Posted by: shannonc | June 19, 2010

Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride

GMHA always delivers...even when it's raining 95% of the time

I’m delinquent.  You know when you get a little bit behind, and dread catching up, then suddenly find yourself a whole lot behind?  Yay for self-perpetuating cycle of procrastination.  Many miles have been logged on the pony road since UNH.  Let me see if I can give the short version.

I took the pony to Myhre Equine Clinic in NH for a body scan.  We were lucky to get in so fast because there’s a shortage of the isotope, technetium, used in the scintigraphy.  It meant weekend fees, extra days, etc and so forth, but no way was I missing the opportunity. 

The first call I got from Dr. Myhre afterward scared me.  The connection was bad, but I made out that the hocks didn’t light up much (mild/moderate) and that his concerns focused on the pony’s SI and “lumbar spinous processes,” both of which he wanted to xray.  Lumbar…spine…I slowly registered the info.  “Do you mean kissing spine?”  Well, yes, that’s what it’d be.  I think I nearly cried.  Ugh.

I went the next day to bring the pony additional grain because he had to stay some more for radiography and, depending, treatment.  I took him for a little walk and hand graze.  I got the distinct impression I missed him more than he missed me.  He appeared to be successfully recruiting new members to his fan club :)

Just one more day of fear and worry later I met with Dr. Myhre.  Lumbar was clear, but left SI did show some slight roughening.  He said I might be able to get away with injecting left SI joint and left hock, then we could do more if it didn’t help or he had compensation issues, etc.

I took about one second to think this over.  No thank you.  I did not spend all this time gaining the trust of the pony and trying to build his confidence only to keep jumping him under the flag of “maybe” fixed.  We did both hocks and both sides of SI.

Over the next 4-5 days the pony slowly came back into work.  I’d been warned that I would not see full effects for a week.  In our case this turned out to be about 3 weeks.  Just a couple days after I started riding he felt horribly sore, especially in his lower lumbar.  Panic, call vet, rinse and repeat process of trying to figure out if something else is wrong, whether I should not ride, etc.

Again I implemented a fully unscientific process in response: throw the book at it.  Gave him bute, buried my nice new D saddle in a corner of the tack room where I’m likely to never see it again, changed his diet (more protein, more fat, less starch), changed his turnout to give him 24/7 access to the big area (Blue, ever the OTTB who feels most secure in a stall, did not object), hired more vets to look at him…took a deep breath…and waited.

Some of the soreness turned out to be sunburn on the area they clipped for the SI injections.  My vet nailed this in one guess.  I didn’t even think of it because it’s one of the few places on his body without pink skin.  Sure enough, another day or so and it scurfed up.  Some of the soreness I still suspect was saddle related – the Schleese has always been borderline in length.  And some of it I think was happening – and still is – because he’s now articulating those hind end joints he really wasn’t working before, taxing muscles that to date have had little use. 

So at least things began to make sense.  One thing everyone (the pony has his own little team of specialists at this point – general vets, surgical vets, chiropractic vets…) agreed on is that I need to keep riding him – albeit correctly, with lots of stretching – or he will never get stronger in his back.

The good news in this regard is that I had his Amerigo DJ fit checked and the fitter retraced him – he has added a whole cm of muscle across his back since Sept!  That is huge, and shows that I’m on the right track with his work and that he’s using himself well.

The next big question became whether I should scratch GMHA.  I will skip ahead across the many ups and downs of the decisionmaking process and let a picture tell the story:

Preparation is 9/10ths of which law? ;)

Okay, IRL it might be possession, but I tell you, when it comes to a weekend away in VT with your horse and your friends, it’s definitely preparation that counts.

If you squint, you will see a happy looking pony in there someplace

My highest hopes were for the pony to feel better.  At this point I had jumped exactly twice since UNH and one of those schools was comprised of 7 fences under 2 feet.  Worst case scenario, I thought, he’s not ready and we make it into a dressage show.

It’s a good thing it wasn’t a dressage show because our dressage test was not anything to write home about.  However – !!! – the pony jumped clear around stadium and cross country!  A whole world of difference from barely finishing UNH with a number and not a letter.  Unbelievably, he appeared to have no hangover at all from those courses, which must have been uncomfortable for him.

BN and N show jumping were in the White ring

We accrued 1.6 time penalties on xc (4 seconds over OT), which I attribute partly to the general terrain, partly to the places the footing was torn up from the P to N divisions which ran before ours, and partly to spending too much time arguing on course about who was piloting.  Mmmm, joint injections are not the magic bullet for regular ol’ training problems.  But I was thrilled and in no small part relieved.  His jump rounds actually moved him up, and he finished 7th.

And I got to hang out with my friends, who rode themselves into some very pretty photos!

Hil and Star in D warmup

Vicki and Torrey enter at A

After GMHA we had some hit or miss rides and figured out a few other things that were going on and probably just started sticking out like sore thumbs once the joint discomfort was fixed.  Recovery is still a process and fixing the strength piece especially will take time.  We have plenty of educational issues to keep us busy in the meanwhile.  I am just very glad that in the end we still feel this job is suitable for him – because he certainly seems very proud of himself when he does it…lol @ pony… :P

Tomorrow is the GHF Summer Classic.  We’ll see how that goes!



  1. Sorry Shannon, with all the moving etc. have not kept up with your website but did today and sounds quite exiting. I am really looking forward to seeing you and Kisses in Maine in a couple of weeks. I feel he has potential and he certainly has a good teacher. Keep it up>

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