Trick or trick

Not a lot of treats lately, just a big trick.

We’re still here, still getting a handle on Frankie’s Lyme. Treatment looks like this:

A dose of doxy every day to address the Lyme
A dose of omeprazole every day, to address the havoc doxy causes on the gut
A gut supplement with every meal, to also address the gut havoc
Another gut supplement with every meal, to also address the gut havoc
Free range alfalfa, TO ALSO ADDRESS THE GUT HAVOC

I may be a bit paranoid and going over the top, but this horse has never been ulcer-prone and I’ll be damned if I solve one problem only to cause another. He’s had healthy-looking poops and no signs of an ouchie tummy, so I’m taking this as a success.

My favorite is that you can see where he’s been breathing and just blowing the shavings out of the way. They had to pile the shavings around him because he didn’t wake up while they cleaned his stall. He adores the whole staff at the new barn.

Pro tip: we were able to have our vet compound the omeprazole through the in-house pharmacy, which is saving us some money. Gastrogard and Ulcergard are so FRIGGIN EXPENSIVE.

Our progress is a bit of a mixed bag. Frankie went out and won his speed class for his kid last weekend (she was completely caught off guard at Francis in Full Jumper Mode but was a good sport and clung on for dear life). The vet was thrilled that just a few weeks after being so visibly sore, he felt good enough to go for gold in a big competitive class at 0.95m. I took him in the ring the next day and ended up scratching – he was a good boy but had that same laggy-ness as before. Our vet said she wasn’t surprised or discouraged by this – with Lyme it’s not uncommon for them to get fatigued more than usual.

Even though we ended up scratching, it was a fantastic day: I got to wear my shmancy sparkly coat, I got to see some of my best friends I haven’t seen in a while, and Francis gave a very happy girl a pony ride. She cried when I tried to hand her off to her father. We have a horse girl in the making.

We opted to run a full titer to see what levels we’re working with, and the results came back kinda borderline. It’s not quite acute, not quite chronic. This tells us that the symptoms I noticed over the summer likely were Lyme, and not heat like we originally thought. I’m kicking myself for not realizing this sooner (Frankie usually handles the heat extremely well so I should’ve known it was out of character), but all we can do is work off the information we have. We’re extending the doxy by another month with hopes that being aggressive will get us where we need to be.

We have some other options for treatment if the doxy isn’t working, but so far our vet is really happy with his progress and thinks we’ll be good to go. We talked about when/why we’ll try other options and we’re not at that point.

Worst case is that his case has already gone chronic, and we’ll always have to manage flares. Best case is that we’re getting at it hard now and we’ll be able to knock it out. Obviously I’m hoping for the latter, but I’m not getting ahead of myself. My plans for Frankie don’t really change either way: enjoying him at the level he wants to work, and making sure he enjoys his job. If we can get back to having the fastest times in the Low Adults, that would be awesome. If he says he only wants to do that sometimes, or we should stick with 1-day shows, or he wants to do a lower height, that’s awesome too. If he does have flares in the future, I now know exactly what that feels like and we can treat it ASAP.

His weekly solarium sessions mean he gets a nice warm relaxing nap while the fitness center staff loves on him. These are all of his favorite things.

We always have a quiet winter since I’m a big weenie and hate showing in the cold, so we have plenty of time to treat and re-test, treat and re-test as needed.

Biggest shout outs to my vet, who has been in close contact checking in and giving updates, my trainer for being flexible day-to-day as we react to what Frankie’s workload needs to be in the moment, and to our barn staff who have been simply amazing at helping coordinate everything – as soon as I said I needed to extend the treatment, they reached out to the vet staff to make sure we didn’t run out. The support system we have is amazing and gives me so much confidence that no matter what happens, we’ll be in great hands and able to continue having fun together ❤

Good(ish) News

Here’s a sentence I never thought I’d write:

I’m very happy to share that Frankie tested positive for Lyme.

Am I happy that Frankie is anything less than 100% healthy? Absolutely not. I hate that he’s been hurting. Am I relieved beyond belief that (1) we have answers (2) we have a super solid treatment plan and (3) my gut instinct was right? Very very much so.

As I mentioned in my last post, we were able to get on the vet’s schedule within a matter of days. She started off with a basic physical exam to check for soreness, with nothing coming up as a problem. Frankie actually seemed to love his unofficial massage and was nice and relaxed.

During this exam, I shared my five paragraph essay of collected symptoms I had noticed. I wish I was exaggerating, but when it comes to this horse I do not play. Other people have been on Frankie recently, but none have the 6+ years of history and knowledge of what his “normal” looks like so I don’t know that anyone else would have noticed some of the more subtle changes.

By the end of my soliloquy, the vet said this sounded like it could potentially be a tick borne illness.

She asked if I wanted to continue with a lameness eval, and I said that I’d rather just do the blood draw for the quick 10 min test – if that came back negative we could continue trying other things.

Him after his vet appointment, being an absolute mooch for snuggles and scratches

While waiting for the results of the blood test, we did do a quick jog/lunge and Francis was noticeably head bobbing lame. Apparently his little massage caused something to flare up and the poor guy was very ouchie. Right around when we saw that, we also saw that the test came back with a faint positive.

Frankie is immediately starting a course of antibiotics, with some heavy GI support from multiple sources so he doesn’t get a tummy ache. He’s getting some high-buoyancy sessions on the water treadmill to give his joints a break, and will be in light work until this flare resolves.

I was surprised but happy to learn that movement actually helps with the treatment, so he won’t be getting any extended time off unless he tells us he needs it. My trainer, half leaser, and I are all on the same page of listening to him each day – if he feels great we can do a bit more, or if he needs a slow day then that’s what he’ll get. The vet had absolutely no concerns about him maintaining his current schedule as long as we’re attentive, and we are all definitely very invested in keeping him happy and healthy!

The vet is confident that we caught this early and that there’s no reason the treatment shouldn’t be successful at alleviating all symptoms. The sluggishness, the stickiness, the hesitation to move out (along with some other smaller things my paranoid horse mom brain noticed) are all explained by this diagnosis and should all start clearing up within weeks.

While finding out my perfect boy is sick isn’t ideal, we have a lot to be grateful for: my lease kid is just the sweetest and is so committed to making sure Frankie feels his best. My vet listened to my concerns, shared her thoughts, and gave me options. My trainer trusted my judgement and supported my decisions (and it was great having her there for the exam because she’s literally Frankie’s emotional support person I swear). My barn friends have listened to me absolutely spiral about needing to retire Frankie in his prime if we didn’t find an answer.

Most of all, as always, I’m grateful for Frankie. That he told me something was wrong and still kept me safe until I heard him clearly. I wish I caught on even sooner, but I’m glad we figured it out before it got too bad.

So to reiterate how I started this post, I’m happy to share that Frankie has Lyme because it means that we can fix it, and soon he’ll be feeling back to his wonderful self!

And he can continue to take the best naps in the world

So that was weird

Piedmont Jumper 2022 is over, and I gotta say, it was a weird weekend.

It started off well – Frankie arrived at the showgrounds on Thursday, had a nice schooling ride with my trainer, and was tucked away happily waiting for me the next day.

He took his usual show nap, so things were going very normally

I arrived on Friday with my tiny child in tow, ready to win everything. I was nervous about bringing Lina and not having my husband there to help wrangle her, but it all worked out wonderfully. The combination of (1) a super easy-going baby that’s content to hang out and (2) truly generous and amazing barnmates who stepped in when I needed a hand meant that balancing Lina and Frankie went better than expected!

Did I get us matching coats? Yes. Of course I did.

We had our usual short and sweet warmup that went well, and walked in the ring for our Low Adult class. Our first fence was a little sticky but nothing awful, and the next couple jumps came up fine. Then there was a bending 5 stride to a 1 stride, I got him there on the half step, and he stopped.

I’m not mad about the stop itself – Frankie only ever stops when it’s going to be an unsafe choice, and I trust his judgement here. We circled, reapproached, and made it right through no problem.

But I am not particularly thrilled about WHY we got there on a half stride. It was a very easy bending line that walked in a perfect five. It was towards the in gate and his stall. It was down a slight hill. It was bending left, and he likes to fade left. And he’s a big horse. All of this means that he should’ve absolutely eaten that line up and I should’ve needed to help balance him. Instead, at stride 3-4 I realized that we were nowhere close to where we needed to be, and I could not get the length of stride to close that gap.

You can see the line from 5 to 6a.

This was a red flag for me.

We were able to complete the course with no other major bobbles, and I walked out to my trainer saying that she’s glad I recovered and continued to ride strongly, and that I made solid choices. I agreed with her, and immediately asked that we schedule a vet appointment.

She asked why – other than an understandable stop, our course looked fine. I told her that despite a good pace and being on track for solid spots, two strides out from every jump I had to really squeeze him up. That kind of “lag” is extremely unusual for Frankie – he’s never spooked at a jump and he’s not the type to ask questions. The combination of short-stridedness and that hesitation before takeoff was to me a blaring alarm that something doesn’t feel right.

The plan we came up with was to drop down to the 0.85m class the next day. We figured one of two things would happen: either (1) he would feel better, telling us that the height was the problem or (2) he would still feel sticky, telling us that there’s discomfort going on. We had a plan either way.

Small girl was my coolout partner – she was so excited to put on her “hat” and ride her “bubba.” There are not many horses I would trust to walk out of the jumper ring and immediately give a baby a pony ride at a bustling show, but Frankie is too perfect for words.

At this point, I’m hoping for the former but do think it’s the latter. I felt these same issues in Tryon – but I blamed it on the crazy high temps and the fact that he was carrying some extra weight. But the weather is colder and he’s more fit now, so it’s something else going on. It could be something as simple as needing to adjust our warmup to give him more time to limber up, it could be that we need to re-adjust saddle fit (again), it could be that we need to increase/change the types of maintenance that we provide. Those are all easy enough to fix, so we’ll start there. I have a Plan A, Plan B, all the way through Plan M or N depending on what he needs from us.

Despite our best laid plans, I did wake up Saturday feeling sick as a dog and had to scratch the rest of the weekend. Womp womp. His kiddo was able to get him out to stretch his legs and said he felt great, so at least he wasn’t cooped up in the rain all weekend.

Obligatory Maggie content because she 100% knows when I don’t feel well and is completely glued to my side.

By the time I got online for work Monday morning, I already had a text confirming that the vet would be taking a look at Frankie on Wednesday to see what additional support he might need from us to feel his best. One of the many perks of boarding with my vet is that we never have to wait long for an appointment!

I have to say here just how much I appreciate my trainer. Instead of saying “it looked fine to me” or “maybe you were just nervous,” she immediately joined me in problem solving mode to see what we could try. She trusted that after 6+ years, I know this horse inside and outside and backwards and forwards. She listened to my concerns and then got us on the vet’s schedule within a day. I’ve worked with plenty of people that would’ve dismissed my concerns, so having her on board so quickly was a total relief.

So yeah. It was a weird weekend.

On the plus side: I gained a lot of confidence in just doing the darn thing even with a toddler along for the ride. Lina had a total blast watching all the ponies. We did make it around. Frankie was a very good boy and as always, tried hard for me.

Does having a baby with me require more planning and coordination? Yes absolutely. Did I love having her there and did it feel great to unite my two favorite roles in life (mom and rider)? Yes even more absolutely.

On the not-so-plus side: To be petty, my absolute least favorite local show photographer was the official photog for this show, guaranteeing that I didn’t get a shot. If you’re in the Nova area, you know who I’m talking about. More importantly, despite making it around and the fact that Frankie is not showing overt signs of lameness, my gut is telling my that there’s something bothering him. My job, as it always has been, is to make sure he is happy and healthy in his work and I’m ready to start turning over whatever stones we need to so he can feel his best. He doesn’t owe me a thing, so he’ll get whatever he needs.

Very blurry screengrab from the video with my angel boy ❤