Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Melancholy rant

"But O, how bitter a thing it is to look into happiness through another man's eyes." - William Shakespeare - beautifully said by the bard.

Every morning on the way to work I drive past the riding stable down the street from the vet's barn where I was boarding at. And every day I see riders working with their horses in the morning. And every day I am reminded of what I seem unable to have. And it really hurts. I am trying to be upbeat, but let's face it, There is a level of bitterness that I cannot deny.

I have been slowly removing all the horse related emails I'd get from tack and gear retailers. I don't want to know what's new. There's no point, really. I'm trying to clean up my FaceBook page and "unlike" a bunch of horse related sites. I don't want to know about what's new there, either.

I'm still going to ride the horse my trainer suggested this Friday. If I like him, I'll try the half boarding situation. But I have owned my own horse for the past 35 years. Hard to swallow I have to play by someone elses' rules with their horse. Depending on how much freedom I am given with the horse, this will either work for me or not. And I can't shake my dream of foxhunting and I still love the hunter paces which I will never be able to do in this arrangement.

I hate that I am tall and have a large frame. The same problem is going to haunt me until I give this up. I need a big horse. But there are many more affordable horses available that I could even consider if I could ride something between 15.2 and 16.1 hands. If I was about 5'6 and smaller, I might even have been able to find a sound, younger riding horse that I could have adopted. The big ones are hard to find.

I spent so much money trying to save Rugby that the thing I feared has happened to me. I lost him. I owe a lot of money and have nothing. I woudn't wish my luck on anyone.

In a dark place, and bitter. Thank you William Shakespeare for saying it better than ever I could.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Hey Lady, need a Ride?

I was given several offers of horses to ride after Rugby was gone. The woman at my barn with several lesson horses offered me her old show horse Petey and I've ridden him twice already. She offered him to me as a free lease but I'm not quite sure if I want to do that. Free lease means I'm responsible for full board and shoes and since I've been wrecked with vet bills from Rugby, she agreed I would not have any responsibility for vet care. Sounds okay except this horse is just too small for me. I can ride him and I have but I know I'm really not a good fit for the old guy.

The vet who cared for Rugby through all this offered me a chance to adopt an OTTB from a client of his who has the horse stabled at Aqueduct. Yesterday I rode to the track with the vet on his rounds and checked out the horse. It was a big Bay gelding, 5 years old who had raced on turf and won about $100k for his owners. He was coming to the end of his racing career and his owners just wanted him to find a good home and were willing to adopt him for free to the right person. The vet was told he'd had some swelling in his rear right fetlock and it had been x-rayed and whatever it was shouldn't affect him as a riding horse. So we checked into it.

The horse was nice enough, not particularly handsome but 16.3 hands - good size. I wasn't crazy about his long, sloping front pasterns but the vet asked to have the horse jogged for me. As soon as the horse jogged off the vet muttered, "off in right front, not hind". He did a flexion test and sure enough, the horse reacted up front. Not so good. We thanked the trainer and as we walked away the vet said softly to me, "even if you like this horse, I'm telling you no". Well, we agreed on that one. The best part of that adventure was I got to see both Aqueduct and Belmont racetracks from the "backstage" view. The stables and paddocks are so interesting. Belmont is incredible, like a city of horses with people as their servants, LOL!

I also have an offer from my trainer, the Master. One of his students has horse that was a big A circuit show horse and won the hack at Harrisburg back in his day. I know this horse because he was about the same age as Monty and we used to compete at the same shows. I'll call this horse Ruby for the blog. This horses' owner hasn't been riding him as much as she used to and the horse is at best a 2'6" jumping horse, now. He can do smaller shows but still go out and perform. The Master spoke with Ruby's owner and she's willing to have me half board him, where I only pay for half the board and half the shoes, no vet care included. Riding time is 3 days a week. The best part is, the horse is a 17 hand warmblood and should be a good match for me physically. This Friday I'm taking a lesson on Ruby with the Master to see if I like him.

The hard part there is, Ruby is stabled at the farm where my children take their lessons and it's about 30-40 minutes away. I've gotten spoiled with the 5 minute trip to the barn I've been at for the last 10 years. But maybe my karma needs a change. I haven't had the best of luck in the last year and a half being there, maybe a change will break the bad karma and something new will have a chance to come to me.

Change is hard. I will miss being in the vet's barn but maybe being at the bigger barn, with more people and show horses something will come my way if I'm out there and seen by more than my little core group of riders at this quiet barn I've enjoyed for all these years. The end of July is fast approaching, will see where I decide to go for August.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

A Good Ride

The horse blogging community is just an amazing bunch of people. To all those folks, old friends and new, who took the time to stop by my page and share your kind words of care and concern, I say, "Thank you, from the bottom of my heart". You have helped me face this and move through it.

Surprisingly, I feel okay today. I guess you could say I feel "lighter" as if the huge burden of Rugby's health and comfort has been taken from me. It really was for the best to give him into the hands of God and let him be at peace.

My friend at the barn who owns the old horse that Rugby just adored has several lesson horses there. She graciously offered one of her lesson horses, Petey for me to ride. And this morning I decided I would get back out and do it. So I went to the barn this afternoon and my friends were just thrilled to see me again and so soon. Those who were there yesterday when Rugby was put to sleep told me it was the most peaceful, quick and gentle passing I could have hoped for. I was glad to hear he looked comfortable and quiet and everyone gave him a little extra attention throughout the day. My heart felt even lighter at this news.

So I went to meet Petey and saddled up. And as I eased into the tack and walked off on a loose rein I felt such joy. I was RIDING! Riding an old show horse who enjoyed my skill and rewarded me with a lovely walk/trot hack for a half hour. It was blazingly hot and I kept it short as Petey is not exactly fit. Then I hosed him down to cool him off, allowed him to nibble on some grass for 5 minutes and put him away. He turned and gave me an inquisitive look and slobbered on my shirt. Ah, horse slobber! I thanked this old campaigner with a few treats from my arsenal and sat in a chair outside his stall for awhile with just his stall chain across so he could hang out with me, and that's just what he did.

Life is hard, but happiness is out there. There is a world full of horses, and a new journey waiting for me to begin when I am ready.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

I love you Rugby

Rugby 2004 - 2010
There is a painted angel who galloped through the gates of heaven today to run free in green fields and wait for the day we meet again. R.I.P, my Big Guy, Rugby.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Laughter amid my tears

After Monty, I promised my children that if Rugby became so sick that he couldn't be made well, that they would get to see him and say goodbye beforehand. So tonight we headed over to the grocery store for a bag of baby peeled carrots and went to see him. Rugby was still managing to stand and eating but so very thin and unsteady on his hind end. He seemed happy to see us and came over at the sound of the carrot bag crinkling.

My children hugged their big friend and he enjoyed their attention and all the baby carrots. I didn't want to try taking him out to graze as I was afraid of him falling. My boys got choked up but didn't cry, they gave Rugby carrots and then frisked off to run around the farm and jump the show jumps like they usually do. Kids have a resiliency that I envy.

I had brought my scissors to snip off some switches of his tail to have a keepsake made. To keep him busy, I gave him another flake of hay and put some baby carrots on top. He busied himself with his treat and I snipped off the first swatch of hair. After rubber banding the first clipping together I went in to get another. Again I offered him another handful of baby carrots. As I bent over to put them on the hay next to his mouth, I heard a loud, "RRRRipp!" and suddenly was aware of a breeze across my tushie.

My old faithful jeans, the most faded, loose and comfy, those of many long trail rides and days spent at the barn decided it was their time too, and simply split open across my rear along the pocket!

I slowly reached around and touched my butt, realized my undies were now on display and I laughed like a banshee. Rugby looked up at me as if I had lost it completely. My kids came running, took one look at mom's pink cotton drawers peeking out of her jeans and howled with laughter. My friend, who's old horse who is Rugby's closest horsey buddy was grooming him outside the stall so he could be with his friend one last time, looked over at my laughter and I turned to flash her and she gasped and cracked up.

Ah, the fates may be cruel but God has a sense of humor. My husband came in to see what all the noise was about and I flashed him, too. He smiled his evil little smile and said, "only you!" Then he chuckled. After that, the mood was lighter. I did tuck the grocery bag into my belt to have some butt coverage. It was the best I could do since my kids kept singing the Spongebob "I ripped my pants" song as long as it was in plain sight!

We gave our Big Guy another hug and left him to peacefully eat his hay. And though I was greatful to my husband for the cold beer we shared when we got home, my heart was lifted more by the simple act of my barn jeans heaving their sigh of relief

(I put one of my silky equestrian scarves inside the opening so the rip would be more visible in this picture.)

Letting Go

Rugby hasn't much strength left. Last night when I went to see him, he was standing in the stall, looking out his window, staring out into the grassy place in the yard. When I said his name he turned to look at me and nickered. I was shocked, he hadn't done that in a long time. I put on his fly mask and halter and took him out to graze.

He walked to the grass with a purpose and was eating greedily but he's begun to drop weight again and now he's very unsteady on his hind legs. Instead of walking on them he lifts them with each step and slowly paddles the air a few inches above the ground before placing them down. Sometimes they buckle and he has to right himself. He's weakening and I can see it is only a matter of time before he just goes down and I don't know if he will be able to get back up.

I let him graze for a long while then slowly led him home to his stall. He walked in carefully and tried to find a comfortable place to stand. I took off his halter and fly mask and he gently rubbed his head against me. Then he did something he hasn't done since before he got sick. He put his head over my shoulder and arched his neck to pull me towards his chest. He used to do this all the time - it was his way of hugging me.

I choked up as he turned and went back to staring out the window. I offered him some of the soft, sweet timothy hay that just came to the barn and he was happy to have it. He was still shifting his hind legs awkwardly and I thought for sure he wasn't going to be able to stand the night. But this morning he was still up and out in turn-out.

I took him out to graze and he's still bad in his hind end. There were two times I feared he'd lose his balance and go down. And I knew it's time to let him go. So I called the vet's office and have asked that they make him comfortable today and tonight, offer him whatever he can eat and tomorrow to have him put down.

I knew why he'd hugged me last night, he was saying goodbye.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

I wish I saw what others may see

I know I should probably just have him put down. But Rugby is still here. Yes, they did administer Banamine yesterday afternoon and when I got to the barn last night, he was standing, walked out of his stall with me and down to the grass and hand grazed happily for about 40 minutes. But then when I put him back in the stall, he stood and I could see by the way he became very quiet with his ears slightly back and how he kept shifting his feet that his insides were bothering him again.

I expected a call this morning that he didn't make it through the night. But he did and was out in his turn out paddock at 9:00AM today. I walked down to see him and put his fly mask on as the small gnats were annoying the poor guy. When I work around him and interact with him, he still wants to interact with me. I can obviously see and feel he's not well but I don't feel that will to live is gone. But is he really living now or just existing? God, I don't know.

I contacted the woman with the farm in upstate NY and she has agreed to take him and keep him in her small quarantine pasture with a shed and watch him. I trust this person completely with his care but I'm having difficulty in saying it's a done deal as it will require a long trailering to get him there. Even though I will hire a trailering service to ship him in a box stall gooseneck so he has some comfort level, I don't know if he can handle it at this point. What happens if he colics and dies on the trailer? How horrible for him and what will it cost me to have the trailering service handle that?

I don't want to be ungrateful to her but I am also reaching out to people I trust here and seeing if there's something for him closer to home.

Should I even do this at all? Would it be more peaceful to end it for him here, in familiar surroundings with people he knows? Or do I take the chance and send him away, not feeling well, into a strange new situation, however kind and safe? Am I only hanging on because I have run up HUGE vet bills for my budget and if I lose him I have NOTHING. I have no savings to try and find a new horse but debt that still must be paid. Will I ever be able to own a riding horse again?

Every time I think I can let go, he shows just a little more heart, and acts a little like himself and then I'm torn apart again. Even though I've had to have my past two horses put down, I just KNEW that they had come to the time to let them go. Both circumstances told me immediately my only option. And though it hurt, I was at peace with my decision. I have no clarity, no answers and no peace.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Two Difficult Choices

So, as of today's phone conversation with my vet, I am at the fork in the road with two difficult choices.

One fork is to have Rugby euthanized now, before he slips deeper into discomfort and suffers further.

The other direction is to see if a woman my vet and I know and trust is comfortable having Rugby sent to her farm to live on pasture and see if living in the field on grass without the confines of stall and a stalled horses diet will save him. We will send her enough Banamine to keep him comfortable but will take no more measures medically to prolong this. We don't know if he will survive the trip upstate to her place. We don't know if she will feel comfortable with it and agree to a potentially terminal case to be in her care. And I completely understand if she says no.

If she doesn't agree to it then I will not let him suffer any more.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

We need a Miracle

Long day at work and with family today. My vet called today to tell me Rugby has been laying down for most of the day. He's quiet, but you can tell he's not feeling so great. At this point there isn't much else we can do. The vet strongly suggested we pull one more blood panel and see if we have some revelation, at the very least to help me decide what to do. So I said go ahead.

My husband and I went to see him late tonight. He was laying down. He looks so thin. I went in and sat with him and talked to him and hugged him. He kept reaching his nose toward his water bucket hanging on the wall about a foot above his face so I asked my husband to bring it down for him. He sipped up about a quarter of the pail. I started crying. If he was thirsty and just didn't have the strength to get up for a drink it doesn't look like he's going to win this time.

Just sad. Waiting for what tomorrow brings.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Did I speak too soon?

I posted earlier today that it seemed Rugby had the worst behind him and he was slowly progressing toward getting better. Well, tonight I was hit with a call from the vet that he was down in his stall on his side. I went to see him and made him get up so I could walk him. Unfortunately he was showing some of the discomfort signs he'd exhibited in the past when his condition was really bad. The vet gave him a dose of Banamine and that's all we will do. We put him in a larger stall for tonight and we'll see what happens.

I'm shot. I can't do this much longer. Monty died and took all the good luck with him. If I lose Rugby too, I am finished.

I guess where there's life, there's hope

Rugby is still here. He has been through hell and is slowly coming back. At the time I last posted it was pretty bad. I finally requested that my vet just give him antibiotics. This was a suggestion from one of the vets consulted on Rugby's case. My vet was hesitant to do it since he had no idea exactly what he was administering antibiotics for, as nothing definitive has shown up on any tests. My vet was concerned if he gave Rugby antibiotics without knowing what he was treating, we could kill off the good bacteria in his gut and give the bad stuff a chance to get stronger. I saw it as our last chance. If this didn't work, I was finished and if he had another bad episode, I was going to have him euthanized. He has maxed out a credit card, caused me major emotional stress and it's affecting my family.

Things didn't change immediately for Rugby upon introduction of the antibiotics. They were broad spectrum and very strong. We were watching him very carefully and he was being medicated as needed in addition to the antibiotics to keep him stable. Then as the antibiotics ended their course, he just didn't get worse. He wasn't getting better, in fact he dropped even more weight and if I had to guess, his body weight registered about a 2 on the equine body condition score scale. He was stable, but now very. very weak and still laying down a lot.

The vet carefully gave him a judicious dose of steroid to stimulate his appetite and Rugby has slowly but consistently been eating himself back to life. I have been going to see him every evening and hand grazing him for up to 45 minutes. He eats a few "mini meals" throughout the day and at this time I'd give him a 3-3.5 on the BCS scale.

What I am still worried about is his "bottoming out" in his back end. Sometimes when he walks, his hind fetlocks just seem to knuckle over and he stumbles behind but quickly rights himself. The vet feels it is just extreme muscle weakness from the muscle wasting that went on through his illness. As he regains his weight and muscle, his co-ordination should hopefully improve. He's also developed a rather unsettling cough. It's not constant but usually happens when he starts to move. Again, the vet feels this is residual from his illness and it's compounded by the extremely hot and humid weather we've been having here in the northeast.

And slowly, Rugby has been returning to himself. His eyes are brighter and he's more alert. He's happily returned to his "home" stall from the medical barn and I can see he's been gaining weight faster since he's back in the company of his horsey friends. If I jog as I'm leading him, he will gamely try to jog along with me, sometimes he'll even canter a stride or two. Then he'll cough and we quit. He is sniffing my pockets for treats and I have thrown all my hand feeding rules to the wind and buy him a small bag of fresh carrots almost every night and snap them into pieces for him to enjoy.

It really hit me about a week ago, when I came to the barn in the evening on that first really hot day. Rugby was standing under his stall fan, waiting for me to feed him some treats and take him down to the grass. I led him out of the medical barn and noticed a new patient's stall door was open and the lights in the clinic were on. The card on that horses' door read "colic". Never a good sign. About 20 minutes into our grazing time, the vet came to the clinic. And a little while later, I heard the sound of the farm tractor starting up. And my heart sank. At 9:20PM the tractor starting up means only one thing - the poor horse didn't survive the colic, had been put down and now needed to be removed from the clinic for disposal.

I kept grazing Rugby and hoping the removal from the clinic would be finished before I had to stop grazing but it wasn't and I had to stop Rugby's grazing and lead him back to the barn. If I stayed on the grass any longer I was afraid for my own horses' health. So we walked quietly back, and as we passed the remains of the poor, chubby little chestnut who didn't make it, I looked at my big, skinny horse and whispered to him, "You're still here. I don't know how or why but you're still here. That horse was probably feeling well and healthy just 24 hours ago and you have been gravely ill for weeks but you're still here. You don't want to go, do you?" All I got for an answer was a sniff search for treats upon our return to his stall and he dumped my grooming bag to see what was in there, too. For Rugby, that was as good an answer as any. I guess as long as he has someone to spoil him with snacks and love, he wasn't ready to go.

Thank you to all if you kept us in your thoughts. I am sorry I left this blog in limbo but it was too depressing to keep posting about as it all was rolling over me. I just want to believe now that I will get my rideable horse back at the end of all this.