Friday, April 28, 2017

Reality packs a wallop.

I've been pretty quiet for a long time here, as has Snoopy. Last year was good for us, once we convinced Snoopy's body to cooperate. It took a few visits from Dr. Pollard, a new anti-inflammatory, and a bi-weekly shot of Adequan (joint lubricant) to get there. And by "there" I mean we got to a New Normal. Snoopy warmed up slower, and his left lead began to feel very much like an off-balance washing machine. But I learned how to push the back end and lift the front end to even him all out, and we went out and showed.

We showed well, even going to Las Vegas to the Novice Championships. It was the only time we could have gone, since you usually have to get enough show points to be invited. In 2016, they moved the show date up, so they waived the point requirement. Snoopy and I have never shown enough in a single year to earn enough points. 

Vegas, baby!

My promise to him has always been to keep him as sound and as comfortable as I can, for as long as possible. You cannot realistically do that if you run around showing all year. We had a four-show-per-year budget, both for my wallet and his body.

This year, Snoopy's body needed more convincing. In addition to the anti-inflammatory, we upped the Adequan to once a week, added monthly(ish) Legend injections (another drug for joints), injected his hocks specifically with hyaluronate sodium, and finally got "there" -- to yet another New Normal. Now his jog looked choppy and his bionic leg looked very stiff and vertical at the lope. Kind of like a peg leg.

I considered getting him an eye patch and a parrot, but he finally came around and started moving better. Not like two years ago better, but "serviceably sound," as we say in horses.

We went to our first show this month in Del Mar, at the racetrack. Snoopy was a good horse in the arena. He was very obedient and calm. Back at the stall was another matter. He was distressed. He paced, he circled, he reared, he screamed. For five days. He never laid down, never relaxed, barely ate.

The first day it was annoying. The second day it was frustrating. From that point on, it was heartbreaking. He'd only eat if the hay was outside the stall and I held the lead rope. He only slept when I led him to the arenas and let him stand around with the other horses. We had been joking about his fat hay belly when we got there; by the third day, we could see his ribs. That's about 100 pounds, folks.

And although he was technically good in the arena, he wasn't pretty to watch. I rode well and he got over the poles, but our scores were average. We weren't competitive.

Getting mileage out of that outfit--and that pad looks gorgeous on him!

So Niki and I have talked. Maybe it was the Del Mar stalls that stressed him. Maybe if he wasn't so exhausted, he could have moved better on the course. Maybe. 

Or maybe the day I promised has come, the day he is no longer sound enough and comfortable enough. I just didn't know it would come this soon. He's only 13. 

We plan to take him to Burbank at the end of May, to a show he's been to many times, to verify whether it was Del Mar that he hated, or whether he is telling us in the only way he can that he doesn't want to show anymore.

The bottom line is, we'll be retiring him, if not in June, then certainly by the end of this show season. 

In the meantime, Niki is looking for a good retirement home for him. The bad part about not having horse property is that I can't just bring him home with me. 

I spend my time crying at odd moments. This is my baby. I've known him since I watched the vet inseminate Frostie. I helped pull him out. He'll always be my baby. My big, silly, frustrating, funny baby.

Now I watch Niki warm him up and see how hard he tries for her and I weep about how his body looks in each attempt. I'd like him to be able to relax, just be a horse, but I worry about taking him to a new place--will he understand that I'm not abandoning him? 

I've learned so much about riding from him. 

I'm trying to be philosophical and realistic about all this, but it's hard. I keep waiting for him to open his mouth and tell me it'll be all right.