Monday, April 29, 2013

Taking care of the old guy

Two weeks ago, Cash turned 25. I know lots of folks who have horses that are much, much older, but for Cash it's kind of amazing that he's made it this long. I thought for sure I was going to lose him to colic, since he used to colic on an alarmingly regular basis until about five years ago. When he was 17, I actually went out to the vet clinic to put him down - he'd had a horrible night, they couldn't keep him comfortable, and the stomach tap they did showed 3x the normal amount of protein. They thought he'd ruptured an intestine for sure, and to this day, we have no idea how he managed to survive.

Having an episode like that with your horse sort of puts it all in perspective. I'd made the decision not to do surgery, and was ready to say goodbye. Not having to do so... well, every single day is a gift.

For his age, Cash looks great... he's fat, fit, and he would be shiny if he didn't roll in the mud as often as possible. But he has a myriad of problems that we monitor and adjust for pretty much on a daily basis. I'm super lucky in that MC keeps a close eye on him too, so between the two of us, we manage to catch things quickly.

The biggest concern is him having runny manure. It's been a constant problem since we brought him home over two years ago, and it was probably an issue where he was boarded before (I just never mucked after him, so I never knew). We've gone through pretty much every possible thing that could cause diarrhea, and the only thing that's left is some sort of internal mass putting pressure on the cecum, which is what absorbs water. Until recently, a single Dexamethazone (steroid) tablet per day controlled this. Lately we're up to 5 per day - basically we adjust depending on how runny his manure is. The danger if we don't control this is that he will dehydrate, colic, and that will be the end of him. We don't want him on lots of steroids every day, but we can't have him dehydrating. It's a fine balance.

As a pink horse, he's also got problems with cancer. We've had lesions removed from his sheath, right eye, and nose. Fortunately the lesion on his sheath has stayed away, but the ones on his eye and his nose have returned. They're not red or angry, so we're just leaving them alone and hoping that they won't progress too rapidly. He wears a full-nose fly mask every day, and gets turned out in the shadiest spot, so hopefully that helps some.

See the lump on the upper right side of his nostril?

For the past two years, Cash has had minor nosebleeds. A quick Google search will show you that nosebleeds in horses are not common, and are generally harbingers of something really awful. I first blogged about it here, freaked out, and had the vet out to have him scoped. The first scope in June 2011 showed nothing, so I just sort of resolved to deal with it. Since then he's had very tiny nosebleeds, maybe a few drops, every so often, from both nostrils.

Disturbing, but apparently not life-threatening.

Then about a month ago, he had a really bad one. - maybe 1/2 a cup of blood. Even though he was calmly eating breakfast at the time, it was really alarming to see blood everywhere. He even sneezed and left blood splatters on the wall in the barn. I (barely) managed not to freak out completely and call the vet at 6 a.m. on a Monday, but instead took a picture and cleaned him up. Fortunately the bleeding stopped quickly and the vet was able to come that day.

NOT what you want to see first thing on a Monday.

We scoped him again and took a bunch of rads of his skull. All we found was a small ethmoid hematoma on the left side, which does not really explain the bilateral bleeding (usually there's something in the sinuses that causes that, but they were clean).  Unfortunately, the hematoma is not treatable and could eventually become life-threatening. However, it appears to be growing slowly so it's likely that one of the myriad of other problems will get him first. 

If that's not enough, last fall, Cash managed to hurt his right hind. At his age, I opted not to go through a myriad of diagnostic x-rays, ultrasounds, and blocking, but simply decided to retire him completely. (Eventually we figured out that he injured the connective tissue that holds the tendons in place over the hock, so they slip from side to side. I noticed it while following him into the barn one day, and showed to the my vet. It will heal... eventually.) He still gets to go on hand walks, and we pony him sometimes on short rides, so he's still getting out. The funny thing is, he has moments when he'll blast across the pasture, doing his infamous 0-60 in .001 seconds, come to a sliding stop, and then nonchalantly go about grazing. If you watch him trot, he's definitely off, but if he still feels good enough to gallop like a maniac occasionally, I'm fine with him being "pasture sound" the rest of the time.

I am so, SO glad I can keep him at home. I can adjust his feed as needed, for those days when he gets distracted and doesn't eat well (sometimes I even hand-feed him, lol!). I know instantly if he's had runny poo and can adjust his meds. If he's had a nosebleed, I write it in the logbook. If he's more off than usual, I might give him a little bute. I know a boarding facility, no matter how good, would not be able to give the level of care that we are able to give him at home.

Best. Ears. Ever.

And besides, where else would he get a bedtime carrot?

Monday, April 22, 2013


It had to happen sometime, and this weekend was it. Echo spooked left, I went right, and over his shoulder I flew. I landed on my butt, then something smacked me on the back of my head. I'm not sure if it was Echo's foot or the ground - Fuzzypony was there but didn't see the fall. I hung on the the reins for dear life (we were a mile from home), but after being dragged 20 feet, I let go. Fortunately, Echo stopped next to Taran, and we managed to catch him, no harm done. Unless you count the impressive case of road rash on my lower back. Owie.

Adopted Horse Mom never, EVER let me get on a horse without a helmet or gloves.  I actually feel naked without them. Of course if you're on a green horse, you're pretty likely to wear a helmet. Whatever I hit my head on, I hit it HARD. Like replace-my-brand-new-helmet hard. I was lucky and walked away with a mild headache. I didn't lose consciousness, wasn't nauseous, or anything like that. If I hadn't been wearing that helmet, I am quite sure I would not have walked away from that fall.

But you know what, my falling off was not Echo's fault. He spooked sideways at he goats at the end of the arena. And frankly, it was the sort of spook I should have been able to sit. Besides, he had just bravely walked past a couple of mountain bikers on the trail without batting an eyelash. You just never, ever know.

Wear your helmets, y'all. Every ride, every time. Just do it.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

In Loving Memory of Freya, our beautiful kitty

I had to put Freya to sleep this morning. She went quickly and peacefully, and it was definitely the right time as she had been bleeding from the mouth since last night. Unfortunately, hubby is out of town and wasn't able to be there, although I know he wanted to be.

She was diagnosed with mouth cancer in early January, and was given days to weeks to live. We are so lucky to have had her for an extra four months.

But as with Saga, I don't want to dwell on her illness. Instead, we want to remember the happy times with our beautiful girl.

Although Freya became a part of our family in 2005, this is the earliest digital image I have of her, from 2008. If you left a drawer open, she'd be in it. 

She loved laying on papers. Or books. Or laptops. Or clean laundry.

She "helped" me quite a lot when I was finishing up my dissertation. She was the instigator of more than a few naps.

DId I mention how much she loved to be in things?

And lay on papers? Even a single piece of paper would do.

Stealing the dog bed was another favorite.

As was sleeping upside-down.

She only weighed about 10 pounds, but she had enormous paws. Snowshoe-type paws. Which is clearly very important if you live in south/central Texas. 

She was (almost) always very dignified.

And DEFINITELY always very, very cute.

You will be missed, sweet girl. We love you.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The first month of Echo

I realized the other day that it's been a whole month since Echo arrived at Wyvern Oaks. We didn't get off to as good of a start as I had hoped, but sometimes that's how it is with horses.

However, in the last week and a half, we've had some super nice rides. We took our first lesson with my jumping instructor, although we didn't actually jump anything. Instead, we focused on getting Echo to stand up straight under himself (that is, not fall in while staring at things outside the arena), give a little to the bit laterally (that is, follow my hand around a circle), and disengaging his hindquarters under saddle. The real point to all of this is to get Mr. Distracted to focus on me, instead of spending all his time watching everything else that's going on around and outside the arena. It's interesting because he'll do what I ask, but it's almost an afterthought. I'm definitely not the focus of his attention, and while I don't expect a whole lot at this stage, we need to start in that direction.

We've also been doing a lot of walks down the street, just for building muscle and seeing the world. We've nosed mailboxes, trash cans, and traffic cones, talked to people driving (slowly) by, met dogs of all sizes, stomped on a few manhole covers, and met all the neighbor's horses. So far the only thing that he's actually spooked at was a deer, who spooked at him first. I'm not sure who was more surprised! He just sort of spooked in place and then snorted at the deer, who went bounding off down the street. Good Echo! He's also getting braver about being way out in front of our riding buddies. Either that, or he thinks he's "winning" whatever race he's in.

Brave Baby Racehorse!

I've started to longe him as well, to work on having him focus more on me. The first time made me think that he'd never been longed before, but I swear they told me at Goldmark that they trained all their horses to longe. He stopped and turned in, cut off sides of the circle, bolted around (very tidily and balanced), and pretended he didn't know any voice commands. We worked for perhaps 15 minutes total, and called it a day when he did 2 whole trot circles each direction without running off or trying to run me over. The funny thing? Every time since the first, he's been an angel. Prompt to the voice commands, nice round circles, no turning in. Soooomebody is trying to fooooool me, I think! This boy is definitely smarter than he looks. I'm going to start incorporating very loose side reins in our next couple of sessions so we can start working on strengthening his top line a bit.

Gratuitous pic of adorable pony with adorable husband. :)

Last night we managed to squeeze in another jumping lesson and Echo was 100% improved over the last one. He's doing much better with not falling in, and much better following my hand.  Paige commented on how much he's improved in such a short time. We even did some "jumping" - trotted over two poles in a "line", then over a stack of three poles, and over a tiny X. It was toward the end of the lesson and he was not as forward as I would have liked, but the second and third times through he really put the pieces together and made a tidy job of it. We even cantered away from the final X in a nice, balanced rhythm. When I went over to chat with Paige, she was like, "Um, so what do you think about making him a hunter? 'Cause he's got the movement to go far." I laughed and told her that the only hunting he'd be doing is field hunting! Then she kept dropping hints about what a cute baby hunter he was, and how nice he'd look in the pre-greens, lol! Honestly I wouldn't mind taking him to some schooling hunter shows just for the miles, but I can't STAND the way they run the classes and how you never know when you're going to ride. At least with eventing you know exactly where you need to be and when - that makes my little OCD self quite happy, thank you very much.

Next week, we jump this. Or eat it, he's not sure which.

This weekend my schedule is clear, so I'm looking forward to lots of saddle time. Yay progress!!!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Off to a slow start

As you might imagine from the lack of posts, things haven't been going exactly as planned since Echo the Wonder Pony arrived. I'd arranged for some lessons, imagining that we'd get to work right away and continue with the great training that he got at Adopted Horse Parent's farm. I'd arranged for the saddle fitter to come out, hoping that something in the tack room would fit him (because really, we're out of saddle rack space. Yeah, that's it...). I'd even started penciling in some low-key dressage shows in May, just to get him out and about.

And then... Oberon bit him. Over the fence. Right where the saddle goes.

Ok, fine, lots of Derma-gel, a week off for that to heal, and in the meantime, I start working on the perfect blend of fat, fat, and more fat, in an effort to fatten him up some. I guess I'm just used to nice round quarter-horse types, 'cause in comparison, Echo looks sort of like an anorexic supermodel.

Then it rained for a week, so no riding. Echo focused on getting fat and sassy, and getting a few more ground manners.

So, finally, we're ready to ride! We go out on our second-ever trail ride, where he is good as gold, happily following Taran and not spooking at a thing. When we return to the barn, I'm picking out his feet when I notice... he's twisted his shoe. And ripped off half his hoof with it.

Insert major pouting session here.

Really alert readers (with really good memories) will remember that when I first met Echo down in Ocala, he had a major chip out of his toe and was a bit sore. They slapped on some racing plates and he was fine.

Here's what his foot looked like mid-February. The chip out of his toe is down to the laminae. Believe it or not, he was only a tiny bit off when this happened.

However, he also had an abscess hole in his hoof wall on the outside quarter, and the hoof wall from the toe back to this hole apparently wasn't terribly well attached. The toe chip went first, then when the shoe twisted, the rest of the hoof wall came loose, all the way back to the abscess hole on the quarter.

This is right after we pulled the twisted shoe. The hoof wall is still there on the outside, but you can see the crack that goes all the way up to the event line. The wall isn't actually attached where the nail holes are - it's just sort of hanging on. Nothing solid to nail a shoe to.

As you might imagine, this caused Echo to be rather sore. A shoe would have helped protect the area until the hoof wall grows out, but there's literally nothing to stick a shoe on to. So, I had to wait for my trimmer to come out and put a hoof cast on instead.

Starting the casting process. You have less than about 3 minutes to get it on before it starts setting!

Cast from the bottom. Note how it makes a little rim on the hoof wall, sort of like a shoe? Pretty cool, huh! 

A closer look at the entire hoof - and his other feet - and my trimmer pieced together what probably happened. Some sort of metabolic event about 4-6 months ago apparently caused two abscesses on the coronet band - one on the toe, and one on the quarter. When I got Echo, these abscesses had long since blown out, and what was left were two holes in the hoof wall. The toe abscess chipped out first, mid-February. The shoe helped hold the hoof together for another 6 weeks, but eventually the hoof wall on the quarter abscess gave out too. And that's where we're at now - Echo literally has about half a hoof wall, poor guy.

The good news is that the hoof cast worked wonders! Echo is now sound and happily cruising about. Of course we've had more rain, but I've been able to get some solid rides in and finally a lesson, with another one scheduled for tomorrow. So, riding update is soon to come!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Happy Birthday Cash & Reddums! (Or, how to host a horsey birthday party)

This week, Cash turns 25 and Red turns 20. In honor of their somewhat impressive ages (especially given Cash's myriad ongoing issues), I decided that if I was ever going to host a horsey birthday party, now was the time to do it. So we invited our horsey neighbors and riding friends over for a cookout and some very silly afternoon fun.

Did anyone else have/attend birthday parties as a kid where you played the traditional party games? Well, at this party, the horses got to play the games!

First up, we had a pie eating contest. The "pies" were chopped apples sprinkled with oatmeal and drizzled with a bit of molasses. Oberon, who is apparently part goat, won this contest in approximately 1.3 seconds.

Imagine a hoovering sound with this picture.

Just to be certain of his victory, Oberon also tried to eat the plate the pie came on. Here hubby and TD are trying to pry it out of his teeth (they were successful).  

 Then Oberon finished off Echo's pie, since apparently baby racehorses don't eat apple pies.


Next up, bobbing for apples! 

Oberon was a natural at this as well, and did not let the water up his nose deter him in the slightest.

Red was slightly more skeptical.

Cash decided that such games were entirely beneath his dignity and opted not to play.

And finally, the absolute silliest game... the carrot-and-stick races. Yes, we literally tied carrots to sticks and then timed the boys as to how long it took them to get to the finish line. You were not allowed to touch your horse, call him, or make any clucking or kissy noises, you could only use the carrot to lure your horse forward.

Taran was not about to move his feet to get the carrot, but instead stretched as faaaaaaaar as he possibly could (note the hind legs).

The "nose wiggle"technique was also popular, to try to snag the carrot from midair.

Here's a short video of Red demonstrating how it's done:

Also, I am pleased to announce that ECHO FINALLY WON A RACE! That's right, folks, Echo won the carrot-and-stick race. This is even more odd because he's still not 100% sure he even likes carrots, but we're working on that. (And sadly, there was no photographic evidence of his victory, but there were lots of witnesses. Yay Echo!)

After the festivities, we had a brief photo shoot:

MC with the birthday boys.

Fuzzypony with Taran.

Me with Echo the EAdorable.

Happy Birthday, Mr. Schpotted Pony and Reddums the Feerless War Pony!