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Archive for the ‘Author Interviews’ Category

HardWorkandaPlan-horseandriderbooks

Photo by Venkat Naryanan 

Having coffee with equestrian coach Eric Smiley is a delightful occurrence worth repeating. Certainly, a clinic with him has a similar effect. A former international event rider who represented Ireland at European, World, and Olympic level, winning team bronze medals on two occasions, he’s “been there, done that” but is also incredibly present in the here and now. His desire to ponder equestrianism, in all its minutia and across its broader themes, results in a philosophical meandering that doesn’t leave you anxious for answers—it satisfies.

We were lucky enough recently to enjoy caffeinated conversation with Smiley and talked about his book TWO BRAINS, ONE AIM, what he hopes its publication might achieve, and whether there are “holes” yet to be filled in the education of those who ride, train, and work with horses.

RidersRoadmapofHow-horseandriderbooks

Photo by Venkat Naryanan

TSB: You have said that your book TWO BRAINS, ONE AIM is intended to “guide riders to perform better by making their lives less complicated and more fulfilling.” How do you feel riders’ lives are complicated and in what ways do you think they could be more fulfilled?

ES: Achievement produces satisfaction. Helping people achieve by giving them a road map of “how,” gives me such a thrill.

TSB: You spent nearly 10 years in a Cavalry Regiment of the Army. How did this time and experience inspire you to make horses your profession?

ES: When I moved my in-tray to my out-tray without looking at it, and it made no difference. It was time to follow my dreams.

TSB: For 18 years you were Director of the Golden Saddle Scheme in Ireland, which identifies talented young riders and helps further their riding education. What did your experiences with the Scheme teach you about achieving success with riding and with horses?

ES: The clarity of youth, the simplicity of delivery, the naivety of what can be achieved. As adults we could learn a lot from them.

TSB: You enjoy starting your homebred horses. What is it about the training process that continues to motivate you to have horses in your life and bring them along from the very beginning?

ES: Every day is a new day. I never stop trying to find solutions to the questions that horses pose.

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Photo by Irina Kuzmina


TSB: What is one lesson you hope readers will take away from your book?

ES: With hard work and a plan, anything is possible.

TSB: If you were trapped on a desert island with a horse and a book, what breed of horse would it be and which book would you choose?

ES: An Irish Sport Horse of course. They are enterprising, resilient, tough, and bright enough to help build a boat. The Natural World by Thomas D. Mangelsen. Photography as good as it gets.

TSB: If you could do one thing on horseback that you haven’t yet done, what would it be?

ES: Ride around the world. One sees and hears things from horseback that would make this experience wonderful.

TSB: What is the quality you most like in a friend?

ES: Honesty. Say it as it is, warts and all!

TSB: What is the quality you most like in a horse?

ES: A trier. Less talented but prepared to have a go.

TSB: What is your greatest fear?

ES: Rats in the dark! And having to eat squash!

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TSB: What is your greatest extravagance?

ES: Buying art.

TSB: If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

ES: Being cautious about buying art!!

TSB: What’s in your refrigerator at all times?

ES: Tonic and some really nice Sauvignon Blanc.

TSB: What is your idea of perfect happiness?

ES: Exotic travel with my wife Sue.

Two Brains, One Aim

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TSB: If you could have a conversation with one famous person, alive or dead, who would it be?

ES: I would ask Claude Monet for a lesson.

TSB: What is your motto?

ES: “Go on, have a go 😁”

 

Eric Smiley’s book TWO BRAINS, ONE AIM is available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE to download a free chapter or to order.

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and videos, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont. 

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GettingtotheCoreofIt-horseandriderbooks

Photo by Jaana Maari Partanen.

Equine core muscles are very difficult to isolate with the traditional training techniques common to horse sports. However, by examining what we do with the human body when faced with a weak core, we can find new methods for conditioning these areas of the equine body. In his new book CORE CONDITIONING FOR HORSES, Visconte Simon Cocozza has taken principles of the human practice of yoga and used them to develop novel ways of reaching deep within the horse’s body and gently “unlock” areas that may be a little “rusty,” improve core fitness, and even relieve pain related to conditions such as kissing spine. In this book, he provides step-by-step instruction explaining easy mounted exercises that enhance the horse’s posture and boost his confidence in his body and movement, making him easier to ride, and ultimately, the dance partner you’ve always imagined.

We caught up with Simon and found out a little more about his exciting core conditioning techniques…as well as discovering he has a penchant for chablis.

CoreConditioningforHorses-horseandriderbooksTSB: Your book CORE CONDITIONING FOR HORSES provides a collection of yoga-inspired ridden exercises for the horse that warm him up and strengthen his core. How did you determine that these particular exercises were of such key benefit to the horse?

SC: Well, training the inside of the horse is rather new territory, so it was a combination of researching our current understanding of equine biomechanics and good, old-fashioned scientific method. The anatomical composition of the horse is very well understood, of course, but core motion dynamics and how it all interacts are still largely theoretical. It helped me to look at the mechanical properties of the skeleton in the real world—in motion and under the rider rather than simply it’s construction. When the weak areas and their ridden causes became clear, it was a case of addressing them one by one. Yoga showed itself as a solution early on as it aims to restore natural alignment to the vertebrae in a calm and kind way, which really resonates with horses. With some adjustment for anatomical scale and the addition of the rider to the mechanism as a whole, I found that it was possible to use yoga’s slow, low-impact movements to isolate the weak areas quite quickly and easily. When this presented itself, I was quite surprised.


 
TSB: Do you practice yoga? If so, what are the benefits you have found it has made in your own life? How does it affect your riding and horsemanship?

SC: Ha! I was hoping nobody would ask me this! The yoga instructor I consulted with for the book is the amazing Alison Robertson, based in France. Alison has kindly taken pity on me and is helping me learn what our horses feel like when asked to bend rusty body parts! Despite being a plank of wood, it is definitely helping me feel looser in the back, and in particular I have noticed yoga  “evening up” the two sides of my body around a (semi) flexible spine, which is definitely helping my symmetry in the saddle. However, it is not as easy as I had imagined!
 
TSB: How do your core conditioning exercises fit into other training and conditioning programs? Can they be used in concert with other techniques and training schedules?

SC: This is an important point and something I was not prepared to compromise. We desperately needed a simple way of helping all horses feel better in themselves and develop their optimal spinal function, no matter their given discipline, age, breeding, or temperament. For this reason, there are different exercise plans in my book to help the horse owner develop a core conditioning warm-up exactly for the individual horse in question. I think this been achieved with the warm-up plans I present (Wellness, Flexibility, Connection, or Agility)—the exercises can be tailored to fit any horse, whether a light, young, Thoroughbred racehorse or a seasoned, heavier dressage horse. At the spinal level, function is identical, yet the approach needs to be just right for that individual horse’s type and lifestyle.
 
TSB: One of the benefits of your core conditioning exercises is they can help horses that have been diagnosed with or are suspected of having kissing spine. Can you tell us how your techniques alleviate pain and improve a horse’s chances of recovering from this issue?

SC: Well, “kissing spine” is rather more common than we thought, unfortunately, yet despite the problems it causes, it is a relatively simple engineering problem. The spine is a finely tuned piece of equipment and only operates correctly when aligned properly—and then its complex design works really, really well. Unfortunately, if the angles are off even slightly, like a bent pair of scissors or a rusty lock, the mechanism catches on itself and causes damage to the delicate structure it relies upon to do its job. To make matters more complicated,  it is covered in nerves, making the horse tense up when s/he feels a pinch anywhere along the back. These tensions unfortunately feel like training or even behavioral problems, which is why they are not diagnosed very quickly, making them become habitual and limiting performance and quality of life. The solution is thankfully very simple, involving strengthening the muscles that are already under the spine to redress and realign the horse’s back. The body knows what is good for it, and when activated, these structures spring into action and everything starts to work properly again.


 
TSB: You were born in Italy, were educated in England, and live in France. How did your background influence your decision to become a professional horseman and devote your time and energy to improving the horse’s health and well-being?

SC: I have been very lucky that my family has a strong history with horses, which has helped enormously. My mother is an instructor, so I was brought up around, on, and under horses, and my Italian family has been composed of almost all swashbuckling military horsemen and women for millennia. Perhaps it is simply in the DNA? Although I am a nerd and wanted to be a scientist, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to work with horses. After a few years working in the commercial side of the horse industry, I became uncomfortable using some of the restrictive and insensitive methods that we employ without question in European training. Restraint and force did not seem to be necessary with such a highly complex and essentially perfectly designed creature as the horse, and I strongly felt that there had to be better way. So I spent a few decades trying to understand how it all worked. This work has, of course, all been done before, long ago, yet I feel I may have reiterated some forgotten knowledge that may allow us to smooth off some of our modern corners.
 
TSB: What is one lesson you hope readers will take away from your book?

SC: By far, it is to put ourselves in the horses’ hooves. When working with these sensitive beings that worry and tense up so easily, we really must show them our love in every moment of our work together, especially when we run into problems. This is when they need us the most.  They are so very, very emotional, and we should remember that there is always an innocent reason for their actions, even if it looks otherwise.


 
TSB: If you were trapped on a desert island with a horse and a book, what breed of horse would it be and which book would you choose?

SC: Oh, I think it would have to be a Pura Raza Espagnol, an Andalusian. These horses are like generous people, that is why we use them in movies, for the High School, such as in Vienna, and for tricks like dancing, performances, and stunt work. Try that sort of thing with a Warmblood and he will just walk away!

I am tempted to say I would read Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Dafoe, but that is a bit obvious, so it would have to be Douglas Adams’ quadrilogy of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, which I feel sure the PRE would enjoy me reading to her/him, too.
 
TSB: If you could do one thing on horseback that you haven’t yet done, what would it be?

SC: I am fascinated with Working Equitation, and I love watching it. It has so much potential for perfection and looks like dressage meets “handy pony” meets gymkhana, but for grown-ups. I mean, they gallop over a bridge and carry a spear!
 
TSB: What is the quality you most like in a friend?

SC: Integrity. Without that, nothing else matters.
 
TSB: What is the quality you most like in a horse?

SC: Focus. Some of them look at you and say with their eyes, “Hi! Lets interact!” and they hold focus on you. Time stands still when that happens, and no matter what package s/he is in, your souls connect. This is the essence of a great relationship and the first thing I look for.

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TSB: What is your greatest fear?

SC: A global shortage of olives, Nutella, garlic, or Chablis, in that order. I suppose I ought to say world war, although the former would surely trigger the latter.
 
TSB: What is your greatest extravagance?

SC: I have an unreasonably large collection of Passier saddles. I love them, especially the old ones. They are masterpieces of craftsmanship and each one rides a little differently. I am not even ashamed of this and have instructed my family to bury my favorites with me…preferably after I have died, though.
 
TSB: If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

SC: I would like to be able to fly. But that’s not very realistic. In “Real Life” I would like to be a little taller. When in Germany and Holland I feel child-size—in fact, their children are often taller than me! A short stay (pun intended) in Italy or Portugal usually puts that right.
 
TSB: What’s in your refrigerator at all times?

SC:  Landjaeger sausage. It’s like the Holy Grail of bacon. 
 
TSB: What is your idea of perfect happiness?

SC: Oh, there are so many answers to this one! If I had to choose one it would be waiting, at dusk, for the Spaghetti alle Vongole to come to the table at a little waterside trattoria on the Amalfi Coast, surrounded by people I love.
 
TSB: If you could have a conversation with one famous person, alive or dead, who would it be?

SC: Without question, the physicist Nikola Tesla. He was the twentieth century’s da Vinci. He almost changed the world. Almost!
 
TSB: What is your motto?

SC: May I suggest a quote instead?

“A learning experience is one of those things that says, ‘You know that thing you just did? Don’t do that.” ― Douglas Adams

Simon Cocozza’s book CORE CONDITIONING FOR HORSES is available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information or to order.

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and DVDs, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont.

 

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InspireMe-horseandriderbooks

Photo by Venkat Narayanan

“Being coached” and “being a coach” are two of the topics examined in Eric Smiley’s new book TWO BRAINS, ONE AIM. “The aim of this book is twofold,” Eric says. “Firstly, to improve the relationship between coach (in all its guises) and rider and horse; in other words, help the rider learn how to learn, as well as guide those who help others in an instructional capacity make the way they communicate clearer. Secondly, to give those who do not have regular tutelage techniques and practical exercises to help develop riding and training skills.”

We at TSB know Eric best as a riding coach, clinician, instructor, and mentor, but we got to wondering about Eric’s own experiences as a student. Did he have a coach who influenced him in profound ways? How had he learned his craft through the years? Who did he credit for his equestrian successes? Eric was kind enough to share answers to these questions and more:

Being asked to share the story of my “best coach” has ended up becoming a reflection on who I have become and why. Trying to separate horse from person has become impossible. Surely in true horsemen and women the two become inseparable as we live our lives for and because of “the horse.”

Some of our greatest experiences in life are horse-related. Some of our moral dilemmas that have shaped us as people have their origins in equine situations. So for me to separate horse from person or to identify an individual coach is impossible.
 
Sport coaches are defined as follows:

Sport coaches assist athletes in developing to their full potential. They are responsible for training athletes in a sport by analyzing their performances, instructing in relevant skills, and by providing encouragement. But they are also responsible for the guidance of the athlete in life and their chosen sport.
 
WhyWeNeedtoBeInspired-horseandriderbooksAs a child I used to watch my father come home from a stressful and exhausting day as a consultant thoracic surgeon. None of his surgeries were normal—all were life-threatening and in the midst of the Northern Ireland troubles. I would watch him go to the stables on his way from the car to our house. He would spend some time in the company of his beloved hunter “Bob.” By the time he arrived in the house and joined our family, a semblance of peace had returned to his overstressed mind.
 
Non-commissioned officers in the army have a tendency to be direct and explicit when getting things done. There is little ambiguity or doubt in the minds of those who are at the receiving end of the order. I used to watch Ben Jones ride his army remount horse “Custer.” At the time he had been promoted from Sergeant  to Captain to Chief Instructor at Melton Mowbray. He had previously been an Olympic Rider. I was doing a six-week riding course there. Ben Jones was direct with us and his horses. Always fair, but clear what was required. I watched him school Custer on the flat and over jumps, the clarity of where responsibility lay was clear for all to see. I was left with a certainty of “be clear and fair, but make it happen.”
 
“Now, Eric , what’s your question?” Mrs. Sivewright would ask at the beginning of every riding lesson. After an embarrassing first lesson (no one had told me to be prepared), I made sure I had a question ready to ask at subsequent sessions. This sparked my curiosity forevermore. This was at the beginning of my formative nine months at the Talland School of Equitation as I embarked on my chosen career with horses. My curiosity has continued to make me look and listen to any coaching of any sport that I can and then think about how they are going about fulfilling the definition I shared above and what I can learn about about their method and delivery.
 
Two Brains, One Aim“Enterprise” was not an easy horse. Maybe that was why he was cheap and not really wanted by his previous owner! He was, however, very talented but very misunderstood. I was asked if I would like a lesson with Dr. Reiner Klimke on one of his rare visits to Ireland. What a revelation that turned out to be. Day One was disastrous. Enterprise was SO spooky as to not go anywhere near corners , doors, mirrors, spectators, or Dr. Klimke. Day Two was unbelievably wonderful. With quiet, skillful instruction, Dr. Klimke got into the mind of Enterprise and assured him that it was okay. The work was beyond the expectation of anyone present, especially me. I learned to seek excellence and to be creative in doing so.
 
The joy of living in Ireland is the people one meets and gets to know. While being part of a team setting up a coaching structure in Ireland, I got to know someone called Liam Moggan. At the time he was one of the lecturers at the Sport Coach Development Department of Limerick University. I listened, watched, and was in awe of his unerring positivity and communication skills, and his humanity. It was impossible not to come away from every encounter enriched as a person.
 
As you read this you will begin to see that I have not talked much about many riding instructors that have influenced me. At the ripe old age of (??) I believe that most people today will have had more lessons by the age of twenty than I have had in my whole life. Yes, I have been in clinics, and I have learned from those instructors. But my interest has been largely self-taught. I loved the book The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle. It poses the “nature/nurture” question of talent, but it also gives a method of achievement. Much resonated with how I saw coaching and had been plying my trade for many years. It gives one huge encouragement in what your doing when you read such a well accepted book, saying much the same.
 
However, none of all this really has much meaning or practical use unless we are inspired in some way to make it happen. Inspiration comes from many sources. I would implore you to watch a TED talk given by Dame Ellen MacArthur in 2015 (CLICK HERE).

I’m not making any political statement by recommending it, but listening to her it is impossible not to be inspired.

Eric Smiley’s book TWO BRAINS, ONE AIM is available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information or to order.

 

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and videos, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont. 

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JeanSanta-horseandriderbooks

Jean Abernethy, creator of Fergus the Horse, spies her hero at the reins!

“Santa delivered a real pony to our small family farm when I was seven,” remembers equine artist Jean Abernethy. “Her name was Dusty. She was three and very green. My brother Glen, with grit, determination, and encouragement from Dad, got Dusty going nicely. She was not an easy pony. Slight, skittish, and fast, she’d had a few frightening escapades before Santa delivered her to us.”

With her own happiest of holiday stories in mind, this Christmas Abernethy has made it easier for Santa to deliver ponies to all those horse-crazy kids out there: she wrote FERGUS AND THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS, starring her own Fergus the Horse—the world’s most popular cartoon horse—and Santa, of course. The colorfully illustrated book features a hilarious retelling of the classic poem (and it fits neatly under the tree—no barn required!)

FergusChristmas-horseandriderbooks

Perfect for under the tree!

FERGUS AND THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS brought a tear to my eye and refreshed the magic of the holidays in my heart,” says Horse Nation. “For the young and the young at heart, [it] would be the perfect holiday gift for horse lovers and budding equestrians in your family.”

“An adventure that will make any horse lover’s heart swell!” agrees Equine Journal.

“I purchased FERGUS AND THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS as a Thanksgiving gift,” shares Larri Jo Starkey, Editor of The American Quarter Horse Journal. “It was a BIG hit with my mom and all the little people she read it to. Strongly recommended!”

FERGUS AND THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS is Abernethy’s fourth Fergus book, and her Fergus the Horse social media pages and merchandise keep her very busy throughout the year, not just during the holidays.

“I wonder if Santa knew when he delivered that first pony that he had initiated careers for my brother and me,” she muses. “Glen is now a skilled horseman in his own right!”

FERGUS AND THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS is available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

Order by midnight tonight (Friday, December 14) to get free shipping and receive your book by Christmas Eve. (Orders after midnight will require expedited shipping to arrive by December 24—see our website or call 800.523.4525 for details.)

CLICK HERE TO ORDER NOW

 

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and DVDs, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont.

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One of the great pleasures we have at Trafalgar Square Books is working with equine experts from fields far different than our own desk-centric sort. This is not only a source of continuing education that we wholeheartedly welcome but a reminder of the amazingly different kinds of roles people play in the lives of horses and the humans who love them.

A couple weeks ago we had a chance to spend 24 hours with Dr. Bob Grisel, author of EQUINE LAMENESS FOR THE LAYMAN, whose practice is based in Atlanta. Today we hear from Dr. Jenni Grimmett, co-author of DRESSAGE THE COWBOY WAY with Eitan Beth-Halachmy–she is a large animal mobile veterinarian in rural North Idaho, and according to her, she’s never seen a “typical day.”

24HoursJenniGrimmett-horseandriderbooks

“Our days are often unpredictable and can change course at a moment’s notice,” says Dr. Grimmett. “That is one of the things I both love and hate about this lifestyle. I can’t really call veterinary medicine a job. It isn’t what I do, it’s who I am, and it’s a big responsibility to take on as you are servicing animals and the people that may depend on your services for their livelihood. Being a small part in the larger cog that is our agricultural community is very important to me, and I take it very seriously. It’s the main reason that I still provide services for the other livestock species (besides horses, I mean) because we sure don’t do it for the awesome pay or fabulous work environment!”

Here’s a glimpse at 24 hours in the life of Dr. Grimmett:

5:30 am We have an extra early start today, especially for this time of year. The truck, which is our livelihood, was down unexpectedly yesterday. When you are a mobile veterinarian who suddenly finds herself non-mobile it can throw a serious wrench into the day. Luckily, we didn’t have anything too urgent on the schedule and were able to move our appointments out a day or two. But, that also means that we are planning on a 12-hour day today…if things go smoothly. 

So, after rolling out from under the three large Irish Setters who sleep on the bed with us, I’m starting my day by checking messages and drinking some caffeine while my brain begins to un-fog. Gone are the days I could roll out of bed 10 minutes before walking out the door to head to school. One of the blessings and curses of the aging process is that I must plan some time to actually wake up in the morning.  

6:30 am  I pick up my able-bodied right-hand woman, Carolyn, on the way to our first call of the day. I couldn’t do what I do without Carolyn. She keeps the truck stocked and ready to roll, assists me in every task throughout the day, and usually drives so that I can do paperwork, answer calls, or work on the computer between clients. Without that drive time between calls I could have never written DRESSAGE THE COWBOY WAY with my friend Eitan Beth-Halachmy last year. Most of my Cowboy Dressage organizational time is done between veterinary calls on the road, as well. Carolyn also used to be my traveling companion, groom, and caller when I attended Cowboy Dressage Gatherings.  She just had a baby this summer and is back at work after a few months maternity leave. I missed her dearly and couldn’t be happier that she is back by my side. 

7:15 am  We arrive at our first call. It’s chilly this morning, and you can feel the fall in the air. I notice a gorgeous red maple tree that is already starting to turn but also notice that red maple is planted right next to the fence, dropping delicious red maple leaves right into the area where the horses are eating. I make a mental note to mention that to my client as maple leaves can cause cardiac problems in horses. I lost an older horse a few falls ago that was out grazing on the lawn and picked up too many red maple leaves. 

Our patient this morning is a Quarter Horse gelding that is due for his fall vaccinations and is also in need of a respiratory checkup. We had another terrible fire season this year, and the air quality for the past month has been in the hazardous zone. We’ve seen many horses with coughs and runny eyes. After a rebreathing examination we determine there is no respiratory compromise on Buster and convince him his intra-nasal vaccination isn’t that big of a deal. I feel an equine veterinarian has a responsibility to handle each patient as if he was her own, and I try my best to make even unpleasant experiences tolerable for the horses. While it takes more time, it pays off in dividends as these animals become lifelong patients. 

As we are discussing the red maple tree and Carolyn is readying the invoice, I look down at the little Terrier in her hot pink “jacket,” bouncing around on this chilly morning. A perk of being a mobile vet is the extra animal personalities we get to meet on the road. This jaunty, well-dressed Terrier puts a smile on my face.

8:00 am  We stop at the gas station to meet up with a client that is driving a horse across the state line to Seattle this morning. I pulled blood for an Equine Infectious Anemia (Coggins) test and completed the health certificate last week. My client needs that paperwork in hand to legally transport the horse. Regulatory work is a large part of what we do. Health certificates and testing of animals for interstate travel is an important part of keeping our national populations healthy. While many owners are frustrated by the process and testing required, I see it as a way to be sure we are preventing the spread of disease at shows, rodeos, and other events across the Northwest.

JenniGrimmett-horseandriderbooks

8:15 am  We arrive at our next appointment, which is a busy show and breeding barn for both Quarter Horses and Paints. We have two mares that were serviced by the ranch stallion this spring that they haven’t checked in foal yet. Both mares are large-bodied halter mares that I palpate in the field to confirm pregnancy. I would like to have ultrasounded the mares at this stage of their gestation for placental thickness and to catch early placental separation, but my ultrasound machine went in for repairs last week. So, it’s the old-fashioned palpation. The owners were concerned that the mares would require sedation, but I find that, in most cases, if I just take my time and go slow, I can palpate mares without. I prefer not to sedate as long as I can safely do the palpation because I don’t feel sedation is good for the foal. 

Unfortunately, at this call we also have to perform a humane euthanasia on a broodmare that has become too lame to safely go through winter. She was able to carry and feed her last foal who was recently weaned, but an old injury finally caught up with her. I’m sure that other veterinarians in northern climates are familiar with the rush of fall euthanasias. It’s a necessary but so-difficult part of our job, and as we move further into the fall, we will be doing more and more of them. I often envy the southern veterinarians that don’t have winter challenges to deal with. It’s tough to have a “season” for euthanasia.

9:00 am We are off to see a Jersey cow that is due to calve any day. We have a lot of backyard milk cows in our area. Some of the families use the milk themselves, but many of them take advantage of the Rural Milk Certification Program offered by the Idaho Dairy Council. In order to be compliant for the sale of raw milk, you must have your cow tested annually for tuberculosis (TB). TB testing in cows and goats is done by injecting a small dose of TB test medium into the tail head of the animal, and then coming back 72 hours later to “read” the test for a reaction. Reading the test means that you digitally feel each side of the tail head for a reaction. A positive (or false positive) animal will have distinct swelling at the tail head. 

This particular Jersey has already seen me twice in the past month for her vaccinations.  She remembers me well and is not too happy to see me again. Our restraint consists of a post in the field to which she is tied. She is owned by a lovely family trio of mom and her two daughters, all very involved with the animals on their small farm. Her three owners try valiantly to slow the spinning around the post as I perform the quick injection into the tail head. She’s mad but recovers quickly when they pull out the alfalfa cubes as an apology. Since the only time the cow is tied to this post is for veterinary examinations, I encourage them to do some “post desensitizing” and alfalfa-cube-feeding before my next visit to read the test. The cow is no dummy, and she is not appreciative of the “post torture routine”!

My client (the mom) whips out her ever-present list of questions about all things dietary, calf, and milk related. This will be their first milking experience, and they are anxious to get everything right. I remember when we were in vet school there was a movement that tried to make oral examinations part of our curriculum. The student body was appalled at the thought, but I don’t think anything could have been more appropriate now that I have been in practice for 16 years. The ability to field a barrage of questions and think on your feet while dodging your patient’s attempts to distract you is a skill that every veterinarian must have. 

9:30 am The 30-minute drive to the next call allows me time to return calls, and check text messages, Facebook messages, and emails. The multiple ways for folks to communicate now make it even easier for people to check in with me about treatments, wound care, prescription refills, and ask questions that would take more time over the phone. However, these grand new options in communication mean I may be having three conversations at once. Keeping it all straight and fielding phone calls at the same time can eat up a 30-minute drive in no time! 

10:00 am The next call is to see a patient that I have a soft spot for. Buckskin (as she is lovingly called) is a six-year-old AQHA mare, heading off to training this fall. As a four-year-old she suffered a catastrophic wound to the dorsal cannon bone in her right hind leg. At least 50 percent of that bone was exposed, and by the time we saw the wound for the first time, it was at least four days old, full of contamination, and very painful. With diligent and thorough debridement and very careful and attentive care by the owner, she is left with a nice clean scar on that leg with no proud flesh and no lameness. She is stout and gorgeous and is going to be a good one. The mare’s owner is one of my favorite clients, an Idaho State Patrol woman who has some great road stories to tell. We often compare the horrors and challenges in our jobs—I sure wouldn’t want hers and she feels the same about mine! I float Buckskin’s teeth to make sure her mouth is comfortable, and she is ready to concentrate when the trainer puts a bit in her mouth next month. 

10:45 am Another gas station meeting, this time for some prescription drug refills. As a mobile veterinarian, it can be challenging for my clients to get refills for the medications they need. So, we do an awful lot of “drug deals” in local parking lots. We service two counties and 15 zip codes: It’s a large area, and we average 200 miles on the truck every day. Catching up with clients for refills takes effort from both parties. 

11:00 am We have an hour’s drive to our next appointment, so more time to return calls and schedule other appointments. I’ve had three calls from folks scattered over two counties that would still like an appointment today. Since we already have a 12-hour day on the schedule, it’s tough to fit them in, but we promise to add the urgent ones to the list, hoping we finish some of our calls a little early.   

The driveis also how we spend our lunch time. We don’t ever actually stop for a lunch break. We only stop to refuel. Patrick, my male Irish Setter, always eats with us, and he insists on his share of whatever is for lunch that day. We refer to that as “Paddy Tax”—we are liberally taxed daily. 

We made a quick stop to pick up mail and drop off samples being shipped out to the lab, then off to the next zip code. On the rare days when we are doing lots of “windshield time” with no cell service, Carolyn and I will listen to audiobooks. We’ve been through the entire James Herriot series and always listen to the Harry Potter series at least once a year. Generally this is a winter activity as the phone is just too busy in the summer months. Lately we have been searching and selecting music when we get a lull in the phone calls. The search for good freestyle music never stops!

12:00 pm  We arrive at our farthest and largest appointment for the day. We have a herd of cattle to work through the chute for vaccinations, ear tagging, and castration. These cattle are range cattle that only get worked once a year, if we are lucky. They are wild as deer, and it’s a mixed bag of 4- to 18-month-old heifers and bulls. The oldest ones are part of a bunch that jumped the gate and headed for open country midway through last year’s gather.  The rancher’s wife, who scheduled the appointment, thought we had about 10 heifers and 10 bulls, but when we arrive there are closer to 30 head in the pen, and they are already milling restlessly.

Before we can get started, the owner has a couple of horses he wants me to look at. The first is a young Curly Horse that was pushed through the barbed-wire fence by his pasturemates sometime the day before. I’m told to just take a look at the wound, but it’s obvious that it needs some serious attention beyond the ointment and vet wrap the owner applied yesterday. Due to the advanced stage of the wound, it is a challenge to close it, and I reach for my standard tension-relieving trick, using dollar-store buttons I keep in the truck. These are always a big hit with the client and are a must for wounds that have retracted and require a bit of muscle to put back together. 

Once the Curly is repaired, we move on to two more horses at the other end of the property. One is a mare that is likely foundered and has been lame for somewhere between three weeks and four months, depending on which side of the he said/she said conversation you choose to listen to. I recommend x-rays and schedule another appointment later in the week for that. The other horse is an older POA that unfortunately has developed a cancerous growth on his penis. It is about the size of a silver dollar and non-painful at this time. We discuss multiple treatment options, but due to budget and the inability to get him to a surgical facility, it looks like we’ll just be keeping an eye on it, hoping it doesn’t get too aggressive, too fast.

Rural medicine means that not every patient gets state-of-the-art treatment. Real-life budgetary constraints and environmental limitations are a constant factor in all our medical decisions. I consider it my job to offer all the available options along the entire scale and allow the owners to decide what they are comfortable with. It’s tough, especially when I know I could save an animal if given the opportunity, but I try to remain neutral. It’s a tough decision for families who love their animals. 

We move on to the cattle. There are four of us working the herd, one in the pen, one at the head gate, one pushing in the alleyway, and one dropping the tail gate. The cattle are wild, and the sorting and pushing setup is not ideal, resulting in copious amounts of shouting, whipping, and hot-shot usage. (I don’t know if it is a common method of cattle handling in other parts of the country, but here in Bonner county, the buggy whip is king for moving feisty cattle. I can imagine Temple Grandin cringing if she were watching from the sidelines.) As an added treat for me, the chute has fencing on either side of the head catch, so the only place to stand to ear tag and tattoo the heifers is right in front of them, giving them a very good shot at breaking my arm when I reach for an ear. The four-month-old heifers aren’t bad, but the older ones are a bit tougher.

Luckily I have 16 years experience in not getting my arm broken, and all goes fairly smoothly…that is, until we get a large heifer (I swear this one is closer to 18 months!) in the chute that happens to have a rather large set of horns. The owner is sending her to the auction in November and knows that he will get a better price on her without horns, so the things have to come off. I like to do my dehorning on heifers that are about 120 pounds under full sedation with local anesthesia. That’s my favorite method. The old-time cattleman’s “lop ‘er off in the chute” method is not. It’s quick and it’s effective, but it’s painful and bloody, and there HAS to be a better way. So, we compromise, electing to nerve block and restrain the heifer while I figure out a good position in this boxed-in head catch to try to remove these horns. They are too big for my loppers so I have to use my wire saw. It works great but is exhausting and requires just the right angle to be effective. Imagine a Nordic Track exercise machine or a rowing machine that is trying to thwart all your efforts at establishing an effective rhythm. 

Try as we might we cannot get this heifer in a position that allows for a good angle for the wire saw.  The solution? We put 2×4 boards across the fencing on either side of the chute so I can stand on them up above her, sawing those horns off while three people hold ropes to stabilize her head. The block works and she feels next to nothing, but a wild heifer is still not likely to enjoy having her head restrained, and she definitely does not! There are relatively few spurting blood vessels, and I am able to get them cauterized quickly. Unfortunately, when we take the ropes off her head after the second horn, we realize that one of the ropes had been creating a tourniquet, masking the spurting from that horn. The rancher jumps back, screaming as the heifer sprays him across his chest. Of course, now I have to try to cauterize with her head unrestrained and flinging blood everywhere. She sure didn’t appreciate me wielding a red-hot dehorning iron and tried her best to ram me with her head.   

After the dehorning/gymnastics event, we move on to the rest of the herd, which by now is thoroughly worked up from the whipping, zapping, and cussing. The smell of blood and burning horn isn’t helping to calm them or lure them into the chute either. The cattle collectively take out a panel being used as part of the alleyway and start to rear up like jumping the fence is next. In an unprecedented move, the rancher chooses to use his bulldozer to attempt to corner the unruly bunch. I look at Carolyn and ask if she has ever seen a bull jump a bulldozer because I am pretty sure it is coming right up. Sure enough, once they are cornered, about half of the cattle choose to jump the remaining panel, while the others jump the blade on the bulldozer. I have to admire their athleticism.  

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4:30 pm  By now Carolyn and I are about two hours past schedule and out of cell service so we are unable to contact any of our following clients that we attempted to add into the already packed schedule. We’d managed to inoculate about 1/3 of the herd prior to the mass exodus over the top of the bulldozer. I ask to use the house land line to let my clients know the status, and we call it a day at the ranch so we can head out to try and salvage part of the schedule that remains.

As we get back into cell service a rush of “dings” on the cell phone are testimony to missed appointments, urgent calls, and messages that we missed while chute-dogging unruly young cattle. We decide that our next call better be an ailing patient, as it is an add-on for the day and about 30 minutes away. I spend the drive time sorting through the calls and making apologies where appropriate for missed appointment times.

5:00 pm  When we arrive to see our next patient the owner reports that he is doing much better than when she called in the morning. The gelding had been running a temperature for a while but now is normal and starting to pick at his hay. The old guy is 36 this year and definitely showing his age in the dropped back, knobby knees, and gray sunken face. He has no upper teeth and precious few lower teeth. He’s on a completely pelleted and soaked diet with multiple supplements and has a nice cozy barn to live in. 

After a thorough examination, including a rectal exam, I step back and take a look at the bigger picture. These are the tough calls. This is a healthy older horse. The only thing ailing him right now is that he is 36 and the weather is rapidly changing. I have a hard talk with his owner about his age, his condition, and the plan for this winter if things don’t go the way we like. It’s my least favorite part of the job. The owner tearfully tells me she is committed to attempting to take him through the winter, and we make the necessary arrangements if things take a turn for the worse. 

5:45 pm Next we are off to see a very annoyed little Holstein cow that has been waiting for us to come and do a milk test. She’s been suffering from a recurrent mastitis problem in one quarter. The owner has attempted several at-home treatments, but the problem keeps coming back. Her bag is full and tight with the delayed appointment, and after taking my sample, she is more than ready to be milked out. She has to wait for a while, though, as we spend some time going over the milking procedure and sanitation practices the owner is using in an attempt to track down the source of the problem. 

We decide to send the milk sample off to the lab for cytology and culture, and in the meantime, I recommend a different brand of teat dip with a little better bactericidal scope. These backyard milking parlors are a testimony to the ingenuity of our rural clients. Each parlor is completely unique, and the setup generally depends on the level of cooperation for the cow in question. This particular setup includes a long rope that goes around the cow and attaches to partial wall on one side of the head catch. This cow is apparently adept at kicking the milking machine off, but with the rope, she is stymied and doesn’t even attempt to protest. 

6:15 pm We have a message waiting for us when we get back in the truck from our last appointment—they are starting to get a little worried because we haven’t made it yet.  We are only about four hours late! The other two appointments we on our schedule have been rescheduled for another (already full) day later in the week. 

We arrive in 15 minutes to do a quick blood draw on a ram that is scheduled for a sale next month. All rams have to be tested negative for brucella ovis; this ram is one from a larger group tested a few weeks ago. Occasionally we have one come back as indeterminant, which just means the test didn’t work. So, we have to retest this ram to clear him before the sale. We have plenty of time, but the sample has to be mailed out tomorrow morning if it’s going to make the lab this week. 

Luckily, this is a very experienced shepherd who has been through this drill a number of times. He wades into the flock of about 15 large rams, looking for the one that he had chalk-marked earlier in the day. Wading through sheep always reminds me of crowd surfing or maybe wrestling with live Charmin rolls. You are buffeted around by them, but it doesn’t hurt when they are in a large group like that. They sure can hurt you, to be sure, especially if they get a run at you, but wrestling them in a large group I always find kind of fun. 

The particular ram we want is more intelligent than his buddies. He knows that the shepherd catches him with a hand under the chin, so he is a “crowd diver.” As soon as he sees one of us coming for him, he plunges his head down under all his friends and starts pushing. Then the whole flock rotates through the pen and we feel like we are in a woolen blender until they land in a corner again. It takes four or five rounds before I’m able to slip a hand under his chin and block him long enough for the shepherd to wade through and grab him. Blood draws on sheep can be a bit tricky when they are fully wooled, but the shearer was here right before me, and the nice smooth neck makes the job a cinch. 

6:45 pm  We are finally back in the truck and headed home. I drop Carolyn off with plans to see her again at 8:00 am the following morning. I head for home, hoping that I just might have enough daylight left to attempt to ride my horse. Cowboy Dressage World Finals is right around the corner, and I am still attempting to choreograph my Freestyle.   I’m on call tonight so it’s a crap shoot, but I’m forever the optimist.

By the time I’ve pulled in at home, though, the sun is just on the other side of the trees, and my arena is about 10 minutes away from pretty darn dark. It’s so hard to get used to these shorter days this time of year. Besides, my horses are all sure I should be turned in for equine abuse by delaying dinner so rudely. My husband Dan usually does all the feeding, but he is out of town, so it’s my turn to do the evening chores.

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Photo from Dressage the Cowboy Way by Eitan Beth-Halachmy and Dr. Jenni Grimmett.

7:30 pm  Time to eat and do some computer work. The dogs are happily eating their dinner, and mine consists of a bag salad and a reheated “smokie.” It’s quick and simple and relatively healthy. I spend some time on the computer for my vet practice then switch gears to my other job with Cowboy Dressage. I’m working on plans for my final clinic of the year in New Hampshire in November. There is a Gathering this coming weekend that I won’t be able to attend, but we are sending a box of DRESSAGE THE COWBOY WAY over to sell. Dan will be coaching at that show but won’t have the time to take a horse along. 

9:00 pm  The Setters are sleepy and so am I. We hit the hay early tonight. It’s been a long day, and the dog-piled bed is calling my name. I go through my mental list of things that have to happen in the morning before we do it all over again. I set my alarm, reminding myself that chores are again my responsibility before I head out for calls. I have two phones by my bed side and look at them, pleading for them both to remain silent tonight.  Midnight calls this time of year aren’t as common as they are in small animal veterinary medicine. Typically, if I can get through evening checks, my patients are all tucked in for the night, and I’m safe from emergencies until morning. I am on call 50 percent of the year, which is a vast improvement from the 100 percent of the year I used to be on call.    Those first 10 years of being on call 24/7 were enough to make me question my career choice. I couldn’t pursue the other passions in my life without my fantastic work partner, and it is thanks to her coming into my life that I can be involved in Cowboy Dressage. 

As I snuggle in, trying to carve out some room between Irish Setters, my last thoughts are of my Freestyle, and I go to sleep dreaming about dancing with my own horse, hoping it’s my turn to ride tomorrow evening. 

DRESSAGE THE COWBOY WAY by Dr. Jenni Grimmett and Eitan Beth-Halachmy is available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information.

All photos from Dressage the Cowboy Way by Eitan Beth-Halachmy and Dr. Jenni Grimmett.

 

Be sure to read the other installments of TSB’s “Horseworld By the Hour” blog series:

DR. BOB GRISEL

TIK MAYNARD

JEC ARISTOTLE BALLOU

KENDRA GALE

JEANNE ABERNETHY

YVONNE BARTEAU

JONATHAN FIELD

EMMA FORD

JOCHEN SCHLEESE

HEATHER SMITH THOMAS

LYNN PALM

DANIEL STEWART

DOUG PAYNE

JANET FOY

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and DVDs, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont.

 

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Horseman and eventer Tik Maynard bared his soul in his hit memoir IN THE MIDDLE ARE THE HORSEMEN, which was released earlier this year and has earned accolades from reviewers and readers across the board. Those who have read the book learned the story of Remarkable, an off-track Thoroughbred Tik retrained, and who, in some ways, is responsible for Tik’s book being published. An article Tik wrote about OTTBs for Practical Horseman Magazine caught our eye at TSB, and when we contacted him to see if he was interested in writing a book—we found out he already had one in the works!

Some of those who have enjoyed IN THE MIDDLE ARE THE HORSEMEN have asked what has happed with Remarkable, so we caught up with Tik—a very busy new father with eventer wife Sinead Halpin—to see whether OTTB was still a favorite acronym.

TSB: In IN THE MIDDLE ARE THE HORSEMEN, you share the story of Mr. Pleasantree, aka Remarkable, the off-track Thoroughbred you purchased and trained in preparation for the 2015 RRP Thoroughbred Makeover. You won the Freestyle competition with Remarkable that year. Three years later, where are you with his training?

TIK: I competed Remarkable for two years after the Makeover and brought him up to the Prelim level of eventing. At Three Lakes Horse Trials in Florida in 2017 we were halfway around the cross-country when there was a five-stride line from a table to an angled brush next to a tree. The brush was higher on the tree side, and we were supposed to jump the low side of the brush away from the tree. But there was a 3-inch gap between the brush and the tree, and somehow Remarkable got his eye on that gap. I think many horses would have stopped or run out, but he seemed to say, “If you want me to try that, I’ll try it.” He got halfway over, and then he couldn’t fit the rest of the way. I got him off okay, and then we reapproached and jumped the correct part of the jump. He didn’t bat an eyelash, and we finished the course. It was a scary situation though. I could not believe how much he trusted me. And I let him down. I can’t think of another horse that has been so wiling to try for me.

TSB: Are you still planning on bringing him up through the levels as an event prospect?

TIK: It took me a year of competing at Preliminary to realize that he does not have the jump to keep moving up the levels. Although I would love to keep competing him, I don’t want to force my goals on him. Just cause I want him to be an upper-level horse does not mean he does. I think he is much happier competing at the lower levels. I would love to lease him out to somebody in our program if the right person came along.

TSB: What are his strengths?

TIK: His try. His heart. His sense of play. His trust in me. Playing with him at liberty.

TSB: What challenges are you currently facing with him? How are you meeting those challenges?

TIK: The biggest challenge is his lack of scope with bigger jumps. I am meeting the challenge by backing down and saying, “If you don’t want to do that, that’s fine. Let’s do something you want to do!”

TSB: If you could name one personal goal you’d like to meet alongside Remarkable, what would it be?

TIK: I’d like to find a horse that complemented him and try to put together a little routine involving two horses at liberty.

TSB: What are some of the things you’ve learned through your work with Remarkable? How has he improved you as a horseman?

TIK: He can be pretty spooky in new situations. I try to give myself time to really feel prepared with him before we do something in new place. For example, the day before competing at the Makeover, during the ring familiarization time, I had a friend and my dad go stand behind all the banners that he was nervous about and feed him treats. Then when we competed he wasn’t spooking away from the rails and toward the in-gate.

He was probably the horse that started the shift in my head from trying to get a horse to do something, to trying to create confidence in a horse so that it is not a big deal. It seems so obvious, but I deal with it almost every day with young horses that are getting used to cross-country obstacles. Am I trying to get them into the water? Or am I trying to get them confident about the water? It is a pretty big paradigm shift in thinking, and often I still have to remind myself which one I’m trying to do.

TSB: Do you plan to compete at the Makeover again in the future?

TIK: In 2016 I went back with two horses, Haxby Park and Johnny Football. My goal was to do a liberty routine with both of them. It did not go according to plan. I’ve since heard that for acts like that you want to show 80 percent of what you can do at home, and I wish I had known that then. My whole act sort of fell apart when Johnny got distracted by the loudspeaker. On the plus side, I learned way more that year than the year that I won. Preparing two horses at once was way out of my comfort zone, and I was just learning nonstop in the lead-up to the competition. Linda and Pat Parelli gave me some lessons while I was still in Ocala, Florida. Then I came to Kentucky early and spent a few days with Dan James, who is amazing at balancing horsemanship and showmanship!

In 2017 I went back to the Makeover as a judge with Dan James for the Freestyle. That was also a great learning experience. It was really interesting to compare so many different acts, and to try to find a way of marking them all fairly. It is 50 percent for harmony, 30 percent for degree of difficulty, and 20 percent for entertainment. For the harmony we were really looking for relaxed happy horses—no tail swishing, no mouth open, nothing out of control. For the difficulty level, though, we were looking for a horse that could be relaxed and happy, but one that could also jump, or gallop, or spin. And that is the same thing that can make a dressage test hard: Can they do snappy transitions, but also have a nice free walk?

In 2018 I again competed at the Makeover, this time with Penny Hallman’s Looking My Way. His barn name is Mason, and although he is a big chestnut like Remarkable, they are very different.

TSB: Knowing what you know now, how did you approach working with a new OTTB in preparation for the event? How was it the same as what you did with Remarkable? How was it different?

TIK: I entered him in the same two divisions, the freestyle and eventing. I think the biggest thing is Remarkable really has a much bigger personality and play drive. It made my job easy, I just had to show him off! With Mason I had to really slow things down, explain things carefully, and take my time a lot more. It does mean some stuff was better, but it also meant I couldn’t necessarily show off such an extravagant gallop and play.  I had to do the little things well. Things that were slow and controlled and thoughtful, like circling around me at the walk and trot, coming to me, and lying down. It worked! Mason and I won the Freestyle competition.

TSB: If others are interested in participating in the Makeover, what advice would you give them?

TIK: The hardest thing for me, but also the most beneficial, is to approach it like a fun event. There is money up for grabs, but I try to forget it and just have a good time. And when I have a good time, usually my horses have a good time. And if the horses are having a good time, usually the judges and the audience can tell.

TSB: How is the Makeover changing the horse world for the better?

TIK: They are really creating more of a demand and a focus on horses that might otherwise not have a home to go to. It is a fantastic event! The underlying problem, of course, is that there are too many horses, dogs, and cats in the world, and not enough good homes to take them. I really support spay-and-neuter programs, and I think everybody should really think twice about breeding animals when there are so many that need homes and don’t have them.

In the Middle Are the Horsemen-horseandriderbooksYou can read the full story of Remarkable in Tik’s bestselling memoir IN THE MIDDLE ARE THE HORSEMEN, available from TSB, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information or to order.

For more information about the Retired Racehorse Project’s Thoroughbred Makeover and how you can be involved CLICK HERE.

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and DVDs, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont.

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I am in awe of the large animal veterinarian—no lie. I nursed vague dreams of entering the profession in my James-Herriot-loving youth, until someone told me vet school is more difficult than medical school. And that was that. Besides, I wanted time to ride.

It is clear from a glimpse into a day in the life of TSB author Dr. Bob Grisel that there certainly would not have been time to ride. In fact, we’re wondering how he managed to write his book EQUINE LAMENESS FOR THE LAYMAN! As anyone who has written and published a book can attest, the process demands long hours and, at times, lightning-fast turnaround. This can be challenging to accommodate in the most-normal-of-horse-person schedules. Even more incredibly, Dr. Grisel edited and narrated over hundreds of sample videos from the field to help educate the reader’s eye, all viewable via easy-to-scan links in the book. And he did it all while somehow making it to his daily appointments on time and being part of a family.

Whoa.

If you need convincing of his superhero status, just read on.

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4:45 am I wake up to find a pair of warm, soft, two-year-old feet resting on my face. They would belong to our youngest son, who sometimes (always) sleeps in bed with his mom and me. Mom is already out of bed and has started brewing the coffee, which will comprise some (all) of my breakfast. Since they haven’t been able to make fruit and yogurt taste and act like coffee yet, the latter will have to do. In the meantime I jump in the shower and get dressed. My wife hands me a coffee cup the size of Rhode Island as I head out the door.
 
5:35 am I arrive at the office and fire up my computer. I quickly check the calendar to see what lies ahead for the day: surgery in the morning and lameness evaluations/treatments for the remainder of the day. Shouldn’t be too bad. I am hoping to make it back home before our young son goes down for the night.

A quick peek at my email reveals a message containing a photo from a new client who I’ll be meeting a little later in the day. Her mare recently developed a swollen knee and corresponding forelimb lameness. The owner is extremely worried, as the mare is apparently quite uncomfortable.

I also find a message from a client who is currently searching for a new horse in Holland. She’s found one she likes and wants a quick opinion. She’s already been waiting almost four hours for a reply (seeing as I’m based in Georgia, and they’re six hours ahead over there), so I figure I better take a look. The horse is displaying a mild combination lameness in the right front limb (looks like fetlock joint pain), so I suggest that she pay close attention to this limb during any potential forthcoming pre-purchase evaluation. I write down a few phone numbers and head for the door.

Janet (our Pharmacy Manager) has left my truck order of medications and supplies directly in front of the doorway in the hopes that if I don’t see it I’ll trip over it on my way out. Everything makes it into the truck, including some extra Advil for my (now) sore knee.
 
6:00 am  I was hoping to leave a little bit earlier, as it has gotten more difficult to beat Atlanta traffic in recent years. The first appointment is near the Alabama-Georgia state line and takes almost two hours of driving time to reach. Fortunately, I have enough coffee to last me the rest of the month.
 
7:00 am  While driving, I glance over at the passenger seat to find an egg sandwich that my wife made and placed there while I was in the shower almost two hours earlier. There’s nothing better than my wife! I begin to wonder which is more difficult for her: taking care of our two-year-old or taking care of me. But I quickly become distracted with the sandwich and stop thinking about it.

While eating, I receive a call from a farrier about a horse I saw the previous week in Raleigh, North Carolina, during an out-of-town work trip. We have a very productive conversation despite my inability to speak with a mouthful of egg sandwich. Perhaps it is my lack of talking that makes the conversation so productive(?)

Working with farriers has become one of the highlights of my job, although I doubt it is nearly as fun for them. Most farriers mitigate a menagerie of opinions on a daily basis: some from vets, some from owners, some from other farriers, and some from folks who have a cousin that is thinking about apprenticing with a farrier. I’m glad that farriers do what they do, because I certainly couldn’t do it. They are generally underrated and underappreciated in my opinion.
 
8:00 am I arrive at the first call to find the owner and attending veterinarian at the barn with our patient, a 27-year-old gelding requiring enucleation (eye removal). The horse is an extremely sweet and classy animal, and truly adored by his owner. I always feel an increased sense of responsibility when working with an animal that fully trusts me. I also worry about performing general anesthesia on a horse this age, as there are some aspects of induction and recovery that we can’t always control as veterinarians.

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Eye surgery. Photo courtesy of Dr. Bob Grisel.

10:30 am  Fortunately, everything goes well with the surgery and anesthesia; the horse is back in his stall and looking for breakfast by the time I get my truck packed up to leave. I didn’t get much blood on my clothes, but I change them anyway so that the next client doesn’t think that I just came from a gang fight.

Thirty-five minutes to the next appointment, which is scheduled for 11:30 am. I have time to complete one follow-up phone call to a Raleigh client who informs me that his horse is doing much better since my visit last week. Always good to hear!
 
11:10 am  I arrive at the next barn, which is a frequent stop for my practice. I have two lameness evaluations there: the first is a horse “due” for hock and coffin joint injections; the second is a new horse that apparently can’t canter in either direction.

After examination, I decide that the farrier (a good friend of mine) can probably fix the second horse’s issue via some angle adjustments in the hind feet. The owner is very relieved to hear that “no needles are required.” I make a plan to call the farrier on my way to the next appointment, which is only 15 minutes away.

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Coffin joint injection. Photo courtesy of Dr. Bob Grisel.

1:15 pm  I am fairly shocked to be driving to my 1:30 pm appointment and still on time. In addition to calling the farrier for the horse I just saw, I also call my wife to see what kind of mood our youngest is in: This will directly affect the way my wife’s day goes, which in turn directly affects the way my day goes. She informs me that he woke up in a great mood…Perfect! Apparently “face-warming” his feet overnight was helpful.
 
1:30 pm  I arrive at the next appointment to learn that the client was unable to be present for the evaluation. I call her to confirm that I had received her email with the photo of the swollen knee earlier in the day. I always try to connect with the client at some point(s) during the visit to make sure that we stay on the same page throughout the diagnostic and treatment processes. She says there has been some concern about both of her mare’s knees since she was purchased several years antecedent to this recent injury.

I confirm that the swelling is associated with the lateral digital extensor tendon along the top and outside aspect of the right carpus (knee). Although this type of injury can be ugly, it is rarely a cause of lameness in my experience. It is possible, however, that an affected horse might display mild non weight-bearing lameness if the damage is very severe.

The good news is that this horse exhibits purely weight-bearing gait deficits during active examination, telling me that the knee (and associated swelling) is not our problem. The bad news is that now I have to call the owner (whom I’ve never met) and explain that her horse has another issue altogether. Fortunately the conversation goes better than expected, and I’m able to leave for the next call 30 minutes early. Yeah! Ahead of schedule!
 
2:45 pm  The extra 30 minutes vanish like a magic trick as I find myself sitting in an Infamous Atlanta Traffic Jam (IATJ). The 50-minute drive turns into 75 minutes due to an accident on the opposite side of the highway (I try not to speculate how this could be, but it be). It’s times like this that my mind often drifts toward thinking about our oldest son, who is a Chinook helicopter pilot in the Army National Guard. I start crunching numbers with respect to how feasible and cost-effective it would be to slide my veterinary truck box into the back of that chopper and fly between appointments. I haven’t come up with a concrete solution yet, although it is not from a lack of working at it.

I finally force myself to stop thinking about “Equine Heli-Vet Services” and make a few more follow-up phone calls to clients. I also check in with the first client of the day to make sure that our old friend is still recovering well from surgery.

4:00 pm  I arrive to the next appointment (still on time), where there are two horses waiting on me. The first appointment is for a recheck evaluation and shock wave therapy on a chronic hind medial suspensory branch tear. Our clinical and ultrasonographic reexaminations suggest that the tissue is healing well, although this type of injury tends to be very stubborn. After some discussion, I am able to coax my client into waiting another six weeks prior to rechecking the horse and considering limited turnout/ exercise. The client asks me to relay the highlights of our examination to her farrier… something I will try my best not to forget to do while I’m driving.

I notice that the second horse has an enlarged right temporomandibular joint (between the skull and jaw bones). I often see this in conjunction with an ipsilateral lameness in the hind limb (on the same side of the horse). The theory is that a horse with a hind-limb lameness may be unwilling to bend in the direction toward the affected side, thereby forcing the rider to use more rein tension along the respective side. The latter action is often implicated as a common instigator for unilateral (one-sided) “TMJ.” In the case of this horse, we decide to treat both his right hind lameness and temporomandibular pain, the latter via intraarticular injection(s). I am expecting that he’ll feel much better pursuant to the treatment(s).

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TMJ injection. Photo courtesy of Dr. Bob Grisel.

6:30 pm  On my way to the next appointment. Somewhere along this trek I decide to change my shirt again, as the last one is getting fairly damp and dirty. I also leave a voice message for the farrier of the horse with the suspensory branch issue (I didn’t forget!).
 
6:50 pm  Arrive at my 7:00 pm appointment, which involves a horse that has historically responded very well to Pro-Stride (i.e. IRAP and PRP) treatment for chronic arthritis in his neck. We decide to retreat him as preparation for a rigorous upcoming show schedule. The procedure entails ultrasound-guided injection of the articular facets, a technique that I developed as a young surgery resident 25 years ago and first presented at the AAEP Convention in 1996. It’s still very much fun to do after all of these years (perhaps a little like playing video games). All goes well and I’m back on the road within 90 minutes.
 
9:05 pm  I arrive at my last call only to learn that the client hasn’t made it to the barn yet (some excuse about getting stuck in traffic… go figure). While I wait, I am able to review and run the following day’s appointment schedule from my phone, with the hope that I can stay relatively punctual again. Ann, our office manager, has already filled in the schedule for me; I only have to organize it. Easy!

I also find enough time to respond to another client who sent some video footage of a horse that we treated the previous month…she wants to confirm that all is going as expected. I respond with a thumbs-up!

9:20 pm  The client eventually shows up and explains that he needs an “emergency pre-purchase” examination on a horse, who is otherwise being shipped back to Virginia first thing the following morning. I can’t say that these are my favorite cases. The horse is thin, debilitated, and quite lame in both the left front and right hind limbs.

The examination is cut short when we find a P1 subchondral cyst in the left front fetlock joint during initial radiographic examination (we imaged the left front limb first, suspecting a problem there). Fetlock cysts of this nature can be very challenging to manage over the long term, and my client judiciously bows out of the deal.

As a result of the abbreviated examination, I am on my way home by 10:30 pm. I’ve got 40 minutes to get there!
 
10:40 pm  While driving, I call my son (the helicopter pilot). We talk most evenings, and I find it very relaxing (“unwinding”) to speak with him after work. Our conversation is usually limited to dirt bikes, sports cars, and helicopters. He is the inventor of the term “Ketchup Day,” which has historically been used in our family to denote my first day home, following an extensive out-of-town work trip. The term has now been in use for well over 20 years.

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The Grisel kids! Photo courtesy of Dr. Bob Grisel.

11:15 pm  As I pull into the truck bay beneath our house, I am ecstatic to see my wife and youngest son walking though the door together…he is still awake and appears to have gotten taller since I last saw him! A quick dinner and shower for me and then straight to bed for the three of us. The rest of the texts, emails, etc. will have to wait another day. I’m hoping to sleep well tonight, as tomorrow is Monday and the start of a whole new week.
 
11:22 pm  My last thought as I drift off to sleep: “Rats! I got the feet again!

 

Dr. Grisel’s book EQUINE LAMENESS FOR THE LAYMAN is available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information or to order.

 

Be sure to read the other installments of TSB’s “Horseworld By the Hour” blog series:

TIK MAYNARD

JEC ARISTOTLE BALLOU

KENDRA GALE

JEANNE ABERNETHY

YVONNE BARTEAU

JONATHAN FIELD

EMMA FORD

JOCHEN SCHLEESE

HEATHER SMITH THOMAS

LYNN PALM

DANIEL STEWART

DOUG PAYNE

JANET FOY

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and DVDs, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont.

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