Saying Goodbye To Toppers + Winter Update

After my super positive year-end post, I guess it was inevitable that 2019 would start out terribly, right?

A couple of days before I headed to Temecula, California, for my first assignment of the year, Oh So started to seem not like himself. I had only been able to hack because of snow, and he just seemed pretty slow. I actually had to kick him along, which is not like him.

I decided to call the vet on the day I left for California because he was sitting listlessly in the stall, and he ended up having a fever and couldn’t lower his head and neck, which was quite scary.

Since I had to get on a plane, we decided to treat him with Banamine and doxycycline because the vet could only assume tick fever. I found that to be a little strange considering it was January, but she said they see spikes in it this time of year. There have been a few horses in the barn who’ve had vague symptoms like his, and that seems to be the go-to diagnosis, but I wasn’t going to accept that as an answer.

He didn’t get any better while I was gone, so I decided to take him to his regular vet at Morven on Tuesday when I got back. No fever, but still wouldn’t put his head and neck down. He hadn’t lost his appetite, which was good though.

Her first inclination was to X-ray the neck, so we did, and discovered “moderate to severe” arthritis in his neck near the withers, but nothing broken. I guess I’m glad I know that now so we can treat him, but he’s certainly never shown my any signs of pain in that area.

Next we ultrasounded his chest to rule out pneumonia since he did have some minor nasal discharge, but only when eating.

His lungs were good, and the vet was about to send me home with more doxy, but I just refused to believe that neck arthritis would suddenly cause him to not be able to lower his head.

Thankfully our regular lameness vet who knows him from over the years came in to consult on the neck X-rays and started palpating his jaw area. He was quite sensitive near his glands, so we did a scope and saw that his gutteral pouches were swollen and had mucus on them.

There was worry that it could be strangles due to the clinical signs, but he’s been vaccinated so the likelihood was low. They sent a sample off for a culture, which came back negative a couple of days later, but it took more than a week for the other one to come back and determine if we needed to change antibiotics, which was extremely frustrating, since I saw no improvement in his attitude or ability to lower his head.

We got the results back last Tuesday and decided to switch to SMZs, and now we’re still waiting for improvement. I cannot believe this has been dragging on for nearly three weeks with little to no improvement. He’s unable to put his head down to graze, and I haven’t been able to ride. I’ve not been given a name for the condition other than an infection of the gutteral pouches due to two kinds of bacteria, one that responded to doxy on the culture and one that responded to SMZs.

I’m more than $2000 in right now, and he’s going to have to go back for another scope at some point, and then maybe we can start thinking about injecting the neck and probably the SI joint as I’d expected for his yearly checkup in March.

This has been a complete nightmare. I know it’s only been three weeks, but it feels like an eternity.

To add to that, no sooner had I been at the show in California on Friday for an hour when my parents called and told me Toppers was choking and nothing could be done. They made the decision to euthanize him at age 28. He’d had a choking episode in December that required a trip to the clinic to unblock, and after that, we were told he would be at risk for another episode due to possible scar tissue on the esophagus and his lack of a few teeth that had been removed earlier last year. I thought we had a pretty good handle on it by changing up the way we fed him, but it wasn’t enough.

We’ve had Toppers since I was 11. 21 years. I can’t remember a time in my life when he wasn’t there, and now he’s not, and I wasn’t able to say goodbye. It was just not the way I wanted to start out 2019, and wasn’t expected so soon after having to put Sam down last year.

So, needless to say, it’s been a bit of a depressing month so far. I’m headed to Florida on Thursday for work, but I’m feeling a little nervous leaving Oh So while he’s still not right. He turns 19 tomorrow, and this is not how I envisioned his birthday celebration.

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A Look Back At 2018

Better late than never I guess!

After a truly disastrous 2017 in which I broke both my ankles and ended up selling Thomas and working through a lot of physical and mental pain, 2018 was one of the best years of my life.

Even though Oh So had a couple of minor injuries that caused some sleepless nights and one missed event, and despite tons and rain and event cancellations, it was the first full competition season I’ve had with him in a long time. Thing actually went to plan 90 percent of the time, which is a hard thing to do with horses! I almost had to pinch myself with each event and show we finished. Looking at the wall of blue ribbons from this season, I can hardly believe it.

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Our bronze medal!

I’ve written a lot about accepting that novice is where we’ll stay for the remainder of his career, and I’ve had to adjust my expectations and goals with him, but this year I was able to reach my goal of getting my USDF bronze medal. It felt pretty amazing to set my sights on something and actually achieve it. I’ve had to force myself to not have big goals with him anymore because of his age, but that was one that we actually pulled off!

Winning nearly event, even if it was just at novice level, was a huge deal, and we were recently awarded the inaugural Maryland TB/STB Eventing Series, which came with a huge check and lots of prizes!

I just had a flat lesson with Heidi for the first time since October, and she asked what my goals were for this year. I was hesitant again to name specific things, but if I could improve our third level scores that would be amazing. The good news is that she noticed we’ve been doing our homework, so we’re on our way to getting a bit more collection and throughness in the lateral work, which will hopefully translate to better flying changes.

As far as eventing, I’d love to do the Area 2 Championships, and the American Eventing Championships are really tempting, but I don’t know if I can justify the entry cost.

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2018 was a pretty amazing year of travel for me. I went on 16 assignments for COTH and got to discover amazing new places like Badminton and New Orleans, and saw the world’s best horses and riders at the World Equestrian Games. Personally, my trip to Scotland was one of the most amazing vacations I’ve ever done, and it inspired me to look ahead to new discoveries this year. I’m thinking Iceland perhaps and definitely Burghley on the fall.

2019 is going to be a stressful and emotional one since my parents are putting our farm up for sale and moving to Kentucky. There’s no detailed timeline yet, but I’m bracing myself for some strife as my entire life is about to change. We’re a close family and have lived in the same area my whole life, so it will be a seismic shift.

For now though, I’m looking forward to my first trip of the year back to San Diego and Temecula for the Adequan West Coast Dressage Festival and then to Palm Beach in February, while praying for as little snow and rain as possible!

Things I’m Loving In December

It’s been a quiet fall for me as far as trying new products goes, but I’ve come up with a few that I’ve really been loving recently.

Professional’s Choice Ventech Monoflap Girth

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I was on the hunt for a new monoflap for Oh So’s jumping saddle when I realized his old Ovation one was wearing a bit. I prefer synthetic girths for eventing because they’re easier to keep clean, and this one has a durable outer TPU shell that’s easily wipeable. It has a neoprene liner that’s super soft, and it’s a bit wider to distribute pressure better than my older one. So far Oh So seem’s to like it! I bought one for my dressage saddle too.

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Around The World: From Scotland To Ocala To New Orleans And Home!

My posts about my vacations tend to come very late since I usually come home and jump right back into real life. This time was no exception, as I got back from Scotland and immediately had to deal with my car that wouldn’t start and a busy week at work. Welcome home! I’ve had some time to gather my thoughts and look through my photos, so better late than never!

I decided to do a late season trip to Scotland because it was cheaper, but I knew the weather might be dicey this time of year. I’m happy to report it was just about perfect, for me at least, and any time it rained seemed to be when I was on the tour bus or overnight. The weather gods were definitely smiling. It was actually colder in Virginia than it was in Scotland!

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Winding Down The Season

The 2018 season’s gone out with a bit of a whimper and not a bang for me unfortunately. With Seneca being canceled and now Waredaca getting a few inches of rain, I decided to scratch today.

I knew at the beginning of the week that I likely wouldn’t be running cross-country because of the wet weather forecasted, but with reports and photos coming in yesterday of trucks being towed in and out and knowing that the dressage and show jumping warm up are on grass, plus having to get up at 4:30 a.m., I decided not to risk it for a combined test that wouldn’t count for anything.

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Hanging out at Loch Moy.

My trainer asked me to consider what I would get out of it, and honestly, probably not much. We’re both bored with the novice test and don’t *need* to do it, and we’re looking ahead to some local winter jumper shows for practice. I hate to throw another $200 down the toilet, but that seems to be the nature of this year for everyone. I just wish Waredaca would have made that call for me. I was still undecided right up until I went to bed last night, and really could have gone either way, but I also think I needed a quiet day where I can get some stuff done around my apartment, have a nice ride and probably clip him again since he grew his hair back so fast!

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Soggy September

Well, things didn’t go according to plan at Seneca. It was pouring rain on Saturday when I went up to walk my course, and Lisa and I pretty much knew we wouldn’t be running the next day.

Fortunately they made the decision a little easier for me when they cancelled all competition on Sunday, but it was a real bummer for me and for the event!

I had to head to WEG the next day with my co-worker and friend Kimberly. We arrived late afternoon to check out the venue and get our credentials, which went pretty seamlessly.

The venue was a complete mess, but the two main stadiums and the footing were great. I keep telling everyone who asks how WEG was that I went in not expecting a lot of polish, and we definitely didn’t get that. The media center was not ready for us on Monday, but by Tuesday it was functional. There was air conditioning, power and WiFi, which was about all we really needed. They fed us two meals a day plus a generous afternoon snack, which is more than we could have asked for and very much appreciated.

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