Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Rhabdomyolysis and Selenium levels

or... maybe better known as Tying- up or Azoturia. It's one of the things that endurance riders fear. Quite some time ago, I was informed that I might run a greater risk with Maggie being prone to tying up because of her build, (heavier muscling) and was encouraged to supplement Vitamin E, Selenium and Lysine, which has shown to help lessen tying up problems.

Not being one to just do as told, I went looking for myself before I did anything. Turns out, Maggie is not really at any greater risk than any other horse for sporadic or chronic Rhabdomyolysis. Any horse, any breed, any age can run into issues with the sporadic version if they are over worked beyond their condition level or being asked to perform in hot humid weather without sufficient electorylytes. Maggie is less likely to run into what is considered the Chronic version , which is then split into two categories; PSSM (polysaccharides Storage Myopathy) which I won't get into , or RER(Recurrent Exertional Rhabdomyolysis). According to an article written by Lydia F. Gray, DVM, MA in August 2007, it states that researchers has once believed that RER was due to the build up of lactic acid in the muscles, however recent studies are showing that it may be more related to abnormal regulation of intracellular calcium that makes muscles more sensitive to contractions. As it turns out, there are three breeds that are prone to REr, which include Standardbreds, Arabians and Thoroughbreds. Maggie doesn't fit into any of these, however she is Morgan , which did influence the standard bred... so I suppose there is always the possibility. The good news is that it really has nothing to do with muscle/body build, from what I can glean.

This whole topic did make me want to be sure that , given her recent workload in the last two months , she was receiving an adequate amount of Selenium , Vitamin E and Lysine.

I also live in an area considered Selenium deficient. That means that our hay and our grass in the pasture may not be providing enough.

I found this article. In this article, it gives some very interesting information about plants and Selenium uptake. The article also indicates that the area of Montana tends to have sufficient or higher levels of Selenium, which I found a bit surprising since that was a direct contradiction to everything I have understood for several years. I kept looking and found this resource (USGS)that gives a little more accurate information . You can zoom in and click on your county to get the exact ranges of Selenium levels. Cornell has an article which states that for areas with identified deficiencies, animals should be getting between 0.1-0.3 mg/kg per day and more specifically for horses, the nutrient requirement for simple maintenance is 0.10mg/kg per day of Selenium. According to the map (USGS) link for Flathead County, Montana, the minimum is 0.101 and the maximum is 1.926 (ppm) . If I wanted to convert that to MG/LB I would need to multiply that by 0.4536 or if I wanted to convert it to Mg/Kg I would multiply by 1.

So, roll up your sleeves and lets do some math! (not my strong suit at all) I just took the upper end ppm of 1.926 x 1 which gave me 2 MG/Kg or 1.926 x 0.4536 gives me 1 MG/LB. So, if I give nothing but hay and pasture and assuming the numbers on the USGS map are correct , it seems as though the Selenium amounts my horses are receiving are just above the recommended range for maintenance of 0.10 mg/kg thus telling me that I wouldn't necessarily need to supplement Selenium. With a hard working horse, apparently there is some wiggle room upward from those numbers as the requirements may increase with workload.

As a general rule, I have used Horse Guard for years as a broad spectrum Vitamin /Mineral supplement , along with hay and some limited pasture during the summer. Horse Guard also happens to also provider 3 mg of Selenium and 4,000 IU of Vitamin E.

But how much Selenium is too much?

According to the FDA (and ofcourse their info is always a bit suspect), a horse should not be allowed to ingest more than 3 mg per day of Selenium and they go on to say that even as small amount of 2 mg over that 3 mg , a horse can develop toxicity. When I read this, I was a bit concerned. The 3 mg that Horse Guard provides, combined with anything my horses might be getting from hay and/or pasture, (remember about 1MG/LB, I was suddenly seeing that our horses might be getting approximately 4 MG/LB per day, which was possibly creeping up into the upper ends of what was a safe number???

I consulted with my vet and she felt that while the numbers on the USGS were good general guidelines, there are variations. She was aware of several hay crops in the area that have been tested and all showed that there was definitely a deficiency. I supposed I could have my hay and soil tested but in the years I have been using the same feeding program, I have never seen any symptoms of toxicity in my horses, such as hair loss, cracked hooves, dull coat, etc. For now, I'll keep with what I know works and watch for any symptoms..

I would like to hear from anyone with any other information regarding this.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A Word on Horse Camping

For many of us, the word "camping" elicits sweet memories of family time during our childhoods. Growing up, my family didn't do a lot of camping and if we did, it involved a Winnebago. Most of my summers growing up weren't spent camping at all, but instead, playing in the sandy beaches of the Atlantic, , catching mussles on the piers, and having lobster races. I spent a lot of my summers at my cousins beach cottage in CT. So, camping wasn't something I was really into growing up. As I grew older , went to high school and college, I did get introduced to camping, which usually involved loud music , boating, and generally a good time with friends. Since, I have done several horse camping trips with my husband over the years with a wall tent as well. Yeah, it was fun but to be perfectly honest, I really don't enjoy '"roughing " it. That said I do love endurance riding and camping kind of goes with the territory and when you don't have a LQ horse trailer, one must get creative in order to be comfortable.

In just over 2 and 1/2 weeks, I plan to compete in the July Thompson River endurance ride with Maggie (her first!) and I will be camping for 3 nights and 3 days. I have already started the process of pulling out my camping equipment (how does someone who doesn't camp alot acquire all this crap!) to see what I have , what I need, etc because I plan to make a few updates to the horse camp "set up" this year.

Let's begin with the sleeping arrangements;

Old approach; On the previous rides I have done, I have usually packed along a one man Eureka tent. After getting soaked all three times I have used it, it was time to rethink things.

New Approach: A cot in the back of the horse trailer with a tarp to keep the weather out(its a open stock trailer). I could also possibly throw an airbed into the bulkhead of the horse trailer like Tom and I usually do on our combined trips but it's awkward getting up and down from it, especially in a hurry.

Either way, beats sleeping on the ground.

Cooking/Kitchen Arrangement:

Old approach: I didn't really have one come to think of it, other than packing the coleman stove, the tub of miscellaneous camping utensils, and setting it all up on a camp table. Not very organized or user friendly.

New approach; Take the coleman camp stove and set up the Cabella's camp Kitchen, which, has never ever been taken out of the box since we received it as a gift 3 years ago for the husband's hunting camp collection. This little unit should solve alot of organization and dish washing issues.

Bathroom /showering Arrangement:

Old Approach: wash up with cold water or dive into whatever frigid body of water happened to be nearby, or last resort, just go without a shower.

New Approach (this is my favorite!) I will not go without this time. There will be portable bathrooms of course at the ride camp but my main concern was a place to clean up a bit. After riding all day, I am going to want a shower because no matter how hard I try to stay clean I am usually the one covered in sweat, dirt , leaves and branches sticking out of my helmet you name it. I have always envied those endurance riders that finish a ride looking as clean and refreshed as when they started. I have no idea how they do it but I am not one of them! So I must have a way to shower up, otherwise, I get very cranky when I have to remain covered in sweaty horse grime for any length of time. To help resolve this issue I purchased a shower/utility room tent, along with a couple of solar shower bags. Warning: I am about to dive into personal material here .... Ever had to change clothes in the cab of a truck? You know, the contorting of your body in order to pull off those sweaty breeches only to become more sweat soaked in the process because the cab of the truck is about 120 degrees from sitting in the sun for two days? You know what I am talking about. This little shower tent will solve that issue and give me a cooler place to change clothes , with privacy, and never having to worry about ducking down out of sight onto the floorboard of your truck to avoid the person that just happens to be walking by at the very moment you are indisposed.. yep, all the comforts of home.. well almost....right? (at least until I can win the lotto and buy a LQ horse trailer!)

A Place to Relax arrangement:

Old approach; Plop a camp chair down in a grassy spot with out horse manure, under a tree if you can find one. If not, pull on a ball cap, shades and squint and sweat while chit chatting and relaxing (relatively speaking here).

New Approach: Since they say that one of the most important things about camping is being able to relax, I clearly has some room for improvement here. I don't really ever recall being totally able to relax on any of my camping excursions. If I am not worried about the grizzlies (husband camp trips) or a moose coming into camp, I was worried about the horses. This trip, while we have run into Grizzly bears and moose while marking trails, I doubt they are going to be anywhere near where ride camp will be. So , I decided what my camp needed was "atmosphere". I am adding a temporary awning to the trailer. Basically I will attach a tarp to the opposite side of the trailer, run it up and over the top of the trailer and then straight out. Using two tent poles, that end that comes out will come down at a bit of an downward angle (like a real awning) and be staked to the ground. It will provide my shady area and the tarp will help keep the weather out from the inside of the trailer, where I will be sleeping.

So that's it. With these few changes and upgrades, It should be just like home , right??? or at least a step closer than I was!

So, since I have to believe I am not the only endurance rider out there that doesn't have a LQ horse trailer and doesn't really enjoy camping, I wanna hear about your camp , how you make things more comfortable ...what are your must have's and things you are willing to go without?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Thompson River Endurance Ride

For the last several weeks, I have been busy with helping to mark trails for the Hooves and Company upcoming Endurance Ride . It's an area that is all new to us to host a ride at. For our small crew, it's been a tremendous effort, with still alot more work to do. We have spent hours riding, driving, hiking and biking to find trails that are suitable. It's beautiful country. If you haven't been to this area (Northwest Montana) for a ride or have been and ridden at our past location (Herron Park), mark this ride down and plan to attend. You won't be disappointed. The picture above was taken near the Vet check area...

Ridge View

Miles of soft , grassy logging roads to fly on!....

Tom and I at Whitney Springs... We were soaked to the bone at this point as the rains were coming down hard.. and yes, it really is this lush , atleast right now!

Tom and I crossing the creek.. yes, this will be part of the ride..... but by July, it will be running less than this. This was the first time I had ever taken Maggie across anything more than a puddle of a small creek..

Maggie and I taking a break at Whitney Springs...

Tell all your friends, this

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Getting on my big girl pants...

Still playing with this heart rate monitor thing and last night. I took Maggie out for a 2 hour solo ride last night and noticed some interesting things.

Up to this point, I have always had someone along with me while riding her. While I can’t use the excuse that Maggie is still new to me, I still don’t feel like I have all her buttons figured out and we are far from “gellin” yet. Her reactions to things are not always consistent. Until we get all that figured out, I prefer to have someone along with out on the trail , but last night, it just didn’t work out and.. well…she needed to get ridden… besides, it was time to take a step forward in our relationship, maybe try to put a little trust in her and officially put on my big girl pants...

Maggie was feeling rather “fresh” so I decided it would be a good night for the loop with more elevation challenges, in the hopes to channel that energy appropriately.

We headed out and took the left onto the trail I was after. Right away, while traveling at a walk , still on relatively flat ground, I noticed her heart rate was higher than what it had been running the last few times I have had the monitor on her. Of course, this is all still new so I have no idea if I really have a true baseline yet. All I can say is that in the last 5 times I have used the monitor she had been running anywhere between 88 and 94 while we walk and the ground is relatively level. Last night she was hanging out about 108-109. I thought maybe it was that she might be a bit nervous being alone and all. She was definitely much more on alert to every squirrel, bird or any other noise that was made.

During the climbing sessions, she jumped up to 155 once, we stopped and she came down to 105 within a couple seconds so I wasn’t alarmed. I noticed on the next hill, she went up to 143 for just a few strides and then seemed to level off at 136 , and stayed there until we reached the top. Not bad?? I am honestly not sure since I don't know what she should be at for climbing a hill.

As we got further into the ride, she did seem to relax and she leveled off, thus staying about 90 on the flat ground. I finally got into some area where we could do some trotting and work on pacing. I thought it would present the perfect time and would be easy without any other horse to compete against. Boy was I ever wrong! She must have known we were sort of headed in the direction of the trailer, (but still several miles away) because she was pulling very hard, very speedy. Normally at a trot, when I can settle her into a reasonable pace, she has been running about 117-118 . This time, having to holding her up quite a bit , she kept spiking up to 136-144. Way to high for a trot! That much I knew.... Clearly, she was using more energy to fight me. I asked her to walk again for a while to settle down a bit. When we got to a long section of flat open dirt track. I asked for the trot again but this time, I let her pick the pace. I wanted to see what would happen with her heart rate because I know that every horse varies on what speed they are most efficient at. It was a stretch of trail of maybe a ½ mile. Ofcourse, Maggie chose a big fast trot. Her heart rate spiked at first to 144, then to my surprise, it back off to 123 and that is where it remained for the entire ½ mile.

So what does this mean? Does it mean she has to travel at that fast pace to be efficient ? I would think that I should be able to teach her to relax enough so she can travel at a slower pace and still be efficient. ( I hope so cuz I can’t ride that trot for 25 miles!!)

What about her heart rate during climbing? If she is recovering within a few seconds to a better rate, should I be concerned that she is jumping up to 155 ? Or do I just have to be patient as this will just improve over time as her condition improves?
I am beginning to see some changes in her from even two weeks ago; a two hour ride used to wipe her out for the next two days. In the last two weeks, I am seeing that 2 hours is no longer much of a challenge anymore for her. I think we are making progess in her conditioning but I would love to get any feedback anyone with more experience than I with heart rate monitors.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

After Market Withers Would be nice....

Still battered and bruised from my weekend “event” with Maggie, I managed to load her up again last night for another round…

(I’ll get back to that in a moment)

Believe me; going riding was the last thing I felt like doing with how I was feeling but… Tuesday would be the only decent day before the weekend and…if I am going to ask Maggie to complete a 25 mile limited distance on July 17th, it’s time to start putting more time and mileage on the clock.

So, after icing my ankle and neck for 20 minutes, popping a few ibuprofen, I loaded up and headed out to the state land for a 2 hour ride. The weather was beautiful. For the first time in weeks I didn’t get rained on while riding. I even managed to find a way to place my rate monitor Maggie where it didn’t bother her. It proved to give me some good insight into her level of condition, which I hope to track over the coming weeks.

Last night's ride was going to be a faster paced excurion but Maggie was either a bit tired still from Sunday’s long day, or possibly the fact that she was in heat was affecting her energy level. Needless to say, she seemed a bit lethargic. After a couple miles, she did perk up a bit. She even decided that she wanted to travel at a nice easy trot. As long as she didn’t get too speedy, I let her decide what pace we traveled at. When she offered to trot, we trotted, when she wanted to walk, we walked. This was kind of a huge revelation for her because normally, she wants to just go, go, and go. We did have to climb a few hills and her heart rate would jump a little higher than I would have liked to see, 145-155 range, during the climbs. I would stop her at these points and let her recover before continuing on. She did manage to recover to below 130 within a short amount of time which I was glad to see however, I can see, her fitness level is lacking in hills. On the long and flat areas where we trotted she seemed to maintain at about 117-120 range. I thought that was decent. We probably managed to cover at least 10 miles, several of which was alot of up and down. I won’t ride her again until Friday or Saturday so she should have time to recover well.

Now, back to last Sunday....

Let's just start by saying, I haven't been bucked off a horse in a very very long time. I have had horses trip and go down with me but actually getting bucked off just hasn't happened for several years. Maybe I was due and as it turns out Maggie was just fit for the job I guess.

Yep, she unloaded me pretty hard last Sunday and I am still working through various injuries, mostly minor but still painful... I was thankful I had my helmet on as I took a good bump to the head, which caused me to have a bit of a sprained neck, a sore shoulder and a swollen and painful ankle , probably sprained as well.

Anyways, we were out marking trail for the upcoming endurance ride here. We all rode out in teams of two, with our maps in hand. The goal was to start placing flags lightly to mark the assigned trail. There were 4 teams of two riders. Steph and I were a team and going along enjoying our route. We had already ridden about 6 miles and were supposed to turn back at the creek and mark the trail as an out and back. As it turned out, we were surprised to meet up with another team, who weren’t supposed to be where they were based on where they rode out from. Of course at that point, we all got curious and thought there must be a way to loop this trail (it’s all new territory) . We decided to see if we could figure it out. We rode for quite some time before we popped out onto a nice two track grassy road and decided we could make up some time and do some trotting out. The other team was out in front, then me and my co captain Steph. One of the other riders had a dog with , which wasn’t any bother to any of the horses, including Maggie. Mostly... The dog at one point, decided to pass Maggie and I on the right hand side, which just happened to be a steep uphill bank. There wasn't much room between the hillside and where we were. The dog, realizing it was harder to run along on the side of the hill decided to jump down....right in front of Maggie. She tried to avoid him but couldn't and as he yipped away, out of harm, she startled. She let out buck and a huge (or what felt like a huge) jump. I think the dog startled her to be honest because he appeared out of no where from her line of vision. Unfortunately, when she jumped, she slammed into Steph and her horse to my left, practically landing on them and in the collision, I lost my right rein... which was completely stupid... I have no idea how I lost my rein. As I scrambled to try to regain the rein, she continued to buck but added a little twist, what I prefer to call a sunfish maneuver. Now, remember we were traveling at a fairly fast trot when this all started, so we have a good amount of momentum built up. At this point, my saddle is starting to slide and Maggie is still trying to climb all over Steph’s horse. I suppose it had something to do with the fact that I have no right rein, and cannot steer her off to the right. As I am struggling to grasp at the rein and managing to only find air, Steph is now asking me in a somewhat panicked voice “What is she doing? Get her off?” Being a little pre occupied to answer Steph’s question, my saddle is now starting to roll to the left. Maggie has the withers of a 50 gallon whisky barrel so there is nothing to stop the saddle at this point. I am already unbalanced, yet still … trying to get that rein!!At this point, Maggie decided to end the whole thing and put me out of my misery…and lets out yet another hard buck, I imagine at frustration. I remember thinking during this entire thing, "I'm not coming off, I'm not coming off, I've almost..." atleast until that final buck when I finally thought to myself..... “Oh the hell with it”…
...and there I went… off the left side.
I landed on my left shoulder and somehow ended up rolling onto my back (the momentum I imagine) and hitting my head on the ground. I remember looking up and cringing as I thought Maggie was going to step on me but she managed to avoid me, thank god….

Everyone got stopped and I got up, mostly unharmed. The headache set in right away from hitting my head. (yes, I had my helmet on) I was fairly sure it wasn’t hard enough to get a concussion but I knew I needed to pay attention to see if I started feeling worse… I readjusted my saddle and climbed back on. We still had a ways to go to get back. The good news is that we did manage to find a connecting loop for that trail. The bad news is that it poured the rest of the way back.

By the time we arrived back to the horse trailer, I was feeling the soreness set in and while my head hurt, my symptoms weren’t getting any worse. I figured I was mostly okay and likely to not lapse into a coma or anything. My right ankle was giving me more grief than my head, which was odd because I didn’t remember hitting it . Nonetheless it was quite painful when I got out of the saddle and it was certainly swelling up. I think Maggie was as happy to see the trailer as I was as she announced our arrival. Two other riders were already back. That made two more riders still out.

I unsaddled Maggie. She was tired but happily munched away at her hay bag. I took advantage of the time to rest while we waited for the other riders to get in. My head was throbbing by this point. It turns out that two other riders also had “incidents” but nothing serious. Guess it was just one of those days.

I was not looking forward to the drive home, and wishing Steph knew how to drive a truck and trailer since she was riding with me. Unfortunately, luck was not with me that day and my co pilot, only nineteen years old had had no experience driving a trailer. Now certainly wasn’t the time to learn.

After resting for about 45 minutes, it was time to load up and get us all home. The drive went without incident but by the time I pulled in to my driveway I was ready to be done…

So, ice and anti-inflammatory meds are my close friends this week. My sprained neck is improving but the ankle is being a bit less cooperative. I think it’s just a soft tissue thing because I can bear full weight on it. Like I told Tom, now JB and I both have a bum right ankle!

I couldn’t help but think with this incident that I really have been rather spoiled with JB. Had I been riding him, things probably would have looked a little different. He would have simply taken care of the situation, struck at the dog to get him to move out of the way, and carried on just as though nothing had happened. I guess I have a few things to learn yet about Maggie.

I just wish I could have a set of aftermarket withers installed on her...

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Post Pastern Arthrodesis

Tomorrow marks JB two weeks Post Pastern Arthrodesis surgery. Overall, JB is doing well. He’s done with his Bute 7-10 day post op period and doesn’t seem to be too uncomfortable with out it. The cast is bugging him some , but no more than we expected. JB has figured out how to hold his leg to relieve the pressure on the front of his cannon bone and assuming he doesn’t develop cast cores, we are letting him be. He seems to know how to take care of himself. He lays down a lot and rests, which is good. Ofcourse, he’s developed hock sores as a result of the laying down. Wrapping them doesn’t work because of the location so I just try to keep medication on them. His front left leg is in a standing wrap. I unwrap once a day and rubbed down with Arnica gel , then rewrapped. Hopefully the wraps will help stave off any risk of laminitis. His appetite has been very good this entire time, in fact , it’s been a bit insatiable. Ofcourse, he has gotten a bit spoiled with the buckets of green grass that I am picking for him daily. The green grass seems to help keep him occupied, it’s loaded with good nutrition, it’s good for his gut, and I think it helps him mentally as well. On the down side, I believe I have created a bit of a monster. He gets rather demanding of his fresh grass!

Ok – promise not to laugh???? JB also gets a weekly appointment with a cranio sacral therapist to help alleviate inflammation and pain, and hopefully quicken the healing process. Thus far, JB’s had two sessions; I can’t honestly tell you if it’s helping or not… but it certainly can’t hurt. The craniosacral therapist herself comes highly recommended from trusted sources… so who am I to judge??? if it helps expedite the healing…..all the better.

JB also gets Resperine as a sedative. It seems to help take the edge off. I’d prefer to give it only on an as needed basis but, unfortunately, this drug has to build in his system to be effective. He gets 5 mg every other day. I wasn’t thrilled about keeping him mildly sedated but without, JB gets a bit more rambunctious in his stall than I am comfortable with:)

….bucking and jumping around in your stall just can’t be tolerated right now. Sorry kiddo…….There will be time for that later…

Keeping him medicated is the lesser of two evils…

So, that’s the status of things. Keep your fingers and toes crossed that the days go by quickly and he continues to do well.