Sunday, August 21, 2011

Dolly Goes To The Fairgrounds and Has Surgery

            Dolly on a X-Country Course                         Juliane Dykiel copyright 2011 (August)

              To the Fairgrounds

       Though we had Dolly in and out of the trailer a number of times we hadn't yet taken her for a ride.  It was time:  she had her surgery coming up and we certainly didn't want that to be her first trailer experience.   Also, her last trailer ride, the one that had brought her to Windflower Farm, had begun with a traumatic loading at the auction house.  Normally, I would take a buddy pony to keep her company, but since she needed to travel to Mass Equine alone, I thought it best she now go it alone, too.  So it was off to the local fairgrounds for some groundwork.   When we walked out onto the cross-country field she was a wonderful mix of curiosity and energy.  

       After basic groundwork to make sure I had her attention, it was on to some jumps:

                     Dolly                                                 Juliane Dykiel copyright 2011

                         Dolly                                                 Juliane Dykiel copyright 2011

       I'm sorry this one of the bank is a bit blurry, but I wanted to show it because it illustrates Dolly's athleticism.

                       Dolly Up The Bank                                   Juliane Dykiel copyright 2011

              Dolly  Over Logs                                                        Juliane Dykiel copyright 2011

    As long as I got Dolly on a straight line to each obstacle she jumped it fearlessly and enthusiastically. 

      And then a standardbred pulling a sulky around the track that ringed the cross-country course suddenly materialized.  If you had a textbook similar to the one I had in elementary school, you will have read how the Native Americans thought the Spanish conquistadors on their horses were two animals become one.  Dolly had a similar response to the horse pulling a two-wheeled cart with a human in it:

   Dolly fascinated by standardbred and sulky                             Ainslie Brennan copyright 2011

        After more standardbred viewing it was back into the trailer.
We stopped at Johnson's Restaurant in Groton where Juliane and I had milkshakes while Dolly drew adoring fans to her open trailer window.   She took all this attention in stride--quietly munching hay then actually nodding off to sleep.   It had been a big day.


       Mid-morning the next day Dolly and I headed to Mass Equine Clinic in Uxbridge, Mass., -- about fifty minutes away.  The surgery was to be performed the following morning, so Dolly would spend the afternoon and night settling in.  I had mixed feelings about taking her--glad that she would finally be repaired but sad that I would need to leave her there.  Since February--with the exception of two overnight horse shows--I had always been with her.  I also knew that she would, once again, experience pain.   Of course, it was necessary, but she'd already suffered so much.

      I knew she would be in competent, loving hands.  Jay Merriam has been my vet for over twenty years.  He and two of his associates would do the surgery.   Dr. Mike Strasser called as soon as the surgery was over.  It had gone well.  Dr. Strasser was kind enough to describe the procedure for this blog.  In his words:

      Dolly is a 4-year-old QH mare that came to Mass Equine Clinic for surgery.  Although her exact history is unknown, she sustained an extensive tear of her vulva, likely during a traumatic foaling.  The tissue in that area is referred to as the perineum.  There is usually a three-inch separation from the anus to the top of the vulvar lips.  In Dolly’s case, those three inches no longer existed as she was torn externally.  Fortunately, the tear did not extend into her rectum.  Unfortunately, such an extensive tear had deformed the normal conformation of her perineum, which prevented her vulvar lips from sealing.  Every time Dolly took a step or even breathed, the movement caused a rush of air to move into her vaginal vault, causing discomfort, making her more prone to infection, and creating an unusual noise.  The best way to prevent this influx of air is to surgically close the upper portion of the vulvar lips with a Caslick’s procedure.  Caslick’s procedures are commonly performed on mares with less than perfect vulvar conformation to decrease the risk of infection after they are bred.  In Dolly’s case, a simple Caslick’s procedure wouldn’t work because, although the perineum is composed of stretchy skin, Dolly just didn’t have enough stretch left in her skin due to some previous scarring.  Simple closure of the vulvar lips would fail because there was too much tension on the area that needed to be closed.  We performed a perineal body partial transection by creating a relaxing incision in her perineum.  A surgical incision was made parallel to her vulvar lips, separating her perineum from the surrounding muscle tissue in her hindquarters.  This then provided us with the needed extra tissue!  We then sutured her vulvar lips closed.  The relaxing incision was left to heal by second intention – meaning it was left to heal on its own.  Because there was no tension, the vulvar lips came together perfectly.  Dolly will have some scarring but it will all be hidden by her tail.  She will be much more comfortable, be less prone to infection, and will no longer make noise when she moves.  -- Mike Strasser, DVM


       Dolly spent the night recuperating at Mass Equine, and the next day I took her home with a full page of instructions.  The surgical site had to be washed 3-4 times a day with Providine, then a salve applied to provide an antiseptic barrier between the wound and the unavoidable presence of fecal matter.  I was also to take and record her temperature daily.  Well, Dolly would have none of it.  She never struck out but she gave many warnings with a cocked hind leg.  I e-mailed Dr. Merriam informing him that if I continued to attempt to take Dolly's temperature I might require a similar operation.
This is his response, as well his own description of the surgery:

      I don't blame her for not wanting her temperature taken!  As long as she's eating and pooping she's fine.  The surgeons (Dr. Mike Strassner and Dr. Susan Galanthay) and l discussed this and we agreed that a radical approach would be necessary.  On one side, she had lost so much tissue in the foaling accident that there was nothing to attach to, which is why the other sutures didn't hold.  To create a new wall to attach to, they had to make several parallel "relaxing" incisions to allow the deeper tissues to come free enough to replace what had been lost.  The procedure involved 2 deep layers of sutures finished off with one more at surface level.  It was pretty intricate work and took almost 2 hours.  It looked great when she left and she should respond well over the next several weeks.  She may need a minor touch-up at the farm, which we can do later on.  Meanwhile, make sure she eats her meds and is a good girl, she sure was a nice patient.  Looking forward to seeing her all healed up.  Thanks for bringing her in!   She's a lucky girl.  -- Jay Merriam, DVM, M.S.

       Dolly has been home just over two weeks now and is obviously feeling a lot better.  As per the vets' instructions, she has been in--and continues to be in--a small paddock with a stall attached.   She is by nature a quiet girl, and it wasn't until yesterday that I saw her in any gait higher than a walk.  But yesterday in the cool morning freshness, and anticipating her breakfast, she exploded into a series of joyous bucks punctuated by several squeals and snorts.  Tomorrow the vet arrives to remove her sutures.   Dr. Strasser told me that Dolly couldn't do any real work for a full month after the surgery, but I'm going to ask if she can be ponied on the trail, at least at the walk. 

       By the way, Mass Equine is a major participant in Project Samana--a program in which veterinarians, vet technicians, and others periodically travel to the Dominican Republic to provide much needed assistance to equines and other domestic animals in this developing country.  Please check them out on Facebook:  they do wonderful work.  

       Next week my trainer Linda Parmenter will be riding Tica--as well as her own FEI horse Odin--in an Artur Kottas clinic.  As many of you already know, Mr. Kottas is the former Chief Rider at the Spanish Riding School in Vienna.  My husband and I were lucky enough to see him in a magnificent performance there a number of years ago.  I've also seen a number of DVD's of him giving clinics, and they were wonderful.  So I'm very excited and will fill you all in with the details in the next blog.  And, of course, there will be the usual Dolly update as well.

       Until then, and thanks for reading The Windflower Weekly--


Housekeeping note:  Last week I under-reported Juliane's achievements on Quilly at the NEDA Schooling Show of Aug 7:  Her score in her first dressage test of the day was 68.5 and she was Reserve Champion  rider not just for her division but out of all juniors that rode that day.  Aplologies, Juliane!







Sunday, August 14, 2011



  •         This July we tried something that was a first at Windflower--we had an intensive riding program coupled with swimming, and crafts related to horses and photography.   We hosted seven children, ages 8-10, for four days.  All were already good friends and three have been riding at the farm for several years.  We talked about horses--and mules--as prey animals and how that related to their behavior.  We did Natural Horsemanship exercises and a lot of riding.   Here are some photos:
Brother and Sister                                Ainslie copyright 2011 

Already posting on Day 1!         Ainslie copyright 2011

Cantering on the lunge!                           Ainslie copyright 2011

Observing is another important way to learn.                               

A quick break!                    Ainslie copyright 2011

   We did a good bit of photography work, concentrating on focus and composition.  And, yes, getting horse shots with their ears pricked forward--always a challenge.  Each rider took several pictures of his or her favorite horse.  I printed one inch copies that night and the next day they had the choice of making either photo magnets for the fridge or necklaces.      

    This coming week we have another session with the same wonderful kids.  The forecast calls for rain the first day or two, but that's not going to stop us.  As long as lightning and thunder don't accompany, the canopy of the trees provides considerable shelter.  And no bugs!

     I've got some more horse-related crafts lined up and a couple of films, too, including a long-time favorite of mine, Into The West, a moving tale of two Irish Traveler children who are transported by a white horse from their Dublin slum to western Ireland--a wonderful and sometimes frightening land of myth, truth, and home.  If you haven't seen it, please do.  

  A couple of weeks ago my friend Anne and her two daughters Juliane and Dana took Quilly, Nitelite, and Kip to an Apple Knoll Schooling Jumper Show in Millis, MA.  It's a lovely facility and we had great fun.  Here are some pics:

    Nitelite and Anne                                                                                                           Apple Knoll Schooling Show  2011

          Quilly and Juliane Schooling                                                                           Apple Knoll 2011

  A happy result!                                                                                                   Apple Knoll Schooling Show 2011

       Quilly enjoys some well-deserved watermelon sherbert!                                                  Apple Knoll 2011

      And last, but surely not least, here is a YouTube of Dana on Kip.  They had a clear round and I think that, proportionately, they must have jumped a higher course than anyone else at the show!  (Kip is just under ten hands.)

      Tica and I went off for a day in New Hampshire to compete in "Dressage at the Seacoast."  I now count Tica as a seasoned competitor, but my own nerves still call out for more ring time.  As usual, Tica was wonderful and would have been more wonderful had I been so.  But I was very happy:  I got a 66 and a 63 on First Levels 1 and 2.  We go to Beland the first week in September, then it's on to NEDA Fall and the First Level championships. 

    Just last Sunday, August 7, Juliane and I took Quilly and Firefly to the NEDA schooling show at T.H.E. Farm in Tewksbury, MA.  Because of this past winter's injuries I haven't been able to work as much as I had planned to do with Firefly, so I just entered Intro. A. and B.  And a good thing, too:  It rained all day, and Firefly for some reason is petrified of umbrellas.  Totally "my bad":  I knew this was an issue and had not done the necessary desensitizing work with her.  I thought I might have to scratch.  There would  be no point in subjecting her to tests that would not benefit her training and make us both miserable in the bargain.  When we arrived I saw about fifty umbrellas twirling and popping open and shut.

      But Firefly coped better than I thought she would, though she was not able to relax completely during her tests.  As we trotted around the arena she was certain that even though the judge was nicely sheltered from the elements in a trailer, she surely was harboring some sort of anti-rain device.  We got a 63 and a 65--two second places.  "Tension" was mentioned in the comments.  Lesson:  If you do your desensitizing homework you will get better scores and have a happier, more relaxed horse.

      Juliane on Quilly garnered two seconds as well, with a 65 (Intro C) and a 61 (Training Level 1.)  She also was Reserve Champion for her division, which was thrilling.

    Many thanks to Diana Lane, the show organizer.  She runs two great schooling shows for NEDA annually.

     I'm sorry I don't have any pictures of Firefly under saddle.  But here is one I took last Fall:

  Firefly                                                                                               Ainslie Brennan copyright 2010

    Our next edition of The Windflower Weekly will take us to the fairgrounds with Dolly's first actual ride in the trailer since she arrived just over five months ago.  The following day she must got to Mass Equine Clinic in Uxbridge, MA, for surgery, where she'll need to remain a couple of days.  Details about those trips as well as the coming riding, swimming, and craft week will appear next week.

     Please do make comments.  Tell me what you like, don't like, or would like to see more or less of.  I know I have a number of European readers.  Do you want to hear more about Natural Horsemanship?  Just say the word.

See you next blog and thank you for reading The Windflower Weekly--