Monday, December 15, 2008

Rescuing a Princess

This weekend I took part in a rescue reminiscent of a fantasy novel. Where the Princess was taken by trickery and held in drudgery. Abused, starved, she no longer looks royal. But some stout lad recognizes there is something special about her, and through adventures, and help from brave companions, she is saved and brought to a place of safety and love.

Last week, a mare was spotted in a kill pen. I won't list any details, because she could have been any breed, anywhere in the USA. By some miracle a rescue group spotted her and asked for information. She was in her teens, in foal, and wonder of wonders, her papers were with her. In the photo it looks like her back has been shaved? Strange, but a rescue list moves into action, appeals go out, and a life chain is formed. Money pours in for her and others. Literally hundreds of people co-ordinate to save these horses. Homes are found, shippers lined up. Volunteers phone each other.

Saturday the mare is picked up by one shipper, brought to a connection point where she is put into a second trailer. By sat night she is in a stall munching hay, and Sunday morning I pick her up and take her to her new home.

This mare was beautiful, had been shown successfully, had produced several foals, had been well cared for and cherished most of her life. But Sunday I picked up a mare that had to be a 1.5 on the scale. I could not only see every bone in her body, even the skin between her ribs was sunken in. What we thought was a shaved back was matted fur lying flat next to her backbone, which stuck up several inches and I could feel every bone of. I don't see how she was walking, I certainly don't see how she could be carrying a foal. But, she walked out of the stall with her head up like the Princess she was. You would have thought she had silk ribbons in her hair, and gold on her halter. She loaded and trailered like a lady, and at her new home walked past lessons, Christmas decorations, and chainsaws without hesitation. We were met by teenager riding students who welcomed her like the returning royalty she was.

Here was a mare that obviously made money for her owners, but not only was she tossed away, they didn't even bother to feed her before they did. Her quality was there to see for someone who knew how to look. Her head was very refined, perfect ears, excellent bone structure (rather easy to see, actually) and 4 of the straightest, cleanest legs I have seen in a long time. Big feet, nice bone, broad chest, I could see what she must have looked like before.

I look forward to visiting her when she is back to her full glory. I also have no doubt she will be back in the show ring sometime too.

Welcome home Princess.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Equine Dentistry

I just had my Equine dentist out to work on our horses. We try to have him out once a year, sometimes twice if we have a new horse who needs work done. I especially was concerned this time for a 6 year old Clyde gelding, who I didn't think was gaining weight like he should. Also I had seen him 'quid' his hay a few times, and it seemed he just swallowed food, with minimal chewing. Now part of this was being a draft..I swear they can just inhale food. But add that to the slow weight gain, and I just felt he needed special attention.

As it turns out, I was right. His teeth were in terrible shape, very sharp, and so grown out of alignment he was having a lot of trouble chewing. He must have been in pain, but never showed any sign. Happily accepted the bit, no trouble in any way, just as we would say in the past, 'unthrifty' or a 'hard keeper.'

It really got me thinking. How often in the past, before Equine Dentistry became more mainstream, did I have horses I considered hard keepers, or difficult to bridle, that were actually in pain from dental issues? I can remember paying so much money for massive amounts of feed, trying supplements, oil, etc to get the weight on. Also the multiple training methods and tricks I used to know on how to bridle a difficult horse. Now I have horses on diets, who lower their heads and open their mouths for the bit.

I remember going to a show clinic about some years ago, where an Equine Dentist came to talk about dental care for horses. Not a person at this clinic had ever had their horse done. No one thought they had to. I will say after his talk, and a demo, most of the people there had their horse looked at. He did a booming business, and sent out a lot of dedicated horse people to spread the word. I have had my horses done regularly ever since.

You would think everyone knows now you have to have dental work done every year. It's in all the magazines, literature, etc. But many people don't even see a human dentist regularly, so it's not as much of a given as you would think.

Every horse I have bought in the last few years, has had terrible dental care, so I know the problem still exists. It's just like regular worming. Yes, it costs money now, but saves it in the long run. Every horse I have is on a diet. They just get a bit of low protein feed and their coat supplement, and hay. Yet I still see people riding horses that are thin, who buy alfalfa hay, and expensive grain and supplements, but won't worm regularly or get the dentist out because it's "too expensive." Here is an eye opener: I go through about 1.5 bags of grain a month per horse. That's say $20 a month/$240 a year. Plus I worm every 8 weeks, $4 each/$24 year (shop online and sales, wormer is cheap)and have the dentist out once a year at $70. So per horse I put out $334 per year for feed, outside hay/grass costs). Now some folks near me worm occasionally, and who knows about the dentist, go through a bag of grain a week, plus supplements. Not even counting supplements, that's $52 a month, $624 a year. Almost double the grain costs, because their horse can't chew properly, and probably had a high parasite load.

My Equine Dentist is knowledgeable, certified, and just the best. My horses love him, and even the 18h draft lowered his head so his teeth could be worked on (I know this was his first time). After I turned the draftie out, he stood at the water tub for 15 minutes, running his tongue in and out in the water, and playing with his new smooth teeth. I have watched horses turn their heads so the dentist can get at teeth that need to be worked on.

On the one hand, I do feel guilty for all the horses in the past I swore at for being such 'hard keepers' or 'difficult to bridle.' I didn't know any better then. But there is no excuse now for a horse to have either issue because of tooth pain.

Put it this way, for those who don't think it's necessary. How well would you eat, if every time you chewed, you cut your own cheek or gums? If every bite caused throbbing pain?

Friday, December 5, 2008

When simple injuries go south

Horses tend to get injured. They scrape themselves, kick each other, trip and step on their own feet, the possibilities are endless. Most of the time, you clean it off, slap some fura-ointment on it, and life goes on.

A few weeks ago my daughter's horse Coconut (buckskin in previous post) got rope burns on both back fetlocks. She lost a little skin, one had a few drops of blood, but nothing really serious. She was walking fine, no issues for 3 days after the ride. But 2 days after the ride it started to rain. While our fields drain very well, we still had mud at the gates. By the 2nd day of rain, I noticed Coconut had stocked up in one ankle. I examined the foot, and she now had bloody scabs, heat and swelling. I figured she had an infection, and we started the regimen of salt water soaks, and keeping her in a dry stall, away from the mud and wet. I washed the leg off daily, but didn't scrub the bloody scab area as I figured that would be very painful for Coconut.

After a couple days of this, she wasn't any worse, but really wasn't getting better. Then one night she couldn't flex or walk on that leg. All my alarm bells went off, and I realized the cold snap we had was masking the growing infection, by keeping the heat and swelling down. I called my vet the next am and trailered her directly to the clinic. My worry was that the infection was going up her leg, or was in the joint capsule itself.

My wonderful vets took me right in, and after a look at the wound, immediately drugged Coconut into oblivion. They clipped the whole area, took a strip of necrosis off (dead tissue) and cleaned the wound up. They wrapped her to the hock, and sent us home with some serious antibiotics and several other meds, and instructions to keep that leg DRY. Two days later they came to my barn for a check up and a bandage change, and pronounced her healing well.

It has now been two weeks since then, fthree weeks since the original injury, and Coconut is still healing. The bandage is off, but she still has to be on stall rest or dry lot. (Much to her disgust) She has a divot now, where the strip of flesh was cut out, and it's still tender and soft. Probably still a few more weeks before she can be turned out or ridden.

So, minor rope burn turns into 6 weeks off and high $ vet bills.