Monday, January 28, 2013

My Horse, I Love You.

(cross posted from facebook)

You are sensitive and insecure, but also kind. While searching for a partner, I found a horse or two that I’m sure I would have loved and enjoyed. But you were always in my mind, though I didn’t admit it since you were so young. I followed your progress online wherever I could. Now that you are in my life, it seems it couldn’t have worked out any other way.

You are so mature in many ways that when you have your baby moments, sometimes it’s a surprise. Once in awhile, you try to pretend you aren’t so scared but then you look at me to ask “is it ok?” and with a gentle shush and a neck rub, you sigh and relax. I could exist solely for those moments.

You can be hyper and have the attention span of a gnat but when I do have your attention, you are capable of amazing things. Sometimes I feel like I’m not good enough for you but then I think about how I will provide you with everything you will ever need, for life, and I know that the rest doesn’t matter. The only potential you care about is being loved and cared for. This, I can promise to give. 

Oh, my baby horse, you have weaved your way into my life, my heart, and I couldn’t imagine it any other way.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Thar She Blows.

Last night it was clear Armani's abscess had finally blown a hole and drained. Yipeee! Oh, the things that get us excited. It was a small hole, about 3-4mm but the size of the lump was greatly reduced. I cleaned it up and did another compress. He was much more comfortable and I was even able to press on it in a few places before getting the ugly horse face. Good (if somewhat cranky) pony!

I contacted my vet just to make sure my ideas of how to proceed from here were correct and to see if she had any other recommendations. I pretty much had everything covered - keep the hot compresses going and the site open as much as possible (not by force, obviously, but by cleaning it out) to allow for full drainage. I was prepared to have her out again but she was more than confident I would do the best job and said that natural openings in abscesses stay open better than incisions anyway. She reassured me that scar-tissue was unlikely with the level of care he was getting but that it would take quite awhile to disappear all-together, so not to be overly concerned about that.

The one addition was that she suggested making a warm "weak tea" betadine solution and flushing the area. She knows my horse well enough now to add, "Armani might try to kill you there's a chance Armani won't be happy with this." Don't get me wrong, he's not a bad horse, he's just not very confident and he was a start-and-sell kind of horse so I'm the first person to actually work on manners. Incidentally, that's one of his new barn names - Manners. Armani - Mani - Manners...because he needs some!

I've flushed wounds/abscesses a numbers of times on dogs (during my undergrad, I dog-sat for a prof whose dog developed abscesses on her neck sometimes, plus a few other random incidents), I have never had to do it to a horse. Dogs tend to be stoic and rip through your heart with their sad eyes while you do something to help them. Horses just want to get the eff away from you, especially nervous ones like mine.

I enlisted the help of a friend - who thought it looked oh so easy, why wasn't I getting it right in there - until she tried it and, before even attempting a squirt, laughed and said "yeah, it really isn't as easy as it looks!" I did get several good squirts on the general area and since it's much more open tonight, I can only hope that some of the solution went into the deeper parts so it heals from the inside out. The one time I actually had the tip of the flushing syringe right in the opening, I'm not sure if I was actively pressing the plunger, or if that was a nano-second later but the area got thoroughly spritzed, as did we.  Time of year is on my side in the sense that there are no bugs to spreadinfection and it's so bloody cold I wouldn't be surprised if all the bacteria was frozen to death. Not kidding, it is -22C/-11.2F tonight without the wind. Wind chill is -33C/-27.4F ...we are reaching the point where Celcius and Fahrenheit aren't so different! (equal at -40).

I am devising a new outsmart Armani disinfection plan for tomorrow...stay tuned for "as the abscess turned"...


Sunday, January 20, 2013

Holding Steady.

This is a gross post. Just warning you up front!

Armani's abscess has continued to look like it's on the verg of opening up more every day...but stubbornly has yet to do so. Friday it started oozing that liquidy yellow translucent puss and I was excited that the big moment would happen this weekend. This reaction is normal, right??

Well, it's still holding it's ground. The worst part is last night Armani decided he has had enough of my compresses. I tried a bunch of tricks (since I've been doing this every day for 2 weeks, I've developed a few) but he was FED UP.

There is no worse feeling than not being able to help your horse.

The only good thing is Armani has stayed otherwise completely normal. As my vet assured me, "you don't have a sick horse." Well, no, he's not sick but not exactly well, either. As our 2-month anniversary passed this week, I had to feel a little sorry for both of us to be dealing with this.

Tonight it looks even more disgusting and is dripping. At this point, I would be satisfied with just cleaning it up, let alone actually doing the warm compress like I'm supposed to. My horse had other ideas.

Prior to cleaning. Nice eh?
I was standing there in the stall trying to decide what to do, since it feels horrible to give up but I also didn't want to die trying, lol. Mani came and stood next to me. After a few minutes of petting him, I realized he was staring out the bars of his stall. Just outside, I had his empty grain pail and the pail with warm water and facecloth.

Somewhat absent mindedly, I grabbed his grain bucket and the cloth. I let him lick the grain pail and gently put the cloth on the area with my other hand. Success! He let me rest it there. So the new trick is to hold his feed bucket rather than dumping it in his stall feeder. Of course, since the bucket was empty it didn't last long but it did help me get some of the dried gunk off. Since he only gets a tiny amount of ration balancer, I decided to prepare another cup in hopes of cleaning it better. Since I have his grain dampened, it puffs up and takes longer to eat which helps buy me some time.

It worked and I got it cleaned up quite well. Hopefully that will help the drainage continue! Now we prepare for a deep freeze (around -25C/-13F) and I feel so, so bad since the area was shaved for the ultra-sound and even if it wasn't, that can't feel great in the cold. My poor guy!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Lumps, Bumps, Floats, and Draws.

Life is busy! I wish I could say it's been good-busy but I've had a bit of worry with Armani.

On Saturday, Jan 5th, I had my awesome vet (I love her more everytime I interact with her) come out to float Armani. Since he's young, his teeth are softer and likely need attention more frequently at this stage. When my vet did the pre-purchase exam, she said his teeth were good but would need to be done at some point this winter. I'm not one to want to wait until there is a problem but also don't believe in doing things to ridiculous excess (often leads to more harm than good), so I decided to have him floated early in the new year. As I hoped, he had nothing that would have begun to cause irritation yet but he did have some points that needed to be addressed.

Although my vet is not an equine dentist per se, she has made equine dentistry an area that she has gained extra education in and I love her approach to floats. She is very detailed yet minimalist in her approach, by which I mean she is thorough but doesn't grind the s**t out of the teeth and she pays attention to what is really going on. Granted, this is how all vets should operate but I've heard enough stories about those that don't to be grateful for what I have.

Right off the bat, I suggested we lightly sedate Armani. While I would love to have a horse who has learned to stand quietly for any weird procedure, I just knew my ADHD baby would not deal with it all that well. What was most important to me was that Armani get a good, thorough, gentle, float accomplished. A touch of drug meant that we weren't stessing him or his TMJ any more than necessary and my vet could focus on the teeth, not the behaviour.

Before we got started on his teeth, we drew some blood for a full blood chemistry and haematoloogy analysis. I did this partly because I'm a data junkie, partly because the clinic was offering a special package deal with floats (which I needed anyway) and partly because Armani is new to me and I wanted to have a baseline for him.While I do think sometimes if you look hard enough you will find a problem on almost any living being, I felt this was a reasonable level of detail to gather.

So blood was drawn, float was done, and Armani was hanging out in his stall for the drugs to fully wear off. I took the opportunity to clip his bridle path.I also did a light TMJ massage to help with any tension from the float. While doing this, I noticed that an area under his jaw was extremely swollen.

"Uh, Megan, I'm going to have to get you to look at Mani one more time..."

Now, to back-track a little. About 4 weeks ago, Mani (I need a better barn name...) had developed two swollen glands under his jaw. Of course, the immediate fear is strangles but it didn't look like strangles. Still, I called my vet for advice, took his temperature religiously and watched for any other signs like nasal discharge. He was fine and the swollen glands returned to normal very quickly. Well, they returned to what I could only assume was normal. I just don't know every detail of him well enough yet to be sure. I noticed when it wasn't right but I couldn't say for sure if it was completely normal, either. Truthfully, I think I've paid more attention to memorizing the legs than anything else.

I feel like I should know from memory every part of him but at that point I'd had Armani for 4 weeks and I guess it just takes me longer to know his normal everywhere. I'm sure I still don't, almost 2 months in, though I actively try. I'm not sure when I would have even thought to memorize under his chin/jaw area. Anyway, I guess it's good that I noticed as soon as there was something abnormal, even if I wasn't sure exactly what normal looked like on him.

So that issue seemed resolved. I kept an eye on the area but nothing changed one way or another. Which I thought was good.

Then comes the day of the float I described above, 4 weeks after the intial flare-up. Before the vet got there, I had Armani in the arena. I was working on some leading and groundwork and then did a free lunge session of sorts (which was very cool, I hope to discuss in another post). Basically I didn't want Armani getting fidgety in the barn while waiting for the vet and I didn't want to get him once she arrived because his turnout is large and he can still be sticky coming in on occasion. So we made good use of the time.

While it's weird that I didn't notice the swelling during grooming, all that groundwork, or during the vet visit, I can only assume it was present before any of the vet work because none of that would have caused it, let alone so quickly.

I was advised to hot compress and take temperature daily. I was also given a swab in case the area decided to drain, I could get a culture to the clinic asap (and of course isolate my horse). We were being cautious but at the same time there were no indications of anything particularly worrisome since he still had no fever, snot etc.

The area looked better by the next night. I got the results of the bloodwork back on Monday and although almost everything was perfectly smack in the middle of normal range, he did have low iron, calcium, and vitamin C and a high WBC count. The particular WBCs he was high in were, I was told, typically related to high parasite load and sometime allergies. The nutrient deficiency could be explained by a parasite load too. I had given Armani a dewormer 3 weeks prior and that can also cause those WBCs to respond but wouldn't explain anything else.

I had them run a fecal Tuesday morning and it was perfectly negative. Humph! It's a good thing yet doesn't explain anything. Kinda the story of my horse-life. I bought a multi-supplement that my vets office supplies that is higher in iron and has good absorption rates. I figure I could spend countless hours researching which supplements have actual bio-available iron etc., buy one off the shelf that probably does nothing, or go with the one my clinic has already done the background on. It was an obvious choice, even though I paid dearly for it.

The swelling got a bit better and stayed better until Wednesday night, when it looked worse. He also had a bit of a temperature. I had the vet out the next morning and although his temp was normal, she put him on antibiotics since the area is clearly not getting better on it's own. I'm hoping it's not an abscess because then the meds won't be able to get to the infection and I will be looking at ulta-sound, drainage, etc. 

So I hot compressed every day. Just as I was arriving at work Monday morning I got a call that Armani took a few steps of trot when he was turned out and stopped and started coughing, it seemed like he was having a hard time breathing. I got on the phone with my clinic right away and an hour later was at the barn waiting.

Ultra sound showed the swollen lymph node which itself hadn't grown any, it was the area around the lymph node that was causing most of the swelling and appeared to be starting to abcess. My vet tried to drain it but wasn't able to. After some discussion we decided to stop the antibiotics since they weren't working and we didn't get anything to culture. Do as many hot compresses as possible. Joy.

I was back Tuesday morning for the farrier and brough Mani into the arena to lunge a bit first. He started coughing almost right away and then started blowing goop out his nose. Never thought I'd be so happy to see stuff coming out a horses' nose! So it seems he's started to drain into his airways, which I was told might happen.

When I was back out last night he didn't produce any more gunk, so I don't know if there are more to rupture still or what but either way the only thing I can do is keep compressing, so fingers crossed it keeps draining! The lumpy area was definitely a bit softer last night, so I'll take that as a good sign!

Whew! At least we've had lots of time for bonding the last couple weeks!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

New Year's Day Snow Ride.

I am not doing a year in review post. First, I didn't blog very much and what I did blog wasn't exactly the kind of stuff I want to be filling my head with right now. It can basically be summed up by months of trying to figure out what was wrong with Willy, followed by months of horse shopping. I found my dream horse in November, so I would rather focus on the good things to come.

My goals are also going to be fairly loosely-defined. January is going to be a very hectic month with starting another round of French courses, Alex traveling, a major final project at work, and then starting a new job. So basically my goal for January is to survive!

My horse is just coming four, so my goals for him are simply to work with my coach to start filling in some of the gaps in his training and solidifying his basics (a lifelong project, I know). My view is that I have all the time in the world to develop him but, at the same time, I believe a consistent training schedule is best especially at his age and if you want to show. The idea is low intensity but consistent and structured. I have a lot I want to work on in my own riding too, so I'm looking into picking up a couple of lessons with someone who has a schoolmaster type horse. It will probably be a dressage focus, which is pretty much perfect for what I feel I'm lacking at the moment.

This will not get or keep me fit, so I need to develop a plan for exercise because I’ve been too idle for too long. When I was conditioning Willy and I lost 12lbs, I felt better than I had in a very long time and I want that feeling back. It will improve my riding too, of course, but I am most looking forward to the energy, better sleep, and stress-reduction.

In the spring, I plan to slowly build up Armani’s conditioning with some longer rides over varied terrain.  He’s not in terrible shape but I wouldn’t call him fit, either. While I prefer where he is to being over-worked, he would find a lot of our under-saddle work easier if he were in better shape.  A fit horse is also more likely to stay sound and less likely to have other issues, like back pain. Obviously the work we’re doing now will help but it’s not the same as getting outside! I figure by the time the ground is good for riding, he will be more than ready to step it up a little. The best part is that it’ll give us both a break from schooling and will help put general miles and experience on him outside of an arena.

I am going to show this year if it’s the last thing I do!  I might have to trot over every freaking 18” fence but I am going to a show.

Now, because y’all were so demanding, I give you pictures!!

New Year’s Day was bright and beautiful. It was a little chilly but there was no wind. Alex said he wanted to come to the barn with me…an idea was brewing in my head. As we pulled onto the road to the barn, I mentioned that I was thinking of riding outside since I had him on the ground in case something happened. As we approached the barn, I saw another boarder riding through the snow at the front of the property. That did it!

My friend was there, just finishing morning chores, and I recruited her to join me for a ride through the snow. 

This. This is what it’s all about.

When we first "broke trail" he stared 
at the snow and pawed a bit.

It felt like riding a super fancy dressage horse! 
It was a difficult trot to post, being so big,
my friend and I both gave up trying eventually.

Armani wanted to run so bad, so after a few rounds when we had a good track, I let him go.

Polo pony impersonation!

Striking a pose.

Big smile!!

Heading for home, nice and relaxed.

 Happy New Year everyone! May 2013 be your best yet.