Monday, November 30, 2015

Brego hoof update

When last we left our (enormous) hero, he'd managed to break off a huge hunk of hoof and completely lame himself:

Basically the worst hangnail ever

Fortunately, the new trimmer (our old one moved, pout) was due out a few days later and was able to address this. The biggest concern of both the trimmer and the vet is some nasty bacteria getting up in there and causing further complications. So, we wanted to get any "loose" bits removed so that he wouldn't risk further pulling chunks off, and also to make it easier to keep clean and treat.

30 minutes of careful trimming later, we were left with this:

It's kind of hard to see from this angle, but she took it as far back as she could on either side. There's nothing left to catch on, although we are keeping an eye on that crack right on his toe just in case it decides to let go too.

Despite the major hoof resection, Brego walked off MUCH more sound after his trim. I think the pressure from the constant pulling on that loose hoof wall was really uncomfortable, and this seems to have done the trick to help him. You can see near the bottom edge there's some bruising (not surprising) so he's not 100%, but he's definitely bearing weight more evenly now. And of course galloping up to the barn for breakfast, because we starve him.

We're continuing to medicate daily and keep it wrapped, plus he wears a boot when he's out since it's wet. Now it's just a matter of waiting until that foot grows - grow big Brego foot, GROW!!!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Herd dynamics II: The followers

Yesterday I posted about herd leaders, so today I want to talk about the followers. I always cheer for the underdog, so these guys are my favorites. Perhaps that's why all three of our followers have been my horses? Hmmm, suspicious...

I'd rather be sitting on your couch - Paddy. He's definitely not boss over anyone other than Cash (and Cash wasn't worth bossing anyway), but that's mostly because he hasn't got time for other horses. He knows that the people are the ones with the food, the treats, the extra treats, and possibly carrots too. His main goal in life is to be where the people are. I've found him in the carport at 6 am (all gates shut, all fences up, I have no idea how he got out), waiting for me to come out and feed. Or he could come in the house and get himself a snack in the fridge if that's more convenient. I'm pretty sure his goal in life is to convince the humans that he should live up in the house and enjoy all the amenities. And sit in your lap while you scratch that itchy spot on his chest.

The last thing you see before you end up with a Haflinger in your lap

I can't function on my own - Saga. He was so pathetic that I felt sorry for him. He was actually boss over Taran, but not because he tried to be bossy. Taran just knew he couldn't push Saga around, so he didn't try. However, poor Saga simply didn't know what to do with himself. I remember Red was gone one weekend and Saga just stood by a tree the entire time.  He didn't eat, he didn't go to get water, he just stood there and looked really depressed. Without an alpha horse to keep him on schedule, he was lost.

I shall pretend to be alpha, but I'm really the lowest of the low - Cash. Poor guy... in the 18 years I've known him, he's never been boss over any horse for more than about 5 minutes. He puts up a good show... from the other side of a fence. When he was boarded, he was either on private turnout  semi-private turnout with the other weeniest gelding in the barn, and even THAT horse would beat him up. He's just not a fighter.

But, unlike Saga, he's perfectly capable of functioning on his own. Maybe it's from all the years of private turnout? He and Saga were BFFs - Saga would share his food (even grain!) and protect him from the others, and in return Cash would lead their little herd of two. Cash was inconsolable for months after Saga's death, which was heartbreaking to watch.



Interestingly, as Cash has gotten older, he's no longer able to be on his own. He's now strongly bonded with Red and cannot function without him. At their retirement barn, they have their own pasture together, they have stalls right next to each other, and they are always brought everywhere together. Apparently this is common behavior in older horses - they bond strongly and have a difficult time with change.

Must be separated by a fence at feeding time though

What about your follower horses? Do they fit into one of these categories, or do they have different personalities?

Monday, November 23, 2015

Herd dynamics pt 1: The boss horses

One of the coolest things about keeping your horses at home is that you get to see them interact, and you get a much more intimate sense of their personalities and herd dynamics. Sure, you see a little bit of it if you board (or you hear it from the staff), but it's different when you can see them right out your back window. I thought I knew our horses well - after all, I'd had Cash for 13 years before we brought him home - but seeing them 24/7 brings it to a whole new level.

In our little herd, there are two distinct types of horses - leaders and followers - but there are different types of each.

The benevolent dictator - Red and Brego. It's surprising how similar these  two are, despite their obvious physical differences. Neither of them have ever had to try to be the boss, they just are, and they know it. They don't lord it over anyone either - a simple glare or pin of the ears, and everyone else falls in line. I've never seen either of them kick or bite anyone. It's like they're so alpha that they don't even have to mete out discipline. As long as everyone does what they say, there is peace in the world - and nobody ever doesn't do what they say. But here's where the benevolent part comes in - both of them will share. Not grain, but they'll both allow others to share hay if they're in the mood - Red would share with Cash and nobody else.

Sharing is caring (the black blob on the left is Brego, I promise)

Being alpha comes with its own set of problems, though. You rarely get to lay down to nap, because you have to stand guard all the time. You have to be a true leader at all times, which means keep everyone else on a schedule, because they are looking to you to tell them what to do and when. There are times to eat, times to nap, times to go get water - you've gotta keep track of those things because everyone else is depending on you to make those decisions (Cash and Saga literally did not know what to do if Red was not around to tell them. They almost couldn't function without him). It also means you have to be a bit of a loner, because doing something as simple as grooming with another horse might be seen as a weakness. I've actually never seen Red groom with another horse, and Brego I've only seen doing it once or twice with Paddy - whereas the others I will see grooming a few times a week.

A rare napping moment.

One thing we were very careful about when we had Red and Brego at Wyvern Oaks at the same time, was never to turn them out together. Red's now 23, and we simply didn't want him and Brego to get into a fight trying to out-boss each other. Fortunately, Red and Cash are now together in their own little herd at the retirement barn, and Brego's got his little group here. Everyone gets to be alpha and nobody gets hurt.

The bachelor alpha - Oberon. He was actually boss over Red but he never led the herd. He was pretty much a loner - always off by himself. It was almost like he didn't know how to interact with the others, but he was also a PMU baby so maybe that had something to do with it? Red ended up continuing to be herd boss and stayed out of Bo's way (as did most of the others), and Oberon just sort of did his own thing - he was alpha but not at all a leader. It was the oddest relationship I've ever seen.

I don't have many pics of Bo, and none out in the pasture, so this will have to do.

The bully - Taran. He wants to be leader so badly but he just doesn't know how it's done. Unlike the benevolent dictator type, he will go out of his way to pick on any horse lower than him (Cash, Saga, Paddy). If anyone comes in with bite marks, it's Taran's doing. Many times, I've watched him pin a horse against a fence and bite or kick them, apparently just for fun. He herds the others and will chase them too, because he can. It's like he's trying to demand their respect, but doesn't understand that respect is earned. He simply doesn't seem to have what it takes to be a true leader like Red or Brego, and the other horses know it. Interestingly, he's never disciplined for his actions by the alphas - I've wondered if we had mares, would they keep him in line more?

A rare moment of peace.

Is your horse a boss horse, and if so, does he or she fit into one of these categories? Do mares have entirely different categories? Share your stories!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Or we could go with Plan C: Take up golf

Last night I had my first lesson with Brego. I felt like a sack of potatoes, but overall it was pretty good, if exhausting. Trainer and I discussed plans moving forward, and I headed home like usual.

Then, coming off the trailer, Brego caught his toe (the one where the abscess on his coronet band blew out on in May and has been growing out since) on the ramp and ripped off a HUGE hunk.

Not surprisingly, he's now dead lame.

I should have put a tape measure on that, but it's about an inch of hoof missing.

See the laminae on the inside? Poor guy.

Since I'm so good at taking care of feet, I flushed with betadine, crammed some goo and themerasol in there, and stuffed it with gauze. What you can't see is that there's half a piece of gauze crammed under his toe too. In other words, he's going to lose the entire hoof wall below where the horizontal crack is (which is the original abscess line). 

That just looks painful.

Sooo... yeah. I'll be taking up golf. Or maybe crocheting. Or finger painting. Or I could just start on all those house projects I haven't gotten to.

Unless anybody has a horse they want me to lame ride?

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Really not the news I was hoping for

The vet finally made it out to see Paddy today. I need to have my armchair vet license revoked because he's lame on the RF, not the LF. In fact, he blocked exactly the same way he blocked 18 months ago when he had a soft tissue injure in that foot. We don't know exactly what it was that he injured or how badly, but right now the assumption is that he re-injured whatever it was.

My vet would like to do an MRI, and I would too, mostly to see exactly where the problem is and just how bad it is because that might give us some idea of long-term prognosis. However, nobody can accurately predict the future, so even if he has a giant tear somewhere for the second time, it's possible that he could come back 100% and as long as I keep him on good footing, he's sound for the rest of his life. Or he might never be sound again. Who knows, it's a crap shoot either way.

So, you guys know the drill for soft tissue injuries. A month off with limited turnout, a month of tack walking once he's sound at the walk, then work him back up. Three months minimum, all the while desperately crossing your fingers that he doesn't re-injure it. Then waiting each ride to see if he'll hold up or not.

Don't worry, he still gets most of the cookies.

On the bright side, I have a Brego to ride. I'm really looking forward to it, although I could wish it was under different circumstances. He's very talented and has a ton of training, I'm just going to have to remind him of that. Our first lesson is tonight, and I expect to be doing lots of energizing walk-trot transitions (thanks, Megan!)

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Plan B(rego)

You might have noticed a lack of updates about Paddykins' thrush-based lameness. That's because I had a "yay, all better!" post all ready to go, after we'd had a great dressage ride on Thursday and a fantastic trail ride with hubby on Saturday.

Then Sunday, he was lame. This time on the left front - and it's an altogether different kind of lame that the thrush problem.  He's mostly fine on straightaways, but struggles badly on turns, and positively refuses to trot. I suspect soft tissue injury in the foot, because it's very similar to how his other S/T foot injury (on his RF) presented 18 months ago. There's no heat or swelling anywhere, but something is most definitely not right. The vet was due out yesterday, but had to reschedule for tomorrow.  In the meantime, Paddy's been on stall rest and limited turnout. Fun times.

So there I was Sunday morning, watching my plans to move up to First any time soon dissolve before my eyes. And then I realized... hey, we do actually have another really talented dressage horse, just standing around eating ('cause hubby has been gone so much this fall). Before poor Brego quite realized what had happened, I'd groomed him, tacked him, and we were on our way for a little spin.

It's the first time I've ridden Brego since we tried him out in August 2014. To say he's a bit different than Paddy would be the understatement of the year. Paddy's like riding shotgun (and therefore hanging on for dear life) in an Audi Quattro rally car, where the driver is a kid who is doing donuts at 100 mph in the parking lot but really questions why you have to practice this boring stuff. Brego's more like piloting a Sherman Tank, where you're the cocky (yet apparently clueless) gung-ho new guy and the rest of the crew has 10+ years of experience and 187 medals among them, and would really rather be sitting around eating Cheetos and telling stories.

Me: Hey, big guy, how about we trot?
Brego: *stuffs Cheeto in mouth and starts licking cheese dust off fingers* Huh?
Me: Trot?
Brego: *sighs* I remember back in Massachusetts, we were off on a hunt and trotted for TWO WHOLE MINUTES.
Brego: OK, OK, just a sec... jeez, don't get your panties in a wad about it. I swear. *shakes head and rolls eyes*

Not the ears I'm used to. Also, it's a long way down.

Of course, once you get Brego going, he's a total dreamboat to ride. Those years of experience and 187 medals come is really handy... it's just that getting him to dust all that knowledge off and motivating him to use it is a little... exhausting.

(Hey Megan, you know those walk/trot transitions for a lazy horse that you talked about? Yep, we're on it.)

Oh and also, I'm having to re-learn how to ride. Because Brego's movement is so big compared to Paddy's, he's throwing me around. I feel like a total noob. However, it's really amazing to ride an actual balanced canter.

So, since hubby stole my horse for two jousts this summer, I'm stealing his horse for the foreseeable future. Poor Brego, he's got no idea.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Poor unloved, unfed dog. Really.

Nobody here ever feeds me. Look at my empty bowl. Le Sigh.

And if they do, it's just (organic, grain-free, limited ingredient, $$$$$) dog food. It was gross, I had to dump it on the floor.

I tried to beg for some of these delicious homemade kolaches instead.

I mean, look how good I am. I'm even sitting!

But Dad just ate them in front of me and told me how delicious they were. How cruel.

Mom told me I wasn't getting anything else, so I had to eat my spilled food off the floor. Poor me.

Mom apparently didn't understand my message that this food is gross, so I had to dump it again this morning. But I'm not eating it off the floor, because that's icky.

I am reduced to begging for crumbs off Mom's plate. Poor me.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Brego's broken tooth

Before we got him, Brego had a cracked tooth that turned into an abscess that ended up as a sinus infection that he had to have flap surgery to clear out. The story is here, if you want to read it. We kept up with his every-six-months visits to a specialist equine dentist, so we were surprised to see him quidding hay early this fall. We had the dentist out immediately, since we were quite concerned that Brego might lose a pound or two if he didn't have his full chomping capabilities.

As it turned out, the tooth next to the one he had removed had cracked and was causing him some discomfort. We found a second surprise when we took x-rays to try to see how extensive the crack was: Brego had a mass in his skull, at the site of the old abscess.

Side view

Top view

The radiographs were sent off for a secondary consultation, and the results were mixed. The consensus was that the mass was not an immediate threat, and had likely developed after the flap surgery. However, if we tried to remove the tooth, there was a good possibility that the process would disturb the mass, which could cause significant problems and a potentially even a follow-up surgery to remove it. Our dentist recommended taking Brego for a standing MRI before we attempted to remove the tooth so that he would be able to plan the surgery around the mass, or plan to remove the mass as part of the surgery if necessary.

There was, however, a second option. Apparently, up to about Brego's age, horses are able to lay down enamel over broken or chipped teeth. We could give it a month or two and wait to see if he might be able to repair the damage enough to keep the tooth. We agreed that this would be the preferred option, so our vet showed us how to do daily "tap tests" and "breath tests" to make sure there was no sign of infection (horse heads should sound hollow when tapped, and their breath shouldn't smell like something died). We opted for this option, since it seemed like the best and safest for everyone. Brego didn't quite understand the tap tests, although he did appreciate the daily cookie he got after Hubby thumped his skull every morning.

Last week when we had the vet out to look at Paddy, we also checked up on Brego. BEST NEWS EVER - he managed to lay down enough enamel to keep the tooth! You can see that it's broken off just below the gumline, but there's no redness or swelling, and there's also no sign of pain.

The inside 1/3 of the tooth is broken off just below the gumline - but it's looking great! 

We'll continue to keep an eye on it, but hopefully Brego will stop eating rocks or whatever he's snacking on between meals, and we won't have any more dental fun.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Caring for deep thrush - in pictures

First, there's nothing gross to see here, I promise.

I mentioned last week that per the vet, Paddy's weird stiffness/lameness was diagnosed to be a thrush infection deep in the RF heel. The good news is that we've been treating it 2x/day since then, and while he's not quite 100%, he's darn close. I think a few more days and we'll be good to go.

If you've never dealt with a deep infection, it's a bit of a pain. Here's what I'm doing to treat him:

1. Collect all your equipment.

You can get anti fungal cream at your local grocery store. The tip of this one fits perfectly into a 3 ml syringe, so I can load up the syringe and use it as an applicator. The syringe tip lets me get the goo deep down in the crack.

Loaded and ready to go.

Next up, thimerosal. Don't touch this stuff, lick it, get it in your eyes, breathe it, etc. It's an organomercury anti fungal agent (also found as a preservative in vaccines) - great stuff for white line disease and deep thrush, but you don't want to get it on your skin or your horse's. Wear gloves or handle with extreme caution and wash hands immediately after.

Betadine rinse with syringe applicator. I squirt syringe fulls of this up in the crack to rinse out any debris that's gotten up in there.

Also needed but not shown: hoof pick and gauze squares.

2. Collect your Haffie. Distract him with food.

This was the easy part.

3. Treat the foot. This is kind of like treating an abscess - once you get the area clean, you don't want to let him put his foot down until you get it repacked, so be sure to have all the equipment handy.

Pre-cleanout. You can see the gauze crammed in his heel from the last time we did this.

Clean foot VERY well before pulling out gauze (this lessens the chance you'll get any dirt in the crack). Here's what it looks like after I've pulled out the gauze.

Use syringe to rinse out cavity with betadine. Hopefully you can see the giant hole in his heel. Yikes! The hole itself is a lighter color because of the thimerosal.

Put about 5 drops of thimerosal right in the worst part, being careful not to get it anywhere that it could run up into his skin. Cram anti-fungal cream in on top of it.

Using a hoof pick, pack a gauze square in the crack. This keeps dirt out, the dressing in, and allows a little air to get in the deep part (and thrush hates air).

Crush the scorpion that was wandering across the backroom floor.

After 5 days, we're down to using thrush buster (which has formaldehyde in it, did you know?) and anti-fungal cream, but we're still packing it with gauze to keep the dirt out. It's looking SO much better and he's clearly moving better. Now, just gotta stay on top of things so that this doesn't happen ever again!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

What's wrong with Paddy: The actual vet's assessment

Hindsight is 20/20, but it's also interesting how certain things can affect certain horses. Now that we have a clearer idea of what's going on, all the little clues that I posted about earlier this week fall into place.

Here's the bottom line:

Despite the fact that this would have been the third year he's been on it, Paddy's winter feed affected him metabolically in some way. We switched him back to his regular feed (Triple Crown Lite), and within 36 hours his personality was totally back to normal. The vet even joked about how sneaky he was being (he was trying to flip over a table of equipment and was mooching the vet tech for treats). So, no more Triple Crown Senior for The Padster. I need to find an alternative way of getting more calories into a hard-working Haffie - right now I'm looking at ground flax and maybe some soaked and rinsed beet pulp, or possibly a touch of alfalfa. I just have to keep it super low NSCs, because our guess is that was the trigger. Given the fact that he was his normal self, the vet said that Lyme or PSSM was highly unlikely, so we did not draw blood to test for either of those. However, if symptoms should continue, we'll definitely do that.

Nope, I'm not trying to escape. I mean, you left the gate open - what did you EXPECT me to do???

That crack I mentioned in the RF heel? It's MUCH deeper than we originally thought. I started digging around Tuesday night and basically sank 3/4 of an inch of hoof pick into a thrush-filled cavity. EEEK! I used a syringe (with no needle) to flush out the cavity with Betadine solution, jammed some anti-fungal goo in there, and packed an entire piece of gauze up in his frog (this both keeps the goo in and the dirt out, plus it helps get some air up in there - and thrush doesn't like oxygen). Let me tell you, it's disturbing to be able to pack a whole square of gauze in your horse's frog. When the vet came out, Paddy was positive to hoof testers on the RF heel, and was slightly short on that foot as well. There was no heat or swelling anywhere else in the limb, and he had no back pain, but his shoulder and neck were very stiff - as one might expect with a sore heel. So, we're now on a 2x/day flushing and packing routine, and even after just a day, it's looking so much better and he's moving more freely. The plan is to continue this for a week and hope it clears up and he goes back to being 100%, and if not, we'll reassess then.

Thanks to everyone who commented with their experiences! The combined knowledge of bloggers is pretty cool. I have to say, I'm glad it's not PSSM or Lyme, even though the sudden personality change certainly made those two options seem likely. I've had plenty of experience with metabolic issues with Saga, but never seen a personality change quite like that. Oh well, each horse is an individual - live and learn!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Your chance to be an armchair vet: What's wrong with Paddy?

Let me preface this all by saying that the vet has already been called and will be out Wednesday, so please don't worry that I'm using the Internet to diagnose my beloved Paddykins (also, Aimee would murder me in my sleep). So we'll get to the bottom of this with actual technology an' stuff. But in the meantime, it's fun to play armchair vet in this week's edition of "What's wrong with my horse?"

Here's the timeline:
  • Sept 15 - Paddy moves to Trainer's barn to prep for Championships. He goes from 24/7 turnout with his beloved Brego to 12 hour turnout by himself.
  • Oct 1 - Legend + Pentosan
  • Oct 7-11, Region 9 Championships. Paddy felt awesome even if he was a brat in the arena.
  • Oct 13 - Changed to Paddy's "winter" feed, Triple Crown Senior. Normally he gets TC Lite.
  • Oct 14-15 ish - I notice Paddy feels kind of stiff all over, but he works out of it.
  • Oct 16th or so - Trainer ride, she mentions that he feels a little stiff on his right shoulder.
  • Oct 17-24 - I don't ride as much but when I do, Paddy feels stiffer and I have to push him. Normally he goes mach one-Haffie. He also seems a little less interactive than normal.
  • Oct 25 - Paddy comes home for some R&R and to get his feet done.
  • Oct 27 - Trimmer notices that Paddy seems stiff and doesn't want to hold up any of his feet. He's also not constantly messing with the trimmer (usually he licks his hair and other helpful things). Trimmer says he doesn't seem himself.
  • Oct 28 - Great ride out on the trails - big trot, good canter work. Everything seems mostly normal except that after 20 minutes, he's exhausted.
  • Oct 29-Nov 1 - Stuck riding or hand-walking on the road due to weather. Such fun. Many yays. He seems to not be landing toe first on the RF, and short-striding a little at the walk, but looks and feels fine at the trot. 
  • Nov 2 - Bodyworker comes out and mentions that his topline is not great, something I had also been noticing. He's extremely tight in his neck, especially on the right. He also usually spends the entire session messing with anything he can wrap his little lips around, including the Bodyworker's hair, belt, the grooming box, etc. This time he just sort of stands listlessly, although near the end he starts throwing brushes and he looks much perkier after she's done . We discuss what might be wrong with him, and I call the vet.
Hard-working Haffies require massages.

Here's a few things that keep coming to mind:
  • He seems to be stiff and unwilling to go forward - normally he's a very strong, forward ride.
  • He doesn't seem to be himself - normally he's into everything, and now he's just not.
  • I thought he might be sort of depressed because he didn't have his Brego while at Trainer's, but his attitude hasn't really changed since he's been home.
  • I also thought he might be tired of working in an arena day in and day out at Trainer's. However, trail rides and road work are equally as unexciting.
  • I've had two people who don't see him every day (trimmer and bodyworker) comment that he didn't seem like himself.
And also:
  • I'm doing a Panecur Powerpac, just in case he picked up something at Regionals or Trainer's barn
  • The trimmer could find no abscesses, heat, or anything to indicate something wrong with his foot. We are, however, treating a deep crack in his RF heel (no thrush apparent, but still treating), which might be the cause of the toe-first landing. I will have the vet look at this limb in particular.
  • Bodyworker found no soreness in his back.
  • Some horses are sensitive to changes in sugars, and his winter feed is about 5% higher in NSCs than his summer feed. However, he's had that feed before and did not show any signs of it affecting him.
Soo, what does the Internet Armchair Vet Symposium think? Have you ever had anything like this in a horse of yours?