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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A run, a ride, a chiro, AND a vet. Oh My!

I'm going to tell you how wonderful my Monday was. All at once, because if I try to write separate posts on all the different aspects of my Monday, I won't get around to writing them.  So here you have it - Monday bliss in one huge multi-subject post :).

BTW - this ended up being a really long post. I started it at like 6pm?  And now it's 10:30p. With a test on Friday and surgery on Monday, this might be the only post you get all week so I hope you savor it! Because as you will see, Monday did not include *studying*.

Even when you love your career, Monday's are not always wonderful. But yesterday was :). 

We will skip the part where I woke up *early and finished the book that kept me up until 2am the previous night. Even though a cup of coffee and a good book is an excellent way to start the day.

*there was a "miscommunication" that resulted in my waking up early. I had told Matt to get me up when he left for his hunting trip so I could get my long run started. That was before I got absorbed in my book until 2am. So when he turned on all the lights and released Tess (best alarm clock EVER) there was no going back to sleep

First on the agenda was a 3 hour run. But then I realized that I didn't have time for a 3 hour run before I needed to meet the chiro for Farley's FIRST CHIRO APPOINTMENT, so I revised it to 2.5 hours.

Which was still longer than my last long run at home (2 hours) which was the whole point. 

Now, the best way for me to mentally get through a long run is to make a very simple rule. No matter how fast or slow I run, I get to turn around at the half way "time" point. So, I got to turn around at 1:15. This rule helps me not run too fast in the beginning (because then I will be *really* far away from home) and it motivates me to run faster on the way home).

I was only 45 minutes into the run when I reached my 60 min turn around point from last time. Worrisome. Because I was like over six miles away from home. Mmmm....if there's one thing I've learned over the last couple of years is that flexibility has done more for me than stauchly following the rules. I was really close to a river access point that I ride too so I made the decision that I would run to that access point and then turn around regardless of time. 

Tess and I made it to the river in 1:07 and spent a couple minutes cooling off.

 And posing for pictures
 And ignoring the fact I really shouldn't be this tired only half way through a run.
Tess had tons more energy than I did. The over 2 hours of running didn't even slow her down the rest of the day. 
Can you believe my little run and ride partner is almost 3? I think Tess is the only one of her litter to go to a home that wasn't "hunting-centered". A lot of the Brittany breeders I talked to during my research were really wanted details on what "job" my Brittany would have, or what lifestyle I planned for her, if it wasn't going to be a hunting home. Now that I have a hunting-bred Brittany I totally understand their hesitation to place a dog in a potential home that might not give a proper job or energy outlet. Fortunately I think my lifestyle and interests makes Tess/Brittanies a really good fit.  Going on long runs with me, hiking, and going out on horseback probably makes her just as happy as if she was hunting.  She gets to run, tear through brush, track game, look at birds, and even go for periodic dips in the river.
One of my favorite parts about taking her running or riding with me is to watch her do the giant figure 8's across the trail in front of me.  It's so methodical and instinctual for her. It isn't something I've ever taught her to do - but it's identical to a pattern that I've seen gun dogs that Matt has hunted with do. She works the field in front of me for as long as we are out without tiring, racing up and down inclines and popping through brush using a combination of her eyes and nose.  It's athletic and beautiful and gives me as much pleasure as watching a well put together horse do it's job well.

Anyways - I digress.

It was a long ways home. Six point five miles to be precise.

Around the two hour mark my midsection abdominals started to cramp BAD.

The last time this happened was at the trail 1/2 marathon at the end of October.

It's not a side stitch cramp.

It's not a breathing problem.

It's not a GI/internal cramping issue.

It's not a hydration/water problem. 

It's not an ab strength/fatigue problem. No lasting soreness post run (or today).

I'm totally fine until the 2 hour mark (both 10 milers I've done I've finished before the 2 hour mark) and then BAM! I can't run without making painful grunting noises. It stops when I walk but immediately starts up again when I run. When I run it hurts so bad I can't stand up straight and can barely catch my breath.

At my half marathon and on this run I thought it might be a pressure reaction from my fuel belt - so this time I actually took it off. No improvement. I loosened it, tightened it, re-positioned it. No change.

After the run I started to put some pieces together.
1. Sudden, extreme, non-resolvable pain in a specific group of muscles.
2. Started to return when I was trotting in saddle. But went away immediately when I walked.
3. Both 2+ hour runs were on warm days and I finished the runs with salt encrusted on my skin.

Are you thinking what I'm thinking?

Electrolytes!  Electrolytes have been the answer in the past when I've had weird cramps or muscle aches that didn't make sense. My calves have felt completely fine (which is where elyte issues have manifested themselves in the past). But, I had salt completely encrusted on my face and skin after the run, so even in the "mild temperatures" - high 70's! - it was unseasonably warm and I should have pretended it was hotter.  I took my capsule 1 per hour (worked out to 2 or 3 caps for this run) but I'm thinking I need to increase the caps to one every 30 min which is their recommendation for "intense sweaty exercise".

So, plan is to double my elyte intake on my next 2+ hour run and see what happens. I won't plan a run longer than 2.5 hours until I get this figured out :).

Anyone else have any ideas?

Moving on. 

A shower...and then it was time for the chiro appointment!

It's been on my list to get a chiro out to see Farley for YEARS. Literally.

I was imaging worst case scenario - after all let's evaluate Farley's history. 

She's a 15 year old horse with a bump on top of her butt, who has never seen a chiro, has over 1000 endurance miles with many 100's, did recognized dressage shows and been worked extensively "on the bit", and had (successful) hock injections (2x) 4 or 5 years ago.

I was noticing a couple of small things -  which usually means there's a couple of "small things" wrong, and NOT a huge major thing wrong (love an honest horse that isn't a drama queen or a stoic)......But what if I was missing something BIG in all our work over the years and my "perception" of her "normal" was completely biased?

Currently, here's the "small things" that I've noticed about Farley that I thought might be chiro related
- sometimes her hind seems "tight" to me when giving and holding rear feet for trimming.
- More often than not she stands underneath herself. Not always, but enough that her "normal" isn't a square stand.
- Persistent one sideness in the saddle.
- Won't give me clean changes at the canter under saddle
- A bit girthy turns out that Farley wasn't actually that out of whack.

A few minor things here and there.

The chiro said that I had done a very good job managing her and that she actually looked really good. Some of the stuff, like tail pulling as she walks forward we do regularly (I'm lazy and like to tail) are actually good for her.  Farley loves rolling - which the chiro said is a way that horses can "adjust" themselves. She pushed on the bump on the top of her butt. Cracked/popped her spine in the middle of her back. Both femoral joints popped. One vertebra in her neck was out and was put back in. Left side of her rib cage.

I used to be much more skeptical of chiro and acupuncture for horses and whether they did any good. But now I've seen enough positive results over the years to make it worth trying on my own horse. I'm not someone that blindly continues to pay for changes I can't readily see. I've done/fed various things over the years - some very expensive - for as long as a year and concluded that I didn't see any real difference. And discontinued them. At the end of the day I have to see results.

So far, I'm impressed, just from Farley's reaction during the session.  Farley isn't a lovey-dovey horse. She's not overly impressed with grooming efforts.  She also isn't a big "chewer and licker". During the session Farley would move away under manipulation, something would pop, and she would come back for more. She was doing weird stuff with her head and neck and stretching. Her posture and how she was standing changed visibly during the session - standing more square with her hind feet further behind her. She sought out more physical touch (NOT like this horse).

Afterwards I turned her out in the arena loose so I could ride Tig and she moved away more smoothly. She extended her hind legs and hocks behind her more.   Tomorrow (Wednesday) I'll be hopping on to see what sort of differences I feel in the saddle. I've ridden this horse for enough miles, I'm hoping I'll be able to feel if something is different. But for now, even if I don't feel a drastic difference in the saddle, her posture change and the fact she liked it would make it worth doing again. I'll keep you posted!!!!!

I had just enough time between the chiro and vet appointment to ride Tig.  

I know you guys must be absolutely sick of hearing it....but Tig was perfect again.  I rode her on the trail once again, and once again she was an absolute dream. I'm keep pinching myself and waiting for the other shoe to drop.  I'm thinking that tomorrow or Thursday when we return to the arena she'll probably be less happy and return to being a greenie beanie.... 

We did a longer ride on yet more new trail, walk/trot. She gave me a solid working trot with no fuss. There was still one or 2 good spooks thrown in there - but she's so honest and not mean about it that it's just a matter of sitting calmly, and reorienting her and asking her to move on. Which she does.  Anything that she spooked at last time didn't spook her this time.  Going down the trail she's relaxed - she isn't "looking for" something to spook at. Once we get past something, she moves on mentally and relaxes again. Light bridle contact, low calm head, in front of my leg. A DREAM. Forty min with probably ~35% trot. Finally got just a touch of sweat underneath my saddle (helps that she has a long winter coat and it was sunny and in the seventies!) which was a first.

This ride marks the beginning of week 2.  As a reminder....week 2 is focused on "pushing the limits of current knowledge". I'm not introducing anything new - just testing out where we stand now that we've gotten to know each other. For example:  I hadn't trotted her on the trail - so yesterday we trotted and went out for a little longer. I have an arena ride scheduled in the next couple of days, and on Saturday we will trailer out and do a longer more technical trail ride with a friend.

Up until this point I thought my preference was an older horse with some issues, rather than a green youngster.

Every horse has something to teach, and so far the lesson I'm learning with Tig, is that sometimes a greenie that has only be handled by experienced riders is the better bet. 

Tig is definitely a green four-year old horse. She's reactive, she spooks, she's unsure about weird stuff on the trail, I can knock her off balance with my seat, and our first windy ride is going to be interesting. Sometimes she forgets about my personal space.

But, she doesn't jig or rush home.  She doesn't buck or rear. She doesn't pull back. She stands while being mounted. She doesn't shy away from the saddle or the pad. She bridles without a fuss. She's catchable.

I'm finding out that perhaps I'd rather *teach and reinforce correct behaviors than fix wrong ones? I'm finding a lot of joy and peace shaping a youngster who's honest but green. I compare this to the feeling of frustration and irritation when a more broke horse is deliberately trying to "get away" with something worked in the past and now I'm trying to convince them that it's never going to work again.

*I'm talking about "middle of the road horses here! Like riding a sensible but green youngster versus trying to fix a bridling problem in a horse ear twitched improperly one too many times, or trying fix pulling back when tied etc. I'm NOT talking about the borderline crazy youngster that keeps exploding or the 12 year old ADHD bucking monster. Neither of those are on my docket. Life is too short.
Of course, I think that either way (green or broke) the personality match between horse and rider is critical - along with a match of ability between horse and rider, whether that is measured in pure "green-ness" or "acquired flaws".

As I was bringing Tig home....the vet pulled in!

Welcome to the last event of the day!  Vet appointment! 

I had 2 big things on the agenda for Farley.

1. Check for sand

2. Check teeth and float if necessary.

Farley is boarded near a river on a property with LOTS of sand. The sand makes the footing great in the summer.  However, it also means an increased chance of sand build up in the gut.

I had listened for sand in Farley's gut, but hadn't been able to hear anything.  Negative findings are always harder to believe than positive one so I really wanted someone else to back up my finding. Farley *has* had sand before and I've fed the physillium product and it took care of it back in August 2010.  But now after living for almost 2 years in a sandy paddock and *mostly* fed off the ground or on rubber mats.....I really wanted to know how she was doing. 

Verdict - SAND FREE. :). Can't tell you how happy this makes me. It means she's probably not prone to accumulating sand based on how she's being managed right now - and it doesn't get more sandy than where she lives I feel SO MUCH better about the possibility of a sand colic and my decision to not regularly feed physillium etc.

Second order of the visit was the evaluate her teeth.

Farley has a "smile mouth".

It's a wear pattern on the teeth in front (incisors - the ones you can see) where the side ones wear more than ones directly in front.....

This website here has some GREAT definitions and is where I got the images for this part of the post. I encourage you to check it out. My vet said that the more you learn about horse teeth and the more horse mouths you look in, the more you realize that no horse has a "perfect" mouth. Teeth are second only to feet on the list of "most interesting things about a horse" 

Here's a picture from the site above that describes smile mouth.

Obviously there are degrees of malocclusion and Farley's isn't as obvious in the drawing. This can occur because of an overbite (parrot mouth) but in Farley's case, it's more likely from an abnormal chewing pattern because of some unevenness in her jaw.

The important thing to realize about horse mouths, is that if there's something funky going on in front, it's going to cause something funky in the back! 

And that's exactly the case with Farley.

The abnormal chewing pattern that is causing a smile mouth causes her molars to develop a "wave".

This is in addition to many of the "points" that commonly develop on horse's teeth that require floating periodically. [go to that linked website to see a drawing of the points! It's sorta cool :)]

The good news is that caught early enough in a horse's life, dental abnormalities like the wave can be recognized, fixed, managed, AND not affect the horse's longevity.  

When I was growing up, if a horse wasn't at least 10 the vet wouldn't bother checking teeth. And then after that only recommend floats if he could feel obvious points. The problem is that waiting until the horse is 10, 12, or 15 is it can be too late. There's only a certain amount of tooth to last the horse into old age - hopefully into their thirties or beyond! A wave and other dental issues uses up some teeth faster - teeth that can't be replaced. A bad wave or other malocclusion has to be corrected over time - you can't take it all off at once. The horse has to be able to eat and chew when you are done with the dental procedure. 

Geriatric horses are a special passion of mine - and if there's two things you need to pay attention to NOW to give your horse the best shot at a high quality of life into their thirties, it's feet and teeth.

"But wait", you tell me. "My horse has a more 'normal' mouth - no wave or anything. Just some random points and I ride bitless anyways. So how does this apply to me?"

The issue is that having points on the teeth alters the plane and how the teeth can slide across each other. In class we were shows a REALLY cool 3-D animation of what it looks like when a horse chews - not just the side to side but the forward and back. I've spent an HOUR looking for something similar and haven't found ANYTHING. So I give up for now. So trust me on this that the horse teeth need to be able to do a full, complete, normal cycle in order for growth and wear to balance.

Even if you ride bitless, or never put anything in the horse's mouth, or if *all* your horse produces are points with no other abnormalities - that chewing cycle is going to change a little bit. Which is going to alter how the teeth wear a little bit. Which will make the malocclusion just a little bit worse and the points are going to be a little bit worse. Which is going to alter the chewing cycle a little more. And the teeth wear is going to alter a little bit more. Do you see where I'm going with this? And yes, contrary to some of the internet stuff I see, even if you only give your horse pasture and forage and no grain, they can *still* develop sharp points. Even at what level their feed is placed can affect the chewing cycle - the lower jaw natural moves forward and back as the head lifts and lowers!

Problems such as a wave cannot be seen or felt unless you sedate and put an oral speculum on the horse.  I had been surprised by how bad Minx's teeth were the first time we decided to have her floated - her molars needed floating much worse than was evident by the points in front and how the incisors looked. So, when I got Farley I had her sedated and had a full oral exam done.  It took ~2 years to fully correct the wave.  After getting it corrected, I had her floated at a more "normal" interval of every 1 1/2 to 2 years.  This time I waited THREE years. Not so big a deal in a horse that has a more normal wear pattern. Potentially a big deal in this case.

I was a little nervous.

My new vet was a little nervous. 

It was obvious from her incisors that it time to float - but they weren't horrible.....

But remember that because of the horse's chewing cycle - any funkiness in one spot affects the whole mouth! Funkiness in front likely equals funkiness in back.

What were her molars going to look like?

Got her sedated and the speculum in and.....there was some wave but not bad at all!  Moderate points in front and back, and a wave that was totally manageable and correctable.


And now I know - On Farley I can keep an eye on those incisors and probably trust them to tell me when it's time to float!

BTW - another really good dental resource I found while poking around was this one:  It has a really nice "eruption" chart and notes on aging a horse by their teeth. I'm going to be printing out their little "eruption chart" and keeping it with me for clinics - most succinct one I've seen so far!


  1. Great post! I kust have to know...what book did you stay up finishing?

  2. I LOVE using the chiropractor. My goal is always every six months, but it never happens. Invariably I wait eight months and by then, there is usually a "problem." I get two horses done at a time. One of them usually is more "out" than the other. When the chiro was out the other day, Speedy was a mess, but Sydney didn't have a thing out of place (well, a rib head or two). The time before, Sydney was all out of whack, and Speedy just needed a slight tune up. My horses LOVE getting adjusted.

  3. I'm officially addicted too!!!!! I'm going to try and have her out every couple months - it's so affordable and it's someone else that has her hands on my horse and can give me another opinion about what she's seeing. I'm sure you saw my other post by now - but 2 days later after this I rode and it made a HUGE difference. Reminded me of when I had her hocks injected. And it was so much cheaper.

  4. BTW - I think I figured out the running pain thing - my fuel belt is causing me to hold my hips/pelvis at a different angle and over the course of the run it's pissing off some of my muscles. I'm switching to a pack style that I think avoids some of the problems with packs I've tried before, and fortunately because the fuel belt came from REI and is newer I can take it back! I'll keep you guys posted.


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