Thursday, October 24, 2013

Patient History Report: Sinwaan - 10/24/13

For those of you who are interested and have been following Sinwaan's story lately, he went back in to see the specialist Dr Dora Ferris on 10/24. Here is her write up of that visit;

Misc Medical Procedures - Ultrasound - hind suspensory ligaments
Sinwaan presented today for re-examination and ultrasound of his hind limb proximal suspensory ligaments.

Examination: He does not have significant back pain today and there is no withdrawal response when the tuber sacrale are compressed. At the walk both hind fetlocks drop/hyperextend when in the weight bearing phase of stride. At the trot, his lameness has not improved despite the 3 months of rest. The left hind foot continues to have a club footed appearance due to the short worn toe.

Sinwaan's heart was ascultated and was within normal limits. He was sedated with 4mg of detomidine and 60mg of xylazine IV. Both metatarsal regions were clipped and prepped for ultrasound examination. The left hind suspensory ligament was ultrasounded and compared to the right hind suspensory ligament. There was mild thickening of the plantar fascia of the left hind limb compared to the right. The suspensory ligament of the left hind was mildly enlarged, especially laterally compared to  the right hind evidenced by a reduction in the space between the suspensory and the metatarsus. Hypoechoic areas consistent with muscle and fat within the ligament were symmetrical from right to left. There was a mild  bone irregularity at the distal portion of the attachment of the suspensory ligament on the left hind. A brief  non-weight bearing exam was performed as well which did not show additional lesions.

The ultrasound did not reveal significant disruption or damage to the suspensory ligament at this time. My biggest concern is that there could be a slow, chronic degenerative process in play, causing mild breakdown of the suspensory ligament. Some have suggested this can be linked to metabolic syndrome in some horses. Sinwaan is slightly overweight, and resting will only make this more difficult to manage. This could be linked to a metabolic syndrome.

It is also thought, that in horses with a similar presentation there is nerve impingement of the deep  branch of the lateral plantar nerve beneath the plantar fascia due to the swollen suspensory ligament.

We can discuss further treatments, and I am  happy to talk about these at any time. Treatments I would recommend pursuing:
Testing for equine metabolic syndrome, including insulin and cortisol (ACTH, Dex suppression testing). These cost around $100. Unfortunately in the fall and winter horses can come back falsely negative, so it is best to wait for this testing until spring. Some management changes could be undertaken prior to testing in an effort to minimize his weight changes. Changes include grass only hay, minimal concentrates or grains, or substituting with a low starch grain, minimizing or eliminating grass pasture turnout, etc.

Platelet rich plasma - While there is not visible disruption of the ligament, these horses often have a degenerative process occurring and PRP could potentially provide growth factors that can slow or decrease this process.

Radiograph - Radiographs of the hock/proximal suspensory region of the left hind limb could be helpful for two reasons, they could show if there is sclerosis (increased bone density at the proximal suspensory region) and could outline any hock changes as well. He may still have a portion of hock pain that is contributing to his lameness. If there is sclerosis at the origin of the suspensory ligament origin (consistent with the bone change seen on ultrasound) it would be consistent with a chronic issue.

In the interum time, I would like to start the following therapy for Sinwaan.
Lateral weight shifting - Stand to the side of his hip, facing him. Grasp his tail up as high as you can on the tail bone, then gently lean back, pulling him towards you. Watch for the  contraction of the quadriceps muscles on the side you are facing and slight dropping of the fetlock. You want him to resist the drop, and hold himself up without pushing and moving away from  you. This will improve his control of his hindlimb and muscle activation. Ask him to hold the contraction for as long as he is able, currently about 3-4 seconds, ideally he will improve several seconds per week until he can hold the activation for 20 seconds. Repeat this exercise for both hind limbs 5 times a day.

Aquatic therapy can be very helpful for these horses. While taking Sinwaan to a rehab facility is not really an option for him, exercising him in a pond, lake, or creek might be beneficial as long as the bottom of the lake is not deep and muddy, and the weather is not too cold. Please let me know if you have anything along those lines available to you and we can discuss a protocol.

I would like Sinwaan to have low impact exercise if possible. Walking in hand or ponied from another horse initially on a straight line on firm footing would be ideal. Start with 5 minutes 1-2 times daily, increasing by 5 minutes each week, until he is walking for 20 minutes up to twice daily in 8 weeks if possible. As he progresses, we can begin to add weight to his back.

Please apply the DMSO/Bute mixture to his proximal suspensory regions up to 1 time daily for 14 days. Please wear gloves and do not allow this to touch your skin. Don't touch his leg after you have applied it. This will help reduce the inflammation that may be occurring, and may help for any nerve pain he may be experiencing.

Shoeing changes - Research has shown that a high foot angle (tall heels) puts increased strain on the suspensory ligament. Since his heels have become so tall, I would like to have them trimmed to more closely match his opposite foot. Care needs to be taken that they are not shortened too much and cause a broken back hoof-pastern axis. Sinwaan may also benefit from heel extensions to bring support back under his fetlock further. In the past that has helped horses with similar conformation. I'm not sure who you have used in the past, but let us know if you need recommendations for therapeutic shoes.

If these therapies are started, I would like to recheck him next month if possible. Otherwise we can discuss his progress on the phone.

Dora Ferris

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Patient History Report

Today in the mail I received the patient history report on Sinwaan's visit from 9/17/13. I really love my vet clinic and working with both Dr Pritchett and Dr Ferris so far. I think mailing me the report goes above and beyond anyone I have worked with in the past, and it is really nice to have it all in writing since it is so hard for me to digest and remember everything as it is happening.

Sinwaan is an Arabian gelding who is 16 yr & 6 mo, DOB 3/10/1997. Weight listed as 1,050.

Lameness Exam
History: Previously seen for a left hind limb lameness due to wearing off the toe. He has been on a bute trial since the last visit on 9/6 and has been resting in his paddock. No other treatments have been performed. The original goal was to ride in a 50 mile endurance ride in October. He has been unshod since the last exam because he pulled the left hind shoe.
S: Today Sinwaan is still BCS approximately 6-7/9. He has mild withdrawal response to palpation of his right and left thoracic and lumbar longissimus muscles bilaterally, but is not positive to compression of his tuber sacrale. There is mild thickening of the joint capsule of the femoropatellar joints and mild effusion of the same bilaterally. He has very straight conformation in his hind limbs through the stifle and hock, with an extended fetlock. His hocks palpate slightly abnormal on the medial aspect of both, with potential mild remodeling over the distal intertarsal and tasometatarsal joints. Hoof tester exam of all four feet was unremarkable except for bridging the medial frog the lateral heel bulb of the left front foot which was mildly positive. On lameness examination, he slightly circumducts the left hind limb when walking, and tracks with the right hind limb more to midline. At the trot he was 3+/5 lame on the left hind at the trot and the lameness is referring to left front. Occasionally he takes a step that appears to be sensitive to the rocks due to being barefoot. The left hind limb lameness is worse when the limb is on the inside of the circle, vs. outside.
Distal LH - mild positive
Stifle LH - moderate positive
Full LH - moderate positive (slightly worse than stifle)
Distal RH - mild positive
Stifle RH - mild positive - appeared symmetrically lame on both limbs
Full RH - moderate positive - switched to primary RH limb lameness for several strides, then returned to the baseline LH limb lameness.

Diagnostic blocks, radiographs and ultrasound were discussed. Due to Sinwaan's straight hind limb conformation, there is some concern that there could be suspensory pain present. The decision was made to persue diagnostic blocking of the LH limb to rule out suspensory injury. Based on palpation of the hocks and the presentation of his lameness (worse on the inside of the circle, worse to full limb flexion, and moderately sensitive to back palpation, the next most likely cause of his lameness is pain in the DIT and TMT joints.

Low 4-point nerve block LH - no significant improvement.
Deep branch of hte lateral plantar nerve (proximal suspensory) LH - 70% improvement overall, improved when on the inside of the circle, left forelimb lameness improved as well (decreased referring lameness)

A light bandage with nitrofurazone was applied to the left hind limb.

Plan: Based on the improvement to blocking today, it is most likely that he has a suspensory injury. To assess the extent of this injury, an ultrasound of the metatarsus is recommended at a later time. Because of the blocking today there will be fluid and gas artifact in the tissues, which could confound visualizing a lesion. We will pursue ultrasounding him next month.

The bandage on the left hind limb can be removed tomorrow (Wednesday) and his leg rinsed in the hose to remove the nitrofurazone. Ideally, you should wear gloves or use a plastic bag to protect your skin from the nitrofurazone when removing the bandage.

Sinwaan should be rested in a small paddock for the next month until he can have the ultrasound performed. Ideally this should be no larger than approximately 14' x 24-36' so he cannot run if he likes to play in his pasture.

Pending the results of the ultrasound, using Platelet Rich Plasma to treat the suspensory and rehabilitation will probably have the best chance of returning Sinwaan to his previous performance. He will most likely need at least 4-5 months of rest and rehabilitation before returning to work under saddle.

Treatment with Firocoxib is worth considering for Sinwaan as he enters his rehabilitation phase. This is similar to bute but has fewer side effects for the gastrointestinal tract and kidneys when given long term. We can discuss this further on his next visit.

Thank you for bringing Sinwaan in to see me today. I look forward to seeing him next month.
Dora Ferris

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Visit to the specialist

This week Dr. Dora Jean Ferris is in town so I took the opportunity and scheduled an appointment time with her for Sinwaan.

We did more lameness evaluations with flexion testing and it was more obvious today that he was "off." Dr Ferris pointed out to me that he is dropping his right hind lower to compensate for the pain on his left side.  Today he was even doing a little toe dragging without me riding him. (Obvious in the photo above). Another thing she pointed out to me was his muscles quivering in a specific spot, when flexing him, more so on the left than on the right. 

Video #1 - left flexion test

Video #2 - as a comparison, right flexion test

After these she did some more flexion tests, focusing more on the stifle area but my video camera was not recording when I thought it was. Oops.

Video #3 - starts at 10 sec. right flexion test on right

Video #4 - starts at about 18 sec. flexion test on left

Video #5 - flexion on right

Then she used a hoof tester and checked all his feet for any soreness issues. Other than some mild tenderness on the inside frog of the left fore, there were no issues.

Then we talked, or I should say, she talked to me about what she was seeing.  I will include the report in the next post because it covers the whole visit.

Thickening area
We had the options of blocking, radiographs and ultrasound. I asked her what option she would choose, if she could only do one (due to my financial limitations), and she said the blocking should give her the most answers today. The price quote for that was cheaper than the radiographs so I said let's go ahead. Well, they had another appointment due to come in within 30 minutes, and not wanting to get started only to be interrupted, they asked if I could leave him with them for a couple of  hours. I said that was no problem.

As we walked him back to his pen, we passed the cattle in the stocks. It was castration day for them, and there was quite a bit of blood, which they had warned us about before walking over there. Ellie was with me, carrying a armload of hay for Sinwaan, and I told her to watch Sinwaan, which she did. She told me later she did not see any blood,  but she wanted to know all about castration!  Sinwaan was settled into his stall next to a horse who was all bandaged up from injuries resulting from the storm we just had. Bandages all the way up two of his legs, stitches in his neck, but he was upright and looked like he was going to make it.

Exciting day at the vet clinic to be sure. I'll report more later after I pick him up.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Here we are again

Sinwaan watching neighboring cows. 
When his mane is at this angle he always reminds me of the Breyer Indian Pony

Monday Chad was able to come out and pull Sinwaan's shoes and give him a trim. I had leveled out an area by his water tank the day before and flooded it so his hooves would not be so hard. Chad said it worked perfectly, and I was glad when the improvement also meant he could remove that last nail still in the hoof without a shoe.

I figured this past week would drag by, but with school starting up again and all the other things that happen in our daily lives, it actually wasn't too bad. Before I knew it Friday rolled around and it was time to take Sinwaan back in for some more evaluations, and hopefully answers. 

The night before we had a wicked storm pass through, leaving many without power. Sinwaan's barn was one of the unlucky ones, so we hauled some water out to them on our way to pick him up.

Dr Pritchett and her tech, I believe Linda was her name, started out with a lameness exam in-hand. Using some of the same tests as last time, but taking it a step farther. I am not a Hollywood pro focus-puller so apparently it is impossible for me to get clear in-focus videos from this fancy camera, therefore I am only posting one from that session.

Video #1 - Flexion test. This one I could see he looked a little off.

Guess who took their saddle pad home to wash it, and forgot to bring it today? 
Thankfully Matt was able to deliver in record time.

After those tests it was time to saddle up so she could observe him under a load. At the walk there was no sign of toe drag, but at the trot it became obvious. I didn't get to do much riding, as it didn't take long to see the issue. 

Video #2 - Riding, about 3 minutes long. It was a little stressful riding him there after not having ridden for 2 weeks, with the highway next-door, but he was quite good. I felt like a dummy when I un-tacked and noticed I had never clipped the top portion of his breastcollar. Oh well!

After  un-tacking they did more evaluations. 

Video #3 - Trotting, circles. More focus issues, sorry!

Video #4 - Flexion test, trying to aim higher up in the leg/hip area I believe (and a video capture below to show what he thinks of this)

Then another flexion test aiming lower in the leg, but that video is not worthy of posting as the trotting away portion is nowhere near being in focus.

After that she performed the same tests on the opposite side.

There was mention of sedating him, not for x-rays this time, but for palpating his hip from the inside (lucky for all involved that was never needed). First, however, she wanted to do some more research. So after a quick trip inside the building she came out with a couple more ideas. More palpating, flexing, extending his hind leg...trying to locate the issue.

Video #5 - Palpations and a reaction on the left

In the midst of this Ellie told me she had to use the restroom, so I took her in. I came out to find Dr. Pritchett with a look of triumph on her face. "I found it." Confused, I asked her what she found. She showed me that when she palpated his stifle, right over the peroneal nerve, he would move away, lift his leg, and just generally looked uncomfortable. She did the same thing on the opposite side with no response. Palpating other neighboring areas on either leg, also no response. Definitely an issue in that one spot.

Later, when we were inside the building, Dr Pritchett brought out her anatomy book to show me what everything looked like in his leg where he is having that issue. Quite kind of her, and fascinating!

Palpation of the right stifle joint over the peroneal nerve caused no reaction, 
compared to the left side. 

Dr Pritchett has an equine sports medicine specialist colleague (Dora Ferris DVM) whom their clinic plans to work with, who just so happens will be in town next week with her own ultrasound equipment. Dr Pritchett said she would like to talk with Dr Ferris more about this case and perhaps she could offer an additional diagnosis or treatment plan. She plans to get back in touch with me next week after they have a conversation.

(Sidenote: because I am curious, and the internet is so powerful, I Googled Dr Ferris and found the following...she is also the daughter of two local vets;)

We also talked about how after some rest and anti-inflammatories we should be able to develop a conditioning plan for Sinwaan to help build up his muscles to get him back on track for distance riding. (For example, lounging work with ground poles to start with, not riding) She sent me home with some bute to be given 2x a day. The barn owners volunteered to give that, to save me all that driving. Thank you!

So although I didn't get a complete answer about what caused this, or how exactly we will fix it, or how long he will be on vacation, it does sound like there is hope, and it is better than the alternatives. Here's hoping Sinwaan is back to normal soon.

However, no October ride for him. And since so much of the ride is about the bond that we share, I am not sure I want to do it without him on another horse, even though I have already had a very kind offer. I should probably volunteer, and crew, and see it all from the other side.

* * *

Later that afternoon I called back to the clinic to ask about that nerve, because I had already forgotten the name of it, and couldn't seem to figure it out doing basic Google searches for "stifle nerve." The gal who answered the phone said she could email me the notes from the visit, which I thought was really awesome. You can see them below.

Using this basic format—Subjective and Objective observation, Assessment and Plan, the vet notes on Sinwaan from today's visit are as follows:

Lameness Exam
S: Sinwaan is here for re-evaluation of the left hind limb. His feet have been trimmed. He has not been ridden.

O: No obvious lameness at the walk or trot on the pavement. Circumducts hind limbs well when turned to the left. He is more hesitant when turned to the right (left hind leg on the outside)
When ridden no lameness or dragging of the toe noted at the walk. When ridden at the trot - drags the left hind toe.
Flexion test of the left hind tarsus and stifle w/o rider - no change in gait
Flexion test of the left coxofemoral joint with the tarsus and stifle in extension - lameness noted and a few strides of toe dragging at the trot.
Subsequent to these observations - deep palpation of the lateral aspect of the stifle joint (area over the peroneal nerve) caused consistent pain reaction (moves away from me, lifts hind leg, switches tail). Palpation of the same area on the right hind leg did not cause any reaction.

A: Grade I/IV lameness of the left hind at the trot. Painful on deep palpation of the lateral aspect of the left stifle joint. Potential injury to the peroneal nerve.

P: Advised rest and anti-inflammatory. Consult with orthopedic specialist in additional diagnostics and rehabilitation. Lori C. Pritchett, DVM)

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Unscheduled Stop!

Just when things seem to be going along as planned, something comes along to detour you, or completely rock the boat. That is how I am feeling this week. Quite discouraged.

On August 15 my farrier came out to put new shoes on Sinwaan. His feet were incredibly dry and some of the hoof wall chipped off as he was trimming the new growth. We noticed he looked like he was dragging his left rear toe a bit as there was a flat spot on the front-outside of that hoof. So he set the shoe a little forward on that foot to try and allow for the hoof to grow back out while we continued our training regimen. I would like to mention that I have been using this farrier since at least 2007, and when I switched over to him Sinwaan had a real issue with interference in his hind end, after changing to my current farrier after the first trim he no longer had that issue. So I feel he is and has been a good farrier for us. He did lecture me on needing to get his feet on some moisture once in a while, not only for hoof health but also because trimming him was like trying to cut through a rock!

Fast forward four weeks later. Sinwaan has worn down his shoe, and worn down his hoof drastically now. It is to the point I am asking around for advice. Have you seen this before? What could it be? The first thing Heather noticed was his pastern angle, different in the two hinds. After our lovely 8 mile ride at the lake on Saturday, Heather and Laurie looked him over, felt him, discussed it, thought about it, and mentioned that they both had ridden behind me for an extended period, focusing on his movement, and other than him over-reaching (hearing the shoes click click click, rear to front) did not notice any form of lameness issues. What was going on? He did seem tender and slightly swollen in his loin/hip area at the time, but no back tenderness.

So I messaged Cassandra. She was willing to come out and have a look at him Tuesday evening. (By now I had already made an appointment with my vet for Wednesday). When I got there, the first thing I noticed was that hind shoe. It was looking pretty weird! So upon farther inspection I noticed it was coming off, only held on by a single nail now. Doug got out his tools and we both worked to get that shoe off. Man it is tough without the right equipment! Sinwaan was a champ, standing very still for us as Doug finally used a hacksaw to get through the nail in order to remove the shoe, and then pliers to pull the nails out.

Once that was done it was time for some evaluations. Cassandra had me trot him all around. Unfortunately for all of us, I am not very good at this. It is hard for me to lead in a straight line, he tends to crowd a little and then I get paranoid about falling down and getting my leg broken again. Despite all that, and him moving out without a shoe on the gravel, eventually after a lot of trotting here and there and everywhere, and some walking, and a flexion test, we determined he was not showing any lameness. He might have short-strided twice in all that time. Cassandra pointed out a number of things to me and it was a very educational visit.

The lines on the outside of his hoof follow the coronet angle but then curve and drop down within the last six months.

There is some space between his hoof wall and the white line on that hoof that is obvious. She also pointed out hoof angles and how opposite feet rear-to-front will match. He had some filling in his legs so I need to learn how to either poultice his legs or use pressure wraps after the longer rides.

So what could it be? Tendon/ligament issues, coffin bone rotation, arthritis, injury, etc. So many options. Cassandra suggested that I keep my vet appointment and insist on x-rays to rule out what we could. I appreciated her time and insight, although I have to admit, I did go home and cry. Then the next morning Heather called me for an update and I got emotional again. It has been a sad couple of days for me, thinking we could be headed down a road of light use for Sinwaan instead of my big dream of riding a 50 mile ride.

So today I loaded him up and hauled him into the vet. We arrived early and had some time to groom him. He was a little edgy due to a weed eater running on the opposite side of the fence where we were parked, but it didn't take long for him to calm down and just enjoy Ellie's pampering. She and I brushed him, and she picked him fresh grass to eat.

The tech came out and introduced herself, and I remember her name because it is the same as my sister-in-law's, Joanie. She asked for more information as to why I was there. I told her I had been putting a lot of miles on him and he had strange hoof wear on the one side and I would like x-rays to rule out arthritis or coffin bone rotation. It wasn't long after that she came out again with Dr Pritchett and they worked together on a series of lameness tests. It was quite interesting. I asked her if I could video and she said sure.

Video #1 - walking away and back, and in a circle

During the second test she commented that he was "doing this better than the last three horses she examined." She thought his legs felt pretty good for a horse his age, especially around the fetlocks.

Video #2 - circling and the tail pull. I believe what she was looking for here (in the tight turns) was to see how he managed his back end. A horse with a hip problem will  be less likely to cross over their legs in the rear, and he didn't seem to have any problem with this test.

Video #3 - tail pull while trotting straight and circling.

Video #4 - This video really doesn't show much of anything but I include it because she did tell me that he has an elevated digital pulse in that rear left.

After all the fun and games in the parking lot, we moved him into the covered area and the stocks to try and get some radiographs of that foot. Dr Pritchett agreed with me that it would be a good idea to take some x-rays to see what might be happening there. She could not see him drag the toe at all in her movement tests. She said he had no atrophy, his rear musculature was very good, watching him there was no problem, no lameness. She wondered if he might be moving differently under a load and thought it could be helpful to see me ride him as well. Unfortunately at this point she also said that she was only given 30 minutes for our appointment time today, so she explained it would take some time for the techs to clean his foot and get him set up for the x-rays. She would check back in with us periodically between other patients. I was welcome to sit in the waiting room, or take a drive, or watch. I like to see everything, and as an employee in a radiology department I was curious how this would compare.

Joanie cleaned his hoof up quite nicely and I took some more photos.

Video #5 - Joanie explaining to the kids why she is using playdoh in his hooves for the x-ray.

Once his hoof was scrubbed and clean, Joanie started packing Play-doh into the grooves. The kids recognized the container and started asking questions about that right away. It was interesting to me to hear that the air on an x-ray shows up as black, so they pack the grooves with Play-doh to better be able to see the bones.

Video #6 - the techs attempting to put his feet up on risers for the x-ray.

Once his hoof was packed, the idea was to get him to stand on a riser for the x-ray. Well he wasn't too co-operative, and he wasn't sedated at all because there was the chance I might ride him afterwards if we had time, so they did what they could but it didn't work and they gave up after about 20 minutes of that. They equally tried both hooves on risers to no avail.

Video #7 - when the stocks and risers failed, the techs tried using Styrofoam

The stocks were kind of in the way and becoming a hazard so they moved Sinwaan out into the aisle and tied him so they could try again, this time with Styrofoam. They took an x-ray but it didn't turn out very well.

Video #8 - back in the stocks with no risers or Styrofoam, finally a lateral x-ray

So they tried again, back in the stocks this time with no risers or Styrofoam. They were able to get an x-ray without him moving,  however it was not a good enough radiograph for Pritchett to diagnose a problem. She said the coffin bone tip looked a little "hazy" but it really was not good enough for her to say any more about that.

She wanted to be able to spend a couple of hours with us, so we agreed to reschedule for the next date that I have off work, which is Sept 6th. At that visit she will plan to give him a more involved lameness evaluation, have me ride him for another look at how he is moving under a load, and then sedate him for better x-rays, because he really needs to have both rear feet up on those risers with equal weight on them. Hopefully then we will get some answers. In the meantime we both agree he needs time off, so I will have his shoes pulled and his hooves trimmed so at our next visit he will be level and ready for the evaluations.

After it was all said and done I was there from 3:45 - 5:45 pm. Quite an ordeal, especially for the techs, to have to "try again another day." They really worked hard to try and get a good picture, and I thanked them for the effort.

This journey has initiated several conversations and I want everyone to know that your support and opinions really do mean a lot to me, I like to hear all the ideas and advice, many times they bring to light other learning opportunities for me. I really hope that we can get to the bottom of this quickly so I can continue on down the trail on my horse, even if it is for shorter distances...

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Headed for the mountains!

Heather has been itching to head for the hills. Real hills, not the little ones we usually ride on the roads. She thought that with all the miles I have put on Sinwaan, and with how far his fitness level has come the past couple of months, we were ready to tackle Cache Hollow with her.

When I first got Sinwaan he lived on the farm at the foot of Lincton Mountain. Cache Hollow road is a seasonal road with allowed use from April - November. Typically used by farmers, there is not much traffic. Most of it is rock or gravel and it is very primitive for cars, with little to no signage. This makes it great for riding on horseback. I remember starting his conditioning by riding 2 miles up and 2 miles back down that road every week. I thought we were really doing something. Even though 4 miles a week is really not much, the fact that we were going up and down a mountainside put a decent base on him and allowed us to place mid-pack that year in limited distance rides. 

This year I am more serious, more driven, and know a little more about what I need to do. Heather and I planned out a ride that would take us up THE HILL on Cache Hollow, around on Kinnear and back down Lincton Mtn road, for a total of an 11 mile loop.

We started out at about 1300' and climbed up to 2200' at the top of THE HILL.  This shot proves only that I shouldn't try to take photos while we're trotting. 

Sinwaan thought I must be kidding to not only expect him to carry me up THE HILL, but also to do most of it at a TROT. WHAT?! Ok, so he got a break half way, and did walk about half of the really steep section. Bunny went happily trotting all the way up to the top, took a short break, and then came back down to meet us and went trotting back up again! She is an animal!

Once at the top of this monster hill, there is a beautiful view of the city in the valley. I am not entirely sure how much of it is Milton-Freewater and how much of it is Walla Walla, but it is a nice reward for all that hard work.  This photo is looking back in the direction that we climbed up.

Sinwaan was pretty bushed after that climb and cocked his hind leg as soon as the opportunity presented itself.

Frequently there are people shooting targets up there. Today was no exception. The lady was nice and asked if she was bothering the horses. I think due to the wind her gun didn't seem too loud. We didn't hang around there long anyway. We took a couple photos and moved on.

A short distance and the road splits. Head to the right and you will meet up with Coe Rd (Co 609) and if you stay on Kinnear it would end into Couse Creek Rd. I have not ever gone that direction but perhaps will be able to later in the season. We went left on Kinnear and this lovely third of the loop has exceptional views and decent footing. Bunny is a machine and she got a bit ahead of us there for a little bit. Heather and I had talked about it earlier and I did not discourage her from getting in all the work she could while we were up there. So she would fade into the distance, and then come back to us, a couple of times. Bunny IS a 50-mile horse. Sinwaan is in training.

Sinwaan kept trying to pull over onto the grass. At first I thought he just wanted to eat. Then I thought maybe he was just tired. Then I thought maybe he needed to pee. FINALLY he did relieve himself and after that he was able to keep up his steady pace a lot better. In the above photo I had looked over and saw something move. At first I thought perhaps it was a fox but after watching it for a bit it seemed more like a coyote (dead center in the photo). It didn't see us for awhile but then once it did, it ran off down the hillside. Looking back behind us on this same hillside was a small herd of cattle.

Trot, trot, trot, and enjoy the view!

The weather was in the 80s and we had a strong breeze, it was a lovely day to be riding. At the highest point in our ride, we were at approx. 2900'. That is 1600' of climbing at about seven miles into the ride.

When we figured we had gone about half-way, we dismounted and gave the horses a break. They grazed a little on the sparse grasses, and we electrolyted them with some plain yogurt in a syringe. Sinwaan licked and chomped and seemed interested in that. He took it really well. This is something we have to start doing more often because on the longer, harder rides they need more e-lytes given to them to make up for all they are losing.

When we got to a point where I thought for sure we would have to cruise around another curve of the mountain before finding Lincton Mtn, there it was. You know you are there when you see the loading chute and holding pen for the cattle (7.5 miles in). I can't imagine driving a semi-truck up these roads to pick up cattle, but they do. We made the sharp left and headed up a short hill before it leveled out and then started going downhill (for the next four miles). That section of road is very deceiving because it looks smooth, with small rocks here and there, but when you start looking closer you realize there is a lot of rock embedded in the dirt. Somehow we managed to trot most of it and kept up with Bunny -for the most part- and I was very proud of my horse. He is not the best at downhills but he found his gear and just motored along. Maybe next time I could get a photo of the road surface. This time it was all I could do to stay balanced and trotting.

There were a lot of flowers blooming along Lincton Mtn road and the view was nice on the ride down.

 There is one homestead about 1 1/2 miles from the paved road, and from that point on the road is a nicely maintained gravel surface.  We only encountered two vehicles today, they both came up behind us on our way down Lincton Mtn. They were both polite and slowed way down to pass.

Once back down to the main paved road, it was .3 miles back to the trailer. Our total riding time (including the break half-way) was 1 hr 55 minutes. We were pleased with that since we had figured it would probably take about 2 hours. Heather had packed all kinds of goodies for both us and the horses. First we offered them water. Bunny drank some of hers down like a good athlete. Sinwaan kind of licked at his and looked around.

Then we offered them their mashes. Sinwaan thought that sounded pretty good and he licked the pan clean. After that we loaded up and took them home. Heather had made some peanut butter and honey sandwiches and sliced apples for us and it tasted so good!

I found a pretty good sized rock wedged into Sinwaan's left fore, so am hoping that doesn't result in a stone bruise or worse. He got a nice bath once home, with the royal treatment.

Even though he still looks pretty fat, his saddle is starting to fit better, and I see some new muscle definition on his chest behind his front legs. I have to work full time all next week so he will have some time off to recover from today.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

First long ride - 15.3 mi

Today Heather and I decided to ride together on a longer venture than usual, building up the miles and distance as well as adding in some hill work. We started out by meeting at the intersection of Stovall (where Sinwaan lives) and Last Chance. It is 2 miles for me to get there and about 2.3 miles for her to reach this point. 

Sinwaan had taken a short break at the alfalfa field half a mile earlier and still had some plant on his face.

Bunny heading towards us over the bridge. From there we continued down Last Chance and made a right onto Frog Hollow. Frog Hollow has a fair amount of hills and I was thinking it would be good to do that portion first, before Sinwaan started getting tired later on in the ride. Well, I didn't realize there was also a lot of climbing later on since we rode a portion I had never been on before.

As we were trotting along, there was some traffic so we had slowed to a walk through the small bits of shade and I looked back to see a truck coming towards us. It was not a normal kind of truck. It was a towering, shifty, hay truck of some kind. I googled later to try and find a similar example but all I could come up with was this video capture, and while the back half of the machinery is similar, the front was nothing like this one. The one that passed us had a small cab very close to the bed of the truck, and it looked ancient. I guess if I see it again I'll have to take a photo. At any rate, the driver was very courteous, he went past us very slowly. I had stopped Sinwaan and turned him around so it would not surprise him, and he handled it like he saw them every day.

When we turned left onto Rainville (one of my favorite roads) we heard a high pitched whinny and a little horse came trotting over to us. Bunny was not really sure about that and she startled a little but Heather soon had her moving on again.

Sinwaan lives with (next to) little horses so he wasn't bothered by them at all, just a little curious to know what they had to say.

This little horse had a pasture-mate who was just as friendly (and fat) as he was. Shortly after this property we had a great blue heron take off in flight right next to us and that spooked the horses a little, but they had a quick recovery and we were able to look over and enjoy the sight of such a large bird so close to our heads.

Headed downhill at a trot at one point on Rainville, Sinwaan moved a little funny, like he was crossing legs or getting tied up a little bit, kind of off,  but he would recover and then do it again, recover, etc. Wasn't sure what that was about but within a quarter mile he was back to normal. I only mention it because after our ride I noticed he was missing a shoe, and was thinking maybe that is when it happened.

We had been going along really well and stopped here on Stateline to give the horses a short break and a chance to eat some fresh alfalfa. I found it amusing that there was a portable toilet there out in the middle of nowhere. This was a nice section of road and had very little traffic, although the strange hay truck did come upon us again and passed us. It was also on this road that we went past a big water sprinkler gun at roadside and with Heather in the lead, just as Sinwaan and I passed it, I heard the sound of water chasing up the pipe and sure enough KKKKKSSSSPPPPPHHHHHHH it started spraying the crop. Wowie-wow that gave Sinwaan a fright and he leapt forward a couple of bounds.

Half-way down Stateline on our route it started getting busy with traffic, and we had a motorcycle come up behind us. Sinwaan was trotting along and then dodged to the right, towards the motorcycle. Dumb horse. I got him back over to the shoulder quickly but it probably gave the rider a dose of sense about what a horse could do to his future as he slowed down quite a bit when he passed by Heather. I don't like Stateline for that reason, from Locher road on there is always a lot of cars going 40+. A lot of drivers are nice and slow down or change lanes, but not all and you have to be ready for anything.

Finally reaching our turn at Valley Chapel, Sinwaan took the lead for a little bit. The big Mastiff dogs that always spook us were nowhere in sight (thankfully) and there was a little shade as we kept up our trot towards home. Heather had commented how far Sinwaan had come since she started riding with us earlier this year. Before, he never could have kept up a trot for 2 miles, and now he cruises along like it's no big deal for extended periods. It is really nice to be able to ride with her again and not feel like I am holding her back. It is also great to know his fitness has been building with all these training rides.

Once back on Last Chance, Sinwaan started dragging a bit. I knew we were only about 2 miles from home at that point, so 13.5 miles was farther than he'd gone all year and I was proud of him for his effort so far. Heather thought maybe he would find a second wind when we turned for home back on Stovall. I kept him going at a slow trot most of the time, but we did walk infrequently.

At the barn I checked our time and we were in at 2 hours 25 min. A bit longer than I'd hoped, but still a respectable time for the distance and weather. It was a hot summer day to be sure. I hosed Sinwaan down and checked him all over. He had a slight rub on his chest from his breast-collar. I had started putting his saddle back just a bit farther than last year and had not adjusted the collar. So I took the time to do that today. As I picked out his hooves, I noticed he had lost his front right shoe. Hmmm. Maybe that is why he didn't want to stay in on the shoulder in the gravel, and preferred to instead move along on the asphalt. His one rear shoe was very tight but slightly offset as well. He moves kind of lazy and is wearing that shoe flat along the toe also. With all the miles I have put on him recently, this set of shoes wouldn't make it another round anyway.

I put him out with his flymask on and he enjoyed a good roll in the dust while I texted my farrier.
Turns out the farrier is working harvest and can only come out Sunday morning. I was hoping to be riding in the hills 2 hours before that, but now the plans will be adjusted.