Light at the End of the Tunnel?

By Pam Stone, November 21, 2016

Another eight weeks, another ultrasound. And I have to admit I was feeling pretty dispirited approaching this one. Forrest had received his first in a series of three stifle injections, had been progressing really quite well. And then, two weeks before Dr. Gillis’ visit, while eating his breakfast in his penitentiary--aka, rehab paddock--he slung his hook-over bucket off the fence rail, which spooked him, then wheeled around and double barreled the fence post. And, naturally, it was his injured left hind that took most of the karate chop.

Did I mention he’s on long term sedation? Yes, Reserpine in buffered form (so as not to have projectile diarrhea, to help take off the edge on these crisp, autumn mornings).

I immediately brought him in, gave him bute and a cold hose. But within two hours, his stifle began to show a tendency toward ‘upward fixation,’ in that he couldn’t take a step out of his stall without it being locked. Upon contacting Dr. Gillis, I was told to apply a ribbon of Voltaren gel to the site, 20 minutes before tacking up, for three days, to determine if Forrest was simply sore or if he had truly re-injured himself. With my husband filming, I began the suggested couple of minutes trot. Not only was he very short behind, he let me know, in the strongest possible terms, he wasn’t happy.

I apologized, asked him to walk the rest of the way around (so that he wouldn’t learn that I would jump off if he decided to leap), then hopped off and led him back to the barn. I sent the video to Dr. G, who confirmed, yes, he’s lame, and said to just walk until his next appointment.

In my heart, I always have hope. But his stifle continued to stick until two days before his subsequent ultrasound. I had made the decision that, should he show a significant injury, I would nurse him back, but then retire him. I wasn’t about to just stick him out in a field where he would tear around and cause himself potential catastrophic harm, but I would give up the fight. It would be a real shame, but sometimes things don’t work out the way you hope and we’ve all learned that with horses, at one time or another.

I have to say that both Dr. Gillis and myself were open mouthed when his ultrasound showed healing in every view: "left femorotibial joint medial chronic synovitis, mildly less effusive. Left medial collateral ligament desmitis, moderate, generalized from origin to insertion is healing. Left medial patellar ligament desmitis, moderate, chronic from origin to insertion is healing normal. Medial and lateral menisci moderate fiber damage is healing (this is a HUGE deal); frayed fibers appear slightly flattened. Left quadriceps mild fiber damage at insertion on the patella IS healed.”

Dr. Gillis stood with her probe in one hand, her other, typing in the measurements on her lap top, and said, “He has defied all logic.” Was it God? Was it the injections? Was it his GLC5500Rx joint supplement or his Mg12? The solid rehab for the six weeks before he nailed the post?


The treatment plan continues ... "to confine Forrest to an area where he can only walk, for turn out. Continue the series of injections into the medial and lateral femorotibial joints, walk for 20 minutes, then trot for five, then walk for 10 on five alternate days per week. Then in two weeks, add another five minute trot set."

Today we had our second trot since his ultrasound and, my job, as his rider, is not to push him to be forward and active, but allow him to dictate the pace, and it’s OK if he’s behind the leg. It’s OK if he’s not tracking up. We’re in healing mode, not in schooling mode. But what is very important is that I do my best to ride every step he takes dead straight. He’s been wanting, understandably,  to carry all his weight on the right side of his body, to protect his left hind. So now I simply make sure that left hind is stepping true and I’m keeping him absolutely straight in the shoulders. That I can do.

Eleven months and counting. Man, do I loathe rehab. I loathe the explosions and the set backs and the heartbreak. But now we can both see a light. And as long as Forrest doesn’t spook at it, we’ve got a real chance.

Cleared to Trot!

By Pam Stone, September 19, 2016

That title is actually slightly misleading. Hang with me a few moments and I’ll explain why.

When Dr. Gillis returned for Forrest’s regular, 8-week ultrasound, I was frankly dreading it. Why? Because while Forrest had been very good for much of the last two months, he had had four explosive episodes in the rehab paddock before I could grab him and bring him back in. He’s a funny horse: he appears very mellow and laid back as he is led out and I think, Great, he’s going to be nice and relaxed. And he is, as he eats his breakfast al fresco. Then every now and then, he catches glimpse of, as Carl Hester named the spook during his first test in Rio, a Pokeman, and just turns inside out. His paddock is tiny but he can still twist and shout in there as I rush through the gate to grab him. “Why don’t you ‘ace’ him, Pam?” I can hear you ask. Because he also had two, violent gas colics, back to back, within four days of each other so now I’m too paranoid to slow down his gut and give him any more.

So what to do? I decided to gather an arsenal of supplements and calming agents.

I had to find an effective way to keep this young OTTB, now on his ninth month of stall rest, quiet without long-term sedation. I had been using transdermal magnesium oil, from Mg12, on my own body, after having my surgeon recommend it for reducing inflammation and pain from my broken wrist. He also told me that applying magnesium oil topically was far more effective than taking an oral supplement. The bio-availability means that soaking in the salts or rubbing it on allows 80 percent absorption into the body as opposed to only 20 percent when taken by mouth. And as a woman who suffers with insomnia and a few horse-related aches and pains, let me tell you, after taking a 40-minute soak and then applying the oil, not only did I sleep like a baby, my body was so loose that I felt as if I’d had a massage. So what dressage rider isn’t then going to think, Hmm, wonder if this would work on my horse? I applied the oil and balm to Forrest’s entire stifle region, over his croup, his heart area and just behind either side of his poll and I personally witnessed my horse begin to relax in the cross ties, and not only was he perfect in his turn out, when I tacked him up for our 30-minute walk under saddle, not only did we not have a single spook, he started out looser than he ever has and was nicely focused. The oil is simply “magnesium chloride, imported from the Dead Sea in Israel, along with naturally occurring trace minerals” according to the label, and I now use it on every horse that comes into my barn with the same results--not because they all need to be calmer but because the magnesium is also a vasodilator and opens blood vessels, drawing blood to tight muscles and, in Forrest’s case, injured soft tissue. And for me, I was over the moon to find it has completely stopped my Raynaud’s syndrome (white, painful fingers from cold temps due to spastic blood vessels). Winner, winner, chicken dinner!

Reading the clinical studies of GLC5000Rx supplement (because all these supplements claim to be effective but still can’t prove they make it past the g.i.tract) I was pretty impressed to see its addition of ‘actistatin’ improved bio-availability by 60 percent, so I decided to order it as well as the company’s probiotic, Pro Biostatin. And I will say that Forrest, who has had to have his grain cut way down, and not being an easy keeper, had been looking far too thin for my liking, suddenly appeared to be gaining weight on this probiotic, was comfortable being girthed and simply looked healthier all over. I’d had him on ulcer meds and I believe his gut is now far healthier with the Biostatin.

So, when Dr. Gillis arrived, I held my breath.

I had applied the Mg12 to Forrest and he was so relaxed and calm that as we began the ultrasound, for the first time, Forrest did not need to be sedated! I didn’t expect to see any improvement at all after his antics, but had certainly prayed and hoped that perhaps the GLC5000Rx might actually help as was claimed, and waited nervously as Dr. Gillis began to slide the probe over his affected area.

As you can see, that black, round, pocket of fluid stubbornly remains. But there was also encouraging news: ‘Left medial collateral ligament desmitis, moderate, generalized from origin to insertion is healing well.’ Yay! ‘Left medial patellar ligament desmitis, moderate, chronic, is healing normally; however, mild inflammation is seen at the origin.’ No surprise, there. ‘Medial and lateral menisci moderate fiber damage is healing; however frayed fibers are evident extending from the meniscal surfaces.’ Yep. ‘Left quadriceps mild fiber damage at insertion on the patella is nearly completely healed.’ Yay! ‘Comment: Meniscal fraying is likely causing the continued medial femora-tibial joint effusion.’ For you non vets out there: that’s that pocket of fluid on the ultrasound that looks like a horse’s eyeball.

Dr. Gillis’ recommends a series of IRAP injections or, if I can’t find a facility in which to do that, locally, Adequan or HA will give a good short-term result. And this is why we have been cleared for five minutes of trot after 20 minutes of walk, five alternate days per week to see if the added exercise helps strengthen this area or not. If not, Forrest would let us know immediately. But so far….so good.

Lucky Me!

By Pam Stone, August 04, 2016

When I first bought my modest farm in the upstate of South Carolina in 1993, I was secretly and selfishly pleased that the local Main Street was pretty much non-existent: store fronts were boarded up, the very buildings unsold even at rock bottom prices of $35,000 and $50,000. I was planning to move from Los Angeles County, home of approximately 18 million people and, having been raised in Georgia, only to see my old neighborhood unrecognizable from unplanned, sprawling development, I was very much looking forward to teaching and training out of my 27-acre facility, in a small town atmosphere, close enough to Tryon, NC, to haul the short distance to a show, and three hours from the bigger shows in North Georgia.

Then Tryon and Landrum, SC, were "discovered" by those seeking shelter from Florida hurricanes and West Coast violence and earthquakes. Most of the new arrivals were horse folk, so that was nice, and even better, some excellent trainers moved in. So, while Forrest continues his rehab, lucky me, I was able to audit FEI competitor and judge, Jennifer Roth’s, annual clinic featuring Andreas Hausberger! What a treat to drive 20 minutes to Kemper Penney’s Pennwood Farm and sit mesmerized as I watched the Chief Rider of the Spanish Riding School (and active coach of many internationally competing riders) apply his impeccable timing as he worked several horses in hand, developing half steps and full-fledged piaffe. His aids were precise, firm, absolutely correct and praise was always immediate and lavish. As someone eager to improve my own in-hand work, what an opportunity to watch someone who has developed the piaffe on, what would you guess, say, hundreds of horses? But watch I did as he worked Emily Wright's 13-year-old Lipizzaner stallion, Conversano Ivey, both from the ground, then coach his rider through some beautifully relaxed and active undersaddle work:

And I thought that Jennifer Roth, who, like me, along with Margaret Freeman, might be considering starting a horse rehab support group, as we have all been doing a lot of hand walking, lately, had a super effective ride on Kemper's 8-year-old Baroque gelding, Guapo, introducing flying changes and steadily improving the quality of the canter. Herr Hausberger echoed the thoughts of the auditors as he praised the textbook way she set up Guapo for every change.

So while I continue with Forrest's walking under saddle and look forward to his next ultrasound, how grateful I am that, if I can't be actively working my own horse, I can keep learning and absorbing, which can only lead to improving. And breathtakingly, our new Tryon International Equestrian Center is making an assertive bid to host the 2018 WEG! While others may be already listing their guest houses on Airbnb with dreams of supplementing their income, I am desperately hoping Tryon will get the nod so that I might pursue my continuing education while rooting on the best in the world, while, it is hoped, applying all I've learned to a happy, healthy, Forrest, and whomever else might be in my barn!

When It Rains It Pours!

By Pam Stone, July 20, 2016

Sometimes it seems as if bad things occur in threes. I'm holding fast to the notion that perhaps good things, also in threes, might soon follow...because since my last blog this happened:

Which, in a fall from a new student's horse ("Now before I get on, I can't afford to get hurt, so anything I need to know? Any buck or rear?" "No, no, not at all") resulted in a badly broken wrist that needed surgery with a plate and screws to be set. Despite teeth gritting pain for a solid couple of weeks, coupled with so much swelling my hand looked like a cured ham, I was told I'd be out of the saddle for at least six weeks and naturally, I had to cancel all the 'Dressage Bootcamp Weekends' I teach, booked by several students, as well as the loss of income. Not fun.

And then my beloved, 15-year-old terrier, Bonnie, died. It was a pure blessing to have this dearest dog live past the age of 15 considering her enlarged heart and 5/6 murmur on each side, but live she did, with gusto, until a growth in her urethra made it impossible to empty her bladder, and so, assisted by our wonderful vet, Dr. Evans, we helped her transition peacefully into her new life, filled with shady meadows and countless tennis balls.

Thirdly, Forrest, who has been rehabbing nice and quietly after a difficult spring, whilst grazing in his rehab paddock (after being both hand walked for 20 minutes in the early summer heat as well as hand grazed) was behaving beautifully and I had just finished picking his stall and was walking over to lead him in when a yellow jacket flew up his nostril. So you can just imagine. I'm standing at the gate, one handed, with my other arm in a sling, completely incapable of doing anything to help him and nearly in tears because, although his next ultrasound is in two weeks, there's no way he hasn't re-injured himself after the hysterical cartwheels he performed. So suffice it to say, June was pretty dismal, indeed.

I really feel for riders who have lost their motivation...I'm really understanding how it feels when it seems you're just spinning your wheels in the mud and not progressing- that all your hard fought for dressage dreams are seemingly beyond your grasp. I have to face the grim reality that Forrest may be so injured now that retirement is the only option for him. He is beginning a new supplement, GLC 5500Rx, that comes with promising reviews and clinical trials, so I will be monitoring any improvement and will shout it from the rooftops if things are looking good.

And then I look at riders like Courtney King Dye who, in reading about her current life as a blissfully happy mom, never complains about her situation and perseveres with her trademark, 'can do' attitude, I'm ashamed at my own personal pity party and began taking stock of my current situation: I'm having a wonderful time this summer performing color commentary and using my stand-up skills to work the crowd during the show jumping series at Tryon Int'l Equestrian Center in front of 10,000 people!

And my wrist is healing wonderfully fast (due, I believe in large part to, a wonderful transdermal Magnesium product I'm telling every one with aches and pain and swelling to check out, Mg12), so much so that while Forrest continues his rehab at the walk, I was able to climb aboard only 4 weeks post-op, my wrist stable and left fingers comfortable enough to close firmly around the rein. So yes, it does appear that three nice things have happened! I'm don't know what the future might bring but I do know this: no matter what, you simply have to keep moving forward. Things could always be worse and there are millions and millions of people that would give anything to trade places with those of us who have a roof over our heads and food in the fridge. So regardless of circumstances, I'm just going to keep working on an 'an attitude of gratitude.'

What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Stronger

By Pam Stone, May 06, 2016

So says Kelly Clarkson, but I dunno...since it's 'Throw Back Thursday' on Facebook as I write this, I thought I'd begin with a favorite pic of Forrest and me from last year

before sharing the disappointing news that last week our third ultrasound showed he had re-injured himself during one of his explosions during rehab--the ones that come out of absolutely nowhere, on a warm day, when he's being as quiet as a mouse. Dr Gillis, gliding the probe over the affected area said, 'While it's still a mild injury, it's going to set you back 8 weeks. So instead of walking undersaddle 30 minutes in the morning and hand-walking 20 in the evening, it will now be 20 in the morning and 20 in the evening." 

It is gutting and depressing but that's life with horses, isn't it? I allowed myself a 12 hour pity-party of whining and sighing but luckily, I had lots to look forward to: 'Boot Camp' students arriving for the weekend (they haul in Friday and out Sunday), one of which was a spectacular black OTTB that was chronically crooked, I felt, contributing greatly to his volatile nature. I believed I was as thrilled as owner Heather after I rode 'Hedge' first, sitting quietly through his ten minute tantrum and remaining relentless with my left leg until he decided to carry himself, so that Heather could climb aboard and, beaming from ear to ear, achieve beautifully, balanced work on this horse whom she'd been riding like a raw egg, afraid to 'rock the boat' and get an explosion. I'd swear this OTTB was a pricey WB, wouldn't you?

Now, speaking of pricey Warmbloods, I promised you in my last blog that I couldn't wait to attend the first CDI*** held here in my 'hood at the new, state-of-the-art Tryon International Equestrian Center. What a beautifully run show with a darned impressive turn out from the local community. Maybe it's the sushi restaurant or the Venetian carousel or the drool-worthy tack shop, but probably it was Ashley Holzer's harmonious, dynamic test on her Olympic hopeful 'Dressed in Black.' Chris Von Martels was also awarded a blue sash for the neck his lovely horse, Divertimento. With over $38,000 in prize money, I'm pretty sure we're going to see a flood of entries in the coming months.
And If I've got to be on the sidelines with my own horse, what great sidelines to be on!

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