Tuesday, March 29, 2011

I'm feeling better today. While I won't be doing enterolith surgery (which has a 95% + rate of total success by the way) that may not be the problem anyway, so why borrow trouble?

I'm impatiently waiting for my vet to get back and call me. He was stuck in a snowstorm somewhere between here and Utah yesterday. I have a lot of questions for him.

I've been delving more deeply into the world of EPSM, and it turns out there are some things I haven't tried. So I'll be adding some things, tweaking others, and generally floundering about trying to find something that works.

Right now I'm thinking the next steps are a thorough sheath cleaning removing any possible beans, checking his teeth, bloodwork checking vitamin/mineral levels, and treating for possible ulcers. I'm also thinking another DNA test is in order, as recommended, to check for Malignant Hyperthermia.

I hope you're having a lovely day, wherever you are! I'm going to go think about something else for a while...

Monday, March 28, 2011

I was just replying to your comments when I got some test results that changed my thinking.

Instead of a long reply in the comments I'll just say that I really, truly appreciate all of the thoughts, opinions, experiences, and support that I get from all of you through your comments. It really is a big help.

So Tonka's EPSM results just came back. He is positive - P/N - which means he has one copy of the EPSM gene. Good thing he's not a breeder because he'd have at least a 50% chance of passing it on.

They also recommend another genetic test to see if he has another problem, malignant hyperthermia, that would possibly cause death under general anesthesia. General anesthesia is when they put them completely out, is that right? It wouldn't be the same as when they just get their teeth floated?

Which brings me back to the idea of surgery. If he does have something wrong in his abdomen that requires surgery, I am not going to do it. Whether or not he could survive general anesthesia, it makes no sense to put a horse who already has a severe muscle disorder (worsened by stress) through a surgery. It would be unfair to him and it would be a bad monetary decision.

I'm really upset, as you can imagine. I feel like crying and cussing all at once.

Funny, I knew he had EPSM, I expected this result, but I hadn't thought about it in quite this light before.

It could be that all of his problems are caused by EPSM and I'll be able to get him back in shape and feeling good again. I hope that's the case. I don't think it is. I know it sounds negative but I really feel like there's something else going on here.

I will continue to do diagnostics - check for beans, check his teeth, maybe a rectal exam, talk about bloodwork specific to some issues that could be causing a problem - but we won't be doing anything heroic.

Another annoying factor is that I can't get him to eat his special diet that is supposed to make him feel better. I've been tweaking it this way and that way, trying to make it more enticing, and he just doesn't finish his feed. I'll keep trying...

Sunday, March 27, 2011

I am worrying about Tonka again. I had hoped that he'd started an upswing after getting back on his EPSM diet. He does seem to be feeling better mentally, which may just be because of the warmer weather, but he's still belly achy. My sister saw him today for the first time in a long while and she was very alarmed. I'm going to call WSU tomorrow and start getting some price quotes and possibly make an appointment for later in the week. My vet is supposed to be back on Tuesday. Hopefully he'll have some test results. I'm pretty positive we'll be going in for abdominal radiographs though.

Which leaves me wondering - what if they do find that he needs surgery? Will he immediately go to surgery or will we have some time? How long will he be in the hospital? Is he even a good candidate for surgery since he doesn't do well in a stall? (You can bet I'm really regretting not stalling him more often to get him more relaxed about it.) I have a million other "what ifs" going through my head.

I used to say I'd never shell out the money for major surgery on a horse. After all, horses are a dime a dozen, especially mustangs, and there are so many beautiful mustangs to choose from. But at that time I'd never had a horse like Tonka. Besides the fact that I love him (which is huge and not expressible in words), I've invested thousands of dollars in him already, not to mention all of the hours we've spent building a relationship and turning him into a horse so valuable I'd never sell him. He has a place and a job here. He's irreplaceable. Scout will be a great horse, maybe even better than Tonka, but he can't replace Tonka. Any horse that I could buy right now that does all the stuff Tonka does would be very expensive, and I wouldn't have that all-important bond of trust until we'd spent many hours together.

I hate to think about the idea that I just might not be able to afford this. I can cover a couple thousand dollars, probably. But $5,000? As John says, as hard as it is to admit, he's not priceless.

Here's a good article titled "Colic Surgery - What Horse Owners Should Know." It's good food for thought about possible future decisions that you may have to make in a short amount of time under a huge amount of stress.

Tomorrow I'm going to try stalling Tonka for a while and see how he does. It will probably become a daily exercise, just in case.

I'm going to go do some dishes and try to think about something else for a while.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

This morning as we headed up the driveway with three horses in tow, Katia told me she's been having fun helping me with them these past few days. Hallelujah! Maybe there's hope for her yet.

The three boys had their blood drawn for their health certificates, got their five way vaccine, and the dreaded intranasal strangles vaccine. This vet is super fast, they didn't even know what was coming. I wasn't about to do the strangles vaccine myself this year. I'm not super fast, and it really wasn't fun last year.

Tonka has been feeling a little better the past few days. Not perfect, mind you, but better.

So when Katia expressed an interest in riding him I thought it wouldn't be too much to ask. They didn't ride long or hard. You can see in the photos that he's holding his tail up, which isn't his normal way of traveling.

But they had fun together. And I was so proud of both of them.

Do you think it could mean anything, how far he parks out to pee?
(Poor Katia thought that was so weird!)

After we rode, Katia told me, "Everyone else complains about their parents. But I don't really have anything to complain about. You guys are great." Oh my gosh, tearjerker! I don't really have anything to complain about with my daughter either. :D

And... I've decided not to sell Scout! I feel really good about it. John says we really don't have to sell any of them. That makes me happy.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Soxy goes to school.

"Why exactly are we in this parking lot?" Soxy asks.
"It's for a good cause," I assure her.

"Let's do this thing!"

"I'm not sure I belong in this parking spot," sniffs Soxy.

"Who are all these bright colored little people and why are they drawing pictures of me?"

"This is a little strange,"

"but I think I like it."

Heavenly light on my big hairy angel.

I have to caution the kids to stay on one side of the horse, just in case.

Soxy was so good for our trip to school today. I was prepared with several facts to share with the kids, and questions to get them talking about what they've already learned about appaloosas and their relationship with the Nez Perce. But it was all for naught. The kids just wanted to pet her and giggle about how bad she's shedding. One boy said, "I've never seen a real live horse before!" as he petted her. I totally love how horses get kids so excited. A couple of the kids seemed scared. I was surprised that one normally very outgoing girl seemed afraid to approach. Nobody pushed the kids to pet Soxy, of course. I can totally understand being afraid of such a big animal with such hard feet. They all drew a picture of her, with her stripey appaloosa hooves. You kind of have to imagine the spots on her body at this time of year. They all blend into shades of grey.

Soxy didn't even poop in the parking lot. :)

My lovely assistant was Katia, armed with the camera. She didn't have school today, how handy is that? Guess what else? She got student of the month for academics this month! She has almost straight A's. Her only B is in agriculture. Yeah, we're hicks, all the kids take ag. And apparently the teacher doesn't always tell them exactly where to turn in their assignments (or at least that's her excuse for the B). I'm so proud of her!

John came and helped too. I wanted to make sure to have as many horse-savvy helpers as possible, but it turned out Soxy just stood there like a statue and not much extra help was needed.

Some appaloosa facts:

"Knowing it was their remarkable Appaloosas that nearly had nearly let the Nez Perce escape, the cavalry confiscated all they could catch and auctioned them off. A bounty was paid on the heads of any Appaloosas that had escaped and hundreds more were hunted and destroyed. The cavalry so feared the Appaloosa as a weapon that a federal law existed until 1935, prohibiting the breeding of Appaloosa to Appaloosa. Nearly all the Nez Perce surviving stock was outcrossed generation after generation until the original mountain horse became a lost breed."

I have read that that (separate from the Appaloosas and the Nez Perce war) after the battle of Steptoe the US killed the Indians' horses, clubbing the foals to death to save bullets. The Indians were appalled at this cruelty and knew that with the loss of the horses they'd lost their ability to fight. The US was sending out word that they wanted to talk peace, but when Chief Qualchan rode in to talk to them, they hung him and his wife and several others. That is how Hangman Valley south of Spokane got its name. Sad, sad, sad.

But back to the appaloosa. Did you know it got it's name from this region? It used to be called "a Palousey pony" as recently as my grandma's time.

And to tie it in with the mustang horse, there are still appaloosas, probably tracing back to equine escapees of the Nez Perce war, running free in Oregon. They are quite common in the Warm Springs herd. I want one someday. Far, far in the future when my current horses are gone.

When Lewis and Clark came through, they compared the quality of the Nez Perce's appaloosa horse to fine English coursers.

The Nez Perce were the only Indian tribe who selectively bred and culled horses to produce a superior breed. The horses were fast, strong, and smart. I read that they purposefully bred for a sparse mane and tail that would not get caught in brush.

Soxy is obviously not of the breeding the Nez Perce were aiming toward. She's more of a quarter horse with spots. She even has some Arab breeding way back. But however she's bred, she's one of those old horses who is worth her weight in gold because of the love she brings out in little kids.
Today has the potential to be a very busy day. Or not. The weather is not what I expected, and I'm not sure whether I should expect it to change. Springtime can really leave you guessing.

This morning I need to prepare as if I'm taking Soxy to school. Feed her, lock her in a stall to dry off, clean the stall really well so she doesn't get icky, hose down her legs and wash her tail. But it's so cold out! And I'm thinking I'll probably have to call Liam's teacher and reschedule anyway.

I need to get my house cleaned up too.

This afternoon a guy is coming from Ritzville to look at Scout. He also has several other horses lined up to look at in the area, and I think he has family down here, so he's not coming just for us. I don't have a great feeling about this guy. He sounded nice but I don't know what he's looking to do with his new horse. His email address had me wondering if he buys and re-sells. I'll have to ask. Scout won't go to a place like that.

In the evening my in-laws are coming for dinner. I'll be glad to see them, we haven't visited in a while for some reason. We'll also get to eat cake and ice cream for John's birthday. I love cake and ice cream.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Here's part of our ride today. I am so proud of him! This is his first ride with the bit in his mouth, but he has been ground driven in the bit (last summer). He was so much more willing to move out once I took him out of the round pen. You can see he wants to get near Tonka, who is grazing loose in the background, but he's listening pretty well. Not long after this he got overwhelmed so I called it a day.

Had some trouble with the music not going in right, but here's the video I made yesterday.

I have an even better one today! And now I'm even less sure I'll keep him up for sale. I'll share that video later.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Well, Scout is officially for sale. I feel like adding a frowny-face after that statement, but the truth is, if I don't find the perfect person I don't have to sell him. So there. I've advertised him on Craigslist, Dreamhorse.com, a few forums and one online mustang group. Tomorrow I'm going to make a video. I think it will be fun. Until I get to the editing part.

Here's what I plan on putting in the video. I looked up the Parelli level one test for some inspiration.

Catch, rub all over with the halter, halter.
Pick up feet, position for picking out and trimming.
Walk through water.
Hose legs (too cold for whole body).
Lead at trot, stop, back.
Sidepass with fence in front.
Round pen work (mainly to show how he moves).
Yield shoulder and hip, both sides.
Lateral movement.
Mount and dismount from both sides.
Ride a little.
Bridle with bit.
Possibly some obstacle and spooky object work.

Anyone have other ideas? I will probably do it in a series of short videos in case someone doesn't want to watch a big long thing, and because it will be easier for me to upload that way.

Tonka is still not feeling good, but he did come loping in from the pasture for his feed tonight. Good to see, instead of slowly getting going with his tail up from discomfort and several belly kicks for good measure. I may get results for the DNA test for EPSM tomorrow. But it's more likely to be next Wednesday.

Friday, March 18, 2011

I just got back from the vet. Tonka's blood will be sent off for the allergy testing today. I told Steve how bad Tonka looks out in the pasture, moving so painfully, and he said we may still be looking at x-rays. Dang it.

His fecal test was negative. That's good.

Going back to the idea of what to look for if I do need a new riding partner - it's amazing the differences in horses. It seems like most of them aren't broke. Not like my horse is, anyway. And some that are, they're so high strung I'd be terrified to ride them and I'd hate dealing with them on the ground. I'm very picky, I guess. I think I would consider buying one that's coming straight from the trainer, if it was a good trainer. Or one that's been used on a ranch but not pushed too hard too fast. A horse who's comfortable in his job. I don't think I would be picky about breed, but there are some breeds that I would not be inclined to look at.

Linda had a good point about buying a trained horse that has already proven its health. I hadn't thought of that aspect of it. With a new mustang or any horse that hasn't been used, you don't know how they're going to hold up to the work. I had no reason to think Tonka would have health problems when I brought him home. I didn't know Bella was going to have a locking stifle. I'll have to think on that some more. On the other side of the coin I've seen some mature, trained horses that people think are perfectly healthy and sound and they don't look right to me. A vet check would be in order for any trained horse, I think.

I am enjoying riding Cisco, but he's not going to be my new heart horse. I'm still hoping Bella may be sound, but I'm not sure I should get my hopes up too much. I'll start working with her soon and see how she looks. She's uncomfortable when she's standing around, but she can also still really rip around the pasture. I'm wondering if she just needs some conditioning. (I should clarify that Bella has reverted back to being ours and my mom is looking for a well-broke horse instead. My mom kept telling me how much Bella obviously loves me, and doesn't feel the same about anyone else - how much she depends on me. It made me feel bad about giving her up. And with her being lame still, it doesn't make sense for my mom to keep her and take a chance on her by spending the money to have her trained.)

On the subject of buying and selling horses, there is going to be an online auction this Sunday for a herd dispersal in Snohomish, WA (near Seattle). They have LOTS of miniature horses and donkeys, some Arabians, and quarter horses, and several standard size donkeys. It makes me sad the way they've chosen to sell off their equines. You can't get any information about the individual animals, the auction company just doesn't know anything. The owner should be providing more information to help ensure the critters will get good homes.

Here's the link to the inventory (how awful that they're real live animals with personalities, and theyr'e just "inventory"), in case you want to take a look: http://www.bidspotter.com/forms/imagegallery.php?gallery=13279

Update: I just called the auction guy, I had to ask about one of the donkeys, and it turns out that this is a bank sale. Whoever owned the animals took off with all the records and information about them. Crazy.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The horses around these parts are so darn hard to catch. :)
And no, it wasn't feeding time.

Cisco was even more fun to ride today, and was steadier and less tricky.

He's not fat, he's cuddly.

And he has a cute forelock.
I went to look at a horse with my mom today. (For her, not me.) It really made me appreciate my horses more. Granted, some of the issues were communication breakdown due to the fact that the horse didn't know us and vice versa, but he was no beginner's horse and his buddy was downright rude. Tonight as I was grooming, blanketing, and moving my horse to a different pasture in the moonlight, I was struck by how wonderful it is to have such a calm, trusting buddy. But then, we know each other well.

First thing in the morning Tonka goes in for his blood draw for the allergy test. I'm also going to ask my vet to glance at John's dog's teeth. Poor Angus has these awful growths on his gums that can be removed but apparently it hurts a lot, they bleed a lot and they usually grow back anyway. I think it comes with the rottweiler genes. One of them is really bothering him tonight. It may be time to have them removed and hope we get lucky and they don't come back.

After that my good friend is coming to visit for the weekend with her horse-crazy little girl. There will be much horse love, riding, and frogging in the pond. I can't wait!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

My muddy buddy. Doesn't he look thrilled. He was being all cute and perky until I pointed the camera in his face.
I had a really good ride with Cisco today. He tried out his bag of tricks - the sideways walking, sudden stops, and a teeny bit of jigging. The more times we worked through it the better we both felt. He doesn't do anything huge or dangerous, but it's weird, changing horses. He's not the compliant, happy to please horse that Tonka is. He's a little devious and likes to sneak in his tricks very suddenly.

I tried the Rockin' S snaffle on him today and was very pleased with the results. He is probably one of the braciest horses I've ever ridden and he did really, really well today. Laterally I had almost no trouble at all. Vertically he was an interesting study. At first, he would give and then jerk it right back and bob his nose a couple times for good measure. Somehow I knew it was an anxiety issue and I decided to ignore it. As long as he gave, I released as I normally would, and left him enough rein to do his little head bob. If he didn't give, I let him brace until he gave, released and then ignored his head bob. Pretty quickly he started licking and chewing after the give and release instead of jerking his nose forward and bobbing his head. I think that simple exchange right there was a huge step in the right direction for building a trusting relationship. He didn't think he could trust me to allow him to keep his head once I'd given it back. Or maybe he was ready to fight with me about it and when he realized we were communicating rather than fighting, he relaxed. I think he needs the partnership and the communication to be a two way street, even more so than most horses.

I really had a lot of fun with him today. I didn't want to put him away, but he was being so good I thought I'd better call it a day and leave him looking forward to next time.
I've got a lot of thoughts going through my head about the horses, and it's time for a coffee break, so I'm going to share. :) That's what blogs are for, right?

At first I was excited to have information on Tonka yesterday, then I got to thinking. If he's this bad off with 24 hour turnout, no grain, and buddies to help him exercise, is he going to be okay? I have to face it, I had him on the diet and he was getting almost daily exercise last year and he was still showing symptoms. Granted, I can do better by keeping up with the exercise, adding more fat, and keeping him out of stressful situations. (Bye-Bye John Wayne Trail ride or any other situation with a lot of "up" horses.) But I have to wonder - am I going to need to start looking for a different riding horse within the next few years?

If I do, what kind of horse do I want? I mean, if you can't even get a genetically healthy horse out of a wild herd, it just seems like a crapshoot to me. I know, horses are fragile and that's just something horse people have to come to terms with, but I want to complain right now.

Would I want a trained horse? Would I want a horse straight off the range? Would I want another mustang? I'm not sure. I'm questioning all my firmly held opinions right now. The truth is, I don't know what's most important to me when it comes to horses. Well, that's not true. The most important thing is that I find a horse I LOVE like I love Tonka and Bella. Next I was going to say you never know if you're going to get that. But maybe it comes with the gentling. Or maybe I just got lucky that I deeply loved both my wild ones. Maybe there's my answer, and I do need another mustang fresh off the range, if and when the time comes.

You might be thinking, "What about Scout?" All of this has led me to realize I don't want to keep him, no matter what the circumstances. He needs someone fun, electric, playful and engaging. That's not me. My energy is calm, boring, routine, goal oriented. Which is probably why Tonka and I haven't totally failed together. We're opposites. He's got the energy I lack, and I help him to be more level.

I am going to start riding Cisco. I may still sell him. I may not. It is possible I will adore him after building more of a relationship. But it could go the other way too. He is very sweet, an amazingly comfortable ride, and pretty steady. But he also has a pushy, dominant, fearful, independent streak. I think that comes from being the beginner's horse that anyone can ride. He's been passed from one inexperienced rider to another and he doesn't have faith in them. He has his own judgment and he's not afraid to use it. :)

So... Now I'm off to ride Cisco. But I want to ask - if you were forced to look for a new horse, what would you be looking for? Broke or unhandled, what breed and why? Or maybe just share your idea of a perfect horse - maybe it's a horse you own already or had in the past.

And don't worry. I haven't given up on my boy. I have a lot of work ahead to get him rideable again, but we'll be out on trails at some point, and hopefully this year's riding season will show me that my worries are unfounded.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

In case you're wondering what the heck this airy-fairy acronym is when I mention EPSM or PSSM, here is a good, concise article explaining this disease. This article is a little longer firsthand account but has more information.

And if you think you don't need to know the symptoms, let me urge you to read it anyway. This disease is becoming alarmingly common in many breeds and it is a dominant gene mutation. Sometimes I hear stories of a horse being sold for weight loss, overall crabbiness and bucking going into the lope (or other problems at the lope) and I wonder whether it has EPSM. Sad that through ignorance a horse who could be a great partner with the right treatment is sold out of the family because it hurts and can't work.
I have another piece of the puzzle! I'm excited, even though it's about bad test results. It's a result and it (possibly) confirms what I've thought for years. (Why did I doubt? I think I needed proof, I was never really sure.) I stopped by the vet today and got a copy of Tonka's blood test results. I'm trying to think of how to relate this coherently.

Dr. Valentine, the vet who discovered EPSM, said that a blood test done 4-6 hours after exercise that shows elevated CK and AST is indicative of muscle damage and possibly EPSM. I was thinking, "Oh darn," because I didn't exercise Tonka before his blood test. But it turns out the AST is the only thing on his blood test that was abnormal. Anything over 420 is too high, and his was 577. Unfortunately the test we had done doesn't show CK. If I had done my research before doing bloodwork I would have had him do a test more geared toward EPSM.

Here is an explanation of what CK and AST are, and why they are indicative of a problem (note that this college calls the disease PSSM, not EPSM, but we're talking about the same thing):
"Two muscle proteins often used as a measure of muscle damage include creatine kinase (CK) and aspartate transaminase (AST). When muscle cells are damaged, they release these proteins into the bloodstream within hours. A blood sample taken to measure these proteins can determine how much muscle damage has occurred. This is not a specific test for PSSM as the presence of CK and AST in the blood occurs with any muscle damage. With many forms of tying-up, blood CK activity returns to normal within days if horses are rested. It is very common for horses with PSSM to have high CK activities even if they are rested for weeks after an episode of tying-up." Quoted from http://www.cvm.umn.edu/umec/lab/PSSM/

I sent in Tonka's DNA for testing today. This test is easy, using just hairs pulled out by the roots, and it's only $65. It is only accurate for one of the two types of EPSM, but I do not want to do a biopsy. They cut out a one inch cube of muscle! Ouch.

Even with this new information, I am going to do the allergy test. I feel like there is more going on here than the EPSM. His appointment for the blood draw is on Friday and it might be a week or more before we get results.

I also took in a fecal sample today. I assume I'll know more on that when I go in on Friday unless there's something alarming.

It's good to feel like I'm starting to work my way through to some answers.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Tonka's blood tests came back normal. Almost perfect, as the vet said.

Next step he recommended was food allergy testing - a blood test. From what I'm reading online it's possibly a worthless test. But this article has me more intrigued: http://www.holistichorsekeeping.com/resources/articles/foodallergies.html

I'll probably do it, but I'm going to do some other things first.

1. Test our water. It isn't safe for people to drink and I can't remember why. Steve said that if we have nitrates, they could be the culprit. He couldn't think of anything else that Tonka wouldn't have gotten over after some initial sickness. I don't think we have nitrates but maybe I'm wrong.

2. Take in a fecal sample. This will have to wait until Wednesday now. I had planned on doing both today but ended up having to make a quick trip up to Spokane. Steve didn't think this was going to show anything shocking since I worm according to his directions, but you never know. I do feed on the ground. Tonka was wild for two years, maybe he had a bad infestation as a youngster that left him susceptible.

3. Send in some mane hairs for an EPSM (PSSM) test. Now that he's been off his EPSM diet for a couple weeks he is MISERABLE. He kicks at his belly almost constantly and every time he walks forward he lifts his tail. He's crabby, but not in a defiant way, just in an "I don't feel good" sort of way. Sometimes I feel like he's appealing for my help. My only reservation about assuming this means he definitely has EPSM is the fact that I've made some feed changes recently trying to entice him to eat his food and get more calories into his diet. So maybe his digestion is irritated by that.

So we have two conflicting theories - one that requires an elimination diet (allergies - my vet's theory) and one that requires a very specific diet that will include more than one ingredient (EPSM - my theory).

I talked to Dr. Beth Valentine, the national expert on EPSM, today. She said every single symptom I told her points to EPSM (except the skin problem, and I forgot to ask about the dull coat). His "breeding" matches some breeds affected - drafts, thoroughbreds, and gaited breeds. She said to get him back on the diet, with more oil than I was giving him before. I was feeding him the correct amount for a 1000 pound horse, and he's at least 1250 lbs. He had quit eating his feed, and she said that's pretty common and I just need to get creative and get him to eat it. I also need to get him on an exercise regimen, although she said turnout with playful friends goes a long way toward keeping him fit. She also said we need to do the DNA test. So I'm going to get on that.

I'm not completely discounting the idea of enteroliths or fecaliths but when I read about them, we don't fit the bill for the lifestyle of a horse with enteroliths. I just don't see him being a prime candidate, but of course that doesn't mean he might be one of the special ones that have them even without the lifestyle to match.

I also wondered if a Panacur power pack might be a good idea. I don't know much about them, but one vet I've talked to in the past said they often cure odd things nobody can put their finger on. My sister said she's seen a lot of vet students use the power pack and get results, but the symptoms come back later. So I'll ask my vet.

Whatever ends up happening, I've decided I'm not going to ride him for a while. Probably quite a while, since he'll need a conditioning program even after we identify and solve the problem. So I'll be getting Cisco out of the pasture for a spring tune-up soon.

Hope I haven't bored you with my wandering conjecture. My mind is going in circles. Sometimes I come up with some good stuff, but mostly I tire myself out trying to put together pieces of an incomplete puzzle.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Here's a face only a mother could love:
He does love the mud.

Today I went to the huge 4H tack swap in Spokane. I was going to consign my dressage saddle there but I chickened out when it was time to sign the waiver of liability. I couldn't leave that beautiful Italian leather to be thrown around, manhandled, and possibly have other saddles stacked on top of it. I may have worried for nothing, it did seem like they were being careful with the higher end saddles. But I still think I did the right thing.

I got a couple good deals today. I've been wanting a Rockin' S snaffle bit for a long time. I got this one brand new for about half the price. I also picked up a Professional's Choice Orthosport pad for $100 less than new. Got a couple cheap saddle covers and a couple dollar items. I didn't buy a treeless saddle that was only $100. It was like a Bob Marshall but no maker mark. I'm kinda kicking myself. I didn't think I could afford it but when I got home John said he didn't see why I couldn't have bought it. Oh well, I have a bareback pad.

I tried out the bit and pad today and the jury is still out. Tonka didn't fuss near as much with the bit and didn't seem distracted by its presence, but he was also happy to lean on it when normally he'd respond more readily. He did seem to be thinking about it though, and did a lot of licking and chewing after a release. I'm going to keep trying it.
(His lips look dry but they were wet and gooey - I think my "auto level" trick with the editing software messed up the colors.)
Anyone know if I'm supposed to use a bit hobble with this bit? It obviously can't pull through the mouth but maybe it would offer a little more stability? I really don't think it needs it. The rings swivel freely but they ought to just sit there since the rein is attached to the dee which swivels independently of the ring.

I spent some good time with my parents today and yesterday. We got to be condo folk for a day - me, Katia, and Huckleberry. Huck was even squeaky clean and looked like a town dog since he had a bath the night before. But now he's covered in mud again. I guess my boys all like mud. Which is great, since it's cheap entertainment.

Last question - does anyone know why a horse would lose pigment in his skin in small, circular patches under his tail? I looked it up online and found a couple ideas. Thought I'd ask here too. The skin is smooth and otherwise the same as the black skin, but it's white.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

This weather is gross.

This is water flowing vigorously into one of the pastures.

This is my poor horse. I should have waited until tomorrow to take his blanket off. I wish he'd go inside, but even if I put his food in there, he won't.

This guy is covered in burrs

And just downright nasty.
He also brought home most of a picked-over calf carcass from across the fence today. He looked very happy, prancing home with his heavy load. He's hidden it already. I wanted to get a look at it to see how rank it was. I know it's been dead at least 3 days because I've been watching a bald eagle feed on it. (Glad the eagle wasn't around when Huck claimed his prize.) I think he's going to get dragged straight to the bath tub when it comes time to bring him in. He won't like that.
We went to the vet this morning. Seeing the wind and pouring rain when I got up, and the way Tonka was spooking so badly he could barely eat his breakfast, had me worried. But he was a pretty good boy for the vet.

The good thing is that the vet took all my vague unease seriously. He agrees that there is something going on. I was afraid that it would all be too ethereal and he'd wonder why we were even there.

He agreed with you all - Tonka does look dull, his hind end is puny, topline lacking muscle, he has a little pot belly. Just not quite right. Tonka gave him a good example of the belly kicking that he does (because he does it a lot more when he's agitated) and we talked about all the little details. He looked at the skin problem. He thinks it's not rain rot but says to keep treating it with the diluted iodine spray that seems to be helping. It may be allergy related. It is likely exacerbated by the systemic problem we're seeing. He thinks his selenium level should be good since I have him on Horse Guard, and his heart sounded good. He shouldn't be deficient unless he's not absorbing it for some reason. We won't test for that unless we can't find anything with the initial bloodwork. I didn't understand the jargon, but he's doing more than your average bloodwork. I hope it comes back with some answers. Another idea was to possibly do an elimination diet and see if there's something he has an intolerance to. But it's all on hold until we see the bloodwork.

He also mentioned enteroliths and something I hadn't heard of before - fecaliths. He thought the incoordination during loping could be a sign that there is pain in the intestines. The sucked up look and stopping and parking out slightly while we're just walking along are also good signs of that. I sincerely hope Tonka doesn't have a large mass that has to be surgically removed. But if he does, I will raise the money to make it happen if I have to sell all my tack and both of the other geldings. Luckily I have a little saved up for horse expenses right now anyway.

My sister made the point that maybe I'd better hang on to Scout just in case. Ugh, I hate to think I'd have to retire Tonka... But she has good reason to say that. She sold a good young horse once to cover her special boy's vet bills, and the special boy ended up not being rideable anymore.

Speaking of money, I didn't get that job. I'm not really sure whether to be upset or happy about that. I kinda wanted the job. I kinda didn't. Liam really didn't want me working full time. But that may be something that happens in the future whether he likes it or not.

But back to Tonka. I decided to turn him back out with the other geldings. Which means no blanket to keep him dry, but as I suspected would be the case, he didn't appreciate the blanket much anyway. He seemed happy to be separate and warm and dry while he was sick, but once he was feeling better he was really acting like a crackhead and wanting back in with his buddies. I'm glad to finally have a good blanket for him just in case he needs it though.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Tonka had a playdate with the girls today. He was bored out of his mind and I was heading to the girls' area to clean stalls so I took him with me. He wasn't bored after that.

I don't think I've ever seen Bella look this undignified before:

I think it's safe to say she's flipping him off here:

They had quite a fun game of chase

Soxy says, "Don't make me play with them, mom."
So I claimed her as mine and kicked them out.

Even when he's filthy I still think he's handsome. But I wish he hadn't rolled in the mud so many times in his blanket.

Monday, March 07, 2011

I wonder if Tonka has ulcers! Actually, I've always thought it wasn't unlikely, but I never really sat down and thought hard about it. Never considered having him checked or treated. A lot of the symptoms that I see in him that I thought were due to EPSM could be from ulcers. I'm waiting for a call back from my vet to schedule an appointment to start diagnostics. I'm not sure whether my vet can scope him or not. He may not even think it's necessary but I'm trying to think ahead. I do not like to take horses to WSU so I'm hoping Dr. Rustebakke in Clarkston can do it if my vet can't. I'm excited to maybe get some answers.

In other news, Tonka ripped his blanket already. I spent a lot of time yesterday fixing it. He must have gotten a leg caught and he ripped off some of the nylon webbing. My daughter's sewing machine just couldn't fix that so i did bit by hand, and added some fabric glue for good measure. Then I made sure to tighten up those straps. So far so good.

He is being a very energetic pill the last couple days. Spicy, would be one way to put it. But the weather is just right for that sort of behavior and I have been feeding him extra alfalfa mix, so I'm not going to hold it against him. I'm also not going to hop on for a bareback ride. :)

I spent a lot of time with Soxy yesterday, detangling her tail and brushing, brushing, brushing her shedding coat. She's going to get lots of attention and grooming for the next couple weeks. Toward the end of the month she gets to be the center of attention at my son's school. His class is doing an expedition about the Nez Perce war, and I volunteered her to visit the kids while we talk about the importance of the horse, and the appaloosa in particular, during that time. What fun! I bet those kids will never forget the day a horse came to school. That's how learning should be done. They will have already been to the Appaloosa Museum so I'm hoping to take up a lot of time listening to what they already know about the appaloosa horse and its role in the life of the tribe, the conflict, and long retreat of Chief Joseph and his people.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Today was shearing day at my friend's farm. A bunch of wonderful ladies and a few of their gentlemen came to help out. They are all small farmers wanting to learn about all aspects of sheep-keeping. (I'm not sure that's a word.) Some spin and knit, some already have their own small flocks, but they all have one thing in common - dedication to sustainable agriculture, slow food, and healthy lifestyles. Pretty cool. A very friendly bunch as well. Which is good when you're spending 9 hours grouped together around fleece, after fleece, after fleece.

Here are some of the ladies skirting what looks like a white fleece:
Normally everyone would be spread out between two skirting tables, but we had a lot of time today with just one fleece on the tables while we waited for the shearer, who has the hardest job.

This is the shearer. He's a good guy. Behind him you see the only wether mixed in with the ewes (a wether is a castrated male). He has a pink ribbon to mark him so the shearer doesn't accidentally cut off what remains of his boy parts. Normally he takes a pass down the belly, unworried about parts, because most of the sheep are lady sheep. The rams are separate so he knows who they are.

Here are some more of the ladies skirting, and Angus the Great Pyrenees is working hard too, as you can see.
The term "skirting" fleeces comes from the fact that a lot of what you're doing is taking off the edges (or "skirt") of the fleece. Parts are matted, parts are poopy. It's important to know where the neck and butt are, and usually very obvious from the state of the neck and poopiness of the butt. There will be some vegetable matter (also known as VM) mixed in. Timothy hay heads in a fleece are awful if they come apart. While you're at it you shake out any second cuts, or short pieces of fleece that are very undesirable. It takes some time, even though Melissa's sheep are for the most part very clean.

Once they're skirted the fleeces are rolled up just so - folded in thirds with the neck and butt at either end, rolled from butt to neck - and bagged. Then a tag is added with that sheep's name on it. Melissa knows all of her sheep by name, not just by number. I got to name one today. Well, actually I just suggested a name and she used it. One of the lambs from last year is now named Darling. :) Most of them have real human names though, like Barbara, Linda, Mimi, Colette, and Donna. The rams are Lightning, Jack, and Bruno. I think I inadvertently named Lightning, and Bruno came from a farm on the coast, already named. Even the rams in Melissa's flock are very docile, although if you have any sense you keep an eye on them just in case. They are boys, after all.

It's amazing to me how the sheep just give in and sit there all limp. Some do struggle, but for the most part they look resigned to the process. Sometimes they do get cut, it's just part of being shorn, but they heal up just fine.
Now they're all naked and ready to lamb in three weeks. Having them shorn before lambing helps Melissa to see how imminent they are (girl parts and udder show better) and helps the lambs to find the milk more easily. If the wool is left long sometimes the lambs will try to suck on it and not find the teat right away. The girls might get cold if we have a cold snap, but Melissa will feed them more to keep them warm if they need it. They also have free access to the barn to keep out of the weather.

Melissa works hard to keep her help happy. She answers questions all throughout the day about all aspects of the business. And she serves a wonderful lamb stew for lunch every year. It's a fun event to be a part of.

Yesterday I walked Tonka quite a bit to try to bring the swelling down in his legs. It didn't seem to help much but we had fun. He helped me get the mail, move a wheelbarrow and trough, get the garbage cans and put them under the carport, etc. He even went under the carport. We explored the woods and the orchard behind the house.

Then he had his hair done.
I detangled it all and rubber banded the top 1/4 of his mane to keep it on the right side. I'm trying to grow back part of his bridle path, as you can see in the picture.

This afternoon Tonka was quite chipper and I couldn't feel any swelling in his legs. Yippee! I think he's definitely on the upswing from whatever was getting him down. I think he's also getting tired of being alone, although he can hang out right next to Scout with just the fence between them. I don't want to put him back in with the boys if he's wearing his blanket, but I'm not sure if I should put him with the girls since he was sick and they weren't. What do you think? Wait a week and then let him in with the girls? Or is that too soon?

Friday, March 04, 2011

My horse is just the cutest critter.

Doesn't he look great in his new blanket?

I think it is a tad big. Good to know, for future reference.

My sister keeps telling me how terrible he looks in the pictures on my blog. Will you be another set of eyes for me? Does he look terrible? I think he looks a little light but not too bad. But then I see him every day and maybe I'm too used to how he looks. Don't mind his shaved patch there.

Gooby eyes, just slightly. (I have them today too by the way. Pink eye. Lovely.)

He looks sick, doesn't he? The unhappy eye?

Stocked up above the joint. He's big boned, but not that big boned.
I think I'll call my vet today. But I don't know if he'll want me bringing in a horse with a virus, and I'm not sure I want to pay a farm call just yet. We'll see.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

My little human boy is sick - ear infection, pink eye, and maybe strep. He's on meds and he'll be non-infectious sometime tomorrow, but I think he's already shared some of his germs around. It all started with me bringing home a virus though so I can't point fingers. My daughter and I are feeling pretty yucky too, but she only missed 1 1/2 days of school. And of course I don't get to miss any time. But I have been taking it easy.

My big horse boy is sick too. I was visiting with Tonka in the pasture today when I noticed his hind legs are stocked up. I didn't have time to walk him much, maybe 5-10 minutes. Later they seemed a little better but still puffy. No sign of scratches or greasy heel. No fever. But Scout has goopy eyes, so I suspect some kind of virus. Hopefully it will pass quickly.

It makes me wonder though, because Tonka has been acting so strange lately. Asking to be taken out the gate rather than going to his hay pile at feeding time. Not finishing his supplements. He'd barely touch them at all some days. I stand with him while he eats so it's not a bullying issue there. He has that weird skin condition that I really don't believe is rain scald. (The weirdest little ovoid plugs of waxy something come out of the sores when I scrub them with my nails. Could it be a pimple or tiny sebaceous cyst? Emerging parasites of some kind?) He has diarrhea all winter if I don't keep him on probiotics, but he does fine without them during the summer when he eats only fresh grass, no hay. He had diarrhea recently but that was around the time I added in the new feed (a cup at most) so I'm not going to count that as part of the problem. He looks the most miserable of all of them when the weather is bad. He kicks at his belly pretty regularly. But sometimes he runs around and tears it up with the other boys, even instigating play by grabbing Cisco's tail and pulling as hard as he can. I just don't know. Maybe I'm looking for trouble where there is none.

Do these puzzle pieces fit together in a way that makes any sense to you? I'm thinking I may take him to the vet soon and have a thorough exam done and probably some bloodwork.

Remember that nice turnout blanket I got a great deal on? Well, they called me a couple days later to say it was out of stock. Thbbbtt. Today I was on the internet all day comparing prices, quality, reviews, etc. - agonizing over what to get (but pretty thoroughly entertained too). Then while I was in town I passed my feed store and decided to bite the bullet and just buy the one they have. It's a Weaver 1200D turnout with 200gm fill. Cheaper than anyone has it online. It looks really nice on him! I wish it had been daylight when I put it on him so I could share a picture with you. It fits well, no bad pressure points in the wither. That was my biggest fear, since the other turnout blanket I have is an awful fit on any horse and really bites in at the wither. At first I thought I bought it way too big but then it settled on him and it's just a tiny bit too big, if at all. I think, anyway. I'm no expert when it comes to blankets.

Speaking of which,how snug do you want the crossed surcingles under the belly? Right now I have it so they hang an inch or so below his belly. And is it always a good idea to cross the leg straps in the back? The other blanket I have came with specific instructions not to do that. These leg straps are not as wide though, and they're elastic. I started out with them uncrossed but when I went back out a couple hours later the blanket had shifted a tiny bit to one side so I crossed them.

When I blanketed him I shut the gate between him and the other two boys. Tonight I went out to feed and he seemed happy as a clam to eat by himself. He was very warm under his blanket too. And dry, but of course it quit spitting rain as soon as I put the blanket on him.

I interviewed for a job today. My first interview in, what... 15 years! (Wow, how time flies.) I don't know how I did. I feel like I didn't do very well but I wasn't a complete nervous wreck either so we'll see. It's for a full time job, great place to have a long-term career. I wouldn't have to take the SAT test so I could go back to school! (I have forgotten all of my math - the English doesn't worry me though.) John could go to school and do his computer sciences stuff. So wish me luck. I really hope I get it. It'll seriously cut down my riding (and blogging) time though. Woe is me, I can't live like a princess forever. :)

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

This was the scenery from my bedroom window this morning.

Fat Cisco trying to be an ostrich in the deep snow:
Behind Cisco in the picture above you can see a great big stump. That tree was hit by lightning long before we owned the place. The lightning strike killed a couple of the horses who were sheltering under the tree. The guy who owned the place then - I think it was the same guy who took the supports out of our old barn - wouldn't let the fire department in to put the fire out because he was afraid it would spook his horses. They had to put it out by spraying it from the neighbor's property. I love hearing these neat old stories from my neighbor. So much history. Sad that the horses were killed and the big tree died though.

Scout looking quite nice, Tonka looking like a dork:


At attention:

I love this little woods behind our house:
(Maybe it's just me, but there seems to be so much motion in this still picture. A sense of peace, but also a sense of tempest...)

The dogs were blazing trail for me. I love this picture!

There was a strange bird on the roof of the barn. Then I realized it was Das, my hen. What on earth was she thinking? I had to get her down with a broom - she perched on it nicely.

Then I found this beast in the barn. I think he's the one who killed the other hen last week. I found other evidence that I hadn't written about. He used to be my favorite cat but he's gotten really cranky and I don't dare try to pet him anymore. He basically doesn't live here anymore either - just visits once or twice a month. So I felt bad chasing him off, but not too bad. I couldn't have him killing my hens.

Here's poor Das stuck between her mean daughter and that murderous cat.

I had fun making this picture antique. It was kind of boring by itself.
The fence is what's left of a 60 (or so) year old pig pen.
I paused to take a picture of my man on his studly tractor. Which he said was not being very studly today. It kept spinning out trying to move all that heavy snow, and he couldn't plow the hill part of our driveway. We need chains and a backblade.

So later we grabbed some snow shovels and headed for the hill. Halfway there I realized the tractor tracks in the snow didn't belong to our tractor. We'd been victims of a random act of kindness! Some nice neighbor brought his Cat out and plowed our hill for us. Gotta love good neighbors. And I don't even know this neighbor.

There's John and Huck at the top of the hill, lovely Cat tracks in the snow, and I'm about halfway up the hill screwing around with my camera, of course.

A nice photo of the view from my other bedroom window:
After we shoveled the lumpier parts of the driveway I spent some time with miss Bella.

She's a magic horse.

Time with her is very zen.

She's a healing horse.

This guy was wondering why I was spending so much love on someone else.

This was one of those teary-eyed moments of deep connection. No words. You probably know just the feeling though.

And here you can see that Soxy was just thrilled to have her picture taken. But I couldn't leave her out!

It was a fun, quiet snow day. Tomorrow I'm hoping to be mobile again, even if it means I have to chain up. I'm getting cabin fever.

Oh! I almost forgot. One more picture and I swear I'll be done.
I ordered this blanket for Tonka today. It's a Weatherbeeta Orican midweight turnout. Just what I wanted. Got an excellent deal on it. For once the super low clearance price that is only available on one size happened to be the right size! It's from Adams Horse and Pet Supplies. Never heard of them before. They have some good deals on wind-proof winter riding pants as well. Unfortunately I don't think the one size available will fit me... I was one dollar away from free shipping so I ordered Soxy a new fly mask. She needs a dark one for sun protection for her eyes. It's a brand I've never seen before. I'll try to remember to write a review on it when it gets here.