Forward and Back, Rinse and Repeat

Rehab is so incredibly frustrating. I hate trying to figure out how to write these posts now that we are pretty exclusively just walking. Especially hate writing them when we take another step backward.

Scarlet had been doing really well most of this week. We had gotten up to about 7-9 minutes of walking. He had nice distinct hoof beats. Not much interfering. He would even march us back to his stall. I was really pleased.

Friday I added about three minutes onto our loop. Saturday we walked a short bit and grazed a lot. Saturday we also were struggling to get back to our stall. We had lots of loss of his hind end. People kept asking if he was alright and if I needed help. I get that it comes from a good place but jesus people. You see me clearly walking a lame horse carefully. Of course he isn’t okay and no I don’t need help. F off. (mostly me being pissy that my horse isn’t fully healthy. I didn’t actually tell them to f off.)

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Emotionally Saturday was ridiculously hard for me to deal with. I should be able to walk Scarlet a few minutes more without this huge setback each time. Sunday could have been worse. He was fine walking for a short walk with only a couple of issues. Its difficult for me to deal with such huge downswings like this.

I got on the schedule for an acupuncture treatment. Unfortunately, the vet doesn’t have any openings until the beginning of March. So we are going to have to continue as we are until then. Unless someone drops an appointment. Always possible. But not something I will bet on.

Reading back, this post looks like I’m looking for sympathy. Really, its not. I don’t have it all that bad. But my problems are still problems for me, so I can’t discount that. This is more a rant to expunge the doubt, fear and frustration. If I keep them in, I will explode. It’s not so bad that I’m going to have a breakdown. But on a bad day, it might be the straw to break my camel’s back. Hopefully not. Hopefully we recover and the treatment helps a lot. I just really want to continue forward.

Exciting News! (Plus Regular Scarlet Update)

Please welcome Lina to the family!

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We got a puppy! Its kinda the whole reason I got a house. I was very insistent that we have a decent yard for puppies and possible future kids. I’d planned on trying to make the puppy happen sooner, but then Scarlet’s neuro issues happened and I couldn’t justify the cost. So I put my puppy wishes on hold.

But about two weeks ago, a friend texted me asking if I needed a free golden/husky mix puppy. Need? No. Want? Hell yeah! Her coworker’s neighbor breeds goldens. She’d gotten a golden from him and its a good dog. He rescued a husky and day one she got loose and happened to be in heat. So he ended up with a litter he wasn’t expecting. So I managed to talk my husband into it, contacted the breeder and set up a date to pick up the puppy.

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We brought her home on Saturday. It was a fair drive from the breeder to our house. She didn’t like the car very much. She rode on our laps the whole drive but was concerned about the noise and corners. Luckily, she fell asleep for a good chunk of it.

Bringing a freshly weaned puppy home is hard. She had a bunch of siblings and half siblings to play with, not to mention a bunch of farm animals as well. So she’s feeling very lonely. Shes pretty cuddlesome so we are keeping her occupied as well as well as we can.

I’d love for her to spend more time out in our backyard. She seems to prefer it, likely because she was raised outside. But it just so happens to be raining. So we go out for pee breaks and spend some time running around out there to exhaust her. But I don’t want to have to dry off a puppy every time she wants to come inside. And she wont spend time out there without me or my husband sitting with her for now. Its only supposed to rain until Monday so she might get more time out there soon.

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Scarlet is doing okay. I’d like to get him another acupuncture visit. Trying to figure out where to get the extra money from. Its been about a month since his last one. He isn’t struggling at the moment, not exactly. He’s definitely lopsided in what he can use of his body though. I’m okay with that to an extent. It’s going to happen due to his nerves just regrowing as they like. But I’d like to get the vet out since we had such a tough time with the farrier.

While I figure out where to come up with the money for that, we are just doing our stretches and walks as normal. We aren’t back up to the full walking distance that we had been. I’ve been busy with my half marathon training which means I have less time in the morning. And I want to make sure that he is fully okay before we take another step up in distance. He’s pretty content though. He gets treats, gets grain, gets groomed and has to do a small bit of exercise. I think he’s pretty comfortable as he is. It’s just a long road ahead.

Forward and Back

Rehab is a frustrating cycle. For the most part, its pretty boring. You just do the same thing you did the day before for a while and then add a tiny bit more of whatever when your horse can handle it. But sometimes, those tiny steps forward don’t work out.

I initially had Scarlet walk over a pole twice. But then he was very sore and having issues with his hind end getting disconnected more often while walking. It went away with a few days of non pole walking. I decided to try just once over the pole. Similar, less extreme result. I probably could have pushed and have him continue to do that. But the losing his hind end is… mildly scary. He pivots around uncontrolled for a bit until he gets his legs back under him. Its not very safe for him and its not super safe for me.

So I decided to step it back with maybe more arena walking as that is slightly harder for him than just walking on the hard ground. He did well with that. I think it was harder for him but an acceptable level. I’m not sure if it is something that is going to prep him for eventually stepping over a pole. I was contemplating whether we should try something else when the latest setback happened.

He got his shoes done last Friday. It was difficult for him. He was having a bad balance day and it was really hard to get his hinds done. The farrier did his best, braced him and sped through it. But it was still really hard.

So Saturday Scarlet was really sore. So sore that he’d swing his hind around because he couldn’t catch himself and he wouldn’t seem to be able to stop. I ended up doing something mildly stupid and helped brace his hind so that he could get it under him. It worked. We had the hardest time walking back to the stall. It was very scary.

I’m positive that it is just soreness making it hard for him to compensate muscle wise for what nerves he is lacking. Its the same reaction that the pole caused, just more extreme. I don’t really have the extra funds to have the vet out for another treatment yet. It hasn’t been more than a couple of weeks since our last one. And he was great on Thursday so I decided we are going to take a step back.

Sunday I went out and groomed him. Then did his stretches inside his stall. Then we exited the stall carefully and did a very slow, gentle three-ish minute walk. Just enough to get him stretching. He loosened up a bit by the end of the walk so I think that was the right choice. He wasn’t really struggling and he was walking a bit better at the end than the beginning.

So we’ve had some more setbacks. And I’m unhappy with it. My horse is struggling and there isn’t any way for me to magically make him better. Sometimes that weighs on me a lot. I’m pretty sure we have a really good chance for getting back to a lot more work, maybe even 100%. But it is long. And it is hard when we go backward.

My plan is to continue with the gentle walks and take the distance based on how Scarlet feels each day. I think he will probably recover by the end of the week. And then I need to be very careful about any increases. Lots of thinking will go into them and I will not hesitate to give Scarlet a gentle walk day if he seems to need it. It’s a process. A long one but we will make it work.

Pole Time!

Scarlet has been doing really well recently. We’ve been able to consistently do our walks with minimal hind end disconnect. He seems to have more of his autonomous nervous system back. He is also depending on it more. Which works until it doesn’t. But mostly it is working.

I decided to time our walk this week. I hadn’t ever been timing them. I’d been gauging them on distance walked so we didn’t just arbitrarily walk around until I felt like he was done. But timing showed me that we’ve been walking more than I thought for a while.

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So yeah, we’ve been doing this particular walk for somewhere on two week. True, he’s gotten better at moving and it has become easier for him as we go along. But we’ve been doing it without issue. I guess he is better than I had thought!

After walking through the arena each day, on Friday I felt like he would be able to do the poles. If he had been super bad on the first walk over, I wouldn’t have asked him to do more. And it was difficult for him to lift his hind for sure. But he did well.

One of the major things I notice with his hind end is that he is short strided and stabby. I’d like to encourage him to lift his legs in a more normal manner. Given how difficult this was, I imagine we are going to plateau at this exercise level for a while. That is okay. He can take whatever time he needs to recover. It’s much easier to say that when I feel like we are on an improving track. I miss riding him like I miss breathing. It’s hard to not do that. But I feel hopeful that we will be able to ride together again. So I will let the rehab go at the pace that is needed. We will get there.

Better And Weirder

I managed to squeeze in a brisk walk Wednesday morning before I had to leave town for a work trip so I only spent the time fretting about Scarlet getting two days off from his exercises rather than three. I was pleasantly surprised to find that he was stiff but not bad when I came back. In fact, he wasn’t even as bad as he was on New Years day. This was very cheering and I was happy that we were able to stay mostly on track with my hoped for gradual level up for him.

I’d also been able to talk with my vet about how to treat him going forward. She suggested one final weekly treatment and then I can go out to anywhere from one to three months based on how he is doing. She suggested keeping this going for a whole year.

Once every three months is really doable. I talked with my husband and he is conditionally on board. He wants to revisit every time scheduling comes up. Which is totally reasonable. We don’t know where Scarlet will be physically in three months and we don’t know where we will be financially in three months. So he is getting one more asap and then the tentative plan is to go to three months-ish and reconsider then.

As for walking, Scarlet has been doing pretty well. The rain is staying away so we’ve been able to walk for weeks consistently. It’s been really great. I can tell that his autonomous nervous system is coming back more and more. It’s hard to see day by day but I can see it from the way he walks. We’ve got some great moments when he is focused on me and walking. And then he gets distracted and tries to depend solely upon his autonomous nerves. And that doesn’t go well. His hind end gets very disconnected and swings around wildly. I really do need his attention when we are walking but I can’t always get it. But he can recover fairly well so I mostly ask him to halt and then he figures it out.

He also has a bit of interference happening in his hind end with his pasterns rubbing against each other. L. offered to let me see if a pair of hind boots she has fit him so I’m going to try those soon.

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Sunday I had hoped to try walking him a bit in the arena. I wanted to increase his walks by distance but I’ve been thinking that the pole work should be starting soon as his hind end is still really stabby. I want to encourage him to lift his hind. So I planned to have him to a large circle in the arena and we will continue until we can do a full lap.

Soft footing is harder on him while walking. He seems to lose control of his hind end quicker. He is pretty weak in his hocks and twists while walking. He was having a bit of those issues early 2019 and I’d been backing him to help improve his hind strength but he lost all of it due to the time off and the neurological issues. Its just something that will have to improve with time. But stepping over poles is a more intense exercise than just shuffling along while walking. I didn’t want to have poles plus soft footing at the same time.

He felt like he was having a few more off moments on Sunday than I’d like for changing the exercise. I decided to play it safe and give him another day before walking him in the arena. We did head to an arena with a gate so I could let him roll. The last couple of times he’s rolled, he hasn’t bothered to walk much more than the necessary feet to get away from the fence before rolling. Sunday, he decided that he needed to circle the entire arena to find the perfect place. It gives me a heart attack to see his hind wiggle like it does when he tries to lay down right now but he is fully loose so I have to let him figure out his balance on his own. He really did enjoy the roll. He feels so good when he gets up that hes tried to run off from standing up several times. Its very awkward looking as he doesn’t move well enough for that yet.

He’s doing well now and I’m super happy with that. I have plans going forward. I have a treatment plan with my vet. It even looks like we are going to have a decent amount of dry still in the future. We are going to be able to build up more muscle. My hope is to get some pole walking by the end of the week but we will see how that goes. No pushing him if he isn’t ready.

New Year, Same Update

Coming into 2020 without having the ability to ride my horse is a bit weird. I don’t even know for sure that we will ever get back to there. But I still have him and I definitely am not going to lose him.

Our days are basically the same each day. We’ve had all three acupuncture and equipulse treatments that my vet suggested trying at first. Not exactly cheap at $212 a pop but they surprised me with their effectiveness. The first treatment had amazing results. His tail moved, he had even steps, we could walk farther. After the second treatment, he seemed to have done something to tweak his leg in the stall. I think he got too enthusiastic while rolling.

The third treatment was last Friday. I had walked him on Friday morning and then walked him Saturday mid-day.  Saturday he seemed really really off. He interfered/stumbled with his back end. He was also breathing hard when we had only walked for less than five minutes. I put him back in his stall rather than going longer and proceeded to freak out. I managed to talk myself into chilling and waiting to see if its just a bad day or a regression.

Sunday I went out and he was much better. He was a tiny bit stiff when we started but walked out really easily. We did a full ten minutes and he was able to move himself through his hind end exercises rather than me doing them myself. We also rolled in the arena. I walked him far enough into the arena that I wasn’t concerned about him getting too close to the fence while searching for a spot to roll. I let him go and hadn’t even finished latching the gate before I heard a grunt and saw him already down rolling. He wasted no time. After he got up, he farted off and cantered then trotted a few steps toward me. So safe to say, he felt pretty good on Sunday.

I went out this morning and he was still feeling better. So I’m a bit more relaxed about Saturday just being a bad day. He moved out very well and was happy to walk for the whole ten minutes. He did well during the stretching exercises except for getting spooked and having an in place shying moment. I’m just glad he did it in place because he would have stomped on my foot otherwise.

He wasn’t really breathing hard when we were done. I do think he felt a bit more tired as he had a very relaxed posture to him. I want to extend the amount of time we are walking but I will have to wait until this weekend. I have to go out of town Wed-Fri for work. I don’t want to increase the time and have him be sore and not out of his stall for three days.

I’ve got lots of plans for how I want to increase his walking. I’m taking it very easy and erroring on the side of caution if he seems any sort of too tired. But I do want to do things that will help encourage him to lift and put down his hind feet better. He is still taking short, stabby steps there, obviously. I need to add a bit of arena walking in before we try to do poles. I’ve only been walking him on the harder ground as his hocks are very weak seeming. He tends to interfere more when we have to walk over any softer ground. I think it twists more under his hind. We are working on getting him stronger. It will take time. But I’m making sure that any increases are very small so that he can build up and not cause himself any more issues.

I do also need to have a conversation with my vet sometime soon. I want to talk to her about what we can do now for treatment. I cannot keep up the weekly treatments. Its too expensive. But I do believe that they help. So I don’t really want to drop them completely. We will see what she says.

Hopefully, we’ve gotten to a place now where all Scarlet needs is time and slow exercise to get back to full health.

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Early Days

Scarlet got a spa day on Tuesday. The vet was able to do it without me there since I couldn’t be there due to having to work. But she sent me pictures!

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She also took a look at his slice while she was there. She trimmed back the flap and scrubbed of the dead skin so that it could heal well. It looked so much better as soon as she did that.

On Wednesday morning we went for a walk. I’ve become an expert at using every single sense to try and figure out how he is moving. I couldn’t tell if it did something neurologically but it did something. I think the first thing that it helped was to relieve his muscle soreness. He is very oddly balanced on his hind end at all times so I’m sure that his legs are sore.

When we were walking, he did very good. We didn’t have any of the weird disconnect of his hind end that day. He also wasn’t breathing quite as hard as he has been on previous walks.

I was tentatively excited about this. I didn’t want to be too excited if it turned out that we were just having a good day.

Thursday was so freaking cold. I know that I am a thin skinned San Diegan but it was cold. I’m pretty sure it was below freezing. I know this because the water buckets were frozen over. The cold makes things harder for Scarlet and he was definitely more stiff when we got out of the pen but I’m pretty sure it was just the cold. As he warmed up, he moved much easier.

Friday we had distinct hoof beats the entire time! He generally starts off dragging the toes of one or both of his hind feet. This time, not at all even from the beginning. I was so happy I wanted to start crying.

I don’t know for sure if acupuncture and pemf actually do anything for the nerves. There are some studies regarding how acupuncture can help with nerve regrowth. But even if it just relieves his sore muscles, it allowed him to move easier and more evenly. This is key to building muscle correctly to support himself better. He needs the muscle right now since he doesn’t have the nerve control.

I am scheduling at least two more sessions. At $212 a pop, they aren’t exactly cheap. But I’m willing to try a couple more and see if we get some results there as well. If so, maybe we wont need more or we could do them at a lesser frequency. The rain coming is going to put a cramp in our walking schedule. Hopefully it wont be too wet and we will still be able to get out some.

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Horses…

Horses really aren’t designed to live. They manage to find every opportunity to hurt themselves. I know this and yet I’m still surprised when it happens.

Scarlet managed to gouge a hole in himself on Friday. I’m being a bit dramatic with that statement. But he did manage to slice himself a nice little skin pocket between his front legs. I think he did it with his new shoes. They didn’t feel sharp when I went over them so I’m wondering if he just manged to pinch when he rolled and tore himself open? Its just the skin so nothing else major looks to have been affected.

I did clean it up and snap some pictures to ask the vet if I should be concerned. She said to keep it clean and put some ointment in there. So I’m flushing it with betadine and putting some neosporine in there. Seems to be okay.

The thing that bothered me is about 3 inches in front, the space directly below his pecs is swollen. It does go down with us walking so I’m not too sure. I’m keeping an eye on it and feel it to see how hot it is and what the texture feels like every time I’m out there. (I’ll put the graphic pics at the bottom of the post)

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Other than this a few hours later, Scarlet actually did really well for his shoeing. The farrier has a couple of other neuro cases so he knew what he’d need to do to make it more comfortable for him. But he also did say that Scarlet has way more balance than he expected. He was a bit wobbly for picking up the back legs but the farrier just held still with the leg in the air and let him regain his equilibrium. He was also done in just over 30 minutes.

We’re still walking around five minutes. He’s getting a bit better at his leg stretches. The walking is still difficult. He can do it just fine for the most part, but does have moments where his back end kinda disconnects and he sidepasses with his hind to try to regain it. I just stop him and let him figure out his legs and then we move on. It seems to be working okay. We’ve got about a week of sun left so I’m hoping we can continue to walk to build up his hind end muscle a bit more. He’s just so weak that it looks like he has a really difficult time.

I did decide to give acupuncture and PEMF a shot. We’ve got our first session on Tuesday. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it helps him out. I’d really love to get him back to a better place before the rain makes it harder for us to walk again.

Below: Friday, Saturday and Sunday pics of his wound.

Support System

Nothing has really changed with Scarlet. He seems roughly the same since the quick improvement to his leaning as of Friday after the set back. He’s stiff and wobbles. He loses track of his hind end randomly when we walk and has to scramble to fix it.

But he is walking. And he is still eating and headbutting me for treats. He does his stretches even if he is somewhat resistant to the ones for the hind legs. We’ve got just over a week of sun in the forecast so I’m planning on walking as much as we can to help him with stiffness and building strength.

But this post is more about the people who have been keeping me sane. It’s only been two months of dealing with this and if everything goes well, we’ve got months more. The initial uncertainty was horrible for me. I went through waves of panic and somewhat-okay-but-really-just-dealing almost daily. I cried a lot. I’ve lost Scarlet once before when he was sold the summer before college. I know just how badly losing him will break me. And that terrifies me. I’m not ready (and likely never will be) to lose him again. So my normal emotional control was just gone.

I’d have absolutely collapsed into a pile of goo, tears and panic if my husband hadn’t been here. He’s been amazing with letting me cry and taking care of me. He’s had those hard talks and has even agreed to spend a bit more on trying to fix this than we’d ever talked about for emergency vet bills. He’s been the safe place I’ve needed through this whole experience and I can’t even express what his help has meant to me.

My friends have also been amazing. Karen and L. have listened to a crazy amount of panic ranting texts. They’ve talked me through the various research and treatment I’ve read. They’ve talked me off the panic ledge. And they’ve also added a dose of reality with giving me questions to consider when talking to the vet and questions to ask myself about how far can we go with this. Its incredibly hard to deal with something like this and have no one who really understands horses to talk about this with so they’ve been integral to my sanity.

My new vet has also been amazing. I regret not getting a second opinion immediately. The support I’ve received from her has been nothing but stellar. She’s responded to many emails and looked at many videos that I’ve taken of his movements. She’s even scolded me for castigating myself for making him worse. This last month, even with his setback, has been much easier than the first month because I know I’ve got a professional in my corner who has my back.

Another friend who has helped me is Holly. With Uno being in the stall right next to Scarlet, she’s able to see Scarlet super easily when she goes out to the barn. She always texts me and lets me know that he’s doing well or that she saw this that day. She’s even offered to walk Scarlet when she is out so that he gets some more exercise. I’m probably going to take her up on that. I think he will benefit more from having multiple short walks.

Even my team and coworkers at work have been supporting me. My team allows for a very flexible schedule so that I can potentially show up late from staying at the barn a bit too long. They are okay with me working from home on the bad days. My coworkers ask how my horse is doing and genuinely care about the answer.

And you guys. The blogsphere has been so supportive while I’ve been moaning about what is happening. Hearing people say they are keeping Scarlet in their thoughts matters a lot. Even though it is sometimes hard to make myself do the mental work for posts, it is worth it to update you all and hear back your supportive words.

I’ve had support from so many sides. I know we’ve just started dealing with Scarlet’s neuro issues but the first few months have been bad. You never want to be in a situation where you need the emotional and mental support system that I’ve experienced. But since I am, I cannot begin to describe how much I appreciate it. I’m so grateful to be in the place that I am in my life, with the people I have.

Thank you.

I F***ed Up

The title is how I feel, though I’ve been trying to get out of that mindset as there wasn’t any way I could predict this. Scarlet got worse. On Tuesday evening I put his blanket on him in preparation for the rain starting that night. He had pinned his ears at me and I thought it was amusing that he was so invested in the nekkid life that he was not happy with the blanket.

Wednesday it was very wet and we did not walk. I pulled his blanket partially off and groomed him, then did his stretches. Thursday morning I pulled his blanket off and watched his hind end lean to the side while trying to move around. I took him out of his stall for just a moment to see him walk. He made large crescents with his hocks and one of his hinds was toe dragging a fair amount.

I panicked. Obviously I did. I immediately started beating myself up for being stupid enough to put a blanket on my neurologically unsound horse. Its the only major thing that has changed. He’d been through rainy days where he couldn’t access the rest of his stall and hadn’t slid backwards so drastically.

I called the vet and she thinks it was likely a perfect storm of rain, plus rolling and struggling a bit more with the blanket and it getting cold. I was able to get more bute from her that day but I had to wait until the evening to give it to him as I’d given him the Equioxx that morning before I saw him move.

I’m so thankful that my team at work is very understanding and were okay with me ditching work to go meet the vet. I also worked from home for the rest of the day. The vet had suggested I try a hot, wet towel to try to and help him loosen up. Scarlet wasn’t sure about that idea but he was okay with the treats I stuffed in his mouth while doing that.

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I went out at noon, 4 and then 7:30. Holly was out at 4 and was able to take a couple of videos of us moving. He’d actually loosened up some during the day. I think the heat of the sun was very comfortable for him. So the videos of him walking are much better than he was first thing in the morning.

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He already showed some improvement Friday morning. He wasn’t leaning as much. I took him on a small walk and he seemed to be moving better overall. The fact that we could get out of the stall and go on a walk definitely caused me to take a breath and not continue freaking out.
Saturday morning he seemed fairly stiff. The leaning wasn’t very pronounced. But he definitely seemed stiff on his left hind. He ate his grain and then we got out on a walk. We did about five minutes. He seemed fairly alert and a bit energetic. He didn’t drag his hind at all and after walking he seemed to be slightly looser. He was resisting me trying to manually stretch his back legs. He allowed for the right leg to be stretched but the left he was very resistant on. I’m hoping that he will feel stable enough to allow me to stretch that one. I think it will help him a lot but I don’t want to force him. It’s not safe if he feels off balance for either of us.
So, I’m having issues with feeling guilty and being devastated that Scarlet got worse. We’d had such progress for the last couple of weeks. We’d graduated to fifteen minutes of walking and had even gone over a pole twice. It really sucks to have a backslide and feel responsible for said slide. I really hope that he gets to a better spot after a couple more doses of bute.