Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome - In Dogs?

So I've been doing some thinking. After last night, I am thinking there is something more severe than a tattered past in my dogs eyes. I believe he has Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. As I am unaware of what exactly happened in his past, I can only hypothesize.

Last night when I went to bed, Schaeffer jumped in crawled up by my pillows. He buried his head into my chest so his head was hiding. His body was all curled up in the fetal position pressed right against mine. His heart was pounding so fast, and his breathing became very laboured and quick. He turned his head away from me and buried it under a bunch of pillows. He tucked all his legs under him and laid like that until I fell asleep. I'm not sure what happened after.

The first time this happened I thought he was maybe having cardiac arrest. I stayed up with him but he eventually fell asleep. It scared the hell out of me, but now I am kind of getting used to it. I usually just snuggle up with him and rub his belly to try and relax him until I fall asleep. I'm thinking this goes way beyond anxiety. It's almost like a panic attack that people get, but I believe this may be a result of the stress he endured throughout his life.
What I do know about Schaeffer is that he is 7 years old, 8 this year. For the first 6 years of his life he lived with a gangster, thug type guy. He was used to show off to his friends, brought to parties, and play fought with...except his play fighting was actually full contact. After a few years his owner had a baby with a girl, and the baby momma did not want the dog near her baby. Schaef spent the rest of his life at that time locked in a crate, or in a bathroom. Only let out to use the washroom. When his owner moved from the West coast, he decided to give away the dog when he got to this city. The girl who adopted him had no idea what she was in for. She wanted a laid back cuddler, but instead got a deaf, high energy, neglected, anxiety ridden beefcake...and after 3 months posted an ad on Kijiji looking for a home for Schaeffer. That's where I come in.

We exchanged e-mails, then eventually I went to go see him. Having another Catahoula at my mom's, which I had given to her as she has a great displease for the city, I knew I could handle this one. I fell in love with him instantly and knew he was not in a good place. His then current owner explained to me how I would have to handle him. He would need to be punched in the face, kicked in the gut, and dragged around if he got too strong. To get him to behave all I had to do was make "the fist", and the dog would hit the floor. When he annoyed her, into the crate it was. The story goes on, but it makes me sick to think about so I will spare you all. I agreed to handle him the way she requested, just to get the dog out of there. She handed over his leash and he was finally safe, and going to live out his life in comfort and love.

Schaeffer had a difficult time adjusting. He never came out of his crate. I would have to lock the door shut just to get him to spend time with me. He didn't like you to be more than a foot closer to him. A hug was out of the question. He would NOT lay on any blanket, or bed I got for him, let alone get on my bed or the couch. He ran away if he thought you looked at him the wrong way. He was a loner and didn't care for people. I knew he had a rough life, but I never imagined how bad it might have been.
Now that things have changed, and Schaeffer is an old' ham...I'm beginning to wonder just what might have happened to him. He loves people now, let's me hug and kiss him. He sleeps in my bed (bad I know but I get lonely), and occasional I can coax him onto the chair. So now that he seems to be able to live a relatively normal dog life, what's up with these night episodes?

This article explains how dogs experience stress much like humans when they are in a traumatic situation. Depending on the severity, dogs can become anxious to showing full blown PTS symptoms. Their behaviour will change. Some dogs forget all aspects of training, while others become aggressive. Schaef has been known to exhibit signs of aggression in the past. Some dogs become obsessed with barking, panting, or pacing. These activities can be very horrible for both the dog and the owner.
So how can help a dog that suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome?
The key is to eliminate as much stress as possible. The best start to relieving stress is walking. If your dog is stressed, walk, walk, walk the stress away.

Try not to put your dog in situations you know will create anxiety and stress. For example, if your dog does not like to be home alone, consider a doggie day care or dog walker. If your dog gets nervous in the car, avoid it whenever possible.

If your dog has a specific event that has traumatized them, there are methods to over come their fear. It involves patience, and baby steps. Seek a professional dog behaviorist.
If your dog is crate trained leave the crate available for them when they need to find their comfort zone.
Lots of praise, and lots of love. Negative re-enforcement in an already anxiety ridden dog will just blow up in your face and make things worse.

Physical abuse, abusive or fear training is NEVER the answer. This will destroy the dog more and more, and create additional anxiety.

The most important thing for a dog who has anxiety or stress is comfort. If they feel safe and comfortable in their home, they will gain trust and show improvement over time. Of course, not all dogs can be fixed. Schaeffer may have come as far as he can, only time will tell. At least he can live out the rest of his days worry free, knowing there are many who will love him forever.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Saturday Night, I Feel the Air is Getting Hot

Wow, what a beautiful night. It finally feels like summer is approaching. They put the Kai-Bosch on the party I was going to so I'm staying in and watching Ghost. I should be sleeping since I work in the morning but there is much cleaning to do, and I need to get it done when I can! While I'm home I'm going to post a video I made of Fandango from a few weeks ago.

This is Fandango's first time EVER jumping a course. He is recovering very well from surgery and is moving to the hunt barn I work weekends at soon. Here he is jumping a small course, he has been under saddle consistently for 3 months. He has had about 4 months of ground work before that to develop muscle and balance. This horse was a complete disaster when I got him. He was "broke", to the point of squeeze means move and pull means stop. That's all you need to know though when you are a pony ridden by a 350lb inbred (ya that's mean but these people thought punching him in the face was the cure for his studdyness - so screw them!).

Anyways, here he is...feel free to critique. My main goal is to get him going forward and straight. The rest will come.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Balancing Life - Needs, Wants and Some Fun at Somepoint?

I would have to say that I live very differently from most people I know. Whether it's co-workers, friends, family, or people I have just met...there is a noticeable diversity between myself and others. The only possible similarities I see in myself are with a few other horse people, and maybe high powered professionals.

Some people think I am crazy. Some people think my life is a sad case of loneliness and all I need is a good man (see post here). I have actually been referred to as the crazy dog lady more than once, (for the record at the moment I only have one dog!). I had a co-worker comment that any man I date must love animals, I agreed of course when another co-worked walked in and said "she doesn't need a boyfriend, her horse is her boyfriend". While it may have been for a laugh, it's annoying and insulting to be talked about that way simple because a) I'm single, and b) I spend all my time riding and walking my dog, feeding my guinea pigs. That isn't entirely true, I fit some good times in there when necessary.

I have a hard time understanding how many people get home from work and that's that. They sit around and watch TV all night or something. I seriously do NOT know what I would do with my time if I didn't ride. Probably just work out way too much and become a freakishly built chick.
I've just been thinking about it more and more lately, or maybe just noticing it more. Am I abnormal? Do I live the busiest life on any other 25 year old I know? Do I do more in one day that most working adults do in a week? I think the answer is yes. Am I crazy? Quite possibly.

I want to review my typical WEEK day. *Approximate times*

6:00 am: Wake up
7:00 am: Actually get up, take the dog out. Feed the GPigs, feed the dog. Shower, dress...go to work
8:30 am: Work (boo)
4:30 pm: Leave
4:45 pm: Get home. Take the dog out. Feed the dog, feed the Gpigs. Relax for 2 seconds while I talk to my roommate. Change into riding gear.
5:15 pm: Head to barn 1.
5:45 pm: Arrive, ride or do ground work depending on how sore my body is.
7:30 pm: Head to barn 2.
7:45 pm: Arrive, ride etc.
9:30 pm: Head home.
10:00 pm: Home, take the dog for a walk. Do boring housework. Feed the Gpigs.
Sometime after: watch crap reality tv shows like Paradise Hotel or Millionaire Matchmaker for a bit.
Sometime after 11pm: Sleep

Now my typical weekEND

6:00 am: Up, walk the dog. Feed the animals.
7:25 am: Leave for work, don't forget Tim Hortons!
8:00 am: Work until noon.
12:00 pm: Ride horse for client

2:00 pm: Head home
2:30 pm: Home, take the dog out. Maybe change, depending how dirty I got at the barn.
3:00 pm: Head to barn 1

the rest follows a typical work week except I might spend more time at the barn on the weekend.

So, my schedule is packed. I think I have done an O.K job of managing my priorities. Priority #1 is work. Need a good job, to make good money, to be able to afford to have my much loved horses! Priority #2 is riding, making sure my guys are being taken care of. The rest of my priorities are slightly jumbled. I'm sure sleep, and rest should be up there but it tends to fall behind a social life and crap reality tv shows.

I'm trying really hard to not turn into an anti-social weirdo from always spending time working and riding. I've been doing good about making myself get out more and do things when I could just as easily be sleeping or tuning into the Real Housewives of NYC. Sometimes I wake up so tired I want to die, and sometimes by body is so sore from working and riding that I just can't physically ride and will just lunge or free lunge my guys.

It can be a mental fight with myself to say "Hey! It's OK if Fandango has a few days off this week". I know it won't kill him, I have just become so anal over the years of how important consistency and schooling is to have top notch horses. I am trying to let myself be more relaxed and force myself to take at least one day where I don't even go out to the barn. It's not easy for me, I'm over protective and worry all the time about my guys. They are both at places with great care, but I will never feel %100 secure until I have my own farm.

I think it can be difficult to determine how to balance your life when you are young and single and have big ambitions. I know I have to work, there is no question. I also want to get my horses going and when you work a full time job, you do whatever it takes on the side to get there. I am putting my social life last, but I am trying to make it a bit more important to ensure I don't go totally insane.

I would like to blame my need to be constantly on the go on my mother. She has always worked full time and ran her own little stable herself with some help from my step father. She is always going and never quits. Her horses and her home - and her always look great.

I found a cool line of books for the busy girl, I might have to check a couple of them out, specifically this one:

So this weekend I will be working and riding 3 horses a day, but I will be saving some energy for a shindig Saturday night.
Have a great weekend everyone!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Badminton Cross Country from 1982

Someone posted this on CoTH. This is a great video that shows the difference in the endurance test from the "good ol' days" to now:

Link if it's not working.

Some things I would like to talk about. First, the style of the course. This course is really forward and galloping. The horses and riders look as though they develop a great pace and can jump out of stride for almost the entire course. There is little fighting with the horses front ends, and little "3 point" riding. There are still technical questions but they are jumped out of a forward gallop and don't require a super shortened showjumping canter.

The course is welcoming but not easy. There were still a lot of penalties given and mistakes made. Why has course design changed so much when there really wasn't anything wrong with it to begin with? Were the riders bored? I can't imagine the horses were bored.

I love the cross country position by most back then. Very different from today's riders. The riders look very secure, and solid. Not much moving around and lots of give where it's needed and when mistakes are made. A lot of the rides in that video look in great harmony.

As for the fitness, the changes going on at Burghley are said to be happening because horses don't jump as well after the 10 minute mark on course. I would have to disagree, especially after watching this video and the many others I have at home from the 90's. I would like to look at statistics of falls and see if they mostly happen at the end of the course. I don't recall a trend showing that. I think the Captain might be doing whatever he can to ensure no tragedies, as his ass is already under major scrutiny from the Eventing community. Of course, that is a good thing, but we shouldn't have to change our sport entirely to make it fatality free.

It should never have been changed in the first place.

Friday, May 1, 2009

2009 Eventing Season has Started - and so have the Discussions

Last week marked the 11th anniversary of the Rolex Kentucky Three Day Event CCI****. The start of the major eventing season here in North America. The Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials CCI**** will follow next week as the first 4 star of the year in the UK. Although many spectators and riders consider the Rolex a success this year, there is a lot of opposition. Discussions on the safety and research needed for eventing has started in full force.

Already in the start of the 2009 season we have lost two horses in competition, and one rider. Canadian Mike Winter lost his long time partner KingPin at fence 10 at the Rolex. KingPin suffered a hemorrhage of the large vessels in the abdomen which was unrelated to any jumping effort (speculation). Another horse Double Chocolate, ridden by Katrina McQuarters collapsed and died after being eliminated on the cross-country at the Mitavite International Horse Trial at Kihikihi, in Waikato. Northern Ireland event rider Ian Olding died at the hands of injuries due to a rotational fall at Belton

So, already this year we have lost three athletes. Different accidents, different instances, different causes (most of which are unknown), but one common thing. A tragic death, and the eventing community left wondering WHAT if anything can be done to fix this problem. It IS a problem, and anyone who says otherwise has their head buried in the sand. So how can we change things? Prevent these things from occurring again and again, and becoming more frequent? There needs to be a platform developed for all of the eventing community to get answers, and solve problems.


There is constant disagreement over the deaths of these horses and riders. What caused it? Could it have been prevented? Are we helpless to things like pulmonary aortic ruptures? Can we fix these problems? Are the top riders and go to people of the sport really the ones who should be finding solutions? The biggest question for me is WHY THE INCREASE in instances? I just don't buy the argument that there are more people eventing more than ever now so naturally there is an increase in cases. There have always been a large number of eventers in the UK, NZ and Australia, yet their instances are increasing also, perhaps not at the rate of the Americans. What we need is an broad understanding of the who, what, whys and hows.

Research Leads to Understanding

Most eventers and associations have limited funds, and certainly do not have disposable money available for the intensive research that is needed in our sport right now. I can think of a few areas that desperately need solid, validated research.

Aortic Ruptures and Similar Instances - Can we find a common ground?

There has to be a common ground, or science would believe so anyway. So what is it? We need to look at ALL the horses we lose to this, not just eventers. Some possible commonalities?

  • Breed, bloodlines - Genetic analysis

  • Conditioning regime

  • Feed and supplements

  • Vaccinations

  • History of illness

  • Competition history and frequency

  • Strange behaviour exhibited recently

Research needs to be done on how to detect if this seems likely in the future for the horse. I know there is something along those lines going on in the racing world but no word on how long until they know something.

Rotational Falls - The Thorn in Eventings' Paw

Rotational falls are accounting for an alarming number of accidents and deaths. Why do they seem so much more common and deadly now compared to "the good old days". Little research has been done in this area. The introduction of the frangible pin is an attempt to lessen the likeliehood of a rotation in the event of a fall, but is there any proof that it's working? Some areas I would like researched and considered into the possible cause, or correlation:

  • The change from the long to short format

  • Course design

  • Fitness levels and conditioning of horses competing

  • The frequency of competition of horses competing

  • Rider ability - rider fitness

  • Rider horsemanship

  • The impact of needing a great dressage horse - and getting a not so careful jumper

  • The impact of higher level dressage tests

  • Thoroughbreds vs. Warmblood or other breeds competing
I was looking through a photo album someone posted on CoTH of the Rolex, and I have to say I was alarmed at the position of a lot of the riders in the stadium ring. Their horses were getting awful spots to the fences, the riders were all over place, some even staring at the ground over every single fence. To me this is just unacceptable riding at the top level. These pictures are a great tool at looking into some of the problem.

Some associations have made rule changes in an effort to make the sport safer. Although the heart may be in the right place, there is no research or evidence that the rules are actually beneficial to the sport. Eventing has suffered and changed a great deal in the last few years. Many people of the eventing community are continually feeling frustrated and unheard in regards to these issues.

As the discussions continue, the realm of understanding becomes closer and the hope of research becomes nearer. As a lover of the sport, I will be writing a lot on my personal take on the stance of eventing, and where we are headed. I pray for the moment we continue the season safely, without tragedy.

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