Monthly Archives: February 2015

When The Obvious Isn’t For Real

This is kind of the other side of the coin from the last post.

My Clyde baby (now 15 but still my baby) came in with a swollen hock, and it quickly turned into a swollen leg.  My first reaction was injury.  But when you have a Clyde with a swollen leg from stifle to hoof, you call the vet.  My vet said cellulitis.  Okay I’ve dealt with that, with a friends horse.  Some antibiotics, poultice, wrapping,  and we’re good to go.  Or not.  The leg came down, but the hock didn’t.  More antibiotics.  Horrible tasting antibiotics.  How did we know that?  Beside the fact that she spit them out, don’t syringe a horse with your mouth open.  Now when a Clyde decides she’s done with oral antibiotics they put their heads up to the ceiling.  Even with a step-ladder you’re not going to convince her otherwise.  So we went to IV.  No, she was done with that too.  Okay, so here we have a Clydesdale who has a raging temperature, swollen leg, that will not take any meds, so up to the University we went.

They always start with the obvious.  With the temp there was obviously an infection, even though they couldn’t find an opening or a wound.  But they thought the infection  was on top of an injury.  So they started treating both the infection and the swelling.  When it wasn’t responding, I told them they had to look in another direction.  I know my horse and she is not a fighter, and neither are the horses that are with her.  My fencing is horse safe (I checked it for damage, there was none), and they don’t run around like idiots.  Dawn has no work ethic, she thinks work is unethical.  They did an ultra sound, and found nothing.  They kept treating, and I kept insisting they look for something different.  They eventually found an abscess that left a hole so big you could put your fist in it.  It didn’t go into the joint or the bone so we kept treating it.  The abscess was caused by a bug bite (probably Black Widow).  A year later,  the hock is still bigger than her other one, it will never have normal skin, but she’s sound on it, and can still leap in the air and jump a fence.

Moral of this story is, yes, always look for the obvious, but keep an open mind for the unusual.  Mostly – check all the signs, look for red flags, and know what is normal for your horse.

Keep First Things First

My friend called me the two weeks ago in a total state of panic.  She lives up north where winter has been down-right ugly.

It seems her horse had been acting blah for a couple of days.  Not really eating right, not drinking enough water, not interested in who was around him, and walking as if he’d been out drinking all night.  The inevitable question came – “what’s wrong with him?”  Hello!  I’m thirteen hundred miles away.  So I go through the normal set of questions back at her.

  • Did you take his temperature?      Answer – no.  Don’t know where the thermometer is.  It’s cold out and I’m not going back down the barn.  I felt under his blanket and he didn’t feel hot.
  • Did you check his gums for color and refill time?    Answer – no.
  • Did you check his eyes?     Answer – no.
  • Is he dehydrated?     Answer – I don’t know.
  • Is he urinating and what color is it?  Answer – Yeah, his stall is wet.
  • Is he passing manure and is it wet or dry?  (Before freezing into poopcycles of course.)  Answer – frozen.

So once again she asks – “what do you think is wrong?”  He wobbles when he walks.  He just stands there with his head down, and he doesn’t even acknowledge that I’m there.  Maybe he had a stroke.”

I told her it could be neurological, but first you need to go down the check list.  It could be a stroke, but you need to rule out the simple things.  Those questions I asked her, would be exactly what a vet is going to ask you when you call them.  Other things, in other circumstances would be any blood, heat or swelling.  You are not going to check for a neurological problem, by yourself, on a sheet of ice.  I told her to call her vet.

By the way, the vet came the next morning and the horse had a 103 temp.  When she told me this I asked her, well what is the first thing you’re going to do next time?  She said, find my thermometer, and take his temperature first.  I told her she would have had a better nights sleep if she had, instead of being up all night worrying about what was going on.  The vet told her it could be Lyme disease, but the first thing they were going to deal with was the temperature.  Now it hasn’t been warm enough for ticks in about five months.  When my horses had Lyme, up north, I knew it in a short period of time.  They weren’t acting like themselves or performing as usual.  I asked her if she noticed anything different.  She told me she had, but just chalked it up to him getting older and arthritic.  He is retired, and she hasn’t ridden him in years, but……….

The vet said he is totally blind in one eye and only has a small window of sight in the other.  After three IV’s of heavy-duty antibiotics, and a $400.00 bill, he’s been having some days that he is eating and acting better, but a couple of days after the antibiotics he was pawing at the door and acting quite aggressive.  Very strange to me.

Again the question – “what do you think?”  My advise – call the vet, I have no idea what to tell you.  I’ve dealt with a lot, but I am not a vet by any means, and I haven’t seen this horse in years. (Didn’t know him that well back then either.)

So when something just isn’t right, go through the check list, and if someone asks you what do you think?  Just say, I think I’d call the vet.

Side note – I’ve spoken to her, and he seems to be back to normal.

Keep first things first, and go from there.

Stop, Look, and Listen.

Ah, grade school, back in the 50’s.  I’d forgotten all about learning to stop, look, and listen until I was trying to come up with a title for this post.  It popped into my head, and then I had to think about where I had heard that before.  When we were young we were told to do that when we went to cross a street.  Now children are taught to stop, drop, and roll when in a fire situation.  This saying will stay with them for the rest of their lives, as well it should.

I went to a schooling show the other day, hoping to meet up with some friends I hadn’t seen in a while.  I took one of my new students along.  She’s not from this state so she gladly went to see what was going on.  It became more of a lesson, than her actual lesson was that day.  We stood there and discussed the way things were done when she rode in college competitions, as opposed to what they were doing at this show.  I told her how I was taught to judge a class, and we compared notes on people’s good points in their riding ability, and what wasn’t so pleasant.  With some I just couldn’t watch, and kept turning away.  It’s like watching an accident or a fire.  You don’t want to watch it, but you are drawn to it.  I told her things I would like to see done different, and why.

It became a very interesting conversation.  I learned more about her learning process, things other instructors had disliked about her riding, and her previous experiences.  When someone comes for a lesson you usually don’t get to spend that much relaxed time just chatting.  She told me that she needed to do it herself in order to learn.  We talked about breathing and relaxing your spine when riding.  There were so many people who were there that were holding their breath and just pounding on the horses back.

Most of the horses were very forgiving to their riders.  They kept a pleasant attitude even though their mouths were getting yanked on and their backs abused.  Where are their trainers when this is all happening.  Or maybe the better question is – do they even have a trainer?  Everyone needs to be watched.  We all pick up bad habits that we are not aware of.  I’m sure these people had no idea that they were holding their breath.

It was obvious that some of these people were afraid of their horses.  There was really no basis for the pulling going on.  It was just a tug of war.  None of the horses were looking to run away.  It was just the rider was nervous, felt out of control, and pulled, so the horse pulled back, and so it continued.  I so badly wanted to rush up and say “wait, try this,” but they weren’t my students, and it wasn’t my place.  Just drives me nuts.

However, when I see a beautiful horse, with a young rider who is trying her best, I just have to go up and complement them.  It’s a really nice thing to do for someone.  Yes people you know can say nice things, and you accept their comments gratefully, but when a stranger takes the time and comes up to you, it means even more.  The horse was an Andalusian Stallion.  (I didn’t even know he was a stallion until her mother mentioned it.)  He was beautiful, relaxed, knew his job well, executed every move smoothly.  (This was a Dressage Class) just the picture of grace.  The mother was calling out the movements and got way ahead of what was to be performed next.  The girl told her mother to wait up and the judge (being very kind, I think she was impressed too) asked them both to go back to the movement before and start again from there.  The judge could have written them off as having blown the test (even though it was a schooling show) but she gave them another chance.  The judge was kind and instead of being impressed with her position, chose to help teach this pair, let them learn, and present the best performance they were capable of doing.  Way to go judge!

Speaking with them after the class I learned that he was a stallion, and he was looking for girlfriends.  I asked what his breeding was since I did not see a tattoo, although she said something about he had one.  I told her that he was absolutely beautiful.  The girl said he was her mothers horse.  Her mother said that he was the family horse.  Humility, beautiful horse, beautiful people.  The owner had a kind, gentle attitude and the horse reflected it.

So the next time you see (Look) something that takes your breath away, or someone who is trying very hard, Stop and take the time to complement them, Listen to their story,  and give them encouragement to continue what they are doing.  It will not only bless them, but you will be blessed too.

Trust – It Has To Be Earned

I had two new horses move in the other day.  Very interesting.

They are both wild mustangs, which the woman has had since they were weaned, rather abruptly from their mothers may I add.  They are now 23 and 27 years old.

She told me how she calmed them, gained their trust, broke them, used them, and loved them through the years.  So to me, with the age and mileage they had on them, I just treated them like any other horse that would come in.  I introduced myself slowly, honoring them when I approached.  Let them sniff me, and feel my energy.  We were good, I was accepted.  Later that day I went down to see them, and they looked at me like I had four heads. Okay,  where are we, who are you, and what did you do with my mother?  I could appreciate their questions, but just reassured them with a couple of carrots and left them.  That evening I fed them dinner, they were a little cautious, but accepting.  I figured in a few days they would settle in.  It’s a new state, a new place, new surroundings, new horses in the next pastures, but they had each other, and life would be good.  Or maybe not.

Well the next afternoon there were flies bothering the gelding’s eyes (this is Florida, we still have flies on some days even in winter) so I went down with a bucket of cold water to rinse his eyes and to take some of the puffiness out.  I thought I’d put a fly mask on.  Well we had to discuss the possibility of me getting that personal with him, but he decided to trust me, and felt much better afterwards.  He let me put the fly mask on, and life was good.  The mare however, decided that I could not put fly spray on her belly.  Each morning now we go through the asking permission to put the fly masks on, and possibly spraying the bellies.  Remember these horses are turned out in pastures, so it’s a matter of playing “Mother, May I.”  I could put halters on, tie them to a post and just go and do my thing, but to me, and to them, that would be rude and pushy.  They will, in time, accept this like all the others, but for now, we have to learn to trust each other, and we will.

Trust has to be earned, not demanded of.  You may get them to submit when you have them tied down, but being able to walk up to any horse in the pasture, have them willingly come to you, and let you do anything to them, is a much better way.  Oh sure some day’s they are just going to give you a hard time, but for the most part, if you come and approach them calm and relaxed, they are going to go along with it.  The only time they are going to give you a rough time is when you approach them with the “I really don’t have time for this, let’s get it done so I can move on” attitude, they are going to make you work for it.  Then it becomes “Tag, your it.”

This is a good time to look at yourself, adjust your energy and way of thinking.  There’s the old – them as a teacher, and us as the student reality.

Trust comes a little easier to the horses that were born in captivity.  They’ve watched you (or someone) handle their mothers.  There have been people around them since birth.  People have always been in their lives, or around for some reason.  Now you have wild horses that have never had human contact until they were rounded up, in a scary way, abruptly taken away from their mothers, put in very scary places, and put in a new environment, a pen or a stall (solitary confinement).  Why should they trust humans?  I now believe wild will always proceed with caution, and so should we.  Remember to use respect, and they will respond with appreciation.  Not just wild horses, all horses, but especially wild horses.

They use their instincts, so should you.  We have a habit of tuning things out.  We go on auto pilot a lot of the time.  Maybe they have the better idea, maybe we should too.  When I went to self-defence training (that was in the height of car jacking times) the instructor told us to be very aware of our surroundings, especially in parking lots.  Look in the backseat of the car before you get in.  If someone is sitting in the passenger seat next to your car, perhaps walk back to the store for a couple of minutes.  We need heightened awareness, just like our wild friends.  Oh, the other thing he taught us was when we walk through a parking lot, walk with our pocketbooks on the side up against the back of a car.  If you walk with it on your shoulder to the middle of the road, someone can just drive by, slip their arm through you bag and keep going.

So take a walk on the wild side, horses are aware of everything going on around them, we should be too.