Emergency Care

I've learned that If you own horses long enough, sooner or later you'll have a medical emergency. There are several things horses are known in their behavior that will end with a problem on the owner's hands. One is their instinctive flight-or-fight response. This makes it important to have the horse on his 'thinking side' of the brain. And I'm still learning to train Ruby and Sugar with this. 

Another is a horse's dominance hierarchy, the need to establish the pecking order within a herd. This has already proven a problem between Ruby and Sugar. Between the two, Sugar is in command of the pecking order. And she seems to love bossing Ruby around. Ruby's recent injury when she was trapped in the shelter and Sugar kicked her because Ruby wouldn't come out. Sugar was the one blocking the entrance and making it impossible for Ruby to get out. But another problem with the pecking order horses have, is that they fight over the order.

Recognizing if there's something wrong like a cut or bleeding is an obvious problem to see. But if it's something in the inside like colic and other illness that may be harder to find. 

Normal health for a horse is good to know and check up on. Here are some ways to check that I have been learning recently. 

  • Pulse rate: 30-42 beats per minute.
  • Respiratory rate: 12-20 breathes per minute.
  • Rectal temperature: 99.5-101.5F.
  • Capillary refill: two seconds or less. (time it takes for the color in the gum to return after pressing and releasing the finger)

There are so many types of emergencies a horse can have. From heat stroke, snake bites, foaling difficulties to injured outwardly like cuts or even sharp objects stuck in a hoof, as well as colic and other illnesses. 

Catching the horse and trying to keep him/her as calm as possible (as well as yourself) is the best action to take. The horse needs to be in a safe place to where he/she doesn't injury himself/herself more. It's also important to have another person hold the horse while the other checks or does anything to the injury. When I watched the vet give Ruby a shot in the rump, he had his assistant hold Ruby (staying one side) while he also was standing on the same side. He gave the shot on the other side of her rump so if she happened to strike out the person holding the horse could steer her and she would kick the other way and not hit him. Horses will kick out towards the hurting place, that's why he gave the shot on the opposite side so she would kick away from him. 

West Nile Virus (WNV)

West Nile Virus, WNV, is a disease mosquitoes transmit in horses. The virus is transmitted when a mosquito makes a meal of blood taken from infected bird and then feeds on a horse. Mosquito infects the bird with the virus, then the mosquito feeds on the infected bird, and then feeds on and infects the horse. If horses recover, they do so in about a week. Horses show signs of disease 3-15 days after being infected.

Horses are not the only ones who can get it; birds, llamas, goats, sheep, dogs, bears, various reptiles and humans as well as more species. The strains of WNV are capable of causing disease in certain domestic and exotic species of birds. Crows and blue jays especially, in which the infection was usually fatal. 

WNV infection in mammals does not come in big amounts of the virus in the bloodstream, as it does in birds. There is a very small amount of virus in the blood of a infected horse. Mosquitoes are unable to transmit the virus from horse to horse or from horse to human. There are some clinical signs that a horse may show; stumbling, toe dragging, twitching muscles in the neck/shoulder area and more. Aged horses tend to get the disease worse. It's more common for horses (and humans) to get WNV in warmer weather. 

Laminitis (Founder)

This time I'll be writing about Laminitis. I remember in the past a horse named Peppy got Laminitis. I learned a little of what it was from Peppy's owner but I didn't quite remember all she said about it. That was years ago but now I know more about it.

Laminitis happens in the feet. Although it's in the feet, what causes it is more often elsewhere in a horse's body. Overfeeding is a common cause to Laminitis, but thankfully is easier to control. 

Laminitis is a injury to what's called the sensitive and insensitive laminae (lamina, you can find it in the picture below) causing inflammation and could harm the important bond between these support structures of the foot. These Laminae parts secure the coffin bone (picture below) to the hoof wall. 

Inflammation can permanently weaken the laminae, and if severe can separate the bone and hoof wall, and penetrate the sole. 


I'll name a few of the causes (not all of them);
  • Overload of food (such as excess grain, fruit or snacks) or changes of diet. 
  • What's called "grass founder", is a type of Laminitis which a horse can get if sudden access to excessive amount of lush forage before the horse's system has time to adapt.  
  • High fever or illness
  • Severe Colic 
  • Bedding that contains black walnut shavings
  • Various foot deceases

Some of the signs horses may show as well:

  • Lameness, especially when a horse is turning in circles
  • Heat in the feet
  • Reluctant or hesitant gait (what's called 'walking on eggshells')






Shoeing

Today (Feb 27) the horses got new shoes. This time on all their feet instead of just the forefeet. 

Gail and I came early to work the horses before they got their feet done. We backed them all the way to the arena and did desensitizing, lunging for respect stage 1 and 2, yielding the hindquarters and forequarters. 

Ruby was very testy that morning! She tried arguing with me right away, and I knew I would have to be more stern. 

Here's what happens: I ask Ruby to back up. She stands there so I ask her again. Ruby took a few steps back (but very lazy ones). So I keep increasing the pressure until she speeds up. When she gets to the bend in the path, I start turning her. This is where she always gets fussy. She's already doing lazy steps and only speeds up when I increase the pressure. 

Colic

In my last post about Ruby's injury I mentioned the vet had given me a couple of brochures on different illnesses and cares. I decided to write about one of them. The first one I picked was Colic.

Colic is a pain a horse has in his/her abdomen (belly). Colic is the number one killer of horses, although most cases are mild and can be treated medically simple. 

I was most interested in recognizing when a horse has Colic. There's a long list of different behaviors but I'll just write a few instead of all of them. 

  • Pawing
  • Kicking or biting at the belly
  • Turning towards the flank
  • Leaving food or being completely disinterested in food
  • Repeatedly rolling with grunting sounds
  • Rapid breathing and/or flared nostrils

These are just a few from the list, there are actually a lot of behaviors a horse can go though to show his/her discomfort. 

There are a few easy ways to check on the horse as well. In my last post about Ruby, I talked about checking the gum in the horse's mouth. By pressing a finger down on the gum (releasing) and then seeing how long until it turns back to it's normal color again (normal: 1-2 seconds). Another thing to check is if the gum is moist, tacky, or dry. And just checking the color of the gum (white, pale pink, dark pink, red, or bluish-purple).

Check the respiratory rate (breaths per minute), measured by watching the rise and fall of the flank with each breath. Checking the pulse and heart rate (beats per minute), measured over the heart (just behind or above the left elbow) or over an artery (at the sides of the fetlock or on the underside of the lower jaw). 




Ruby's Injury

Yesterday Sugar and Ruby had a disagreement and it ended up with Ruby seeing the vet. Since Mrs. Davis couldn't make it to the paddock to meet the vet, I went down. 

Here's how the fight started: Sugar was in the little shelter where both horses were eating from. Ruby was half in just eating along with Sugar until Sugar wanted to get out. Ruby was blocking her so she tried getting Ruby to move out of her way. Ruby didn't want to move because she still wanted to eat so she stayed. Sugar then took it a step further and got upset, felt trapped and started kicking. She smashed holes in the wall, turned and kicked Ruby several times around her left abdomen and flank. 

Ruby didn't have a lot of open wounds but she was a bit sore and she limped too. The vet showed me one way to tell how bad Ruby's injury was is by walking her around and then trotting her. If she didn't limp and show sign of soreness when she walked it wasn't too bad of an injury. They had her trot and I could see she was sore and uncomfortable. She didn't show much soreness walking as she did when trotting. If it was really bad when she walked, then it would be much worse than if she trotted. 

He also checked her teeth as well. He pressed down on her gum with his finger, turning it white, and then he let go and counted in seconds until it turned pink again (blood flow). I think it was about two seconds until it turned it's normal pink color again. If Ruby had lost a lot of blood or hadn't had water then it would take longer until it turned pink again.

He looked for sore spots by pressing down at different parts of her body to see how she reacted. Then he checked her heart beat. He shaved away hair around two spots where she had open wounds and cleaned them. Then he put some creamy stuff which I don't remember the name of. He injected in two places (don't remember the name of the stuff sadly), one in a vein on her neck and another in a muscle on the rump. He showed me the first shot he did on her neck. He showed me the blood that he sucked a bit of in the tube to make sure he got the vein. The second shot he wanted to make sure he didn't get any blood because he wanted to get in the muscle and not a vein. He showed me that he was standing on one side of Ruby and injected the needle on the other side so if Ruby kicked out she would kick out at the needle on that side and not hit him. She was calm and good and didn't move when he did it. Some horses would though it it was better to be on the safe side (literally). 

After that he showed me some medication to leave for Mrs. Davis to give Ruby. He also gave me brochures of different anatomy, medical and care of horses so I have that to read now! 

Took this picture of Ruby a day before:

Unusual Sugar

This evening I went down to clean up the horses' paddock. After I finished, I decided to work with Sugar on C pattern back and forth along the fence. I noticed a few things that seemed unusual for her. First when I went out to catch her she ran away. Ruby is the one who runs away and it's rare for Sugar to even care when I walk up to her. I even went up to Ruby who did her usual start to run away but changes her mind and stands still to let me put her halter on. I didn't put the halter on but just wanted to know if she would change things up. She seemed normal to me but Sugar started acting up. When I walked to her she ran off and started bucking. I ended up standing still next to her hay and after awhile she walked to me. I reached out my hand to pat her and she was a little unsure at first. She did let me rub her all over which I did for a few minutes while she ate. She calmed down and seemed to be back to normal. When I put the halter on she started out with her usual ignore but at least she didn't argue. She really only ignores me if she's eating but only for a second or as long as she can sneak in before I make her listen. That's her lazy side. 

I only had a short while before the sun went down and I had to walk home so I led her to the fence to do a short session of the sending lesson (C pattern). She did alright as leading goes but heard her breathing was a little husky and her nose a little runny. I thought she was starting with little cold. She does the exercise much better than Ruby does (surprisingly) and did it fine until she tripped her hind legs a little while turning to yield her hind quarters. Usually something little like this doesn't bother her very much and we get back on track in a second. This time she overreacted and reared up. I had to calm her down again and could hear her breathing in a husky tone but louder. I only sent her about 5 times back and forth. 

I sent her again and this time she started taking over my personal space so I had to correct her and after 3 times we got going fine. I didn't want to worry her so I ended the lesson soon after. I didn't work with her on anything else or Ruby for that matter. Ruby was acting wonderfully and let me come up to her even when I had a halter in my hand. I was planning on jumping on her bareback for fun and to desensitize her but the sun was going down so I spent a little longer with both of the horses just on loving all over them. 

Follow The Fence

In my last post I mentioned I did a exercise called 'Follow the Fence'. I'm teaching the horse to literally follow along the fence in a straight line at any gait. The first time I really experienced this was when I was getting riding lessons years ago on a horse named Trigger, a palomino who used to be a cattle horse. That was to help me ride more than it helped the horse. Trigger did it fine enough, it was me who was practicing riding the horse at a walk and trot. My teacher was getting me used to going from a walk to trot and back down again. I was learning how to post. 

I had tried following the fence with Raleigh and he did okay. He was an older horse and a bossy boy but not enough to get wild and actually hurt me. He was more on the lazy side so everything was more slow with him unless it involved standing around or eating.

Last Saturday I did Follow the Fence for the first time with Ruby. 

In the DVD, Clinton was showing how to teach the horse to stay along the fence line and not sway off. It was my first time teaching it to Ruby and at the end of the lesson (which wasn't very long) she did so well! I didn't do it at a walk but trotted her around the arena along the fence. She of course started turning her own way away from the fence. 

Clinton said to imagine or even draw a line in the sand about 15 feet away from the fence for starters. Than start at a trot (It could be done at a walk but it's not really necessary) and trot along the fence. Every time the horse starts to go away from the fence let him until he crosses the line of 15 feet. As soon as he does steer him right back to the fence and don't let go until he's along the fence again. The more this is practiced you can make the line closer and closer to the fence. Start farther away at the beginning, like 15 feet, 10 feet, 5 feet until you don't have to anymore because the horse no longer strays off. 

Here is something I drew to show you:

I did this with Ruby and at first she did stray a lot and wanted to follow Sugar as well. But soon I got her to stay along the fence and rarely did she want to go off again. This doesn't have to be done at a trot, it could be done at any other gait as well. Trotting is the best for me since walking is too slow and cantering I'm still getting used to, but I bet the next time I ride I can do cantering as well. Sadly it started raining again and there goes the problem of only outdoor arenas. 


What Happens in the Arena

Last Saturday I rode with Ruby and Sugar's owner, Mrs. Davis. I rode Ruby and she rode Sugar. We first groomed them in the paddock, I braided Ruby's tail, then we walked them to the big arena. They both have sticky feet when we walk them alone to the arenas but since she walked both of them at the same time they didn't stop once. 

Surprisingly, Sugar was the more energetic one but then, I've been working with Ruby much more. Before saddling up we let them run around in the arena first while we got the tack out. They ran pretty well and were starting to sweat. They rolled in the sand, but Sugar chose a spot to roll right next to the fence. When she rolled over toward the fence her leg got caught between the rails. It wasn't really caught badly at all but every time she tried rolling the way she would put her legs out between the fence so she couldn't roll over. She only tried once or twice and than laid there and didn't move. Mrs. Davis and I waited to see if she could figure out how to get out herself but she's didn't budge. In fact she looked so relaxed she looked like she was going to sleep. We waited a little while longer and then Mrs. Davis went around the outside to her to encourage her to get up. Ruby didn't help very much by galloping around but it didn't get Sugar excited at all, nor did she seem to notice. So since nothing happened I walked to her from the inside. She moved her head a little to see me approaching toward her head. Mrs. Davis couldn't reach Sugar very well to do much but we moved her legs out and I was able to push her over onto her other side. After that she got up fine and started racing Ruby around again, so she wasn't hurt. Mrs. Davis was very worried about her but was relieved to see Sugar was fine. 

I've had the same problem with Ruby in the round pen. The first time it happened I was alone so I was worried. It was actually easier to get her to roll over the right way but I felt like panicking especially since she wasn't my horse and  I started thinking of everything bad that could be happening. What was amazing about it was they just lay very calmly (too calmly) and waited for someone to help them instead of panicking and kicking which would have ended up in a disaster! 

Sugar looked completely fine so we saddled both of them and got on. We thought about doing some ground work first but we did a little in the paddock before bringing them up and since I usually work so much on the ground work before riding, we thought it was better just to get on straight away. We did do some desensitizing and I trotted Ruby around before mounting. When we were both on, we worked on flexing and a bunch of other exercises we've been learning from the Clinton Anderson Method. For the first part we walked them around  and practiced flexing, stopping and backing up. We did a little cruising and they wanted to follow each other. We worked together on the different exercises, one of us would do a lesson while the other would correct them if they saw anything out of place. Then we kind of did our own thing and I noticed Ruby and Sugar weren't so crazy about being together anymore. 

I worked on what's called 'Follow the Fence'. I've been watching the DVDs on that and this was my first time working Ruby on it. I did this after I did cruising with Ruby at a trot. Follow the fence is where I was teaching Ruby to go at a walk, trot or canter along the fence to keep a straight line unless we were turning in the corners. At first she kept going off the fence but soon I got her to stay along the fence very fast. We were doing it at a trot and once in a while changing directions. That worked out SO well and Ruby understood very quickly. 

I practiced my cantering as well since I had a fear of doing it with not so good balance. My fear was that I wouldn't have any control over her. So I started overcoming my fear by cantering her in a circle so I could stop her with a one rein stop. Another problem was she also needed to get better with her cantering. When riding, she always goes at a fast canter which gets me a little scared. I had to practice her cantering so she would conserve her energy and go at a nice canter. It was hard for me as a beginner with a horse that would go too fast when I wasn't very ready yet. When I had riding lesson years ago, I was only taught how to ride at a walk and a little bit at a trot. I learned posting which was really hard at first but now it's simple. I never got to ride cantering even though my teacher said I should practice it whenever I go riding for awhile. I did canter Raleigh but had no control at all since it was more of a run than a canter and I did it at one end of the arena and let me run to the other with always a little fear in me but it was so much fun for some reason so I did it more. I wasn't too scared since I knew Raleigh was going to the gate...every time. And he was an old boy so I didn't think he was ever going to buck me off. He seem to have joy in rubbing my leg against and a few other terrible tricks that I didn't know how to get rid of at the time. 

Anyway, by going in a circle, I was able to control Ruby better and it was helping with my balance the more I did it. She also didn't start out so fast as much. I got her to canter in a circle and then I would stop her and let her rest before trying it again. I worked her a lot, more than I thought because Mrs. Davis could see how drenched in sweat she was so we stopped and went to unsaddle them. I wasn't paying too much attention to what Sugar and Mrs. Davis were doing when I was cantering Ruby but she didn't looked as worked out as Ruby did. We took both of the horses to graze for awhile and then back to the paddock for the night. I helped put the tack back and fed a couple of other horses I was caring for at the moment.