Sunday, April 27, 2014

Roxy, 10/31/1999 - 12/20/2013

Obviously it's been some time since my dog, Roxy, crossed the Rainbow Bridge. I just haven't gotten around the writing about her, and of course a lot has happened since then.

Roxy was a great dog. She wasn't a nice dog, but she was a good dog. I picked her up from the animal shelter in April of 2000. She was about 6 months old, and not entirely fully grown.

It quickly became clear she was going to need a crate. My children and I were living with my mother at the time, and Mom was very resistant to the idea of a crate. This lasted until Roxy chewed the corners of the coffee table and dug up the carpet inside the front door. Mom was truly converted when, after I had acquired a crate, Roxy very quickly started putting herself into it when she was about to be left home alone.

Roxy was always a bit touchy. She never liked being hugged or mugged. This was a trait my daughter, not quite 7 when we brought Roxy home, could not understand. My daughter insisted on sticking her face up to Roxy's muzzle, demanding kisses. Roxy would invariably warn her, and I would tell her she needed to stop. It took Roxy finally biting my daughter in the face for her to get the message.

Once I had Roxy reasonably well trained, I started taking her along with me on work days. The first time I took her with me was to a barn in Alpine, where my trainer worked, and I would be there all day. Roxy, of course, had a grand time and was absolutely exhausted by the time I put her back in the truck to go home. About three miles down the road, I noticed this rather rancid odor coming from the back seat. I glanced back and realized I had put the Swamp Thing in my truck. Turns out Roxy had found a wonderful old mud puddle to play in.

Roxy was an only dog until my marriage in 2001. At that time, we brought home a second dog, Mauser, who had belonged to a friend. My friend had found Mauser abandoned at the boarding facility she kept her horse at, and brought him home. He quickly proved to be a bit more than she and her husband could keep up with. She had been diagnosed with leukemia some time earlier, and Mauser just needed more exercise and attention than she had energy to provide. When he methodically removed the linoleum from the kitchen floor, that was the last straw; he had to go. And anyway, he had made it abundantly clear on visits that he wanted to be my daughter's dog.

Roxy and Mauser made quite the pair. I stopped taking Roxy with me on work days, as it became clear she'd rather stay with Mauser, and Mauser wasn't reliable for a "truck dog." So most days they stayed home together.

At 2 1/2, Roxy started having some difficulty with front end lameness. I took her to the vet, and she was diagnosed with early onset arthritis. I've heard all that stuff about "hybrid vigor" and how tough mixed breed animals are, but none of that applied to Roxy, at least not in the physical sense. Once she got accustomed to the pain associated with the arthritis, it was impossible to tell she really had any trouble with it.

Roxy and Mauser came with me on my conditioning rides with Phoenix and were a constant presence in my life. They would run along unflagging for upwards of 20 miles. They were wonderful companions and a great deal of fun to have along.

When she was about 4, Roxy was along for a trail ride and started seeming just not quite right. We got to the top of a hill and she paused, looked back toward the barn, and seemed to consider going home. I noticed she was coughing quite a bit.

Yet another visit to the vet revealed she had developed chronic bronchitis. This diagnosis slowed her down significantly. The length of our trail rides was necessarily shortened, although she never gave it up entirely.

Shortly before Thanksgiving 2006, I was exercising the dogs on my mountain bike. Phoenix was laid up for reasons I no longer remember, so exercise had to happen in another way. I did not notice when the coyotes snuck up behind me and cut Roxy off. Mauser did. His actions in rescuing her saved her life, but he lost his own in the process.

Roxy was an only dog again, and my daughter had lost her dog in a cruel and untimely fashion. By February it was time to get another. We searched online and found a cute little mixed breed dog by the name of Tanner. He came to us and found his forever home.

Roxy once again started going with me to work regularly, leaving Tanner home alone most days. He turned out to have a habit of jumping out of the truck if the windows were left open, so I couldn't really take him along.

Roxy was like my little farrier ambassador. She would greet people warmly and spend her days sunning herself and playing with people when the opportunity arose. One of my clients was a soccer player and had an old soccer ball in her shed. She quickly learned to go find the soccer ball and played vigorously with that client every time we saw her. At that same barn, many people kept dog treats in their sheds, and Roxy learned to greet those who did at their sheds to get a cookie. She did get to where she loved certain people so much she'd follow those individuals around their respective barns while I worked. Once, someone found her and was in the process of taking her to their car take her home, thinking she'd been lost. After that, I put a tag on her identifying her as "the farrier's dog."

After we had Tanner for a while, he developed seizures. As a result, he, too, started coming with me to work, so I could keep an eye on him during the day. His seizures have been well controlled with Phenobarbital, and he continues to do well on the meds.

The fire in 2007 was the impetus for getting Roxy to the vet when she was having bladder control issues. She'd always had a little "leakage", since she was young. During the fire, she was really having trouble when we were staying at a friend's house, evacuated from our home. I already had Tanner scheduled for something, so I took Roxy in as well, thinking I might as well have her checked out on the off chance something could be done for her bladder control issue. It turned out she had kidney failure, and she was very sick. She was hospitalized for three days. But she was always a tough dog and she pulled through. She had permanent kidney damage as a result.

We moved to Jamul in 2008, when Roxy was 9 years old. She was definitely showing her age by then. She was on a daily anti-inflammatory. One day, while she was sunning herself in the driveway of our new home, our young cat, Tiger, came running up the driveway, being chased by a coyote. Tiger was no dummy. Roxy did not like the cat (she didn't like any other animal, honestly). Tiger made a beeline for Roxy, jumped the dog lengthwise, and left the coyote face to face with a very annoyed dog. Roxy successfully chased the coyote off. She was quite proud of herself, but it was clear she needed young dogs as back up. She was lame on three legs.

We got two younger dogs, Mac and Ash, for Roxy to teach and to back her up. They picked up the notion of livestock guardian quickly, and readily looked to Roxy for guidance.

Over the next couple of years, Roxy gradually got more lame, and developed ulcers. Ultimately she blew the cruciate ligaments in both hind legs. Due to her age and other health issues, she was not a good candidate for surgery. She would soldier on with her hind legs wobbly and unstable.

It didn't take Roxy long to become accustomed to her new disability. She continued to come along on morning walks and trail rides. I had to start locking her in the house if I was doing a ride too long for her.

Roxy dressed as a "cow" for a costume contest
 Toward the end of her life, Roxy developed dementia. We were very lucky in that it was happy dementia. The dog who, her entire life, disliked the other pets so badly she had sent every one to the vet at one time (she flung my daughter's first cat through the air; when Tiger was little, Roxy bit her badly enough to lame her; she nailed both of the younger dogs in their faces; she picked Tanner up by the upper jaw and shook the hell out of him), changed her tune and was cheerfully playing with the other dogs. This made it possible to manage her for a much longer time than would otherwise have been feasible.

Roxy got more lame, and less able to keep up on morning walks. She would also forget what we were doing, and wander off on her own. As she got more debilitated, she became more apt to snap if she felt threatened. And it was difficult to know when she'd feel threatened.

I began to notice Roxy was getting thinner. She was eating well. I had put her on a particularly tasty dog food with very small nuggets and wet food, and she was eating two cups of food a day reliably. And yet, my always thin dog was getting thinner. Just a month after my hip replacement, it was clear. Roxy was nearing the end.

I knew Roxy was the sort of dog with an inherent dignity. Had I kept her going, her bladder control would only have gotten worse. She would have begun to forget where the door was, who her people were, what she was doing at any given moment. And it would have been horrifying for her.

I took her to the vet, knowing it was time. She walked quietly and easily into the exam room, and laid quietly in my arms as she passed. I knew I had done the right thing as I watched the pain drain from her body. She was ready to go, and she left this world with the quiet dignity she had lived.
Roxy on her 14th birthday

Thursday, April 24, 2014

AERC and Omeprazole

The latest issue of Endurance News contains an article penned by Dr. Chrysann Collatos in support of changing current AERC rules to permit the use of omeprazole during competition. The majority of the Veterinary Committee supports this change (the composition of this majority is not revealed).

Historically, the AERC has had a firm "no drugs" policy. Over the years, as testing has gotten more sophisticated, it has become necessary to go from a strict policy of horses must come up with no levels of drugs on blood and urine tests to "allowable" levels. This is wise policy. In the past twenty years or so, testing has gotten pretty good. At this stage in the game, it's possible to detect a sedative in a horse's blood that was administered as much as a month before. Clearly, a month after the horse was sedated for a float, the sedation isn't doing much to the horse's physiology, and it would be ridiculous to disqualify a horse under those circumstances.

AERC's drug policy, as stated in the most current version of the rules, is as follows:

13.  Prohibited Substances and Treatments: General Provisions:
13.1 The purpose of this rule against the use of Prohibited Substances or Prohibited Treatments in equines during endurance rides is both to protect the equines from harm and to ensure fair competition. Endurance equines should compete under their natural abilities without the influence of any drug, medication or veterinary treatment.
13.1.1 Prohibited Substances or Prohibited Treatments as defined in this rule shall not be administered to or used in an equine competing in an endurance ride. No equine in which a Prohibited Substance or its metabolite is present shall compete in an endurance ride, regardless of when the Prohibited Substance was administered to it.

The most telling phrase here, I think, is this: Endurance equines should compete under their natural abilities without the influence of any drug, medication or veterinary treatment.

If Omeprazole is allowed, it violates this principle.

Many arguments have been made for allowing it.

Legend and Adequan (as well as several other chrondoprotective substances) are permitted.

Pergolide is on the allowed substances list.

It's cruel not to permit it.

And, the favorite argument of 12 year olds everywhere, all the other equine sports are allowing it.

Honestly the first two arguments hold up the best. It seems we've already moved away from the "no drugs" ethic of old. That being the case, I would be in favor of walking these back.

The idea it is cruel not to permit the use of omeprazole is a bit odd. I submit it is cruel to require an animal to perform in a sport if it can't do so without pharmaceutical support.

And of course, everyone else is doing it. Yes, FEI allows it. Yes, most other sports don't blink at the idea of drugging a horse in order to perform. These sports also allow anti-inflammatories and other pain relievers in competition. If the argument works for Omeprazole, it works for the others, too.

The primary rationale the veterinary committee's article provides is to protect the multi-day horse. The principle is, multi-day horses are away from home for an extended period, their lives and feeding schedules disrupted, and thus more prone to ulceration. This may well be true, however, the rule change would not apply exclusively to multi-day horses.

As the rule currently stands, a horse may be administered Omeprazole up to 24 hours before the start of a ride, then can be dosed again as soon as it finishes the ride and is vetted out. This means, for a single day ride, the horse may go without a dose of Omeprazole for 12-24 hours, depending on length of the ride and ride time.

It is well established Omeprazole has a residual effect protecting the horse's stomach for quite some time after it is withdrawn. Thus, especially for the one day ride, if a horse really can't do without the Omeprazole for the time of the ride, it isn't suited for endurance.

It is my hope AERC will reject this change, and leave the current rule stand.

What The Future Holds

When I had my hip replaced, I went in knowing it was highly unlikely I'll ever pick up shoeing horses again. I had stopped working in June, so it wasn't so much of a blow by the time the surgeon expressed his doubts about doing it. He thinks I'll be able to do it on a limited basis, but the risk of ruining the implant is pretty significant.

So, what to do?

I am in the fortunate position of being married to a talented man who is making enough money to support us while I explore. He also doesn't mind doing so. It's an enviable position, I know.

Late last year, I received in the mail a copy of the brochure for Grossmont Adult Education. I flipped through it, and found a few classes caught my eye. One was a gluten-free baking class. I was a little conflicted about taking it, as it occurred at a time which would prevent me from attending choir rehearsals for a few weeks, but I decided to take it anyway in the spirit of self-preservation. A second was gardening. I have a fantasy of gardening. It turns out I kinda suck at it. The third was sewing.

Sewing? Well, I had done some before, and one of my ideas for a future career has been making biothane tack. So a sewing class sounded like a good start.

I started out by measuring a couple of windows in the house and designing very plain curtains. They're horse print, naturally, and of course they didn't come out quite right, but they're pretty okay. They'll do.

In the meantime, I found a couple of patterns for things I kinda liked. Every Sunday I've been on to perform at church for the last couple of years, I've had two color choices: black or blue. It was getting boring. So I found a pattern for a top and a pastel purple fabric. I had the shirt made in an afternoon.

My daughter was home for Julian's Celebration of Life, and we were going through some pictures my mom had sent home with her. We found one of me, my daughter, my son, a friend's two daughters, and someone in my ex-husband's dragon costume (I don't think it was him; whoever it was isn't nearly tall enough for my ex). My daughter was perhaps 3 years old. We were all in our Halloween costumes. Three of the costumes I had made.

Holy crap. Evidently I used to do this quite a bit!

Now I've been able to recall more. When I was in Junior High, my friend's mother helped us make dresses for 9th grade promotion. I still remember the things she taught me. Amazing.

Since all of this, I have made:

These silly heart-shaped zipper pouches.

The top I mentioned for me.

A top for my daughter.

Yet another top for me. (I did two of these; one is black and I couldn't get my camera to take a picture of it):

And a skirt for myself.

I still have another top to make, and I will be making a dress for my niece for the Youth Choir Concert in June.

I've also acquired quite the collection of sewing machines. I have two modern Singer machines. One I had purchased to replace the previous one, which up until recently I thought was toast. It turns out the older Singer just needed some intensive TLC. It will still bind up if I go too fast, but it sews just fine.

Another is a table-mount White machine of indeterminate vintage, surely 60s or earlier, I was given by a friend. It was in the house she and her husband purchased. The previous owner's wife had used it for many years, but the machine has sat in less than ideal conditions since her passing. It sews reasonably well, but it needs a little service, as the clutch will release if the machine is run in reverse.

Lastly, I brought home my grandmother's 1956 Brother machine. After replacing the belts, it's working pretty well. When the new Singer machine was binding up and I didn't want to take the time to service it, I moved to the Brother to finish sewing the skirt, which was my latest project. I do need to have it serviced, as it will drop the bobbin stitch on zig-zag and the feed drop won't release. Still, it works pretty well, and there's something about having a piece of family history.

I have purchased a ridiculous number of patterns. Patterns for horse blankets, saddle and hay bags, fly masks, half chaps and full chaps, and Australian outback jacket. Who knows where this could lead.

I am so totally excited.

Friday, April 11, 2014

But What About DC

You may recall I have two horses. The famous (or is it more appropriately infamous?) Hoss gets plenty of "air" time. What about the redoubtable Miss DC?

My lovely little mare is doing very well. Way back in August, when it was clear I would be getting a new hip installed, I decided to breed her. I knew there would be little time to ride her, and I certainly wasn't able to ride her much before the new hip. So, she got to make a baby.

Baby Cthulhu is due in July. Already DC is showing a great deal of pregnancy. I had to stop riding her almost two months ago. She still gets to go with me and the dogs on a daily two mile hike to help keep her fit.

Pregnancy has settled DC a bit. Immediately after she was bred, her demeanor changed. She became more focused and attentive. She wanted to spend time with me. She was more apt to do what she was asked. She is more reliable and predictable.

 I took her to a gymkhana in early February. She was already showing pregnancy, and she garnered many oohs and aahs. Being herself quite lovely, the thought of her baby makes people happy.

 DC performed very well at the gymkhana. She listened to my direction and was quite clever. As we were finishing one event, several papers blew into the arena. I saw them out of the corner of my eye, and DC asked me about them, but as far as the spectators could tell, she never flinched. Indeed, several people felt the need to shout at me to alert me to the presence of the papers. I calmly responded, "Yes, we see them!" and rode on out of the arena. We didn't win any ribbons, but we had fun together and got some "girl time."

Six months

Six and a half months

Seven and a half months

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Post Surgery Report!

I went in for hip replacement surgery at Naval Medical Center San Diego (Balboa Hospital) on Wednesday, November 13, 2013.

I admit to being a bit yippy about the whole thing. Despite the relative success of the hip injection I had, which suggested my hip really was a problem, I was still worried. Worried it wouldn't work. Worried the pain would be worse. Worried something else would go wrong and leave me more crippled than I already was. Still, there was no going forward from where I was. If I wanted improvement, I had to take a risk.

My dear friend from church, Suzette Southfox, came with me to the hospital. She had offered on Sunday, and I found it felt like a good thing. Not to mention that my mother (who could not do so) was relieved at the idea of someone being there. I decided to drive myself to the hospital, as my husband was coming home the next day, and he wouldn't be happy if he didn't see me before going home. As the air port is closer to the hospital than home, if the car was at the hospital, my mother could pick my husband up and bring him to the hospital.

I was tense. I was nervous. I was practically a raging bitch.

I was the second case of the day, so I didn't have to be at the hospital until 9am. I showed up on time, which resulted in a very long wait. I learned later the patient before me had a complication which extended the time of surgery.

By the time I was finally taken back, Suzette had to leave the hospital for family obligations. But it was okay. She had been with me through the worst part, the waiting. Honestly once they gave me the Versed they could've told me they'd be amputating my arms and I wouldn't have cared. Suzette's calm and easy presence got me through the worst of it.

One of the funny things (well, funny in a rather weird sort of way) that happened was the placement of the epidural catheter. Evidently the ligaments in my spine are so hard, it was extremely difficult to get the needle through. I wound up laying on my side for almost 45 minutes while the tech tried to get the damn thing in. All the shoving pushed me several inches across the gurney. But I didn't care. I had Versed on board. And I am silly on Versed. It takes my normal level of inhibition and makes it zero. I was threatening the blood pressure cuff. I was saying the strangest things. It was all I could do to keep myself from wiggling around, and the only reason I could was being reminded every 10 seconds.

By the time I was wheeled into the surgical suite, it's a miracle I wasn't singing show tunes. I saw several smirks under the masks as I made weird remarks. That surgical team sure has a story.

If the anesthesiologist ever asked me to start counting, I have no memory. I imagine if he did, he said, "Okay, Valerie, start counting back from 10....Oh."

I awoke in the recovery room, shaking uncontrollably. My first conscious action was to check the clock. It was nearly 6pm. I'd been in surgery over four hours.

The tech overseeing my recovery of course thought my shaking was shivering. He threw a blanket over me, which I promptly tossed off. I hadn't quite found my voice yet, so had to give answers with nods and head shakes. He asked if I was cold and I shook my head. I tried to control the shaking, but realized there was little point in doing so.

Shortly after I regained consciousness, my neurological status was checked (all was well) and the epidural pump was started. I awoke able to feel my legs. I left the recovery room dead legged.

By the time I arrived in my room, I had gone almost 24 hours without eating. I was starving. I had also missed dinner. A simple meal was delivered, but I had neglected to holler about being gluten free and the question had not been asked. The result was a meal I couldn't really eat. I pulled the meat out of the bread and ate that, and ate every other thing I was able to. I did tell my nurse about my gluten restriction.

In the morning, I was delivered a gluten free. Unfortunately, the Navy's idea of a gluten free diet is to simply not deliver anything with gluten in it. So, when the meal was pancakes and eggs, I got... eggs. The result of this was an unsustainable lack of calories, especially considering the circumstances.

After breakfast, my nurse arrived and removed the epidural catheter. Over the next few hours, I slowly regained feeling in my legs.

The day after hip replacement surgery, it is customary to get the patient on their feet. When the physical therapy people arrived, I couldn't yet feel my legs. Despite the predictions of the surgical nurse during the class I attended prior to surgery, I was worried they *weren't* going to get me up because I couldn't control my legs.

As it turned out, I had just enough control over my legs to get up. I was excited about the whole process. It was a little funny, though. Standing in the walker, I had to keep a careful eye on my right leg, or it would buckle. The PT people encouraged me not to look down, but if I looked up, my leg just crumpled. I was able to change into my own nightclothes, but that was as far as I got. Due to a serious deficiency of caloric intake, I got lightheaded pretty fast. I had to sit down.

The deplorable conditions in the food department resulted in a call to arms. My family came through big time. By the time lunch arrived, I had eaten enough to feed the average family of four, and I still kept stuffing myself.

When PT arrived the second time that day, they expected I wouldn't be able to do much, based on my earlier performance. I knew what the benchmarks were for getting to go home. I had to be able to make a lap around the ward. So, I got on my feet, and that is exactly what I did.

My surgeon visited that night. When he heard I'd already made the lap around the ward, he told me I could go home if I could do stairs. So the next morning, I did stairs.

In the end, rather than four days in the hospital, I spent less than two. I was home less than 48 hours after I had gone into surgery. By day four, I had given up using the walker altogether. On day four, I made it to the top of the driveway to get my newspaper with the assistance of a cane. By the end of the week, I had walked half a mile. Within a few days after that, a mile. By two weeks, I wasn't even using the cane. At three weeks, I was back up to walking two miles a day.

I awoke from surgery with a profound sense of regret, not knowing what the outcome would be. In the end, I could not be happier to have taken this particular leap into the dark. I am back to riding. I have decided to aim for doing the Virginia City 100 in September.

No, I am not known for doing anything halfway. 

Five Words That Changed My Life

March 20, 2014, about noon

"Have you heard about Julian?"

It was my mother calling. I was heading out to get a curtain rod from the garage in preparation for completing a project I'd been fussing with for months.

The day before, my nephew, Julian, had rear-ended a friend on his way to school. He was uninjured, but his car was toast. He had simply been following a bit too close and a bit too mindlessly.

This day, I had been following news of an accident on my Twitter feed. It didn't immediately occur to me to wonder about my family. Julian's car was wrecked; he certainly wasn't driving himself to school.

But when I heard my mother's question, I knew. I knew the fatality accident in my Twitter feed was my nephew. He had taken the family van to school. He had headed out a different route than usual. He made a terrible mistake. Now he was gone.

Even writing these words three weeks later is gut-wrenching. And yet, it's an event that has changed me forever. It will affect me the rest of my life. It must be addressed.

Julian is my sister's oldest son. He had several health concerns when he was young, and it led him to be a cautious young man. Ever concerned about his own mortality, he would peruse the internet and diagnose himself with a variety of ailments. He was on the verge of achieving Eagle Scout (disclaimer: I know little to nothing about the Boy Scouts; yesterday, when my other nephew was talking about now being a "Tender Foot," I congratulated him on his tender feet). He was moved greatly by music, and attended church regularly for the music. He could've done without the sermon. He played guitar and was learning to play the mandolin. He was well on his way to college, already having been "scouted" by several schools. He was a science kid, politically aware, and passionate about his beliefs. As my son said of him at the Celebration of Life, "He was the only kid I know who could build a computer, then tie it up with rope and hang it in a tree to keep it safe from bears."

And now, he is gone.

We will never know Julian's side of the story. We cannot ask him why he crossed the double yellow line into oncoming traffic. Perhaps he was blinded by the rising sun, perhaps he overreacted to something happening in front of him, perhaps a family of black widow spiders fell out of the headliner and were dancing the Macarena in his lap. We'll never know. We do know he wasn't using his phone. Based on my knowledge of who he was, I don't believe it was a simple matter of inattention.

There's nothing to point to for "why" this happened. "Why?" is an imperfect question without an answer. It did happen. It isn't a punishment or a lesson. It just is.

This is a hard thing to live with. My sister's analogy is perfect: it's like the broken-off pieces are floating around in my body, and they occasionally slice. Sometimes the slices are worse than other times. And yet, life goes on. The world still turns. The sun still rises. People ask "how are you?" not truly interested in the answer.

It is the sort of moment that brings up various thoughts. For me, I had the oddest guilt to wrestle with. For many days, I felt true guilt for not somehow having been there, for not being the one driving the truck going the other direction that Julian collided with. As if, by being there, I could have changed the outcome. Maybe I could have avoided the impact, or changed the way the vehicles collided. It's a fantasy of control I cannot possibly fulfill. I wallowed in it for several days before I was able to set it aside.

I have learned an important thing about myself: I love my sister's children with a fierce passion only slightly outmatched by my love for my own children (mine are grown, so it's a little different than it was when they were young). I am grateful to have started spending more time with my sister and her family, starting before Julian's accident. My niece started singing with the church's youth choir, and selected a solo for the concert in June. I've been spending time with her working on her song. I will also be making her a dress (I hope to make my sister a matching one). I try to spend a little time with my nephew when I'm there, to at least say hi and make sure he knows I love him.

I wish this pain could be healed, but I also welcome it, for it keeps Julian ever present in my heart and mind. The pain of loss is the pain of love. I will be forever grateful to have known him, to have had him as my nephew, and I am so proud of the young man he was.

So, if you see me crying (this is the first time in my life I haven't been embarrassed to be seen crying), you understand why. If I seem melancholy and quiet, you know it's because I am recalling my nephew fondly. And don't be afraid to talk to me, to ask me questions about Julian, because it might make me cry. I'm going to cry anyway.

And, dear readers, I have this charge for you: Be kind to one another. Everyone makes mistakes, says things they regret, does things thoughtlessly. On the road, remember sometimes it's someone else's mistake, sometimes it's yours. Be vigilant, be careful, and above all, be forgiving and compassionate.

Most Of One, 2013

I really, honestly, do not know what I was thinking.

Before heading out to Bryce, I had decided Bryce would be our last ride of the year, and I would skip the local "Most Of One/Best Of Both" ride.

So of course, when I got home, I found I couldn't resist dropping the stupid entry in the mail.

I knew better.

My husband was home, so he came along with us to the ride. We drove up to camp on Friday afternoon and vetted in.

Already I was a bit grumpy and impatient. My hip hurt. I had already scheduled my hip replacement, and somehow that made it all the worse. Probably at least partly because committing to the surgery, without any guarantee of relief, was stressful in and of itself.

After the ride meeting, we sat down to a wonderful catered dinner. We chatted with other riders, and I was able to visit with some people I hadn't seen in some time.

We turned in early, with my obligatory glass or two of wine, which by this point I needed in order to get any sleep. The only prescription pain relief I was being given at this point was Naproxen 500, which I can tell you was a long shot from enough.

In the morning I got Hoss ready to go. Since the slip on Wipe Out Hill at Moab in 2011, Hoss's hind legs have had a tendency to swell a bit after rides and long trailer rides, so I decided I'd start using a pair of neoprene boots while riding, and do ice wraps after events. He's now gotten to where he doesn't even notice the neoprene boots, but on this morning, he had to do the "cat with bags tied to his feet" thing. I didn't think to lead him around before getting on, which I should have, since I'm aware of this phenomenon, so when he did it with me aboard I immediately thought something was horribly, horribly wrong. Fortunately other riders were able to assuage my fears.

The start was a bit of chaos. The trail was narrow and there were a lot of horses. Hoss was feeling particularly strong, and my legs were particularly weak. Despite aggressive spurs, he was able to foil my attempts at controlling him and became an absolute nightmare, at least in terms of how he made me look to other riders. He doesn't think much of passing too close and will bull his way through given the opportunity. I was trying to get him in a pocket. Other horses were slower, and there was room to pass, but he had to try to be as close as he could while passing. I looked like an arrogant bitch. I knew it, and I didn't care. I just wanted to get the day over with. My hip hurt with every step Hoss took.

We finally managed to get away from other riders and I just clung while Hoss made his way down the trail. I can truly say Hoss is a magnificent animal and incredibly forgiving and charitable. He took care of me that day, even though I wasn't doing a very good job of taking care of him.

We made the first vet check in decent time, but I really had an ugly feeling this was not our day. The vet expressed concern about Hoss's gait. I hadn't noticed anything while riding him, and of course I haven't had occasion to watch him trot from behind since his fibrotic myopathy was diagnosed. However, the second time I trotted him, Fred Beasom, the head vet, who has seen Hoss trot many many times, was happy with the way Hoss was moving. I was prepared up until then to toss him in a trailer and pull. If Fred was happy, I was happy.

Hoss of course did his typical foot dragging when it was time to leave the vet check. I assured the vet he was behaving normally, and if he didn't perk up down the trail we'd come back. Of course Hoss did perk up and behave like his usual self once we were out of sight of the vet check, and his gait felt normal, so we continued on our way.

By the time we made it to the second vet check, we were starting to push the cut off times. This only added to my poor attitude, which was deteriorating rapidly. After we vetted, I got Hoss his food and found a chair to sit in to wait out our hold. When it was time to get moving again, I dragged my butt out of the chair and got Hoss ready to head back out.

We hit the trail, and I just knew we needed to push it to make the next cut off. Unfortunately the trail was not forgiving on this section, and it was going to be a matter of going faster than we would normally over some pretty gnarly trail. Hoss knows what sort of trail conditions should be walked over, so this resulted in us having quite a few disagreements about speed. The rocky sections also happened to be in areas that were reasonably flat, and we couldn't do the safe thing and still make time.

At one point, while we disagreed about speed, Hoss stumbled pretty hard. He took three or four bad steps, then seemed fine. So we kept going, kept pushing, and managed to make it into the vet check just before cut off.

When I trotted Hoss out, I couldn't see him, as he was behind me, but the vet said he looked off. Now, at this point, I was really grumpy and in pain. I just wanted the vet to say she was pulling him. But, no, she wanted me to somehow decide he should be pulled. She wanted me to see he was lame. I couldn't see it, he was trotting behind me, and it was all I could do to jog forward without eating it. Finally another rider trotted him for me, so the vet could be satisfied I had seen Hoss was lame.

We loaded into the trailer.

Hoss was a total pill about getting in the trailer. At this point, he's been pulled enough times for me to realize he doesn't like it. No matter how badly he feels, he doesn't want to quit without finishing his job first, and he hasn't finished until we've made it back to camp. It took me hollering at him to get him to load up, a horse who usually cheerfully jumps aboard.

We made it back to camp in the trailer. I unloaded him and my husband grabbed our saddle. We went to our camp. My husband poured me a glass of wine while I tended to Hoss. Doing the Ice Tight wraps is a pain, but I think it is well worth it, at least so far. We've only tested it on one ride. Hoss's legs did not swell up, and he looked good when I removed the wraps the next day.

Overall, the choice to do this ride was kinda stupid. I shoulda stayed home. Still, the lameness was transitory. Within 24 hours, Hoss was perfectly sound and showed no signs of a problem. I suspect he bruised the outside wall of his right front foot. 

Our ride video