Post of Reassurance

The Body is Weird

Apparently the, don’t worry I don’t have MS, statement wasn’t as reassuring as I had intended since it leads naturally to the question, “Why do they think MS might even be an option?!”

I have mentioned some of the various health things I have been managing, or attempting to manage, in some of my earlier posts but this summer I started having more and more frequent headaches that didn’t seem to be caused by the usual culprits: sugar, dehydration, and/or neck and shoulder tension. I also have yet to get my Vitamin D levels up to the normal range despite fairly aggressive supplementation and I’ve been struggling to maintain a healthy weight and energy levels despite sticking to a healthy diet and exercise routine. I have been wondering for a while if some or all of these things might be connected and wanted to see an osteopath since they tend to be trained to view the body more holistically than most traditionally trained doctors. That is not to say there aren’t some amazing medical professionals out there with traditional backgrounds, I was just trying to find one who’s response to my various concerns wasn’t always “Well your almost 40 and that’s how it is.” and now “Well you are in your 40’s and that’s how it is.” It was quite a wait to see the osteopath and the headaches were starting to come with vertigo and nausea as well so I went to see a regular doctor this summer. We talked about two possible culprits sinus/nasal issues and muscle tension and she suggested I try Flonase for a few weeks to see if that made a difference, then stop for a few weeks before trying the muscle relaxers for a few weeks. Depending on what happened we could go from there. The Flonase helped with some of the headaches, particularly the vertigo/nausea symptoms, but the muscle relaxers didn’t do much at all and the overall amount of headaches was still higher than it used to be. While I was at that appointment this summer she mentioned that I had some earwax buildup in my left ear and asked if I wanted it removed but our appointment had already gone really long after a long wait in the first place and I was running late for something else so I said no and forgot about it.

Fast forward to early fall and I finally get to see the osteopath and we do an exam and some bloodwork. My vitamin D is still really low despite efforts to improve it and that along with something in the physical exam makes her want me to see a neurologist to rule out MS. Apparently chronically low vitamin D and MS can go together, though it is usually accompanied by other things. I schedule the appointment with the neurologist and of course it takes a few weeks before I can get in to see him. Meanwhile I managed to get sick with a cold, I went to Minute Clinic to rule out strep and during that exam the NP mentions that my left ear has a buildup of earwax and I should try an over the counter thing to get rid of it, but to not do it until I’m over the cold. I buy the stuff and then forget about it. Finally get in to see the neurologist and we do the whole exam and everything seems normal except my persistently low vitamin D, the headaches, fatigue, and some thing with how my eyes track, or rather don’t, when I look up and to the right. This eye thing is also a symptom of MS but like the low vitamin D and fatigue is usually a secondary symptom but he has had a patient in the past who was only showing these symptoms and did have MS and apparently it is very easy to diagnose MS with an MRI, either you have lesions in/on your brain and spinal column or you don’t, so he wants to do an MRI to rule it out. It is at this point that he says, “or it could be the earwax.” Apparently that build up of earwax in my one ear could be causing my eyes to not track right when I look up and to the left AND my headaches. WHAT?! Why has no one mentioned this yet?! Also how are the options MS or too much earwax in one ear?! It seems utterly ridiculous.

I get the MRI scheduled and then immediately start using the over the counter ear stuff and it does absolutely nothing. Or rather it somehow manages to make everything worse. I had my follow-up appointment with the osteopath already scheduled so I figured I’d just ask her about it then. We follow up on the vitamin D, it is still low but it’s improving, I went from 9 to 29! so I’m almost back to the very lowest end of “normal” which is 30-100, though I have read that 50-100 is probably a healthier range, I digress. She also removes the earwax and wow is there a lot. Apparently the body creates earwax as a lubricant and a defense mechanism, as in if a foreign body gets in your ear it creates the earwax to protect itself. Since my right ear has virtually nothing in it she assumes this was a reaction to a foreign body but instead of working itself out like it should have it just kept triggering the protective reaction and building up more and more until it was impossible for it to come out on its own. We are not going to think too long or too hard about what kind of foreign body it may have been because whatever it was it’s gone now.

The weird new headaches went away that day and have not returned. I hadn’t realized how bad they had gotten until they went away. Just gone, like that, it was amazing.

I also had the MRI and everything is fine. In fact the neurologist said my brain was, and this is a quote, “pristine.”

I recapped the results with Nate and after telling him the doctor said my brain was pristine, we both paused and looked at each other, and then it had to be said, “of course it’s pristine, it’s never been used!”

So in the end it wasn’t MS, not that either the osteopath or the neurologist ever really thought it was, it was too much earwax.

The human body is weird!

Of course that still doesn’t answer the question about the fatigue and weight issues but we’ll continue to chip away at those issues as soon as my life calms down a bit…. so maybe in a decade or two?


not to be confused with the movie


A little additional context to round out the picture. On top of everything happening with Juniper and the new horse I was also working out a bunch of details to get our first ever cover crop planted this fall (there will be a post about that eventually) which involved coordinating with the county, and then another county because the first situation fell through at the last minute, and a neighbor with a tractor, and finding seed (where do you buy enough winter rye seed for 15 acres?!) etc. and I also had a doctors appointment and an MRI scheduled because my doctor and the neurologist she referred me to wanted to rule out MS as a possible cause for some things I have going on. Both of them thought it was pretty unlikely I have MS but both of them also thought it was likely enough that it should be officially checked on. I will also have a post on that, but I will not leave you in suspense on this one, I do not have MS, but at the time this was all happening I did not know that, I only knew that two doctors thought it was unlikely but still possible.

Back to the horse saga. Tuesday morning is lots of frantic phone calls to my normal vet plus my friend Sarah’s vet who has been treating Juniper, my neighbor, and my friend Hilary who was our back-up ride, trying to figure out when and where Juniper can get a dental but still be home when the new horse gets here. Luckily Sarah’s vet is able to squeeze Juniper in Wednesday morning and Hilary, who helped me bring Leeloo and Juniper home the first time, has a flexible day that day so she can go with me to pick up Juniper from Sarah’s house, bring her to the vet for her dental, hang out with us there while Juniper comes to from being sedated, and then bring Juniper back to my house.

It is at this point that I realize we will have to find a way to separate Juniper and Highlight (I still don’t love that name but I haven’t come up with anything else so Highlight she is) since Juniper will need some careful observation so we know exactly how much she is eating and drinking and to make sure her digestive system is operating correctly (i.e. she’s pooping). I also don’t want to put Juniper through the stress of meeting a new horse when she is clearly not feeling well. However, we are not at all set up for separate pastures. We have one shelter in the fenced in area, it has three bays, but it is one structure. We also only have two gates into the entire fenced in area. After some frantic brainstorming we opt to put up a temporary strand of electric fence coming out from one side of the gate and attaching to the wall of one of the shelter bays which is wood and therefore will not conduct the charge to the entire shelter. We’ll also need to block the tiny passage behind the shelter. This way I can use the gate by the shelters to get to Juniper and then I can walk up and around and use the gate by the house to get to Highlight. Except at the last minute it occurs to me to check in with the seller to see if Highlight has been on grass this summer and of course she has not been, so I can’t just let her out on the grass which is finally doing well with all the rain we got this fall. So now I need to block her off from the grass which means blocking her off from the gate. Then Sarah, who has been taking care of Juniper this summer and through her two colics, asks if I’m worried about Highlight bringing any illnesses home with her. I wasn’t, because she is coming from a very small private location and she passed a wellness exam, and every other horse in the trailer will also have passed a wellness exam, but there is still a tiny chance she could catch something and bring it home. If Juniper were healthy I wouldn’t worry at all, but Juniper is far from healthy right now and it’s just not worth the risk. So, we set up a second temporary set of electric fence on the other side of the gate so that there is a ten-foot space between them and they can’t make contact. I have now effectively created two separate paddocks with their own shelters and a 10-foot space between them. Yay. Neither of them has a gate or access point of any kind. Boo.

Doesn’t matter because I have no other choice as it is now 9 pm on Tuesday night and everyone’s coming home tomorrow!

Wednesday morning – arrival day!

Hilary and I drive separately in case the shipper makes better time than expected and/or the vet runs late. For once things go as planned and the vet sees us right on time. Juniper receives one of the quickest floats I’ve ever seen a horse get and he extracts two molars (photos if you’re curious) but we still need to wait for her to wake-up so she can safely handle the trailer ride. Once we feel she’s coherent enough to hold herself up we head for home, Highlight is scheduled to arrive in 45 minutes!

We settle Juniper into her new arrangement and wait for Highlight’s arrival. It is a little delayed but she is there within an hour and a half. It is in getting the two girls into their respective areas that I realize how much of an issue our gateless set-up will be. We set up the fence so there were plastic “grips” on the ends of the hot lines so we could unhook them from the shelter wall to go in and out, the problem is there is no other support structure for the lines so the moment we pull them off the wall they go slack for the entire length of the run and touch the ground, plus there is no place to actually put them so I have to somehow hold the lines in one hand while trying to get myself and various things (water, feed, hay, medicine, pitch-fork) from one side to the other. And of course the moment the lines go slack both girls try to go through to meet each other. This is not a feasible option for doing daily chores. That means I get to very gingerly climb through the fence every time I need to get to the other side and despite my very careful climbing I manage to shock myself at least once every time I do chores. Let me tell you the hot lines hurt, particularly when it’s your inner thigh that makes contact as you attempt to step over it, but the ground line, which under normal circumstances has no charge running through it so you can grab it like normal to hold it out of your way, you know with your entire hand gripping it, that fucking HURTS when you are touching it and then accidently hit a hot line with whatever random other body part you aren’t paying enough attention to (I have been trying to keep the language pg-13 on this blog for reasons I am not clear on, but this situation is without question an F-word situation, but I digress…). So at least once a day, if not multiple times a day, I manage to shock myself while doing chores. “Why don’t you just unplug the fence?” you ask. Well Highlight is a very personable, very sweet, and very smart horse, and she watches you. She watches me climb through the fence every day to feed her and give her hay and pick up poop, and then she tries to do the same thing even with the fence hot. So turning it off seems like a recipe for disaster. And it turns out I’m right, because even with the lines hot Highlight managed to pull one of the hot lines (the one I gingerly step over) off the permanent fence and right across the entrance to her shelter on the night it’s pouring rain. And the way the line fell it is in contact with another hot line so it still has a charge running through it so when I get home from my 12 hour work day and go to give Juniper her PM meds I find a soaking wet, unhappy, and scared Highlight. So I’m standing in the rain on the soaking wet ground pulling a still electrified line of fence out of her paddock muttering expletives with every grab because everything is super conductive in that moment. Then I have to convince Highlight that the shelter will not in fact attack her and she can go in it, and please go in your shelter and get out of the rain. And then, I have to fix it so she doesn’t try that stunt again and get in a worse situation. Did I mention I worked a 12-hour day and it was pouring rain. Good times.

After that I stop going through Highlights fence to feed her and just throw hay over the fence, and push her feed under the bottom line and use a rake to grab it back out. No picking up poop on her side until we work out another option, which is definitely having them together sooner than planned, but this set-up is not sustainable.

And that was our first week.

Imminent Arrival

the joys of logistic planning

Be warned, this post is long and contains a lot of run-on-sentences that I can’t seem to edit, but never-ending run-on-sentences has been my mental state for the last few weeks so it feels appropriate in its own way. Now on to the post!

Free ponies are never free. Not that Juniper was free, but her original purchase price was pretty cheap and it feels like she has been endlessly trying to make up for that. You may be thinking, but Sara, didn’t you just get a new horse, why are we talking about Juniper? Because that little shit has decided to make our lives difficult. Again.

Let us back up a few weeks.

New horse has been located! YAY! New horse is in another state and the logistics of that need to get worked out – less yay. Things to do: find a vet clinic in another state that can do a prepurchase exam for us, figure out how to get a horse from Massachusetts to Minnesota, figure out how and when to bring Juniper back home, figure out how to pay a person a large sum of money for a horse when you are not actually there to collect the horse but the person, for obvious reasons, wants to get paid before putting the horse on a trailer to go to another state, and then actually do all those horse-farm related things we’ve been putting off all summer because at first I was too sad and then it just fell of my radar until suddenly now everything is very much on the radar. The radar is full!

We worked with the seller to find a vet clinic in MA to do the prepurchase exam. Because (A) I hadn’t met the horse in person, (B) my long-term plan is to breed, and (C) I got seriously burned by Leeloo’s many health issues, I am extra paranoid and asked for a more thorough exam than I would have in the past. What I didn’t do was ask for a quote on how much that would cost because I didn’t feel like I had time to find another option because I had managed to find a horse shipping person who already had a scheduled trip from the Minnesota to the East coast and back with one open spot for the ride back and they would be coming back to Minnesota the same week as my school’s fall break which would work perfectly for us in terms of having some time to spend with the new horse (ha!). So, we moved forward with the only vet I had and luckily the seller was able to get the horse into the vet the same week and she passed the vet check. They were very thorough and called me while they were in the midst of the prepurchase exam to talk about everything and answer any questions I had and then also sent me detailed notes afterwards. I was not, however, expecting the bill to be as high as it was, and it wound up cutting into the overall horse budget forcing some renegotiating. That left finalizing shipping details, getting a signed contract, and figuring out how to pay in a way we were both okay with. After a lot of scrambling and freaking out about dates and worries about the US mail (how quickly can they get a check from MN to MA?) by Friday October 13 most everything appeared to be in order: the mare had passed the prepurchase exam and the wellness check, we had agreed on a price and got a signed contract, I had gotten a certified check and mailed it and it got there on time, the shipper and the seller had coordinated a pickup date and time, and we had a tentative window for the new horse’s arrival at our house for Wednesday October 18. The last thing to figure out was who would be able to help us bring Juniper home and when, exactly, should we bring her home.

We didn’t want the new horse or Juniper to be here by themselves for very long, but the shipping company could only be so exact in their estimate. We had a tentative plan with our neighbor to bring Juniper home either Tuesday or Wednesday and we had a back-up with another friend if that fell through, just needed a more exact window from the shipper.

There were also all those at home projects we needed to do to get ready for horses again, I’ll have another post (or several) about some of those projects, but the salient point was we were swamped with things that needed to get done NOW because it is Saturday and horses are returning to our house on Wednesday, when my friend who has been taking care of Juniper calls me. Not texts me, she calls me. This is not good.

Juniper is showing mild signs of colic. Great. For those of you unfamiliar there are several types of colic, but they all basically boil down to an issue with the horse’s digestive system that if not dealt with can kill them. We decided to have the vet out even though it is a Saturday so it will cost more (it sometimes feels like horses can tell time and know when it will be the most expensive to have a medical emergency) and the diagnosis is an impaction colic. Aptly named because it means there is some blockage in her intestines which is causing pain and preventing food from doing its thing. Lots of things can trigger colic but one typical cause is horses not drinking enough water when the weather is bad and without enough water, food doesn’t move through the system and can cause an impaction and of course we just had a string of cold wet stupid days and who wants to leave their shelter to get water in that kind of weather? My friend caught it early so the vet was hopeful the impaction was still soft enough to pass on its own with only minor intervention (water, oil, pain meds, and a medication to increase gut mobility) instead of a full-on surgery. But part of the process was not allowing Juniper to eat any hay until the impaction had resolved itself so we needed to put her into my friend’s separate sandy pasture that is mostly weeds at this point in the season with some water and wait for the impaction to pass. 

We do these things and Juniper seems to be feeling better and Sunday goes really well so she gets some hay time with her friends, as does Monday morning so she gets more hay time. Everything seems to still be on track; Juniper will get picked up Tuesday night by my neighbor, spend the night at the neighbor’s house, and then come home Wednesday around the same time the new horse arrives.

Then I get another call from my friend Monday night. Juniper is showing signs of colic, again. We have the vet back out and this time it appears to be a sand colic. This vet also looks at her teeth and sees that they are in pretty bad shape. Whether she was accidently eating sand while trying to graze the tiny amounts of grass or if she was purposely eating sand because she was hungry and/or her mouth hurt we don’t know.  I did know that Juniper’s teeth were terrible and I had already scheduled a dental with our normal vet for November once the new horse had a chance to settle in. The issue is that in order to resolve the sand colic Juniper needs to eat a product called SandClear, however Juniper has been unwilling to eat anything other than hay for a while now so there is no way she’s going to eat the SandClear. We hadn’t been overly worried about her not wanting to eat supplemental food because everything else seemed to be fine, and to be honest I was waiting until we had her back home to deal with it, I just hadn’t anticipated it taking this long to find another horse and therefore to get Juniper back home to deal with it. So where does this leave us? Juniper is now dealing with a sand colic and in order to resolve the sand colic I need her to eat the SandClear and in order for her to eat the SandClear she needs to have a dental, and I need to get this figured out NOW because it is Monday night and new horse is coming on Wednesday but it is after hours so every vets office is closed. AAAAAAAAAAAA!!!

Not my original work – can’t find source on the internet – thank you person who made this image!

I hate to leave you hanging, but this post has gotten ridiculously long so we’re going to stop here. Check in next time for the shocking conclusion, I promise to have it posted in a few days.