Wednesday, August 10, 2016

In which I'm not the only one to make a tough choice for a good horse

My post yesterday was about pulling Fiddle from competition for the remainder of the year.   
If I ever thought that was a hard choice to make, it was before I read today's Facebook post from Olympic competitor Adelinde Cornelissen of the Netherlands, who pulled her horse at the entry gate at the Olympics because she knew he didn't feel well.

Adelinde Cornelissen on Parzival (NED) Credit: Jon Stroud Media
The article in Horse and Hound really played up the illness angle, but the rider's own account, posted on FB and pasted below, emphasized that all the vets had cleared Parzival for competition. 
This was absolutely a tough call to make, a true "rider option" pull, and although I have tremendous respect for any rider who takes an RO, I have even more respect for a rider who flies a horse all the way to South America and pulls at the start line with the whole world watching.  All for the benefit of the horse.  
I can't help feeling I'm in good company.  
So here's a question for the readers:  have you ever taken an RO?  Either at a competition, or elsewhere, made a drastic change in plans for the benefit of the horse?  Or have you ever declined to make a drastic change and regretted not doing it?  
No flames are permitted on this blog, but I'd be interested in sharing stories that might benefit other readers.  The comment box is open.  

Adelinde Cornelissen
2 hrs

My story....
Lots has happened...
The first days in Rio went according to plan: a relaxed flight, stabling good, training good. Parzival feels happy and fit.
Until yesterday morning... I planned to train early on Tuesday morning, so I was at the stable at 6am. Saying good morning to Parzival, I saw the right side of his head was swollen, he had been kicking the walls. I took his temperature:he had a fever of over 40 degrees Celcius, but he still didn't look sick. He was eating and drinking and while walking I had a hard time keeping up with him, as always...
Jan Greve came right away and after double checking with the vets here they concluded he was bitten by an insect or spider or some sort of animal which produces toxics.
To get the toxics out of his system we gave him fluids. From 6.30 to 15.45hrs we kept him on this. It helps the kidneys to clean up the toxics out of the body. The vets at the clinic took swaps from the nose and checked the blood. The temperature dropped gradually and by 15.30 it was 38.4... We then took x-rays from the jaw and echoed the area. Just making sure..All ok.
At the end of the day the fever was down and I handwalked Parzival a bit. He looked a lot better and the swelling of his head was at least 1/3 the size of this morning...
Then difficult descisions came... We requested the FEI if we could swap starting places within the team, so Parzi could get a day to recover. Competing on thursday in stead of wednesday. But the FEI declined.
At that point I didn't want to compete anymore... Parzival's health is more important than anything else in this world!
I slept at the stables, checking up on Parzi every hour... I was not going to leave him alone! Of course I didn't get any sleep...
Main thing, this morning temperature had dropped to 37.5! And the swelling again had come down a bit..
New difficult descisions to make.

I had decided yesterday I was not going to compete, but now the temperature was back to normal, he looked fit, was eating and drinking good, I also didn't want to let the team down... In the back of my mind knowing we had no reserve combination here..... What to do?
Between 7am and 8am we were allowed to ride in the arena.
I discussed with Jan Greve and Johan Rockx and decided we were going to walk and trot under saddle for 10 min and see how he was...
And so we did... We went to the arena, rode a few laps and he looked happy and fit. Coming back to the stables the temperature was still down...
Again difficult descisions... What to do? He is fit now, but you know what happened yesterday... Nobody to fill in my place if I would withdraw, letting the team down.
Questions questions... What is wise? I discussed with several vets and the team coach.. The FEI vets came and checked up on him around 10am. All gave green light to compete.. We decided I would give it a try. The fever was down, which means the toxics are out of his system. There is still a bit of swelling in the jaw, but we cooled it all the time and the swelling gets less...
I agreed to give it a try. Knowing the story, I took it easy in the warm up and didn't want to ride full. He was ok, although he didn't feel very powerful. Normal of course after a day like yesterday. I walked a lot to save the energy.. When I entered I already felt he was giving his utmost and being the fighter he is, he never gives up... But in order to protect him, I gave up...My buddy, my friend, the horse that has given everything for me his whole life does not deserve this.... So I saluted and left the arena.....


Ms Cornelissen, you may not have earned a medal for your team in Rio, but here at Haiku Farm we think you deserve endless Gold Stars.

UPDATE:  Did Adelinde break her horse's jaw prior to competition using Rolkur?  
Did she try to "kick him awake" prior to her rider option pull?  

I don't know.  If so, I'm sorry for it.  

If not, I'm sorry for the "trial by Facebook" that is burning up the Interwebs now.  

If you have never experienced first-hand the ugliness of humanity online, then count yourself lucky.  There is something about the medium that seems to spur (intentional pun) the vitriol.  Sometimes the meanness is justified.  Often it is not.  I know of at least one virtual mob that whipped itself into a frenzy last week over statements that were flat-out wrong--and worse, not a one of the participants remembered to apologize for the nastiness they helped to generate.  And I am very sorry for that.

I urge my Gentle Readers: before participating in any online witch hunt, consider your source of information, and the source of your information's source, and the source of that source's source, and so on.  If you see rhetoric spinning away from true and into the unkind, speak up, promptly and strongly.  

If you are taking somebody else's word, please spend some time in pondering before grabbing a pitchfork and flaming torch.  

As for me, I'm going riding.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

In which we visit Doctor Dear again and make some choices for Fee

This week we went back to the vet for a re-check.

I deliberately rode Fiddle on a long trail the day before our appointment, so that if there was still some lameness it would show up for the vet.  

And it did.  Vastly improved, but still present.

Flexion test

I took videos of the various trot outs so I could look at them again and share them here.

Unfortunately, my camera shut down after 2 seconds on a few of the videos (operator error), but I did manage to get some footage, attached below:

Walk out.  The funky "swing" in her RH leg is reduced, and her stride is more normal.  In fact, it seems to be back to her normal (which may still appear odd, but it works for her).

Flex left hind, trot forward then bend left.  No problem here. 

Flex right, trot out turning right.  Short-striding on the RH, improved but still present.

So, what does all this mean?

After flexing the left hind leg, she showed more discomfort on the right hind--probably because she was weight bearing on the RH when the left side was held up and flexed.  Not a big surprise there.

She is slightly ouchy on the left hind as well.

What does all that mean where the rubber hits the road (or the steel hits the trail, in our case)

I love that my vet can send me her files via email, and that I can post them to the blog for safekeeping.
Modern technology rocks!

I had originally planned to ride an LD at the Mt. Spokane ride and evaluate her after that with a view towards riding a 50 at Milwaukee Road...mostly because I'd like to put another 50 on her record towards the Decade Team award.

However, the Milwaukee Road ride has been cancelled, and nothing else on the calendar would be suitable for bringing a horse back from this kind of lameness.

View from the Milwaukee Road trail in 2015

With an eye towards my REAL goal for Fiddle, which is to keep her happy, healthy, and sound for the next twenty years or so, we injected both hocks.  It's a good choice for a 14-year-old endurance mare.  Not cheap, but it will definitely make her more comfortable!

Also, I've decided to abstain from competitions with her for the rest of the season.  A twenty-five miler at Mt Spokane would not contribute towards the Decade Team award anyhow, so I'm not inclined to push.

Another six months of slow-steady rehab on the soft tissue will be better for the healing process than bombing headlong into an LD.

Am I disappointed?  Or sad? Or...?

Not really.  I will still go to the Mt Spokane ride and work as a pulser and general dogsbody for ride management.

My favorite view in the world: heading up Chanterelle Hill on my horse

Most importantly, I can still ride my good mare.

That--much more than competition--is what makes us both happy.