In limbo

"It's true that we don't know what we've got until we lost it, but it's also true that we don't know what we've been missing until it arrives".

Finn went back this morning. My husband went with him and told me he lost it when signing the paperwork over to the MSPCA. The head of the MSPCA reminded us that we have literally done everything for him. Everyone in the barn there reminded him that we have done everything. They see horses in the worst condition there, hundreds of pounds underweight, completely broken. Finn stepped off the trailer in amazing shape, in his $400 Rambo blanket, and leather nameplated halter. He is so far from a rescue horse. This really sucks and it's been a terrible day. I found myself randomly crying at least ten times today and just typing this has me in tears. He was supposed to be so much more. I loved him so very much. I am really hoping that that quote up at the top rings true.

Never did I think that I would be the type of person to bring a horse, or any animal, to the MSPCA. And if you knew me, you would know that I am the type of person who would do anything for an animal, and has. A rescuer, not a surrenderer. And I guess it's really tough to admit to the I surrender part. If I could put him in my backyard, if I could have found the right retirement situation in the area that wouldn't cost an arm and a leg, I would not have returned him. But after exhausting all options the one that made the most sense was to let go. To hope and pray that he would find the right home for him, the home I couldn't be.

Now I find myself in this weird, no horse, limbo. There's no barn to go to, no place to fill my time, no barn friends to hang out with, no fuzzy nose waiting for me over the stall door.

I'm taking a break from blogging for a few weeks. I'll be keeping up with all of yours. I do have big news (I'm sure you can guess), but I am waiting until everything is finalized and I can emotionally recover from all of this to share.



"Incredible change happens in your life when you decide to take control of what you do have power over instead of craving control over what you don't".

Finn is not so tentatively scheduled to head back to the MSPCA on Wednesday, he definitely is. He has transport at 9:00am, and of course we're getting a snowstorm. I won't be able to be there to see him off (hubby will), which is probably better. I am doing a long write up and all of the things that have happened so that they will have an accurate history. Holy crap horse, you've really been a mess these past two years.

I have finally started telling people that he is going back: my farrier, barn manager, barn owners, barn friends, vet, etc. The overwhelming consensus, and what I hear most often is "good for you". I think that means good for me to be strong enough to do this. Vet called me the other day to check on me/him, and when I told her I was sending him back, she said she's certain that he will find a wonderful companion home.  He's extremely lovable, goofy, and sweet, part of the reason I've had so much trouble letting go.

I'm feeling much better about this situation. What I've really been thinking lately is I can't wait to enjoy going up to the barn again.

I actually have a PPE on a horse scheduled for tomorrow that I'm possibly interested in. Not getting my hopes up. I'm doing an extensive PPE on every horse that I'm interested in, and getting insurance on my next horse the day they step off the trailer.


Addictive relationship

Today I went up to the barn to grab a bunch of my stuff. Finn is headed back to the MSPCA, where he will be evaluated, and hopefully placed in a foster or adoptive companion home. I had every intention of leaving him in the paddock, but he kept watching me as I brought stuff from the barn to my car, so I ended up bringing him in.

Stuck him on the cross ties, he got a good brushing, and was the most well behaved gentleman, no pawing, no rearing, no dancing around. It was...weird. Decided that things were going so well, so why not stick him on the lunge. Walk, trot, canter, and a direction change, NO ISSUES. He looked amazing too. Tracking up, no cross cantering, listening to me. He really looked better than I have ever seen him. Everyone at the barn said so too.

I left the barn thinking, well, so much for bringing him back to the MSPCA. After thinking nearly all afternoon/evening about it, I realized that I am in an addictive relationship with Finn.... He gives me just enough to keep me coming back for more. We have gone down this road many, many times before. He goes "off", I contemplate the longevity of our future, he gets time off, is brought back, and is wonderful for two weeks, and then the cycle continues.

And I suddenly realized. NO, I can't do it anymore. My emotional well being, and confidence, has gotten shot down so many times these past two years. Finn may be better, what I've done for him may be the fix for him. He may be capable of amazing things, and a lifetime full of wonderful rides.

But I finally know that it won't be with me. Our relationship is too broken for that.

Change is coming. It may not be "Finn's Journey" anymore, but the journey will continue.


After the storm

"As I started to picture the trees in the storm, the answer began to dawn on me. The trees in the storm don't try to stand up straight and tall. They allow themselves to bend and be blown with the wind. They understand the power of letting go. Those trees and those branches that try too hard to stand up strong and straight are the ones that break. Now is not the time for you to be strong, or you, too, will break".

I did get in touch with the MSPCA. Finn is tentatively scheduled to head back next Wednesday. The head of the barn there reminded us that we have literally done everything for him, and have gone above and beyond what anyone else would do. Everyone I talk to, including my vets, say it is the right decision.

It doesn't make this any easier. I keep thinking that I'm going to go up to the barn and Finn will be who he was again. It took my farrier two hours just to get his front feet trimmed and shod the other day. Then he kept trying to rock back on his hinds, and kind of like dancing with his hind legs while one of his front legs was up. Both me and my farrier could tell how uncomfortable he was, and she just took it super slow with him.

I really don't know what's wrong with Finn. I know that he has something going on with his back, and I know that the x-ray's show kissing spine. But his symptoms are so severe. He is near impossible to handle on the ground now, and acts like there are monsters everywhere. He is constantly turning his head to look behind him, snort, eyes wide, as if someone is going to attack him. His symptoms go beyond what a kissing spine diagnosis would be.

I have already started looking for another horse. Too soon, I know. But I can feel this hole in my heart growing. I am telling everyone that this is for the best, I can't do anything more for him, that he is not the horse for me, that I am at peace with this decision. I am the opposite of at peace with this decision. Now that I am losing him, I can't imagine my life without him. Can't imagine another horse taking his place.



"I hope no one who reads this book has been quite as miserable as Susan and Lucy were that night; but if you have been- if you've been up all night and cried till you have no more tears left in you- you will know there comes in the end a sort of quietness".- C.S. Lewis, The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe

Today was the first day I was supposed to lunge Finn. He's had two full days of turnout since his week of stall rest. Brought him in this afternoon, brushed him quickly, hooked him up to the lunge, and sent him off. Never mind the 20 minutes it took me to catch him in the paddock, or the fact that I couldn't get him to walk forward in the aisle toward the indoor, or the fact that he was completely freaked out on the cross ties about some monster that was clearly behind him. I can look past all those things.

What I can't look past is the fact that I sent my horse out on the lunge and he took off like a psycho path. Fine, he's had some time off. But this wasn't normal 'yahoo, I feel great'. This was more like 'everything in my body hurts, so I'm going to cross canter, squeal, almost fall over because I'm so unbalanced, swish my tail, and not listen to a word you say, oh, and if you try to touch my back, I'll kick you'. Yep, couldn't even touch his back. Things we've done:

1. 6 back injections
2. Tildren
3. Hock injections
4. Loading dose of Pentosan
5. Depo 5 days ago
6. Robaxin 14 pills 2 times a day (for the past 7 days)
7. 1/2 tube of Equioxx every day (for past 7 days)

I was supposed to start lunging today, and start working him in a Pessoa Lunging System this week. Asking a horse that is acting like this to work in a Pessoa would clearly end in disaster.

The time has definitely come to say goodbye. Stay tuned.



"In reality, hope is the worst of all evils, because it prolongs man's torments". -Friedrich Nietzsche.

Hope is a funny thing. I left the clinic, brought Finn home, and couldn't help but think that everything I did was "the fix". This is what would give me my horse back. In three weeks I would have a new horse. On the phone with the vets, discussing treatments, I blatantly asked if I should/could have a rideable horse after all of this. Yes was the answer. It wasn't kissing spine, per se, but back arthritis. After bringing Finn home, he coliced. Not severely, but enough to worry the crap out of me. My vet said most likely due to all the anesthesia they had to give him. I did not have x-ray pictures in front of me, or clinical notes, which I was told would be emailed to me at the beginning of the week. I got the notes and the x-rays today. The clinical notes say 'impingement of dorsal spinous processes and SI desmitis'. The back X-rays look like this:


When I saw these x-rays today the hope drained right out of me. I started crying because I just spent 5k on a horse to basically make a non-ridable horse comfortable. My husband tried to calm me down saying that we said we were going to give him every chance possible, I don't care about the money, blah, blah, blah. I had my regular vet out yesterday (who had also not see the x-rays yet), she put him on pentosan, and is coming in two weeks to do a shockwave treatment. She doesn't want me to ride him or saddle him until after the shockwave. She said to give him 30 days and if he is still the same, there is nothing else I can do. It is sad. And heartbreaking. And I wish I wasn't so emotionally involved with this broken animal. I have been scouring the internet on kissing spine. There are all these success stories, and horses who didn't let this end their careers. There's horses competing at Prelim with kissing spine. There's surgery. There's mesotherapy. There's custom saddles. There's regular injections, acupuncture, Tildren again, more shockwave, chiro, massage. And all sorts of regular, needed, maintenance. 
After getting the x-rays and clinical notes this morning I emailed my vet asking her what she thought after seeing them. I haven't heard back yet, but I know she will be honest with me. Even yesterday she told me that back issues are tough and that she didn't want to be the bearer of bad news, but eventually there was only so much we could do. I read success stories about horses that could not be ridden due to their kissing spine, but they could drive. Finn DOES NOT have the brain to drive. I do not even want to learn to drive. 
 What I do know is this: I know that I have poured my heart, soul, and every sort of emotional and financial resource I have into this poor horse. I know that I am so depressed about him now that his well being, or lack there of, is affecting my daily life, making me pretty miserable to be around for everyone involved. I know that my parenting skills and patience with my human child has taken a back seat to what I am going through with Finn. I know how wrong that sounds. I know I have said at least a dozen times that I can't do this anymore. I know that I have a horse that is super smart, a beautiful mover, silly, friendly, sweet, and just enough of a brat to test me and make me laugh at the same time. I know that a year ago we were jumping, getting ready to move to an eventing barn and really go out there and be something. I know that now I have a horse that when putting a saddle on his back, acts like a bucking bronco on the lunge and everyone just laughs oh ha, ha, what a brat! He's testing you! And then, when I do get on his back, I can see him holding his breath, the whites of his eyes, and I just know that he wants to explode under saddle like he does on the lunge because he's in so much god damn pain, but he sucks it up and he doesn't. He chooses not to hurt me, when I climb aboard his screwed up back, when I do not know the extent of his pain, and selfishly ask him to do things he may not be capable of. He offers me the most beautiful, floating trot, after struggling for 40 minutes to get there. He was the dream. For years I wanted a horse to call my own. After years of leasing, lessoning, hoping, he became the reality that quickly turned into a nightmare. I know how good I feel after taking a lesson on an upper level horse and working on flying changes, or clearing a 2'9 vertical, and then the subsequent guilt of ALWAYS knowing Finn will never be that, no matter how many lessons or training rides we have. There is no dream of him getting there anymore. I guess I always knew in the back of my head that Finn would never be that. No matter how hard I tried to get him somewhere. He is the horse that I ride in a dressage clinic and the clinician tells me over and over again what an amazing little horse I have, how talented he is, and then the next 3 times the clinician is out I can't ride because he's lame. All the god damn time.

He is a horse that has made me strong, and shattered me, all at the same time.

But hope, it surfaces. Always. Hope is always in the background, telling me to give it one more try. Let's try another treatment. Let's give him some time off. Let's reevaluate in a few months. No matter how broken I get, how many times I cry, how screwed up this animal makes my life, I continue to hope, even though time and time again he has proven hope wrong. 

I used to look in his eyes and it was like he was saying thank you, thank you for persisting, for not giving up on me. I know this sounds crazy. Now, I feel like I look at him and he's asking me to give up. To admit defeat. I don't know if it is him saying this, or myself, reflecting in him. 

The facts tell me that this is the end of our journey. The facts tell me that this horse cannot be saddled. I can numb every part of him, inject the pain right out of him, but for what? To have a horse that is STILL, under the numbness, in pain. Has a condition that I cannot cure. A condition that no amount of rehab is going to cure. I have a 9 year old horse that is probably going to need $100,000 worth of maintenance out of his next 20ish years on this earth. I have a horse that I love with all my heart, but is making my physically sick with the prospect of what his future is going to be. I have a horse that will most likely not stay sound, will never be able to do even a 2 foot course. Will never succeed at dressage. Will never succeed at being anything. 


Diagnosis and Treatment

After the bone scan yesterday Finn had very little light up during the soft tissue phase. During the bone scan phase a few hours later his hocks lit up a lot, as well as a section of his back. His SI's also lit up. His hocks have only ever flexed a 1 out of 5, so I was pretty surprised about that. I probably wouldn't have x-rayed his hocks for a while because he never flexed poorly.

This morning the doctors did multiple x-ray's on his hocks and his back. His hocks didn't show as much inflammation on the radiographs as they did on the bone scan, but there were arthritic changes. His back also showed arthritic changes. Vet recommended 6 back injections, and lower hock injections. He said we can wait on the SI's for a few months and have my vet do them later this Spring. I will most likely have to do back injections every 8 months, and hocks every year. He also recommended Tildren. After calling Finn's regular vet and discussing we did decide to go ahead with the Tildren as he has had so many issues, and weighing the pros and cons, it seemed beneficial to go ahead and do it (more on this later).

We're also putting him on robaxin, a muscle relaxer that he's been on before, for the short term while he gets back into work. He is also on Equioxx (NSAIDs) until Thursday. I am going to discuss with my regular vet about putting him on Pentosan, and taking him off feed through joint supplements.

Finn is on stall rest tomorrow, and is allowed in small turnout for a week, then we can resume regular turnout and back to work. I am going to lunge him in the Pessoa, and work on going long and low at the trot to build his back muscles. I am in no rush to get him back to work, I just want him to be comfortable and he'll let me know when he's ready for more. The vet did say that he should have NO problem going back to a regular work load that will eventually include jumping. I am going to be overly cautious right now though.

Now, Tildren. I have read a bit about it. http://www.chronofhorse.com/article/tildren-making-greater-inroads-united-states-0

"This is where Tildren goes to work. In a horse with navicular or any other chronic bone condition—ringbone, for instance, or osteoarthritis of the hock—Tildren inhibits bone deconstruction by shutting down what are known as osteoclasts. Osteoclasts, like hungry termites, digest bone, and Tildren impedes their progress.....Tildren is not a cure-all, and there are still some drawbacks. The drug targets bone and, specifically, the processes that affect bone degeneration. So that means it won’t ease any lamenesses caused by tendon, ligament or muscle injuries."

Since Finn definitely has arthritic changes, and the vet said we would do the Tildren now, and then once again in two months, and then hopefully never again, we decided to give it a shot and hope it would help him along with the injections, robaxin, and pentosan down the road. I have had way too many stops and starts these past two years and have tried too many treatments that haven't worked to not try a treatment that seems specifically for a case like his. There are side effects: there's a slight chance of colic or colicy symptoms. I was also reading some studies that Tildren can potentially make bones brittle, and there were some posts on COTH about their older horses with broken pelvises and other broken bones and blaming it on the Tildren. It's impossible to know if these were in fact caused by the Tildren though. Finn received banamine with his Tildren today to help against any colic symptoms.

Finn was able to come home tonight and he was wound up getting off the trailer as it was dinner time. He didn't finish his grain and was pacing and circling in his stall a bit tonight. He's NEVER had colic symptoms so I'm hoping this isn't the start of anything, and he was just settling in. After everything we've been through the last thing we need right now is a colic.

The vet will get me the clinic report Monday or Tuesday and I will have even more info then, including pictures from the bone scan.

Finn had a LONG discussion with the woman I use to trailer him over whether or not he would get on the trailer. She won. :)



I do have some news to share, but I am going to wait until tomorrow after Finn gets a bunch of x-rays. For now, Ranch Girl Diaries posted a cool interview, so feel free to post your answers to your blog too.

1. What is your favorite breed/s of horse, and if you could purchase a new horse what breed would it be?As a kid I rode Morgans and I will always have a soft spot for them. I would love to own one. They are super smart, hardy, and versatile. Definitely the type of horse that can go for days, event, trail ride, do dressage, western, everything. I rode huntseat at a mostly saddleseat barn and was amazed that these Morgans can go from doing saddleseat (and winning big championships), to taking me over cross rails. 

2. What is your favorite personal tack item?I would have to say my Micklem bridle. I love what it's done for Finn, I could never use another bridle. Also love my Myler Level 1 Comfort Snaffle, best bit ever. 

3. Horse products you swear by?A curry comb! I love to curry my horse, preferably with the glove like one that fits right over your hand that you can use over the whole body including the legs and face. Simple, but so effective. 

4. Rider products or items you swear by?FITS All Season Original Pull On breeches. Since buying my first pair I will not ride in anything else. They're a pain in the ass to wash, so I just bought more pairs so I don't have to wash them as much. I would seriously wear these everywhere and not just in the saddle, they are that comfortable and that flattering. 

5. Favorite tack catalogs to shop from?Smart Pak is my absolute favorite. I've had a couple of bad Dover Saddlery experiences, so I won't shop from them anymore. Since I live in Massachusetts, the retail store is only half an hour from me. If I order online from Smart Pak before 3pm, I always receive the delivery the next day. Customer service is amazing. 

6. Is your home decorated "horsey", as in western or equestrian-themed?Not at all! I have a few pictures in frames here and there, but nothing horsey themed at all. 

7. Do you wear horse, Western, or equestrian-themed jewelry?I hate jewelry. I wear my engagement ring and wedding band only. 

8. A style of riding you'd like to try sometime? I would love to try endurance...maybe with that Morgan I buy someday!

9. Biggest lesson you've learned about horses?When you want to buy a horse get a PPE. Once you buy said horse get insurance, don't wait. 

10. Is your significant other a rider too?My guy loves to ride. He has no time to ride, but he loves it. He's been on Finn a few times, and has even cantered him (accidentally). He's also taken a few lessons (where he really shocked me with how natural he was), and has also gone on some trail rides with me. My guy is just a big animal lover in general. 

11. What horse issues bother you the most?
People that don't have the horse's best interests in mind, or people that ride their poor (lame) horses into the ground, and then toss them. 

12. Favorite horse magazines to read, or do you just read blogs/online sites?Not really a magazine person, but I love blogs, and COTH. As I kid I read Young Rider obsessively. 

13. String along some thoughts that summarize your involvement of horses......
lame...lame...lame....hocks...stifles...SI's....lame....lame...lame. my life is the story of the lame horse. Just kidding.

14. Do you ever look on Craigslist or Dreamhorse or Horseclicks.com for horses or tack? For fun or real?I always look. And mostly for real. I like dreamhorse because I can plug in the characteristics that would be the basis for what I would look for in a new horse: 100 miles from my zip code, under the age of 10, under $10k, over 15 hands. I know this is very non specific but typically what I start with. I also love browsing equine site, which is a New England based site. It's a good place to look for both horses and tack. 


Though he be but little, he is fierce.

Finn hopped right on the trailer without a struggle this morning.

We were warmly greeted in the waiting room, and a couple of the techs showed me and Finn to his stall. What a gorgeous barn. First of all the barn was heated, stalls filled with tons of shavings, super bright, clean, and Finn had a nice big window. He settled in in about 10 minutes which is so not like him!! There were only two other horses there, including one that looked like she had just had colic surgery. The techs took me out to the front where I signed some paperwork and Dr. Secor took me back to his stall where she got some history. Dr. Davis, the head vet, came back a few minutes later and reviewed all history from past vets. Then they got him hooked up to the lunge and out to the covered round pen to check him out. 

I couldn't get over how calm he was in the new environment. He quietly trotted and stretched his head down. Tech asked him for a canter and the same, head stretched down, calmly cantering around....Huh? Same in the other direction.

Took him out on the pavement and flexed I think his hind...stifles? had one of his hind legs flexed and way out to the side. He took off swishing his tail and took a couple of funny steps on his right hind. The left hind flexed similarly but not nearly as severe as his right hind. They also lunged him on pavement and noticed the 'weirdness" in his hind legs on the circle as well. 

But this was NOTHING like what I'd been experiencing at home. Dr. Davis asked me if I had brought my saddle, which, thank god, I did. We got him saddled up and took him back to the round pen to lunge him under tack. And...Finn took off like a bucking, squealing, mess. Galloping around, racing, clearly in a sort of pain that he was trying to run away from. Same in the other direction. The Dr.'s didn't let him continue like that for long and we got the saddle off ASAP. The Dr.'s don't feel my saddle is improperly fit, and know he wouldn't act that extreme on the lunge if it was just due to saddle fit. Then Dr. Davis palpated his back, and he had NO reaction under the saddle area. He thought this was really strange as his reactions a few minutes ago were so extreme on the lunge. He should have palpated and dropped his back. He thinks he may be so sore at this point that he's not having any reaction to palpation. He said he is stiff and sore from his withers to his tail, which is what I knew. The words out of Dr. Davis' mouth next were exactly what I knew they were going to be...

Bone Scan.

Because he is so wonky through his back and we don't know if it is spine, SI, hocks, stifle, neck, or a combination of a few, it didn't make sense to just start x-raying, and hoping. If we're able to pinpoint the inflammation, x-ray or ultrasound the hot spots, and hopefully treat, we will have a better chance of getting him sound and keeping him there. 

While it sucked watching my horse go around in such pain, I feel confident that we will finally get an answer. He gets his scan tomorrow and I should get some information on what they want to do next tomorrow afternoon. On Saturday he will get what treatment is recommended and be able to come home either Saturday afternoon or Sunday morning. After leaving him in the stall I had to head back to the barn and grab all his grain and supplements up until Sunday morning. When I got back to the barn the barn manager got everything organized and I hung out in his stall for a bit. While I was in his stall he licked me for 20 minutes straight. He was being so sweet. 

This is the horse that I used to have to ride with a crop, that didn't let anything faze him. Now he is a horse that bolts, rushes, paces, and is clearly miserable. I feel guilty for not trusting my instincts, and I feel guilty for not doing this six months ago and making him work through pain, nearly ruining our relationship.

I really hope I can get him back to who he used to be. 



Today Finn turned nine! I was not at the barn because we had a day that looked like this:

We got a little over a foot of snow, the roads were horrible, and an hour drive to and from the barn to hang out with the pony wasn't happening. Instead, me and the munchkin decided to bake him an apple-carrot birthday cake. I found a bunch of recipes online and ended up incorporating a little from each recipe.

Big helper

A lot of the recipes suggested shredding the apples and carrots. Luckily the Vitamix took care of all that!

He probably would have eaten this raw

It smelled awesome while it baked

The finished product. It was a little mushier than I would have liked, but it came out great. Those are crushed spearmints on the edge. :)

Finn will get his cake tomorrow after we get back from New England Equine. Our appointment is at 11am and I'm assuming we will be there all day. My vets forwarded all of his paperwork to NEE, as well as all x-rays. I also have everything printed out, as well as timeline history that I wrote. The great thing about this blog is that everything that has happened to him in the past two years is right here, and I don't have to try to remember it all.

Wish us luck!!


The plan

On Thursday Finn is headed to New England Equine Medical and Surgical Center. It's about 40 minutes from the barn and I'm prepared to do a bunch of diagnostics on him to figure out what is going on. While I do think some of his issues are behavioral, I know that he doesn't spend his days plotting to scare me. There's just been too much going on with him medically in these past two years for everything to be linked to behavior. Before the summer I was having a blast with my horse. Yes, he's a handful, always will be, but I have always had fun with him even when he was challenging. I can remember the summer before this one I took him out on the trails with a group and part of the trail was where he had to cross a beaver dam. The horses had to go down a steep incline, cross a little stream, and then it was an incline back up. Horses were either going down the hill, stepping into the dam and climbing back out, or jumping the whole thing and scrambling a bit on the way up. It was definitely scary. Finn was scared and kept trying to turn around to head back home. When he didn't get his way he would rear or cow kick at my leg. After 30 minutes of coaxing he ended up climbing a bit of the way down and jumping it. On the way home we had to cross it again and he didn't even bat an eye. Through his whole temper tantrum I was laughing at my baby. He wasn't being dangerous, just scared. Now, nothing he does is funny.

 I also got in touch with the MSPCA. I told them that I was bringing him to New England, and if, after that, we still don't have a diagnosis, or if he has something wrong with him that makes him unrideable, he will be headed back to the MSPCA where he will find a home as a pasture pet. I DO want to find out what's wrong with him, especially after almost two years of wondering. I am excited and nervous and hope we get some answers. We will be leaving the barn early on Thursday morning and will most likely be at the hospital all day.

On Saturday the weather was practically summer like, 50 degrees and sunny. Finn got to be outside without his blanket for the first time in months.