Sunday, September 20, 2015

Suki's wound is healing nicely, and RIP Ripley

While putting gas in my car today I saw that the adjacent cornfield had been chopped down and the mountains in the background were beginning to take on a different color.  Autumn on its way.  Though you wouldn't know it from the steamy weather we are currently experiencing!

9 September 2015
Suki and Nikki worked well this morning but I did shorten their sessions given the humidity.  I started with Suki, leaving a much confused Nikki standing in her stall!  She started nickering to Suki as we passed by her stall on our way out of the arena.  As I was closing the gate of the arena Nikki gave one more call, followed by V who was still out in her pasture.  Suki answered back before I could tell her not too, then ll of the girls settled down.  Nikki likely eating hay, V grazing near the fence and Suki got on with her work.

The wound on Suki's back is healing nicely, but still not quite ready for a saddle pad and surcingle.  So we continue to work in just the bridle lunging and doing work in hand.  We need to keep the training moving forward and continue increase fitness and muscle tone.  Suki seems to enjoy having a job so I know it is beneficial to her mentally as well.  Hopefully this will be a short setback and I will be back in the saddle in a few weeks.  But until then we will continue to work on steering (from the ground), transitions and in hand lateral work.

Since it was already quite humid I lunged Nikki for only a few minutes to let her stretch before I got on.  She worked well through transitions and after a few medium trots I let her stretch down and finish.  Both girls needed showers after that (as did I!), before happily settling into their stalls for the day cooling in front of their fans.

10 September 2015
I managed to get a quick work in with the girls this morning before the rain.  Tomorrow it is supposed to still be raining in the morning so we won't get to do anything in my available time frame.  With heavy rain predicted over night they will have to stay in because of Suki's bandage.  That will make for some grumpy mares by morning!

Wound looking better!

12 September 2015
I guess the cool air agrees with Suki and Nikki!  53F this morning when I arrived at the barn.  Nikki had a huge spring in her step which I promptly used to my advantage.  Another instance when shoulder in and half pass in my bad direction are corrected by the good energy and ease of movement off my leg.  I had a bit of a yahoo moment when I asked for a canter lengthening, but Nikki actually came back pretty readily with just a slightly stronger half halt!

Suki called to anyone who would listen on our way out to the arena and started her lunging session with a few head twirlies before settling down to work.  But then it was brilliant!  Tons of suspension and great lengthening and shortening of stride.  I would have loved to have been riding that!  The wound continues to heal and so far (knock on wood) it has not reopened.  The padded bandage is doing its job.  I am still able to get 2-3 days before having to change it.  It's such a difficult area for a bandage.  In addition I had been moisturizing that entire area so that created challenges for the first bandage.  Now I am careful to give the tape area a wide berth as I am moisturizing so the bandage will continue to stick.  This, of course, will require some "catch up" moisturizing once we are finished bandaging.  I can already see that it is becoming quite dry under the bandage adhesive.

15 September 2015
Temperatures and humidity are climbing this week, but mornings are still cool.  With the sun on the arena it warms up quickly and the biting flies seem to have multiplied!  But we get the work done then Suki and Nikki spend the day standing in front of their fans.  Such a hard life! I brought Isaiah with me to do my afternoon bandage check.  Suki must have liked the way his hair smelled.  She kept following him around her stall snuffling his head!  Then he went over to Nikki's stall and as soon as I opened her door she licked his face….TWICE!  so funny.

16 September 2015
Bandage change today.  Looks great!  Dr. Mike was right (of course!).  The skin is healthy now, not like when the burn was trying to heal.

19 September 2015
Once again Suki's bandage was in place after her night outside.  There were bits of grass stuck in the surcingle closures so I know there was some rolling going on!  When I removed the bandage it looked even better than last time!  I forgot to take a photo….  I could probably get away with putting a surcingle with saddle pad on at this point, but I don't want to rush anything.  She is still working, and this should be healed pretty soon, as long as the bandage continues to stay in place when she rolls.  Fingers crossed!  Suki and Nikki had some lovely work today, especially through the trot poles!

20 September 2015
We have had a bit of a rough morning.  For the past two weeks Michael and I have been taking turns sleeping in the family room with Ripley since the trip upstairs has become too difficult for him.  Michael was downstairs with him last night and came upstairs to wake me at around 3 AM.  Ripley had asked to go out but after going to the bathroom he became too tired and had to lie down.  We got him up and helped him walk in with a towel under his belly to help stabilize him.  We put him in his bed (tonight he couldn't get up on the couch) and his breathing was quite labored.  Just yesterday morning he was outside while Michael did some yard work.  During the past two weeks since we learned of his lung mass, he has actually done quite well on his meds.  Even counter surfing to get the cat food!  But Saturday afternoon he started to decline.  Quickly.  By evening we knew that Sunday we would probably have to take him to the vet to be euthanized.  But as we sat on the floor next to Ripley at 3 AM it was obvious that it would be cruel to wait until later in the morning.  Michael and I carried Ripley out to the car.  I covered him with blankets.  He seemed so cool to the touch.  Isaiah was awake now as well (had he not been I would have awakened him before Ripley went to the vet).  We said our goodbyes knowing that unlike two weeks ago, Ripley would not be coming home.  He fought the good fight, but it was time to let him go.  The cruelest of decisions to have to make (to those having to make that decision) but the kindest and best thing for Ripley.  So one month shy of his 13th birthday, our beloved Ripley is gone.

When Michael got home I went to the barn.  I lunged the girls and groomed them, happy to have a distraction.  But when I pulled into the garage I had to sit in the car for a moment.  As I stood in front of the door leading from the garage to the house I thought about how when I opened the door Ripley would not be coming to the door to greet me. So many reminders inside.  With tears streaming I turned the door knob.

Every day is a gift.
Ripley in the snow with Isaiah.  February 2015
Ripley and Bentley enjoying the afternoon sun

Monday, September 7, 2015

Suki's training is going great! Oh wait….surprising set back

The start of school seems to signal the start of autumn.  Well, except that in my part of the country the weather is still quite summer-like.  I have noticed a few yellow leaves floating to the ground, making me wistful for cooler temperatures!  We have had several lovely cool evenings and even a few crisp mornings.  Am I craving ice and snow?  Not so much.  But colder days with horses snugged in blankets and me wearing sweaters again.  I am making slow progress knitting a sweater I designed but I am confident it will be finished to wear by December.  Okay, January!

We are also enjoying some of the best fresh produce that the Oley valley has to offer.  I believe I visit Fishers Produce in Oley at least twice a week!  They have several varieties of their own sweet corn, plus the usual produce, which is anything but usual!  On numerous occasions I have been  fortunate enough to be shopping at Fishers when they bring in just-picked eggplant, peppers, kale and lettuce (earlier in the season).  Doesn't get much fresher than that, except when I pluck them out of my own vegetable garden!

Tuesday, 1 September 2015
With several teleconferences and three new projects, my best bet to get Suki and Nikki worked today was lunging and long lining.  This was also Isaiah's first day of school (late start to the year for us!!) and the bus was a little late for pick up.  

The morning was already off to a bit of a steamy start, but I was eager to get the girls to work.  I usually start with Nikki but today I surprised them and took Suki out of her stall first.  Nikki, I am sure, was happy to nibble on her hay while Suki worked!  Suki looked stiff coming out of her stall so before I tacked her up we worked through some stretches in the aisle.  I am so pleased with Suki's progress with long lining.  Steering has improved substantially, and I continue to attain some softening in the jaw and relaxation across her top line.  Hopefully this will translate to when I am in the saddle!  I always start with lunging to allow Suki to work out stiffness and loosen, then add side reins for contact and pushing into the bridle from behind.  Then we go on to long lines to work on more connection and of course steering.  Today I got brave and asked for a halt from the trot on the long lines.  Just a couple of walk steps in between.

The humidity increased by the time I got out to the arena with Nikki, so getting her to move forward was a bit of a struggle!  Trot poles usually wake her up a bit but today I needed more!  I dragged a pole out to make her canter over and that worked nicely to get her moving.  Then we had some lovely trot work!

This evening I received the most hilarious phone call!  Mike Fugaro, the veterinarian who performed Suki's skin graft, called me.  He was one of the people I texted with the first photo of me sitting on Suki before I posted it anywhere.  Mike called to apologize….for calling me a "pansy ass" thinking I would not have the nerve to be the first person to sit on Suki after all this time!  So funny!  I did require a bit of a push from Louise to make it happen…..Mike and "Team Suki" (Sarah, Meagan, Becky and Kim plus all of the wonderful students) at Centenary were so amazing.  They were part of the village that enabled that ride.  
The rest of the week was a mix of riding or lunging Nikki and long lining Suki.  My timing is a little better now since I can get to the barn before 8 AM as opposed to after 9 when Isaiah was going to camp.  Some days I go midday instead, but with the heat this week that was not going to happen.  Our work was of a shorter duration, but I was pleased with how well they both worked.  Suki even piaffed one day in the long lines, which was fun.  Oh, I didn't ask her to, well, I guess I did, inadvertently!  

Saturday, 5 September 2015
I got up this morning with a big goal.  In fact, I woke up around 4 AM thinking about it.  So here it is 5 AM and I am sitting lone in the family room in the pre-dawn light.  Time to put the big girl panties on and get on Suki by myself.  Even if I just get on, walk around for 5 minutes and get off.  I just need to do it.  Now that I have made this decision I am tingling with  excitement!  This will be such a huge step.  But we are ready.  Well Suki has always been ready, now I am too!

53F this morning when I arrived at the barn at 6:30!  I actually had to wear my anorak!!  It felt great, and needless to say that Suki and Nikki were not waiting for me at the gate.  Nikki evidently enjoyed the cool air judging by her energetic lovely forward movement.  Even my wonkiness couldn't prevent a nice right half pass.  

I brought Suki out of her stall, and as I went to groom her right side…whoa!  What is THAT???

It is approximately 5cm long and appears to be superficial, but it will take time to heal.

My first thought was that she rolled on a rock or something.  John thought it looked like a bite.  But Nikki would NEVER be able to get that close.  I guess it could have happened with a horse over the fence, but still unlikely.  Very strange.  At this point it doesn't matter how it happened, it is there.  It was not there yesterday so clearly it happened some time between 10:30 AM Friday and 6:30 AM Saturday.  I don't think she could have done it in her stall before she went out Friday night, and also it looked fairly fresh.  I check Suki's back EVERY day and very closely after she has worn a surcingle or saddle.  The skin has never seemed like it was getting rubbed at all.  The location of the wound does not appear to be from the weight of a rider in the saddle.  And I would have noticed SOMETHING changing in the skin, given my thorough post work inspections.

I cleaned the wound and bandaged it.  Suki will have to go back to wearing a fly sheet for turnout.  Hopefully she will be okay in her stall during the day with just a bandage.  

I am sure that some people will think that it does not need to be bandaged, but the flies will get to it during the day and a fly sheet won't be enough to protect it from Suki's Olympic level rolling.  Hopefully I will be back in the saddle within a month.  I am just so disheartened by this set back.  Did I miss something?  I am so careful with taking care of her skin.  And the skin seemed to be pretty tough.  It has been so hot that I have not been putting a fly sheet on for turnout, but that has not been a problem all summer.  And on afternoons that weren't too hot I did put a fly sheet on for turnout because the sunscreen dries her skin.  Back to second trips to the barn to put a fly sheet on in the afternoon, unless the day will be cool enough for her to wear it all day.  As long as the bandage is in place in the afternoon I will just have to throw on the sheet.  That gives Nikki a break from living in her bell boots also.  Since I have to go back to the barn I can put her bell boots on also.  

I decided to lunge her anyway, just in a bridle to get her moving around and continue working.  We have come so far and worked so hard.  I feel like I have failed her some how.  Has it been too much?  Surely she would have told me if it was.  I know this girl better than I have known any horse.  It would be difficult not to given all that we have been through together.  We will weather this like we have everything else that has jumped in our path.  We will still roar.  It may just take a little longer.

Isaiah had his riding lesson so I rushed home to take him as the husband passed him out the door to me.  Time to work on the championship test for Interdressage.  All of those scores in the 70's qualified him.  Then on to hockey, but Michael takes him to that.  After hockey the two of them will be heading to the beach for a few days.  

Then, catastrophe number two for the day. Ripley, our 12 year old (13th birthday Oct 21) started to cough and gag constantly.  He had coughed occasionally, but now he was panting and stressed as well.  Then he coughed up blood.  I called the emergency vet and Michael took him.  My first thought was lung mass, given his age.  I hugged Ripley and said good bye and told Isaiah to do the same.  He ran into the house.  When I went back inside he was in the family room crying hysterically.  Two of our cats died when he was age 3 and 5.  He was upset then, but at age 9 this was going to be a hard one.  I sat on the floor with him and pulled him into my arms letting him just cry.  When he calmed down a bit we talked about what a great life Ripley has had and how we will always love him and have wonderful memories.  To distract him we went back to the barn to put on Suki's fly sheet.  It helped to have a diversion.

Michael called from the Animal Hospital.  Ripley has a lung mass.  But we could try several meds to keep him comfortable, so Ripley came home to us.  Ripley may have weeks or a few months.  By evening he had stopped coughing and was relaxed.  By midday Sunday he was back to normal.  No coughing, respiration normal, chewing his big rawhide bone, following me all over the house.  

Every day is a gift.