Cautiously Optimistic

Glowing in the sun
Maybe, just maybe we’ve got a solution.

Of course, right after we started treating Freedom for Lyme, winter returned with a vengeance. The temperatures dropped from low 60s to less than 10 degrees overnight and then we got about a foot of snow.

I was able to get two short rides in, and they’ve left me feeling very hopeful. His back is still tight, but he’s no longer flinching away from touch or striking out when you try to groom him. He is more like himself under saddle — no more head flipping, no more hollowed back. Not sucking back. The second day I rode, I trotted him over a small pole and he willingly landed on his left lead . . . and held it. No anxiety, no hopping.

It’s so nice to have my horse back. I just hope he stays.

The tricky thing with the treatment is that many horses feel better when you put them on doxy. Since it’s an anti-inflammatory as well as an antibiotic, it’s possible that the drug is fixing something that we didn’t know was wrong. However, I previously tried giving him bute and that had no effect at all.

Fingers crossed that when the snow finally melts that he is still feeling better.


Race Horses and SI Issues

Buying an Ex-racehorse
This is a very interesting article that talks about some of the issues that ex-racehorses can face. Not all injuries are career ending, but racing certainly takes its toll. This is a great read for someone interested in OTTBs. Read the article by clicking on the photo.
Freedom when I first got him
When I first got Freedom he had no muscle. Look at that skinny neck! He didn’t thrive in his first non-racing home which is why he ended up at my barn.

Freedom has been remarkably sound over the 12 years that I’ve owned him. Yes, I brought him home in early 2005, thinking that I would foster him for just a few months. He was a skinny, nervous horse that didn’t have much idea of how to be a riding horse.

Freedom came off the track with an apical sesamoid fracture that had been rehabbed. However, it turns out that SI pain is pretty typical for racehorses.

This problem really is the number one [issue], as every ex-racehorse has damage to the ligaments in this area.

Here is Freedom's CANTER listing. He looked a lot more like himself here.
Here is Freedom’s CANTER listing. He looked a lot more like himself — in better weight and muscled up.

The fact that Freedom showed no SI problems until last year is impressive. As a TB he’s officially now 19 and it’s very possible that he’s having some other joint pain as well. Overall he’s quite a balanced horse who has managed to use his body correctly and keep himself sound. He had 28 starts as a racehorse, retiring when he was six.

We haven’t given up. In between the snowflakes I’m still working on conditioning for both mind and body, waiting until the footing is good enough for the next lameness exam and hoping he’ll feel better in the spring.

Needle-phobics look away!

SI Injection
Freedom received his SI injections yesterday. That needle was 8″ long!

On Monday Freedom had his SI joints injected. If you have a phobia of needles this is not a procedure that you want to watch. The needle the vet used was 8″ long! The vets used ultrasound to guide the placement of the needle. He had both sides injected (the right was much more sensitive than the left, hence his reluctance to pick up/hold the left lead canter).

After the injection, he received mesotherapy to relax the sore muscles in his back.

The second part of his treatment was mesotherapy. This involves injecting the vet’s “secret sauce” using small needles that penetrate shallowly into the interdermal layer of the skin that stimulates the mesoderm (the middle layer of the skin). Mesotherapy is a more recent addition to treatments here in the US but has been used extensively in France for more than 30 years. Mesotherapy helps stop the pain spasm cycle, so for a horse like Freedom, who had pain from the SI joint, it can help relax the muscles in conjunction with the joint injection.

Did it work? I’ll find out in a few days. He needs to have five days off before I can start him back with a light hack. Stay tuned!

And the lameness is . . .

Freedom has been diagnosed with arthritis in his sacroiliac joint
Freedom has been diagnosed with arthritis in his sacroiliac joints which will require injections.

After ruling out a number of causes, Freedom has been diagnosed with pain in his sacroiliac joint. If you’re not familiar with the joint, it attaches the pelvis to the

SI joints
The SI joints (right and left) are located at the horse’s croup and are engaged during cantering.

vertebral column and it transfers the stresses of the hind limbs as they push off the ground, through to the spine and body to support the weight of the horse’s torso (

Sacroiliac problems in horses can be difficult to diagnose because they are often intermittent and don’t display as a “typical” lameness that can be seen at all gaits. Common signs are loss of performance, loss of propulsion, and difficulty with the canter.

That describes what’s been going on with Freedom to a “T”.  When I thought about it, the days when he’s felt very sound are the ones were we did very little canter work.

In fact, with 20/20 hindsight, I suspect that this problem started last fall when he had the abscess from hell. He had issues with the canter then but I chalked them up to the huge abscess . . . then he got ridden lightly through the winter and spring (very little cantering) and he felt mostly fine.

The vet explained that it is not uncommon among former race horses as they have wear and tear on the joint from galloping — and Freedom is 18.

The next step is to have his SI joints injected (he is much sorer on the right side than the left). This will involve a trip to the clinic and the use of a very long needle (see the video below). The vet says they generally see a very good response to this type of injection so I”m optimistic that he’ll be feeling back to normal soon.

The cribbing post

cribbing post
Since Freedom will always be a cribber, I’m trying to direct him toward a “target” cribbing post. You can tell that cribbing releases endorphins. He looks pretty blissed out.

Freedom is a confirmed cribber. He came to me as a cribber and even with 24 hour turnout, free choice hay, lots of grass and a cribbing collar, he will crib.

Over the past few months he’s pulled a few posts out of the fence line and generally made a nuisance of himself. As an experiment, the owners of the barn installed his own personal cribbing post, a post where he can’t cause any damage to the rest of the fence.

Of course, convincing him to use it? You’ve heard the story about leading a horse to water? To make it more appealing, I’ve been installing electric fencing to keep him off the actual fence line. Finally, when he had his collar off this week, he honed in on that target fence. Look at the expression on his face! If he were a human, he’d be a chain smoker.

You might ask why I’m not trying to completely stop his cribbing. The problem is that this type of OCD behavior won’t just go away . . . it will be replaced by something else. Let’s face it, for whatever reason (most likely a strong genetic predisposition) Freedom needs an outlet. With a cribbing collar he doesn’t crib to the point of obsession — he’s not one of those horses that would rather crib than eat — and as long as he doesn’t bring down the fencing he can go wild.

Thank Goodness for Banamine



Freedom Feeling Better
Freedom is feeling back to normal

Freedom is feeling better now but on Sunday, he gave me a bit of a scare.

I’d taken Zelda out for a ride. He looked fine when I arrived; he’d galloped up to the fence and begged for some extra hay. But, when I got back, he was just not right. You know what I mean — you come out to the pasture and your horse is standing funny or has an odd expression on his face, or is just not looking like himself.

In Freedom’s case, he was standing with his back to me, slightly tucked up and his tail was held to one side. I pulled him out of the paddock and he started to clench his tail down hard.

He didn’t look colic-y, but he didn’t look right either.

A quick call to the vet confirmed my suspicion that Banamine was required. My vet also suggested some milk of magnesia, as Freedom’s muscles were very tight.

Thankfully, he responded well and twenty minutes later, he looked noticeably better.

I’m still not sure what made him feel off — my guess was the big temperature swing we had here. It was 93 on Saturday and just 61 degrees on Sunday. It’s possible he also ran a bit when Zelda and I were out, although he wasn’t hot when I got back.

I’m just glad his body language was so clear and direct — and that I had Banamine on hand.

Lily the “paintball horse” adopted by Jon Stewart and wife

Tracey Stewart and Lily
Lily, who was abandoned at the New Holland auctions, was adopted by Tracey and Jon Stewart. Photo: CLEM MURRAY / Staff Photographer

Lily, the white horse abandoned at the New Holland auctions in March has been adopted by comedian Jon Stewart and his wife Tracey, who are opening an animal 56eacd954a7a6.imagesanctuary in New Jersey. It’s a happy ending for the elderly mare who was found after the auction closed tied to a post, covered in paint stains, suffering from uveitis in both eyes, and severely malnourished.

Lily has raised considerably awareness of the plight of abandoned horses. Her story hit the national news when it was reported that she had been shot more than a hundred times with a paintball gun.

Thanks to surveillance cameras, the man who left her there was identified as Phillip Price of East Providence, RI. Price was subsequently convicted of three counts of animal cruelty  a single count of dealing and handling animals without a license, and a single count of importing animals without an interstate health certificate. He was ordered to pay $3,056 in fines and $10,178 towards Lily’s care and recovery.

Lily was treated by the vets at New Bolton
Her right eye was removed but thanks to an experimental treatment, she regained 80% of her sight in her left eye.

Lily was treated at the New Bolton Animal Hospital where one of her eyes was removed; she has regained 80% of he sight in the other eye. Then she won the adoption lottery when she was adopted by the Stewarts.

However, the story isn’t quite over.

Lily’s original owner was recently found. Doreen Weston, who owns Smoke Hollow Farm, claims that the horse “might” have been hers and that the paint was from birthday parties, not paint ball. She says she owned a white Arabian horse that she used for riding lessons and birthday parties, where children used the horse as a canvas for finger paints.

Weston explained to reporters that Lily was 35 years old and that she had given the horse to Price when her health deteriorated because she “assumed” he would have it euthanized. Right. After you own a horse for 15+ years, you ship it off to a horse dealer. She claims that Price told her that he “had a place he could take her” and that she thought he meant a retirement facility. Right again. That’s exactly what dealers do — spend their own money to humanely euthanize a horse, or place an old sick horse in a retirement home.

Even worse, Weston is claiming it might not even be her horse because the Vets at New Bolton described Lily as an Arabian/Appaloosa mix, while Lily is just an Arabian.

“I have doubts this is my horse,” she said. “If it is, somebody is making a big mistake in their evaluation.”

Sure, there are lots of 30 year old gray mares dumped at New Holland that are covered in paint, have uveitis and dental problems. Your horse’s doppelganger just happened to be dumped at New Holland by the same dealer that you gave your elderly school horse. A horse that was still covered in paint from the last party she worked for you. A horse that looks remarkably like one pictured on your website.

“I consider myself a respectable horse person and animal lover,” Weston said.

Shame on you Doreen Weston. That horse deserved better and no thanks to you, she had a soft landing.



Zenyatta’s 2016 foal succumbs to meconium aspiration syndrome

Zenyatta - War Front Foal
Zenyatta’s colt by War Front, born on April 11 has succumbed to meconium aspiration syndrome. Meconium is the manure produced by a foal during it’s first 12 to 24 hours of life. When it is expelled in utero, the foal can aspirate feces during its first breaths.from materials ingested while in the uterus.
Zenyatta has returned to Lane’s End Farm in good health and is currently turned out with another mare, Vixana, who is also owned by Jerry and Ann Moss. Zenyatta and Vixana are the same age, and they trained together under John Shirreffs at Barn 55. The two are becoming reacquainted and have already shared a drink at the water bowl.