One of the perks of blogging regularly is supposed to be that I have a good baseline of health issues and when they presented themselves, etc. This one, however, I seem to have largely skipped over.
Way back around May of last year, Fetti came down with a bit of a cough. I panicked a bit (as one does) and then decided to give it a few weeks to clear up. I distinctly remember riding over to the local showgrounds, hacking a bit midway over, and then working in the arena. We got a few funny looks as she coughed intermittently in the canter but happily kept going. Alright, pony, your call. That would have been mid-May.
It pretty well cleared up at some point after that before the disastrous June gymkhana we rode over to. On a complete side note, I’m now pretty well convinced that when she dumped me she was reacting to a horsefly: I’ve recently seen her do that and it matches what she did at the show. Sorry, pony. A light cough persisted intermittently throughout the summer and fall, but nothing like what she’d had in May.
I believe it flared back up again for a week or two in the fall. I thought then: seasonal allergies? Allergies can definitely be a thing in Haflingers. She recovered from that well enough I didn’t stress about the cough for Quicksilver in October – but we did have terrible air quality in September-October due to all the fires.
We did QS50 at the end of October. She struggled hard on the hills and sounded like a freight train for 80-90% of the ride. Hindsight says that some of the hill issues were caused by her hocks, and I felt that towards the end. Probably we didn’t condition enough hills. But I have never had her struggle that hard on a ride. She was happy and willing to go, she just sounded awful. I had clipped, but the theory was that she was overheating. I bought it, sort of, but again: I have never needed ice water to cool her down, and we’ve done hotter rides. Her breathing did not 100% recover until after we made it back home that night.
I worked her lightly after QS, mostly to assess soundness and breathing and to get her moving. Instead of a feisty pony, I had a forwards pony who sounded like a freight train after a few minutes of cantering in the round pen. Look, I know she was out of shape, but.. that feels excessive. We did one 6-mile trail ride with a friend. Fetti looked and sounded worse than my friend’s less-conditioned endurance horse.
When the vet did fall shots, I also had her assess Fetti, with a short version of history and trying to convey my concerns. Apparently her lungs sounded fine, so she drew blood when I wasn’t satisfied with that answer. The results came back “normal”.
Then the rain kicked in. Poor pony got a bunch of months off, and I let it go. Maybe we were underconditioned. Maybe it was a fluke thing and it would improve with time off. Maybe I’d start her back up this year and she’d be fine.
Our conditioning started slow and we’ve gradually worked our way up. I’ve added in canter work to see if that helps with fitness. The trails are a little different now, so our times aren’t a straight comparison, but on the flat? She’s doing fine. On the hills.. when she starts being asked to work.. things go to shit. I put a heart monitor on her for a short ride, we worked our way out on the flat, pushed our way up the big hill, walked down. At the bottom of the hill it still took several minutes for her heart rate to drop to 60-something, and she was clearly breathing hard/panting. This is not a hard section. This is a small loop we used to do where we would come down the hill and then trot our way back towards home. Instead, it feels like she just can’t get her breath back once she starts breathing hard/heart rate goes way up.
My gut feeling says that something is still not right. We can’t condition our way out of this one. I don’t know what the answer is, but I do know that this is not a horse right now that I would take to Fireworks even for the LD.