Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Because we ALL kick our horses to make them move, right????

Watch the video.......no matter what the "truth" really is, I am thinking that there has to be something wrong with a horse owner who kicks a horse to make them move out of the way. Watch the video.....right after the state vet's quote is on the screen (1:10), you can watch the owner of Fair Play Farm (see my past post) KICK AT A HORSE TO MAKE IT MOVE! Seriously? I am sorry, and maybe I am reading too much into things, but if you feel the need to KICK a horse who is just standing in your way and not being aggressive, you are NOT a very good horse person. Again, just my opinion!


Sunday, February 14, 2010

Seriously, I just don't get it...

So this seems to be a big story up here in Maine. And it is downright sad...


There are other local bulletin boards with threads about this person, but for Fugly to pick it up is great. When are people going to stop hoarding animals, pretending they are OK when they are not, and basically acting like idiots???? Good grief. :P I even looked this girl up on Facebook and two of my "friends" have her listed as a friend! I am about ready to "defriend" them! Who stays friends with someone who abuses/starves a horse??? (Not me!!!!!! And believe me, I have been there, done that...)

Friday, February 12, 2010

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease aka COPD

So, now that I have discussed Sparky's scary health issues (though I neglected to speak on her colic issues or Cushing's disease.....that's a whole 'nother post or two!), it is on to Dreamy.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a lung disease that is similar to human asthma. COPD is common in horses who are shut up in airtight barns or where hay is dusty. COPD horses are usually allergic to pollens, chemicals, microbes and other substances found in foods, medications, or the environment.

After managing Dreamy's COPD for over six years, it still amazes me to go into a barn that is all closed up. One winter, I visited to a large boarding barn that was all shut up and "warm". While it might have been comfortable for the humans, the STENCH of urine was unbearable. It was an environment just asking for respiratory issues. I never shut my barn anyways, but especially with a COPD horse, shutting up the barn can mean a respiratory emergency. I much rather have a cold barn with excellent airflow. Even when we stay overnight at shows, I have to request an end stall with good airflow, to be sure Dreamy will be able to breath. I never sweep when Dreamy is in the barn. I am just always thinking about airflow and air particles now.

Dreamy came to the farm in May 2003. She had already had her spring shots, so I waited to have her looked at by my vet until the fall, when I schedule routine teeth floating. I split up spring shots and fall floating on purpose, not only to spread out the hefty vet bill, but also so that my horses see the vet about every six months. For older horses, it gives me peace of mind.

Just about a week before the appointment, she began to cough. During the vet visit, her lungs were loud and harsh, but there was good air movement and no wheezing present. My vet diagnosed her with early COPD, which means Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. It has also been called "heaves" and recently the name has been changed to "RAO" or Recurrent Airway Obstruction. The change in name to RAO was mostly to differentiate it from human COPD, which is nothing like the equine version. But everyone, including my vet, still calls it COPD.

We put her on a hay soak trial to see if it improved the cough and started leaving her with 24 hour access to turnout. She was no longer locked into her stall at night. (My barn is very airy, with no hayloft, and the ceiling is literally 50 feet above the floor. It is very open and I never shut the doors anyway.) On a side note, her teeth were AWFUL. It had been YEARS since her teeth had been done, poor thing. :( I cannot imagine neglecting a horse's mouth.

The hay soaking did the trick. During the winter, I ceased soaking and she was fine. I soaked it all spring and summer of 2004, but again, her cough returned just days before her fall teeth floating appointment. Her lungs were harsh and wheezy. The vet prescribed a five day round of the steroid Dexamethasone and I checked her temp daily.

Again, I soaked her hay until the cold temperatures made it impossible. She did fine all winter on dry hay. The following spring 2005 she had a terrible COPD attack the morning of spring shots. Funny how her "attacks" always seemed to coincide with already scheduled vet appointments! LOL! This time, it was not just a cough. This was a full blown "asthma attack" where she was struggling to breath. It scared the heck out of me! I had never seen a horse unable to breath and I hope I never see it again! Thankfully the vet was able to come out an hour early when I called him. She got IV doses of Dex and banamine, and again was on a round of powdered Dex for two weeks. We also started her on the prescription supplement Tri-Hist. Oh, yeah, more daily temp. checking. So fun. Dreamy got to the point where I swear she was rolling her eyes every time I entered her stall with a thermometer and glob of Vaseline. Poor girl! LOL! We held off on her spring shots, of course, and I had my vet come back out a month later to do the shots and give her a thorough check-up.
Tri-Hist is a great product. But it is completely impossible to feed if your horse will not eat it topdressed on grain. And Dreamy is seriously one of the pickiest eaters I have ever met. When I first got her, she refused to eat anything for treats except apples. She REFUSED CARROTS, people! LOL! So there was NO way she would eat the Tri-Hist. If it were just a regular power, like the Dex, I could just mix it with a small amount of water and syringe her twice a day at feed time. But oh no, the Tri-Hist is mixed with cornmeal, so it will not mix with water.

So after many many trials and errors, I finally came up with a way to feed the Tri-Hist. I would mix it with applesauce, place it on a rubber spatula, and literally spatula it into her mouth! Oh yeah, that was a ton of fun. I had to do that twice a day. Oh yeah. Good times!

After months of this, I had to do something different. After lots of research, I put her on a product called Wind from Emerald Valley Equine. Basically, it is an aqueous infusion of devil's claw along, licorice root, peppermint and eucalyptus leaf. (I had Sparky on the product Evitex from the same company and really liked it). It smelled good, it was a pure liquid like water, and best of all, Dreamy would EAT it without any fuss when I put it on her grain. Finally!

So that fall, 2005 she had been on Wind and I had been soaking her hay. All was well. Surprisingly, her COPD was completely under control throughout 2006. But then in 2007, that changed! The day before her spring shots appointment, she had a copious amounts of green discharge from her nostrils. It was gross. All over her stall wall, all over the outside door, just everywhere. Her TPR was normal though. We put her on a 10 day round of Tri-Hist and SMZs just to be safe. She ended up being fine and did well the rest of the year, still on the Wind and soaked hay. The wrost part of soaking her hay was that we started showing! So that meant big heavy hag nets of soaked hay! OH FUN! This is the worst part of showing for sure!!!! LOL!

In 2008 she had another attack in late summer. This was the Bad Hay Experience, where my hay guys sold me hundreds of bales of hay that turned completely white with mold within a few weeks. They refused to take it back, etc. etc. It was so frustrating and upsetting! Just having the crap hay in my barn is what set her off, I am 100% sure. (Since then, I changed my hay guy and have no issues. Thank you Justin, for saving me!) I had my vet out and we put her on a round of Dex and back on Tri-Hist, along with the Wind. More daily temperature checking. :D She ended up being fine, and all we missed was one competition due to her attack.

During late November of 2008, the mercury dropped and I stopped soaking her hay as I had for the last five years. But this time, she immediately began to cough. I had that gut feeling since the Bad Hay Experience just three months earlier that her COPD was worse. So short of soaking her hay in my bathtub, I made the decision to put her on Lucerne Farm's Hi Fi product. This is a chopped hay product that is dried at high temperatures to kill any spores that cause respiratory ailments. Basically, it is dry bagged hay for COPD horses. She did well all winter, maintaining her weight, which was my biggest worry about the Hi Fi.

During the show season of 2009, I decided to move up from local schooling shows to rated USDF shows. This meant that I could no longer feed her the Wind supplement because it contained devil's claw, which is a banned substance by the USEF. Oh great! Now what was I going to give her!? There was NO way I was going back to Tri-Hist on a 2x daily length of time. Thankfully we tried another Emerald Valley product called Immuzim, which is just Echinacea. It seems to be as effective as Wind.

Dreamy did well all through 2009 until the week before her fall floating appointment. She had another huge gunky nasal discharge problem. I consulted with my vet but did not have him come out right then; she had a normal TPR, her lungs sounded fine, and she was eating, drinking, and pooping just fine. We put her on a round of SMZs and Dex and he examined her thoroughly at her floating appointment. She was fine, thankfully.

So far, she has been fine for 2010. This winter she is on Hi Fi again. Besides the Immuzim, she is on a product called Recovery-EQ, which is not only for her joints, but supposedly helps horses with COPD as well. At first, the COPD seemed scary but as I have found the best way to manage her, Dreamy has been just fine. Seeing the gunky nasal discharge is disheartening, as I always worry that her COPD will worsen. But there is not much use in being stressed out about it. I just do the best I can, always cognizant of her breathing and keeping her environment as clean and airy as possible. I know I am lucky, as her COPD could be much worse. :)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Nosebleeds, ethmoid hematomas.......and sleep deprivation???

So, without much going on in terms of riding right now, I have been thinking it is time to write some "educational" posts. I am not a veterinarian, nor do I play one on TV. But after twenty five years around horses, I have dealt with my fair share of injuries, sicknesses, and oddities. Sometimes it helps to hear what others have gone through if you yourself are dealing with it.

Can horses really be sleep deprived? I would have laughed at you a few years ago if you had suggested that to me! LOL! But after a very scary incident almost three years ago, my views have changed. Yes, my beloved older mare Sparky suffers from sleep deprivation. Stay with me, this is a long story...

During the fall and spring of 2007, Sparky began having frequent nosebleeds, known as epistaxis. It seemed to happen every few weeks or so, and I could never really find a cause. The nosebleeds were pretty minor, but the sight of the 15-20 drops of blood was no less alarming.

Of course, I keep a very watchful eye on my horses. And at the time, I was a stay-at-home mother, so I was literally at home most of the time. I swear I would look out the window at the horses and walk out to check them at least 50 times a day total.

Anyway, early in May 2007, Sparky scared the living daylights out of me by having what I called a seizure. I was cleaning stalls and she was out in her paddock directly behind the barn. I saw her buckle at the knees and remain rigid on her side for about 20 seconds. Her limbs were shaking, her eyes were rolled back into her head, and her upper lip was curled up. She got up on her own, and of course I immediately checked her over and called my vet. She remained agitated and restless for about two hours. My vet had me give her banamine and keep a close eye on her. I was so upset. At the time Sparky was twenty five years old and I was pretty convinced this was it. I was going to lose her.

The next day she seemed fine. But then in the late morning, she had a pretty significant nosebleed. Instead of the 15-20 drops, this was a small but steady stream. It was unilateral (from one nostril) and it was from the left side, as it always had been in the past. But now, having had a seizure the day before and now with a pretty scary looking nosebleed, it was time to do something. Plus, she had a HUGE jugular pulse (I could SEE it jumping!) and with her diastolic heart murmur, I had to figure out what was wrong.

After a long discussion with my vet, he ended up making a referral to the New England Equine Medical and Surgical Center in Dover, NH. I love my vet for many reasons, but one of the biggest reasons is that he is not one to blow sunshine. He is pretty honest with me, without being unkind. He basically told me about all the unlikely but very real possibilities of what could be going on. The scariest scenario was a ethmoid hematoma. Simply, this is a progressive and destructive tumor in the sinuses that causes pressure and eventually eats away at the bone/tissue/veins/arteries. Surgery and treatment is usually effective, but if there was an ethmoid hematoma there and it was causing the nosebleeds, it would have to be surgically removed. And I was NOT putting my horse through a surgery at her age. When I asked my vet what would happen if I did not have the surgery, he gently explained that she could eventually "bleed out", meaning the hematoma would eat away at a major sinus artery, which is a messy but painless way to die. OMG! (Of course, my vet assured me of many, many other scenarios but of course the worst one is what stuck with me and what I was convinced my horse was suffering from.)

So long story short, I felt sure I was bring my horse to Dover to be put down. I cried the entire hour and twenty minute ride there. Horrific? Yeah, pretty much.

I remember being SO nervous. But Sparky was a perfect lady. Dr. Bartol examined her, found her TPR to be normal and her diastolic heart murmur to be a 2/6. She did not feel this was significant enough to be a cause of Sparky's fainting the day prior. Her lungs and sinuses sounded fine and her jugular pulse was no longer visible.

They took extensive blood work and found she was mildly dehydrated, but had no evidence of anemia or electrolyte imbalance. They did a full chemistry panel and called me the next day with no significant findings. They performed endoscopy on both her nostril, but of course, she had no nosebleed at the time, so there was no way to find out where the blood was coming from.

The best part was that Dr. Bartol found no ethmoid hematomas! PHEW!!!!! And she was able to rule out all the other scary things that might be going on. But of course, she was not able to determine the exact cause of the nosebleeds. :( However she did find very prominent enlarged vessels in her dorsal pharyngeal recess. Basically, this meant Sparky has extra large vessels in her left nostril, which could account for the nosebleeds. Perhaps because they were located so close to the skin, any bump or accidental stab of hay, etc. could cause a nosebleed. This made sense to me.

So here is a pic of her right side:

And here is one of her left side. Can you see the enlarged vessels??

We decided to also do radiography of her sinuses just to double check everything. There was no evidence of fluid or masses, which was a relief.

This is just a REALLY cool picture of her nasal cavity. :)

And another...I have an entire CD, thanks to Dover! LOL! :D

So, we allowed Sparky to rest and recuperate from her sedation in one of the nice stalls in the lameness barn. There was one other horse out there, but being the lameness barn, there were no diseases, sickness, etc. she could catch while being there. Dr. Bartol came back out with a sheepish look on her face and a couple of photocopies. She felt that while we had not found anything definitive with the endoscope or radiographs, and the diagnosis was technically "open", she had an idea.

She felt while the episode could have been "fainting" , she was pretty sure my horse was sleep deprived and had collapsed as a result! LOL! At first, I remember thinking, "Ummm, OK, sure......" But as she handed me the recent EQUUS article, and began to explain, it all started to click into place. Horses need REM sleep just as humans and other mammals do. But while we need two to three hours of REM sleep each night, a horse only needs 30-60 minutes. And some horses only need up to 20 minutes of REM. Sleep deprivation is not related to narcolepsy, BTW. While narcolepsy is a neurological disorder, a sleep deprived horse is just exhausted. They literally fall to the ground in exhaustion! A horse with sleep deprivation might have pain associated with lying down, which is why they won't lie down to sleep and get that much needed REM. In observing Sparky, she has never had a problem rolling each morning in her pasture, so I did not think that was a real cause. But of course, at age twenty five and with a history of bone spavin in her hocks, it was still a possibility.

But then Dr. Bartol asked me if there was evidence of her sleeping in her stall, such as shavings on her side or tail.

And I realized, no, Sparky NEVER lies down!

And she is very much an alpha mare. She always feels she has to be on the "lookout" and despite the fact that Dreamy takes a mid morning nap in her paddock every single day (and lies flat on her left side every night in her stall...), Sparky never lies down in her paddock. If she is down, she is colicking. If she is "napping", go get her up because she is colicking. I always had to tell this to barn owners when I boarded her out.

AND, we had just recently taken in a boarder, just four days prior to her collapse. I had switched Sparky's stall because of this boarder. So, Sparky's social environment had changed drastically.

Wow, this is all starting to make sense. Dr. Bartol felt the nosebleed and the collapse were unrelated. She thought the real reason Sparky collapsed was because of her sleep deprivation. We went out to look the front of her fetlocks, and there under the hair, were thickened superficial scabs where she was catching herself each time she would collapse. So Dr. Bartol felt that Sparky had been collapsing before, but this was the first time I had actually seen it. The only thing is that Sparky did lie there on the ground for a while, it was not like she fell and scrambled back to her feet as most sleep deprived horses will do. But, who knows. The diagnosis seemed to fit in my mind.

Dr. Bartol recommended that I deeply bed her stall to encourage her to lie down and put her back into her old stall. There was not much I could do about the boarder, whom I had taken as a way to give Sparky a companion for the summer while I took Dreamy to shows. Sparky HATES to be alone and I did not want to cause her stress by being left all day. Long story short, the boarder passed away in July. Not a story to tell here, but basically the pony was in its late 30s and colicked. The owners refused to let me call the vet. Pony suffered from 10AM to 5 PM when they finally agreed to have the vet out. Incredibly sad and sick story. :*( Opened my eyes to MANY things........but again, not the time to discuss THAT. :*(

SO.....Sparky did seem to get MUCH better after life at my farm was back to normal in July with the passing of the pony boarder. Granted, being back in her stall did help some for the three months in between. But every single night around 9PM, I would hear a HUGE crash in the barn. It was Sparky falling in her stall, I am 99.9% positive. I could never catch her doing it, and I always went out at 10PM for night check anyway.

But since that summer, she has seemed fine. Last year I did not hear her fall at night anymore and eventually the scabs on her fetlocks went away. I have no idea exactly what changed for her. She still does not lie down in her stall. She still will sometimes collapse when I am in the barn later at night braiding Dreamy for a show. She stands with her head over her door, gets really sleepy, begins to snore, and then she falls on the door. Poor girl.

When I got my filly last year I worried that Sparky's sleep issues might come back. I did not move her stall and she remained in her own private paddock. But she really seems to like Reva and has had no visible issues with the new social structure. Then again, Reva adapted VERY well to the farm, which must have helped.

Sparky will still sometimes get a nosebleed every six months or so. She had one last week, as a matter of fact. But it was only seven drops of blood (yeah, I count....). She is healthy and happy and seems to be sleeping OK. She still does not appear to lie down in her stall (hasn't in the seventeen years I have owned her!) but she is getting her rest somehow. Maybe she is only down for a few minutes and only needs a little bit of REM sleep. I have no idea. I admit, having to face her possible euthanasia three years ago really made me come to peace with the fact that my little red mare will not always be in my life. Seventeen years is a long time. I cannot bear to think of my barn without Sparky. But I know that I will do the right thing by her when it is her time (having that poor pony die that same summer might have helped me understand too...). As much as I hope that one morning she will have just gone peacefully in her stall, with no trauma, no stress, no having to make a difficult decision, I also know that Sparky will tell me what she needs. And I will listen, never putting the cost of a vet visit over her need to be treated and never putting my own desires to "deny" what is happening or "keep her alive" in front of her need to be let go.

Amazing what we learn from our horses, no?

Monday, February 8, 2010

A Day in the Life.....

"Uggggggggg" I say as I roll out of bed. I am NOT a morning person, especially on a Monday morning.

Frosty whiskers and throaty nickers greet me as I began morning chores. It is not that cold at 17 degrees at 6:20 AM! :D

Love. My son is the best kid on the planet. :)

Seriously? Did I really read that correctly? Sometimes I am still amazed at how ridiculously idiotic people can be. Good gravy. Talk about crazy. It is quite funny to watch people destroy "friendships" only to find they have no friends! And then try to grasp for the ones they previously treated badly! The more I get to know horse people, the more I like my HORSE(S)! ROFL! Thankfully the drama has not reached me. PHEW!

YAY! Only four more days to teach until vacation! Life is good.

Oh, my aching back. Hauling water from the house to the barn is no fun.

More love. Slobbery kisses, horse cookies, neck scratches. Saying goodnight to the ponies is one of my favorite times of the day!

Resist! You. Can. Do. It! Why, oh why, does SLT and Dover have to send me sale catalogs!? LOL! I do NOT need another saddle pad, I do NOT need another saddle pad........LOL!

You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown. My long suffering husband is out in the dark cold night fixing the barn's outside spigot as I type. There is a small metal thingy inside the handle that likes to break in the winter. And of course you cannot get that specific piece in the "spigot repair kit" at the hardware. Using his truck's headlights, he is fixing the spigot. :) If that's not love, I don't know what is. <3

Rollkur: Just Say No!

Kate at A Year With Horses has this rollkur image and text posted on her blog. Dr. Heuschmann will be at the FEI meeting on Feb. 9th to speak out against this awful practice. Kate encouraged her blog readers to consider speaking up in this debate, by posting Dr. Heuschmann's following message:

The FEI is holding a closed-door round table meeting on Feb. 9th to discuss the training method known as rollkur, or hyperflexion, which involves pulling and holding the horse's muzzle to his chest. This practice is known to have many negative effects on the horse, both physically and psychologically. Gerd Heuschmann, the lone voice for the horse at this meeting, has my support and appreciation as he presents his case "for the good of the horse" along with petitions and letters saying NO TO ROLLKUR.

Please take a moment today and again tomorrow to think positively about the outcome of this meeting. It will make a difference.

Sign the petition here. I just did it and it seriously takes less than a minute. :)

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Dressage? Eventing? Or Both??

My real love is eventing. I love dressage, but nothing beats riding a cross country course! Having an older horse has forced me to focus more on dressage in the last year. This is not a bad thing, as I love dressage and it obviously helps over fences. The real reason for this focus shift is because I believe a horse has only so many jumps in them, and I am very careful how much I jump Dreamy due to her age. We jump no more than once a week, which includes when I jump at a show. This year I am planning to do pretty much the same shows as last year. So the plan is as long as she is sound and happy, I still want to do a few one day horse trials. Having been started until saddle at age 15, I am hoping she will be sound for low jumping (under 2'3") well into her 20's. And if not, that is obviously OK. I monitor my horses like a hawk, and each horse tells me what she can do.

So with not much to do outside, I like to spend time making my show calendar. I scouted around for dates of horse trials recently. Two of my favorite places to event are in New Hampshire; one is at the Hilltop Equestrian Center in Somersworth and the other is at Green Acres Stable in Madbury. Hilltop has yet to post their 2010 schedule, but I have all the dates for Green Acres. Their first event (May 23) is the same day as my son's birthday. I never show on his birthday, so that is out. The second one is on June 20, the same day I will be at the Downeast Congress. And the third one is on August 22, the same day I will be in NJ at the National Standardbred show. SIGH.

Oh well. LOL! The same thing happened last year, where I was unable to do an event until the fall. I could potentially do either Sept. 12 and/or Oct. 17 at Green Acres. But the event I did last year in October was SO COLD!!!! LOL! I am anxious to see the Hilltop calendar, as maybe I can do one there earlier in the summer. It is so fun to make plans...spring is almost here!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

More on MDS awards...

My dear friend wrote and sent this to the USTA as a surprise to me! It was posted to their website yesterday. It is great to have the publicity for the breed, but even better to have such a supportive friend. :)


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Maine Dressage Society Year End Awards 2009

Dreamy just keeps making me proud! The Maine Dressage Society awards banquet was held on Jan. 31, 2010. Here are the ribbons that were handed out...

The ribbon colors are odd. The year end coordinator chose them a few years back. She does this color at her farm's dressage schooling shows too. First is more of a navy, second is HOT pink (gag), third is more of a light yellow, fourth is gray, etc. I am not a huge fan, truth be told. But, what the heck, ribbons are ribbons, right?? LOL!

Dreamy was 8th in Training level adult amateur, Standardbred Horse of the Year, and I received my bronze medal! YAY!

Such a super mare! :) Special thanks to my "date", Shelly! :)