Loving a horse sometimes means we will have to make the tough decisions. They often don't feel good for us but sometimes the kindest thing we can do is say goodbye. This summer we put down Luke's pony Silver. He was so much more than a pony to our family. So many of Luke childhood memories will forever be wrapped with the joy Silver brought to our lives. He was a knights noble steed, a sheriffs partner, a bandits get away horse, he calf roped, bulldogged, never missed a haze, barrel raced, he played every roll Luke could dream up. Luke and I rode many great adventures together we fixed fence and had picnics in the forest.
Silver was a blessing and a gift, as is my Missile. As winter blows in so does arthritis pain and slippery conditions the hard decision blows on my face with every fall breeze. Some days tears well my ears blurry as I cross the yard to catch him. I'm not ready, not any part of me knows how to say good bye to my beautiful brown boy. He's only 20 but his body says 30, multiple injuries through out a long career have compounded on top of a major stifle injury from last springs freezing rain storms. Rounds of PRP therapy and pain management have proved unsuccessful for stabilizing his hind end. I consult both his vets and haul him to the city hoping to hear I am wrong and there's something I can do. He's not just a horse he's a piece of my heart, he has healed me and made me whole he is the magic of a horses sole. He is a grounding source for my family anyone who could say different has never touched Missile. Charles confirms my fears he's not stabile enough to get around on ice or snow, the possibility of finding him downed one winter morning is the most likely outcome. We decide he deserves a gallant exit on a beautiful day. I promise to have it done before the weather turns too poor but insist I need more time. Fall has blessed us and winter holds off get time but it will never be enough. I love him too much to watch him shrink up, waste away or end up suffering for my need to keep him. My heart cries I choose a date and make a plan for his perfect last day.
PEACE comes, for him, for me I start sleeping again he begins to gain weight. I don’t know if it’s the weight being lifted off us knowing we have a plan or knowing I love him enough when he’s ready we will say good bye. I know the day grows closer but until then I will love him and let my heart swell with joy as he plays with his 3 yr old pen mate.
I’ll start Missiles Story in My next Blog.
With my goal made I set out looking for new products that worked.
I hate to admit this in writing but the first time I heard about Back on Track was from a steer wrestler, I know hard to believe but it was true. Chad Bouchard’s good horse Radar had a bone chip removed from his fetlock and he had heard about these great new wraps maybe he should try so like any cowboy he asked the barrel racer in his life (Justin and Chad are close friends so when I married Justin I got Chad too. Chads wife Karen is a purebred cattle lady not so much into horse rehab, at least she wasn’t then now she’s almost barrel racer certified in horse care lol) Anyways I wasn’t sold on the idea Chad should wrap this post-surgical leg in heat. I argued heat draws calcium you could reduce the elasticity of the healing tissue I was pretty sure if he was mine I would cold horse. He told me to go learn about it and let him know. It was literally days later a friend posted a Back on Track blanket for sale I bought it (what a sucker right) and went to using it on our horses. Weeks later the same friend I had bought the blanket from was selling her store out so I asked about dealing Back on Track if she wasn’t going to. She lined me up with Dave from Back on Track Canada and I took over selling her “area” term used lightly because in the end no areas or market share was recognized but that’s a whole other can of worms for another time. I was one of the first to sell it and was always telling my customers how I felt the best way to use it was. I had close friends who are equine therapist who resisted it strongly not because they didn’t good in it but because they knew what I didn’t at the time. A little is never enough for us horse people, there seems to be no such thing as use when needed or for a few hours a day. If he feels this good after 4 hours how good could he feel if he lived in it, let’s find out. (my head just hit the key board thinking about it, same as it hits the steering wheel when I pull into and event it’s +29 out and some old horse is tied in the sun wearing his full blanket with neck and his quick wraps and he’s been there for hours probably all day, I guess he must run better cooked.) I realize I am going to get some hate mail for this but breathe deep and think about it do professional athletes prepare to compete this way or do they warm up their muscles before and keep them warm during and then cool them down after?? Honestly most horse require no more than 4 hours in Back on Track it is alright to use overnight sometimes and more often when you are working on an issue but think about your intended purpose and your plan for it’s use. What Back on Track actually does is well explained on their webpage http://www.backontrackproducts.com/How-Back-on-Track-Products-Work-22.html In short it is “long wave infrared heat radiation which increases the blood circulation. The increased blood circulation in the tissues helps to relieve muscles tension and improves performance.” Basically increased circulation brings more blood more oxygen more “energy” to the cells that require it. Is it a heal all nope but it does help a lot of things. I should also mention not all horses enjoy it our hazing horse Twenty despises it he will actually rip it off his body so it’s important to pay attention to their responses.
My Aged Performance Horse Plan
Missile is old and arthritic Short Go is plagued by an old shoulder injury. You will be able to read their stories and our journey in the horses section of this blog. They both love Back on Track like seriously love it, if they could wear it head to hoof everyday I think they might. What I found best for them though was to use it 4 hrs a day 4 days a week when I was working on loosening up something on them. Missile also benefited from wearing the quick wraps when the weather changed I believe it reduced the onset of his arthritis. When we were competing on them I would put it on 3-4 hours out. If I was up at 8 am I would get up at 5 and put it on, I know people who get up to bute or use Lasix so I’m never sure why it’s too hard to get up to Back on Track so your horse wears if for 16 hours before making it less effective in my opinion. I also liked using the BOT saddle pad liner while riding Missile it equated it to a pitcher keeping his arm warm and loose during a game. After competition I cooled them out I love a clay or mud or a cold hose if there’s one around (think pitcher icing his shoulder)
The “Tight” Horse
Awe, The Fonz is a horse known to many understood by few lol. If a cowboy would ever admit to loving a horse like a barrel racer this is Justin and Fonz. Fonz is high maintenance and battled muscle tightness and tension all the time. He responded huge to BOT but couldn’t use it right before competition or he would be flat even flat enough the fire breathing dragon would be dopey. We ended up using it when we pulled in somewhere so his whole body would relax and he would feel good the next day.
This totally depends on the injury I personally like a hot / Cold rotation on limbs. I also have used it to prevent injury from over compensation which I feel happens a lot. When Classy Dan was severely hurt with her puncture wound on a hind foot I used my BOT blanket to reduce the tension and pain in her shoulders and other hip from her uneven weight bearing. She would often lay down and sleep about 20 minutes after I put it on. I will include when I use it in the other stories about the horses and why.
It all started with being frustrated, I was tired of being sold stuff that wasn’t helping my horse. You see I was the girl always looking for the answer to “why is he so muscle tight” and how do I prevent the ulcers not just treat them once they are here. I had tack room full of tried feeds and products that seldom lived up to their hype. I was even more tired of hearing Justin tell me “I told you they are all selling it to make money not help you or your horse.” So there it was, what I felt the horse world needed, someone who would only sell what they believed in.
With that BAR over BAR was born before I even had a product to sell I was writing out my goals and motivations of my perfect world scenario. In the end it was very simple: to provide products which benefit the health of your horse, allowing it to perform to their full potential.
My standards have grown to include: the products must intend to do no harm and not mask the problem, they must be user friendly, and they must help the high performance horse to get back to being as natural as possible. I know it sounds simple but it’s not. Finding the balance between the high performance horse world and the natural nomadic grazing horse is a continuous learning process. I bet your thinking how can a neoprene boot and horse blankets align with my natural goals, well that’s where the conditions they live train and compete under come into play. Does every horse need to wear a winter blanket? Nope, sure don’t, and most don’t need to. However if you’re going to be hauling them in and out an arena in the winter for them to experience 10-20 degree temperature changes in a matter of minutes a good blanket becomes really important even necessary for health. If you’re going to ask them to repeatedly perform to the highest athletic standards having a neoprene boot there for support and to reduce risk of injury seems like a no brainer to me. That being said I believe very strongly a lot of products are over used and misused and that’s going to be a big part of this blog over time. You will be able to find my product reviews and recommended uses on here too. There are a lot of great products on the market that are being used improperly. I won’t name names but “HEAT” is not always your friend. Sometimes a leg needs to cool down with water or ice sometimes it needs wrapped for support etc. Sometimes the very best thing for your horse is to be a horse. I mean that, most vets will tell you that too if you stop and listen and not just demand an instant result.
The truth is most of what I know I learned from making mistakes. Yes I have also learned from very knowledge people through clinics , friendships and business but it seems the mistakes are the biggest lessons.
I am not a therapist or a vet I don’t have all the answers. I’m just a girl in love with horses that has had many struggles but through them learned. I look forward to sharing my stories with you.
This is hard to write for me, sharing it is actually the easier part , writing it down an owning it sucks.
To recap Classy Dan was running turning and seldom making a misstep , but I wasn't winning . ( I haven't won much on my faster horses either so I think it safe to say not her fault). At the time driven by desire and convinced there must be something wrong with my now lethargic , low appetite mare ( perhaps because her food made her fell like crap) I searched for a fix. Don't throw my Vet under the bus either he's doing what he thinks will help her and me , he sees the decrease in drive and wants to help her come out of it too. If her body soreness and fatigue had been caused by injury or anemia not her diet it probably would have showed some results. So now adding to the magic natural respiratory aid , and amazing diet full of hidden sugars and fillers that create inflammation I added steroids to the mix. It sounded like just what we needed it's used for debilitated or weakened animals, and are prescribed to stimulate appetite, increase weight gain, strength, and vigor. These drugs help rebuild tissues that are weakened due to disease, injury, or surgery. Steroids have their place in the recovery of horses and I'm not saying they don't or nobody should ever use them. For us for Classy Dan they were a terrible choice not only was it selfish on my part I had no idea what the real side effects could be.
Anabolic steroids such as stanozolol and boldenone are synthetic derivatives of testosterone, the male hormone. Using them can cause increased aggressive and dominant behaviour and cause fillies and mares to show masculine behaviours. This is what happened to her, she shifted from very famine to stud like. I remember visiting with Les McIntyre at Medicine Hat Spring Rodeo and him commenting on her jowls and asking when I started running a stud. That was the first time I really noticed how different he looked because when you see the horse everyday small changes daily don't draw attention. During this time I had started my relationship with my now husband. His reaction to my plan of action was less than favourable at the time. He was certain I was trying to make her something she was not and it wasn't fair. If I wanted to win that bad buy a faster horse. Sure easy for a SW to say he can go to a rodeo and pay to ride one of the best horses going.
Eventually I did hear him but not until I quit imagining what other girls were doing to win and paid attention to what was really going on. The girls who wins day in and day out aren't pumping there horses full of sh*t to make them faster, their horses are that fast. They aren't talking about what they need to do they do it. They show up mentally prepared to win every race, its not a surprise to them and it isn't luck. Their horses are fit, not I ride my horse 4 days a week fit, but if they were people they'd be tri-athlete fit. It was hard to swallow that she maybe didn't have what it takes because I kept remembering how she used to run , but that was a different horse before I had slowly made her break down. Justin never knew that horse so it was obvious to him. My heart just couldn't believe it or wouldn't......
Originally posted to Facebook April 27, 2015
Yesterday I shared the first layer leading up to Classy Dans puncture. In the process of learning and healing I have made myself peel the onion layers and map the cause and effects of situations in her career. Today I'm going back to her 6 yr old season. It started early spring with the Lakeland College Alumni Rodeo, I had been riding her all winter so she was fit for February. She made to great runs we ended up 2nd or 3rd in the average. It was that Monday I noticed a cough, I gave her the week off but she got sicker, she ended up on antibiotics for a bad respiratory infection, which lead to more time off . She was scoped and given a clean bill of health by April but remained sensitive to dust and allergens for the summer. I kept her hay soaked and went to soaked cubes often, we seemed to have it managed she went back to running tough until Aug when she had to be stalled in Regina for SBRA finals, she was coughing and struggling for air after her first run. We went to a tack store down the road and on the shelf was a 'natural product' for cleaning out her lungs and helping with her air. I snatched it up I couldn't hurt if it was natural right? And I must admit it did help her breathing but at what cost? I had honestly glanced at the list of ingredients and at the time saw no red flags. I continued to run her on it and ventipulmin as prescribed by her vet. We seemed get the air troubles under control but she had backed of despite me feeding he a high energy high protein diet. By that fall I was about gone crazy in my head trying to figure out how we were in the bottom of the 1D what could be going on back to the vet we went.
For a year we went in and out of the clinic I switched vets, it must be his fault right. She was never actually lame anywhere, we stitched her up in case she was taking in air. Injected hocks and fetlocks cause her stifles were sensitive. She continued to work smooth but I didn't find those 5 tenths at the vet clinic either. But looking back I had left out the cough because I was managing it with the magic natural stuff. So my new vet was out of the loop on her respiratory sensitivity and he didn't know what she looked like before I started feeding her up. Let me tell you she was always a well built mare but she was getting really big and stout in my mind it was a good thing. Classy ran in spite of me and the mistakes I was making in her care.
Looking back I can recognize the change in her body as a result of what I was putting in it. I was pumping her full of starch, fillers and wrapping I in sugars so it tasted good. I wasn't mixing this up myself but buying it off the shelf recommended by fellow barrel racers. But I know this is shocking but very few of us are nutritionists, we know what seemed to work for this horse I that horse but very few know why it worked and have you ever wondered if they won in spite of what we are doing? There are good buggers out there that can win regardless I have seen it.
Anyways, I was slowly giving my lovely mare insulin problems with my prepared feed and hiding an airway condition feeding a "natural" product filled with more natural sugars, but I carried on oblivious. I had a really nice horse and was willing to "take care " of her the best I could and we would win right?. She was mildly body and joint sore even though she was in shape and I had bought her a magnetic blanket online. I had no idea reversing the omegas in a horse could create that mild joint soreness or that not all magnetics are created equal or used properly. I had her worked on by therapist and she would feel better for a while but no one is magic enough to fix your horse at a cellular level when you are feeding them 'poison' , or when they don't know the full story. Granted some of them aren't interested in the details but the good ones they are.
Poor Classy Dan , probably felt like sh*t. She continued to try but was slowing down, hit or miss ( it was likely because some days I didn't fill her as full of sh*t). I began rodeoing on her hoping to have one of her hit days in the right pen. I found myself in a place where my desire to win at a high level meant just about everything to me. All I talked and thought about was becoming a better barrel racer ( I'm not even kidding, and you would think I would have got better at it lol) I got good at giving myself excuses but didn't ever cut Classy any slack . With all the stuff I'd tried on her you'd think I would step back and think maybe she's not the problem. Maybe she waiting on me, maybe just maybe I should get in athletic shape and stay caught up and out of her way. Maybe make her job easier??? Nope never even occurred to me. I was a size 1 why would I work out? ( maybe cause skinny doesn't mean strong or balanced)
Meanwhile my awesome little mare kept trying for me we were crying hole to some of the best which considering she was packing me really was quite amazing. Some of my idols commented on her consistency, and try, we just needed a little more. Fees , fuel , time it was adding up to bills I couldn't really afford but I didn't want to quit I wanted to win. It's hard to explain and embarrassing to write where a 20 something's head goes when you believe you have a chance at your dream (even if its delusional) . She was growing sluggish almost lethargic at times back to the vet I went. This is moment now is when we put our Vets in a tough spot they want to keep us happy , they want are horses to feel their best , but there are limits to the magic they have too. Classy needed a pick me up , and she needed 2 more tenths. Once a week for 3 weeks I walked the plank and took the dive into what I thought it took to win in the big leagues. I was wrong and she paid the price.....
I was born in love with horses. My journey with horses has lead me the to the competitive arena only to send me back to doing homework. I'm going to share what I have learned on this blog, both the good and the bad. Hopefully my mistakes and my answers will help a few horses and their owners along the way.