Thursday, June 25, 2015

June 2015: Deli’s health and conditioning update.

Some signs have been alerting me to the possibility Deli has something hormonal going on – the unusual fat deposits, a change to her heats where she is even lazier than normal, and being slow(er) to shed out this spring. She could be experiencing early signs of cushings (an equine disease of the pituitary) or have something going on related to her reproductive organs. Or it could be a hormonal issue related to her metabolism (like insulin resistance or equine metabolic syndrome).  Several of these conditions are inter-related. It could also be something else entirely. She has always carried fat in certain places without a hint of metabolic issues. She does not seem to have one of the first signs of cushings: excessive thirst and urination (though she is pastured, so it’s hard to follow those things) and the pot-bellied appearance without being able to gain weight. She is shiny and has energy and her feet are in good shape – especially now that it is reliably dry.

I’ve put her on chaste-tree berry because that herb has good properties of balancing hormones and is often used for horses leaning toward cushings syndrome. I’ve also put her on a liver cleanser at my horse masseuse’s recommendation. Luckily none of these things are on the AERC banned substance list. We have also switched her and her pasture mate (who is also a fatty) to a lower-quality hay.

If I don’t see some changes within the next two months I’ll be having the vet out to test for cushings and do a metabolic/hormonal panel on Deli. Cushings in particular is an “old horse” disease and can be managed various ways. Obviously, I’d rather something less serious is going on but I’ve slowly learned to take things as they come with this horse.

Sometimes I wonder if Deli is having a sympathy-pregnancy/foal. We just had a foal born on the property and Deli is oddly interested in it when she has never given foals a second look before.  And the day after the filly was born her udder puffed up slightly. I mean, it could have also been a fly bite to her udder but… it is kind of suspicious, isn’t it?

If she does have cushings it is still in the very early stages and I have a viable plan.

Overall Deli has been doing really well, I think. Up until this week, where I have been sick with the flu and not riding her at all, she has been getting regular conditioning. I worry that we should be doing MORE and that I’m asking for too much at the same time. But she seems unaffected by the mileage increase in a bad way. She LOOKS more fit, she has more energy. She’s still a lazy pony in many respects (she says: I conserve energy for when it's IMPORTANT, human!), but she certainly prefers hitting the trails to anything else we could be doing. She can walk all day. If we had better footing to contend with I bet she could trot a lot of it too. The fact that the last time we went out to ride 10 miles she offered to canter up a hill shows she’s more game than ever.

Deli’s skin is doing really well too – I’ve figured out supplements that seem to help her hot-spot flare ups from insects. When she does have a flare up I have developed a system of topical applications that calm down the inflammation. This includes some of the previously mentioned creams/medicines (T-ZON, Tricare, my coconut oil concoction) and now just plain old aloe vera gel. Aloe is just another one of those things that I should have everywhere as it is absolutely essential for my OWN skin care (having red-dead skin, I burn TOO easily). It’s just another Deli-maintenance thing I needed to figure out and keep on top of!

My saddle-future is still up in the air. I AM getting a demo saddle in early July and have saddles I might be able to borrow from folks within the lovely endurance community. Still, I can’t afford to get a new saddle right now unless I am able to sell my current dressage saddle and use that money to get something new. There is still part of me flinching at the idea of making another huge investment when I don’t know if Deli is going to be able to (or want to) to the kind of miles that will make her a successful LD horse. Of course, to most endurance riders LDs are just the easy stuff. Not “real endurance” and pretty insignificant when it comes to distance riding.

It’s still a huge hurdle for Deli. And having her complete an LD in good shape is a huge hurdle for me, too.

I can see myself doing LDs easily. My fitness level is the best it has been in YEARS. I'm not saying I'm the most fit person out there, but I'm on the right path and I intend to stick with it. I am also the lightest, weight wise, that I have been since I was hit by a car and forced into a sedentary lifestyle by injuries in 2009. That feels great, too, though I am still not done with that journey either.

As long as I watch out for heat stroke and dehydration being on a horse for 6+ hours just sounds fun. (The heat stroke and dehydration is a big deal, but it’s also another management problem and not a deal-breaker.)

I am committed to going to the Bandit Springs ride with Deli in mid-July now. I haven’t yet committed to the idea of doing an LD, but it is a possibility. If something doesn’t feel quite right (or it’s in the 90s that weekend), I can opt to do another intro ride. I hear the trails are beautiful there and I don’t want to miss it either way!

My friend from the East coast riding the piggy pony in May.
I’ll have a demo saddle at the time, so I could possibly use that for the ride. I don’t know that it’s going to be a great fit though (it IS just a demo) so it will really depend on Deli’s opinion of the whole thing.

At least there is forward momentum of some kind in horse-life even when most everything else in my life is stagnant right now. Deli, as always, is a bright point. 

She may be a "cupcake" horse (a term I've heard endurance riders use to refer to their accident prone "special" horses), but she is my soul-horse. After all, I'm kind of a "cupcake" human in the same sense. 

We are probably too alike, Deli and I. 

(Except she's the looker.)


  1. A lightbulb went on in my head while reading this: Her skin issues might be related to a metabolic issue, if does have something brewing. Have you read about Dr. Kellon? She is an equine veterinarian specializing in the management of equine Cushings and insulin resistance. She has revolutionized the treatment of both conditions. I'd check out her Equine Cushings and Insulin Resistance (ECIR) Yahoo Group. Membership is free; you just request to join, and you can read through the member forums and their study database. I'd read in there before having your vet test her so you can have the best testing possible done: some vets test for Cushing's by doing a dex suppression test, which involves injecting a possibly metabolic horse with a steroid. It doesn't always happen but in a sensitive horse it can *cause* laminitis, even founder. There are better ways without putting Deli at risk. Not saying your vet would necessarily do this but not all of them are aware of alternate testing.

    I hope this helps, if you haven't heard of the group already. :)

    1. I've had her tested for both Cushings and IR and she was completely normal in both respects. I'd always wondered about the IR because she has always been a cresty-necked horse as well. But yes, I've head-scratched for some time and will continue to watch for such things (especially as she gets older). She's always had allergies and sensitive skin, and these are made worse by nerve damage and poor circulation in some areas due to injury.

      I will check out those groups though (and info from Dr. Kellon). More information is always great! I do feed her like a sub-clinical IR horse with fat and forage only, with the addition of grass (introduced very slowly or with a muzzle when she hasn't been on it for awhile). Possibly that has helped prevent her from going clinical.