This time last year I had ridden 38 times - this year I've ridden 84 times, even with having Pie and Drifter gone for training where I only rode them two times a week at most - what a difference having an indoor makes. Last year this time I'd ridden Pie 14 times, Dawn 9 times, and Red (formerly Drifter) 15 times. This year so far I've ridden Pie 26 times, Dawn 47 times and Red 11 times. Pie and Dawn are both now at the new barn, so I can ride them any time I want. Red is still at the trainer's, so my ride count is still low, but he's been worked by Heather 4 days a week as well. I feel like I'm finally in a position to make some good progress with my horses.
Dawn and I had another good session today. We worked on solidifying our walk work, where I was looking to follow her head and then give her a mental release when she was soft. We quickly worked up to 11 steps in each direction, with lots of rest breaks on a loose rein. Then we moved up to trot - it took a while for her to find what I wanted, but then we worked in both directions until we got 7 soft steps with my mental release in each direction - it was very good and she felt great.
Pie has been feeling a bit funny lately - the last 10 days or so. A few stumbles behind, and some abnormal foot placements/leaning when foot picking behind, particularly with the left hind. But he's feeling good and eating well, and his backing and turning have been pretty good, although he's started "feeling" with his left hind when backing lately - he's searching for where it is. I recognized some of the symptoms - it looked like it might be EPM (again). He's also been vaccinated lately - 4 way (eastern and western encephalitis, tetanus and flu/rhino), so it's possible he's experiencing some inflammation in reaction to the vaccination - his neck glands were slightly swollen although he never ran a fever or seemed depressed or mopey - this is apparently a not uncommon thing for horses who've had EPM. So we decided to retest him for EPM, and sure enough he tested pretty strongly positive for strain one - the strain Dawn had - he's had strains 5 and 6 previously. He's nowhere near as badly off as he was last fall with the other infection, and he isn't feeling as bad as Dawn did with her strain one infection, and he doesn't seem to be getting any worse - I do neuro tests with him (backing, turning and foot placement) before every riding session. His results on the blood tests were as follows (see the EPM page for details as what this all means):
SAG 1 - 32
SAG 5 - 16
SAG 6 - 4
He's clearly mounting an immune response to strain one, and the strain 5 reaction may be cross-reactivity although we really don't know. Now we're evaluating with the clinician who's conducting the clinical trials (Dr. Ellison) what the best course of action is - it may be that he can mount an effective immune response by himself, or it may be that he needs the help of medication to clear the infection. We may decide to retest his blood one week after the original test to see if the titers are changing, and in what direction. All of this is complicated by the fact that I'd really like to take him to the Mark Rashid clinic on June 1, since we missed the clinic last year due to his attack of laminitis . . .