini posts:
Speedy's eye has healed up quite nicely, although it took longer for the swelling to go down than I had thought it would. In all, it took almost two weeks to heal up completely. This photo was taken one week after he had banged it on something. I had just picked off the scab, but the swelling was almost entirely gone.
Izzy's wound is doing really great. After several applications of New Skin covered with two layers of loosely wrapped Vet Wrap, he is now going sans wrap. That wasn't my plan yet, but one day last week I forgot to wrap it when I left for the day.
I had been taking the bandage off when I arrived so that his leg would have several hours with no bandage. This was all done in an effort to reteach the leg's circulatory system to function without the pressure of a bandage. The last few times that I've removed the bandage too soon, the leg has filled, cracking the skin back open.
I am happy to report that when I showed up the next morning, the leg was clean and tight with no filling. I will admit that my heart skipped a few beats when I first saw it unwrapped, but apparently, the time was right.
I know it looks a bit fugly right now, but that's just the New Skin you're seeing. It looks and smells exactly like clear nail polish, and it's super sticky. I am not sure how long it takes to wear off, but I've pretty much left it alone other than running a brush over it to knock off any flaking skin or dried on "stuff." We might finally be getting to the end ...
Since I wrote this ... Izzy scraped the wound, but it's just minor. Sheesh!
I detest dealing with my horses' manes. Tails I can do, manes I hate. Izzy's mane is particularly unruly because it won't stay on one side, and it's really thick. I hate pulling, and I don't think he's a fan of it either. I used the scissors.
Yes, I can see that it looks like crap, but I don't care. At least it's half as short as it was. Judge me if you'd like, but then come over and fix it. I like the taste of humble pie, and I'll even pay you to serve it up.
I am not sure if you've heard the news, but it has started raining in California! It rained "so much" that I opted NOT to ride in the arena on Tuesday. It probably would have been okay, but it was an "Izzy Day" which means that things could have gotten wild and crazy, and I didn't want to tear up the footing.
It rained the night I dismantled my dressage court, but since it has been so dry, the footing was actually perfect the next day. I rode both horses and found that riding without the dressage court in place might be a good thing for a while.
With Izzy, I had a lot more room to "fix" the canter before running into the fence. It's also easier for him to canter a 30-meter circle and then spiral down to 20-meters and even 15-meters. The same is true for Speedy. With so much room, I can leg yield as long as I need to before I feel it's good enough to change the bend and go the other way.
Normally, I can only water the area that is my dressage court, but since the rain is doing the whole space, I can now ride anywhere I want, dust free. It will also keep the footing from getting tore up by riding in a larger space.
Come on El Niño - let it rain, let it rain, let it rain!
It's been at least a month since Izzy has been ridden out of the arena. Since the footing was questionable on Tuesday, I opted for a neighborhood hack. He was so good, mostly. The first obstacle is that little hill with the puddle in front of it that has given us trouble - no problem. And the puddle was even gigantic thanks to the rain.
He stepped into it without even hesitating. Once he was was in, he stopped, looked down, looked around, and then climbed up the hill without another thought.
The second real obstacle is passing by our barn. Nothing. He stopped to poop (very loosely), but then he walked on. Most days I have to get after him with the whip. Nope.
The third obstacle is the stretch of dirt road behind Laurel's property. This was the only place he got naughty. He jigged, flung his head. danced, pranced, and basically acted like an idiot. I just kept changing the bend and pushing him up to the contact. I thought passage the whole time. Not that he did, but if he wanted to be a jerk, I figured he could work hard.
Once we turned the corner, the tension started leaking out, and he relaxed much sooner than he usually does. I was so pleased with how much progress he has made over the past couple of months.
So much is in the little things, isn't it? If I wait around for BIG changes, I'll always be disappointed. It's important to be grateful for all of the little battles we win.
My Five Things - small on their own, but put together, they show definite progress!
Operation New Skin is well underway and appears to be going smoothly.
If you'll remember, my concern has been about the wound cracking back open due to swelling. Unfortunately, this worry is based on experience. We've made it nearly this far several times only to have the wound crack open once the pressure of the bandage has been removed.
On Wednesday, I used a last application of Biozide Gel with a cotton bandage covered with Vet Wrap. When I rewrapped on Friday, I switched to New Skin with two layers of Vet wrap and no cotton. The skin looked tight enough to risk reducing the amount of bandaging material. On Sunday, I undid the Vet Wrap and was pleased to see that the wound was still knit together with no swelling.
Before I rode on Monday, I removed the Vet Wrap completely, and used my DSB boots for the ride. When I took them off, the leg looked perfectly fine. I painted on more New Skin and again covered it with a layer of Vet Wrap.
Knock on wood here, but it seems as though we might finally be out of the woods and free sailing. I hope. The next hurdle will be to skip the Vet Wrap layer without any swelling. I won't try that until next week. I'll keep you posted.
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%