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.  


  1. Hang tough! You have done amazingly well. The hiccups will pass. Special hugs for Ripley. I have lost 3 in 5 years and it is just too much.