mandag 15. august 2011

A very sad week

(A word of warning for anyone reading: this post does sadly not have a happy ending)

Wednesday last week I entered the stable and quickly realized that Fonti was ill again. After having had colic so many times in Febuary and March (and once again in May) we had run every test we could think of. First up was a gastroscopy to rule out an ulcer, and then everything from a normal blood workup and electrophoresis to a urinetest, stooltest and functiontest of the kidneys. Nothing provided an answer for the recurring colics.

The day after Fonti coliced in May he suddenly developed a serious fever, his temperature rising to 41 degrees Celcius or over 105 Fahrenheit. For 4-5 days the vet was there every day to give him Novalgin which caused his temperature to drop for about 8-12 hours before it stared rising again. After a short week of no fever it came back, and we had another 4-5 days of the same. The theory was that this was a virus and not connected to his other health problems.

Then, this happened:

Once in a while, horses develop a jugular vein thrombosis or blood clot after having gotten drugs intravenously injected (and Fonti had gotten a lot). Physiologically the body will form a blood clot using platelets and fibrin to prevent blood loss when a blood vessel is injured. In Fontis case his body reacted quite heavily and through a later ultrasound of his vein it was assessed that the left vein was more that 90 % blocked from the clot which of course caused a problem with the blood flow. It was decieded to start him on a course of Phenprocoumon (Marcumar), an anticoagulant drug to try to reduce the clot. As it's imortant to give the exact right dosis and in the beginning take daily blood test to check the level of coagulant factors in the blood, Fonti spent 2 weeks in the equine clinic at my school.

Last Saturday he could finally come home, with some restrictions: He should under no circumstances injure himself and only get some light training to keep him happy, since he was no longer allowed outside in his paddock with his buddy Flintstone (due to the risk of injury).

And then, 3 days later I found him in his box with the worst colic I've ever seen. Waiting for the vet we walked around outside. At first he walked willingly but as time by went he started breathing faster and faster and his pulse was up to over 70 beats /min (normally Fonti had about 35/min). He was sweating all over and once suddenly laid down and refused to get up. After some time he did get up again and the vet finally got there. All she could do was give him some painkillers and send us on our way to the equine clinic.

There they did a complete colic treatment and also ultrasounded his abdomen but with only some minor finds, nothing to explain the heavy pain. By then Fonti was also looking slightly better, his vitals had stabilized and he was no longer displaying signs of colic.

They wanted to keep him overnight and have him starve for 24 hours. 10 liters of water and oil through a stomach tube later and Fonti was back in a box for the night.

I went back to the clinic in the evening to visit. He felt cold all over and stood very still in one corner of his box but even so he looked a lot better than that same afternoon. Sick but no more colic attacs.
On Thursday morning I got a call from the vet. Fonti had been okay over night but now he had taken a turn for the worse. He had spiked a fever and after a new ultrasound they had discovered a large amount of fluid in his abdominal cavity. Should they do a needle expiration to see what it was? Yes.

After a few very long hours another call. More bad news - the fluid was almost pure pus, probably from an abscess somewhere in his abdomen that had ruptured. Most likely this had happened yesterday and the fever was a result of the bacteria infiltrating the blood stream causing sepsticemia or blood poisoning. Now came the time for a hard decision: the vets recommendation was to operate, to flush out the pus, find the location of the problem and hopefully repair it. And it would cost a lot of money.

After phoning home to my dad, who would have to pay, we decided to give it a try. There was still a chance to help Fonti, although the chance of complications was even higher than normal because of his bloodthinning medication. Even so, I wasn't ready to give up (and my parents kind enough to pay).
The vet promised to call from the OR as soon as they had assessed the situation and could give a more exact prognosis. So I tried to make time pass by calling different people and putting on a movie to try to distract me. Reading for my upcoming exam was out of the question.

Some hours later the vet called again. She was very sorry, but she had only bad news. The abscess was in the wall of the small intestine and had damaged this as well when it ruptured. In addition there were multiple adhesions (internal scar tissue that connect tissues not normally connected) between different sections of the intestines and a bad case of peritonitis.
Even with extensive surgery the chances of him ever becoming healty again were minimal. Slightly in schock I agreed with her that the best thing for Fonti was to not wake him up again.

Even though I thought I had prepared myself for something like this, at least after Wednesdays bad colic attac, it still feels unreal that I've lost my horse. I still walk into the stable with a part of me expecting him to stick his head out to greet me. The stable feels empty even though it's full of horses.
The last days have been filled with crying and coping, and it's going to take time. I'm grateful that I'm surrounded by great people who support me, at home and in the stable. I've gotten the opportunity to ride a schoolmaster some days of the week, for which I'm very thankful. I want to keep going.
At least we now know what was bothering him this whole time, and even if it's no direct comfort it at least a relief, after almost 7 months, to not having to always be frustrated because there's no diagnosis to be made.

Fonti and Flintstone


Last December Fonti and I took part in a small Christmas show at the stable. In the first clip we're just showing the different gaits (Fonti is the second horse entering at the start of the video) and in the second clip we're part of a quadrille (horse no 4).

lørdag 30. april 2011

Leipzig next!

I keep planning to update the blog, but other things keep coming in the way.

Now I'm off to Leipzig and the World Cup dressage final together with 3 others, so I'm really looking forward to this evening!

mandag 4. april 2011

Workshop and a photo shoot

This past weekend I attended the "First International Workshop of Veterinary Neuroscience", arranged by TiHo, my school. Even though it's a bit (!) above my level of knowledge, a friend of mine (also a veterinary student) and I decided to go anyway. It was free of charge (thank you pharmaceutical companys!) and so at least we 'd get a free lunch... But it really turned out to be a great workshop. Even if I understood very little of some presentations, the lectures by visiting professors were very inspiring.

Especially the lecture from a professor from Yale medical school was great. What struck me the most was the way he so enthusiastically presented his knowledge, and really made you want to learn more. I'm sure that the Germans there who also held lectures are also highly motivated and fascinated by their field of interest, but they don't show it at all. I guess that's not the German way...

The most interesting presentation was held by a doctor from the Hannover medical school, who showed how they experimentally used spider silk fibres (!!) as a guiding material to bridge a 6 cm nerve defect in sheep. They keep spiders (I've forgotten the name of the breed) at the school and harvest the fibers that they produce to repair the damaged nerve. Certainly changed my view of cobwebs!

This past week we've had some amazing weather, the highlight being Saturday with 24 degrees C. It felt like summer! Finally it's goodbye to the indoor arena, and the horses love training outside too of course. I went to a stable in the southern part of Hannover to take some pictures of my friend D and the horse she rides. I've uploaded some that I thought turned out well here.

mandag 28. mars 2011

Having a ball

As part of my plan to prevent Fonti from eating sand because he's bored, I bought him a bright blue ball to play with. Here's what I was hoping for:

Picture from here

Unfortunately (although not totally unexpectedly), here's what happened:

This paddock ain't big enough for the both of us

I'll just remove you from my domain (even though I'm slightly scared)

Eiii, it moves!

If I stare at it long enough maybe it'll go away

You can't even be eaten. Useless.

I bet the sand tastes better on the other side of the fence...

lørdag 19. mars 2011

Today's little highlight

Proud mother Dee-Day and her 12 hour old foal, born late last night. He looks like he's 3 or 4 days old I think, and he's already cantering around outside... They sure do grow up fast!

torsdag 17. mars 2011

To brand or not to brand...

Currently there's a huge debate going on in Germany, dividing riders, horse breeders and other horse people. The last couple of years some groups have begun to campaign against the tradition of branding foals. Recently it all came to a boiling point after this poster was published from a German animal protection organization.

The brand is that of the Hannoveraner, one of the most recognized of the brands. The text over the girls head reads "feel like a horse". This poster is part of a larger campaign, another is this one against castration of piglets without anesthesia:

(More posters can be seen here).

The discussion regarding branding can be summed up as follows: the German government (more specifically the Agricultural Department), the national Veterinary Organisation (Bundesverband Praktizierender Tierärzte, BPT) and some/many riders want to ban the practice of branding. Some/many riders, the German federation, horse breeders (at least the ones that make themselves heard) and the breeding associations want to keep it.

There are 4 main points that are being discussed:
1) Most importantly, the pain caused (or supposed pain, to those who defend branding) to the horses
2) How to best identitfy horses
3) Marketing
4) Money

1) It seems strange that holding a scorching hot iron to a horse's skin wouldn't cause massive pain. But that is the argument from the breeders/breeding assoc. "If it hurts so bad, why don't the horses defend themselves, or run away?" Three of the major breeding assoc. (the Hannover, Holstein and Trakhener Assoc.) together with the German federation (FN) have made a film to demonstrate how well the foals tolerate the branding, and are also collecting signatures for a letter to the government to reconsider their position on branding. And indeed, the foals seem remarkably unfazed by it all. But how are they after a few hours, or days? Anyone who have ever burn themselves know that it doesn't start to really hurt before the skin starts reacting to the damage that has been done.

2) The reason this debate started was mainly because we now have an alternative to branding; microchips. Inserted into the neck, it's promoted as a pain-free, surefire way to identify horses. A few years back, I had my previous horse chipped, as did many others, and never heard anybody either complain or tell horror stories of what might go wrong. So I keep being surprised by all the things reported by many Germans to be wrong with microchipping. First of all, supposedly many (I haven't seen any numbers) horses develop abcesses where the chip is inserted, or the chip travels in the body of the horse and ends up somewhere else, causing problems or at least hindering it from being read by a scanner. Second, it not pain-free and third, the chips can only be read by special scanners that are not always at hand and differ from country to country, making it difficult to correctly identify horses that have travelled over borders.

Picure from

3) "Taking the brand away from the horse is like snapping the star off of the Mercedes cars." Sure, it's still a good car, but nobody's going to recognise it as a Mercedes. That's pretty much the argument from the marketing department. And I suspect, the real reason why the breeders are so reluctant to part with the hot iron.

4) Ever since the BPT revealed their support to the ban, it has been said that the ban is just a deal between the government and the vets to earn more money. (A vet has to chip the foal, whereas the branding is done by people from the different breeding assoc.)

My first instinct is to agree with the ban. Why cause unnessesary pain to animals? Even if horses don't experience pain the way humans do (as claimed in the film), I don't believe that it's possible to not experience some degree of pain from branding. These animals feel flies landing on their fur!

But it's interesting that generally speaking, the people most committed to defending the practice are those who have actually seen and experienced it (and also benefit from it for marketing reasons...), and those who despise it are people who usually haven't seen it first hand.

Right now, nobody knows how it'll end, but I have a feeling that the breeders are going to have to live with brand-free horses in the future.

søndag 13. mars 2011

Gotta love Germany

Today is "themeday" on 3sat, a public, advertising-free television network broadcasting mainly within Germany, Austria and Switzerland. The theme? Everything to do with horses! Since 05.00 this morning until tomorrow morning, only horsey programmes are shown (with small newsbreaks in between). I love living in a country that knows to appreciate horses (and the people who love them)!

It got me thinking about another "love Germany"-episode I had. One Saturday last year a busload of vet students went off on an excursion to different farms as part of our animal husbandry lectures.

One of the stops was at a breeder of Trakheners, only a short hour from Hannover. The stable lay next to a great castle and pond;

the stable itself wasn't that impressive, as far as I could see a standard, concrete thing.

As is often the case with older stables here, often buildings that were not originally built as stables, is was pretty dark and with little fresh air, although the boxes were spacious.

Honestly, I was only moderatly motivated; it was freezing, the old, nice man who showed us around was very difficult for a foreigner to understand and my mind was on other things. So I followed the group and looked politely at the many, many 1-,2- and 3-year-olds, beautiful horses all of them.

Cool stable detail: You could spin the plate thingy to show how many kg of hay/horse/meal. In this example, 3 kg per meal.

Then, the pride and joy of the stable was brought out. It took me a minute to catch the name of the horse (as I said, he wasn't easy to understand). It was Kostolany.
Now, for non-dressage enthusiasts/nerds, that might not say much, but on this freezing day, we got to see the probably most influencial Trakhener stallion of the past 20 years.
He is now enjoying his Lebensabend ("evening of his life" or last days) as the Germans so poetically calls it, at the breeding farm where he was born.

Kostolany is the father of 10 approved stallions. One of them was Gribaldi, who, before passing away last year, competed at Grand Prix-level with Edward Gal of the Netherlands. His most famous offspring is without a doubt Totilas, who under the same rider has become a dressage sensation. Another well-known son is Painted Black (Anky van Grunsven).

Another Kostolany-son is Silvermoon, father of Blue Hors Matiné, 3rd in the Kür at the World Championship in Aachen in 2006 with Andreas Helgstrand (Denmark).



Kostolany at 26, nicely decorated with children and, eh, paper drapes or something...

The stallion and his old man:

In 2009, Kostolany was named Trakhener Stallion of the Year. At all Trakhener events you'll be hard pressed to avoid horses with Kostolany somewhere in their breeding (not that you would want to). A recent example is All Inclusive (Gribaldi - Buddenbrock), the 2009 reserve champion of the Trakhener Körung.

For those interested, there's lots more to read about the breeding farm, Kostolany and his many offspring and of course the other horses at the farm at Gestüt Hämelschenburg (in German and English).

I love the fact that you can find these outstanding horses just around the corner, that the horse is so rooted in the nations history and that working with or having horses isn't seen (only) as a "hobby for rich little girls" (as I sometimes get the feeling of at home). Look at the audience in the picture above - a mix of gender and generations, all brought together by the horses.



Fonti had two more bouts of colic in Febuary, the last time he had a high fever as well. I'm still waiting for the results of a blood test that was taken, but probably the cause of his misery is sand. Apparantly he eats sand when he's out in his paddock, which has over time accumulated in his stomach. The last two weeks he's been fine, eating well and looking happier. He's back in work at the moment, but he's not allowed outside in his paddock before we can find a solution for the sandeating. If the bloodwork shows that he has some mineral deficency or the like, then hopefully he'll stop eating sand after he gets what he needs, if not then I don't know how to solve it. If anybody's been in touch with this problem before, I'll be grateful for any tips or info on the subject!

tirsdag 15. februar 2011

Short update

There hasn't been much activity here this last week, mostly because I have a test in microbiology coming up tomorrow and also because there's not much to report...
After having recovered well from a thick leg and a bout of colic, Fonti, poor thing, has started coughing.
Febuary just isn't our month!!
On Thursday, after 4-5 days of coughing and also seeming a little down, he got even worse and wouldn't eat properly. So Friday we had another visit from the vet who gave him a shot of antibiotics, and yesterday he got a second dose. He's also getting Synutrim, a powder to mix in his feed. So hopefully he'll be feeling better, yet again, soon.

søndag 6. februar 2011


In 2005/2006 I worked for a Swedish dressage rider based on the outskirts of Stockholm. His best horse at the time was called Wilson, a huge black dressage gelding and one of the kindest horses I've ever met.

Charlie, me and Wilson out walking in Sweden.

Wilson even competed in the World Championships in Aachen in 2006 and in the World Cup finals that same year:

Photo from

Today, Wilson is 20 years old. Last week I got sent a link to a program from Swedish television, featuring none other than Wilson, who is now enjoying his retirement together with an 86 (!) year old man who rides him twice a week. It's in Swedish, but a picture says a thousand words, right?

fredag 4. februar 2011

Good Friday

I think we've been lucky! No more sign of colic, and Fonti's leg is back to normal. Yesterday I spent the day in the stable and brought my books with me so that I could study and at the same time keep an eye on him.

Today I jogged him 30-40 min in the indoor arena, and he seemed fit and ready to work. Since we weren't going to work very hard today, I spent some time concentrating on the basics. We spent most of the time trotting in a long, low form, trying to keep 3-4 m away from the wall, which for me is the easiest way to check that my outside aids are working properly and that on both hands Fonti listens to my left leg (on the left hand, he tends to fall to the inside and vice versa). I also focused on keeping my hands soft, and not lock them as I sometimes do when we don't agree on things. Fonti is a good teacher - when my hands are soft, he keeps his end of the connection soft, and when my hands harden he leans on the bit and pulls back.

All in all we had a good day today, and I'm just so happy that he's healthy and happy again.

torsdag 3. februar 2011

When it rains, it pours...

Fonti's leg is looking better now, but today when I walked him he seemed a little down and had glassy eyes. Later in the evening I got a call that he was not looking good, he was rolling, wandering in his box and off his feed. Since I need about 40 min to get to the stable, someone else walked him for me and the vet was on the way. By the time I got there he was looking better, even wanting to eat a little. The vet said that he probably got a light gas colic from the weather change (it went from below freezing to almost spring-like temeratures in one night).

After having gotten some Buscopan (= Butylscopolamine) to prevent cramps and a painkiller I was to lunge him 10 min to speed the uptake of the drugs (which was a new concept to me). Since Fonti had more than the normal amount of intestinal sounds, he has to fast for the next 24 hours. I found a muzzle for him to wear, but with some effort on his part he still managed to eat his straw, so I had to spend some time clearing his stall of (almost) all the straw.

The look of disbelief - how am I supposed to eat now?

Take it ooooofff!

Now I'm back home from the stable, but wide awake (it's almost 1 a.m. German time), so I guess I can catch up on my studying until I get sleepy...

tirsdag 1. februar 2011

Quote of the Day

Q: "How much time does a horse demand from its owner each day?"

A: "As much time as possible".

From a German television program about (amongst other things) how horse sport differs from other sports.


Sunday Fonti went really well. He was forward without rushing, responsive and supple.

Monday he stood in his stall with a swollen left front leg. Argh!

His whole fetlock joint was swollen I was told over the phone (it was Js turn to train him yesterday), and today the same. Especially between the cannon bone and the suspensory ligament there was a fluid build-up, indicating that the fetlock joint/fetlock joint capsule was involved. Fortunately the leg was not warm and Fonti wasn't lame.

After having walked him 3 x 30 min today,the swelling have gone down some, and I'm hoping that he's just somehow hit himself or something, and that it's not a training-related injury...
Coincidentally a vet was at the stable today, and had time to take a look: Rest and 2-3 days of walking and hopefully it'll sort itself out.

The bigger problem was what to do with 600 kg horse that should be resting but was desperately bored having to stay in his room all day long!

As I was lungeing some other horses I could hear Fonti re-arrangeing his stall in an effort to entertain himself (turns out he had turned his whole straw bed upside down and pushed most of it into a corner....) , interspersed with him banging his legs on the walls, begging for attention like a spoiled child.

So, I decided I needed to find some activities for him outside his box which didn't involve running in the paddock or the indoor arena (in addition to our walks). I had planned to pull his mane for a long time, so that was first on the list. Luckily, Fonti's happy as long as he has company (any attention will do!) so he stood and dozed under the "sun" while I fixed his mane and brushed him thoroughly.

And having done the mane, the only logical thing was to do his tail as well.

A work in progress

Then it was time to scrub his hooves and wash his white socks...

Good thing that the farrier is coming soon...

I'd rather be outside running thank you

So hopefully we'll be back in training in a few days (and Fonti back outside in his paddock)!

tirsdag 25. januar 2011

A visit from the dentist

Last week Fonti had a visit from the dentist, and sadly his mouth was not a pretty sight. After the treatment he had a few days off, since he should have some bitless days after the teeth floating. On Thursday we were back in business, and I could really feel a difference! Fonti has a tendency to pull and sometimes "hang" on the reins, but now this is almost gone. I always thought it was just my fault, holding on to the reins too tight. Turns out there are some dangers to being (too) self-critical...

Yesterday J helped me. We worked mostly on controlling Fontis tempo (slowing it down!) without falling into the trap of 'backwards riding'/still keeping him in front of my legs, in addition to bending (serpentines and 10 m half-voltes) and walk-canter transitions.
I know I should work on my co-ordination outside of the stable, it would help me a lot in my riding, but I don't really enjoy aerobics or similar classes. Maybe I can find some other way to improve it...

*more upper-body strength (apparently I sit like one of those dashboard dolls in the trot...)
*remenber to praise him when he does something right (or at least tries to/shows a reaction)
*stop hanging on to the inside rein like it's a safety blanket!
*outside rein controls the tempo, inside rein only needed for slight bending on curved lines
*ride on the second or third track to make sure that he listens to the outside aids

Here's a really interesting blog-post (in Swedish) about horsegirls and the difference between the impression non-horsey people can have of life in the stable (a fluffy world filled with girls decorating ponys with pink bows) vs. the 'real' deal (falling off, long hard hours mucking out etc.).

Now: school work!

søndag 16. januar 2011


Oh, what a lovely day.

Well hello there!

Just hang on...

What do you mean, you didn't bring me anything to eat?

I'm bored with you now. Goodbye.

Today we trained with the police.

Hannover's mounted police (Reiterstaffel Hannover) sometimes uses the outdoor facilities at our stable, and so today it was crawling with uniformed men and women. I was going to take a photo, but had my hands full lungeing Fonti, who was running around either trying to impress the police horses or join them as they set off at a gallop, 4 horses shoulder to shoulder.

Needless to say we didn't get a lot of concentrated work done! I guess I'll archive this one under "social training".