Monday, November 21, 2011

Heavenly Autumn Ride!

This past weekend I had the most wonderful, awesome, heavenly ride on Buckshot. It was a magical time- one of those very rare times that are unparalleled. But before I share about that, let me start with the vet’s visit on Friday. Friday was the day for Buckshot’s annual dental exam. The vet arrived, a young woman, Dr. L, fairly new to the practice of Dr. S. I had not met her before. I had Buckshot outside the main barn, grazing, when she arrived. I introduced myself, showed Buckshot to her and mentioned that sometimes he paddles with his left hind leg. I walked him for her, and she observed that it was a little noticeable but not severe, and that it may have been due to an old stifle injury. We talked about supplements for him- he only gets MSM (and Fastrack) currently- and she mentioned injections of glucosamine as a possibility. I declined, since it doesn’t cause a problem for him in our riding. If it becomes more of a problem later, I’ll reconsider it, but for now, I don’t want to inject him with anything. She didn’t ask for a flexion test.

I then mentioned that I hoped in the dental exam that no teeth would have to be removed. Last year, Dr. S removed a tooth, and the year before, two teeth had to be removed. I want Buckshot to be able to eat effectively and comfortably so I am so protective of his few remaining teeth. But I said that if an extraction was needed, so be it. So we (the vet, the BO and myself) headed into the barn and I put Buckshot into a stall. The vet got her power floating equipment ready and stood next to me to give him a sedative. Within a few minutes, he dropped his head. She hooked up the equipment that opened his mouth, set his head on the head-holder thing, and with the BO and I keeping his head in place, she did the power floating. Buckshot did fine, occasionally dropping his head to one side or the other, which we would then set back in place. The vet said he sure doesn’t have much of his teeth left (which I already know) and that none of his teeth were loose or needed to be removed (hooray!). She then removed the equipment and we stood watching poor Buckshot.

He stood quietly, then swayed a little to the side, then would catch himself, and move upright. Then he stood quietly, then swayed, then caught himself and stood upright. At one point, he started flexing his hips alternately, in a move that looked like he was dancing- it was quite funny. I asked the vet about his after care and when he could eat again. After I got the information, the vet asked if I’d like his sheath cleaned, to which I said yes.

I hadn’t realized it, but apparently when a horse is still somewhat sedated, it is common for the vet to be able to clean the sheath quite easily, so they offer this service. As a horseowner who has been regretfully remiss in this aspect of horse care, I was delighted to let the vet do it. So she got her equipment for this. She used a stainless steel pail of water, and had a plastic container of what looked like bathroom wipes, which I guess were wet with a soap. She donned regular plastic gloves, had me put his halter on and hold the lead line and she began cleaning. And cleaning. And cleaning. I asked was it bad? To which she diplomatically said, it’s quite crusty, yes. At which I felt horse-owner guilt. As she worked, and worked (poor Buckshot was oblivious to all of this- three women standing around discussing his private parts in great detail), she mentioned that sheath cleaning is a good time to check for bumps, as horses with a lot of white coat can develop cancer in their sheaths and penises. So I must do this myself, when the weather is warmer, and actually learn how to do it, to watch out for medical issues.

After the vet finished, and I paid her, and she left, I set up a chair outside of the stall and kept vigil on Buckshot. He came around very slowly. I wanted to talk to him and needed a topic so I embarked on a lengthy one-way discussion of natural horsemanship trainers and what I thought of each one. It kept me talking for some time. I don’t know what Buckshot’s opinions are. He was pretty quiet.

At one point I stood at the stall door and looked at him, and noticed something odd. The hair on his right hip looked weird – kind of raised, and wrinkly and unusual. So I went into the stall and found that his skin seemed mushy in this area. I went to his other side to compare, and there weren’t any raised hairs, or funny looking hair. I went and got the BO to show her, and she thought it looked like hives- large mushy patches on him. We found it just on his right hip, and a little more on his right shoulder. We continued to watch him carefully. At first he quietly got more and more conscious. But then he began pacing in the stall. I thought it was because he wanted to eat hay, which he usually does in this stall, but of course, we had removed all hay from the stall so he wouldn’t eat any until he was totally out of the sedation. So after a bit of his pacing- since he seemed quite lucid to me- I put his halter on and took him out to the grass to graze. He enjoyed doing that. He seemed fine, and since he wasn’t in any distress, the BO and I concluded that we would watch him carefully, and make sure no further hives developed. Apparently it was a reaction to the sedative Detomidine. In the past he has had rompum and dorm. This was the first time that detomidine was used. (I called the vet today and told her about the hives and asked her to put it in his records so he doesn’t get that particular sedative in the future. She said that sometimes horses do get hives from it and that she would record it. I have made notes of it in my records as well.)

The BO and I put Buckshot in a different stall, with other horses nearby, as we mucked stalls nearby. But Buckshot whinnied a lot (which is the norm- he doesn’t really like staying in a stall much, and will whinny) so after a bit, I walked him to his pasture and turned him loose. By that time, he was able to eat hay just fine.

Since then, I haven’t seen any clumps of quidded hay by him. Quidded hay is hay that a horse has chewed and chewed, into a little wet ball of hay, that the horse spits out instead of swallowing. It usually indicates that the horse has some difficulty eating hay. I watch for this all the time with Buckshot, since I know he has had three teeth removed. If I ever see a lot of quidded hay, it will indicate that he needs some extra help, perhaps wet hay, or beet pulp, or hay cubes, or something to help him eat plenty of hay, but in an easier to chew form. I have only seen quidded hay very occasionally, telling me that, to date, Buckshot is able to chew his regular hay just fine. When I left him Friday afternoon, about five hours after his sedation, he was fine, eating fine but still had the patchy spots of hives in two places. I had also noticed that he had a big scabby area on his neck, which the BO said was a hemotoma, from the site of the sedative injection. I put Tricare on it to soften it and help it to heal.

When I arrived at the barn on Saturday, I went to see Buckshot right away. He was fine, and the hives were slightly diminished. The hemotoma was still quite hard and crusty. He seemed in good spirits. I asked the BO if I should ride him the day after his being sedated and she said yes, that I would be sensitive to his moods/ capabilities if anything was not right. So I got him ready to ride, during which he seemed very normal, and we started our walking warm up. He was quite energetic, and seemed quite happy. Not anxious, not fractious, but nicely more than normal energetic. We did great- good walking warm up exercises, a nice short solo walk in the woods, back to the arena for some high power trotting (I said let’s trot, and Buckshot said no, let’s fly!)- he trotted gloriously strong and floaty. And some wonderful cantering! Then the riding class started and we went back to walking to warm up the other horses. Some more fabulous trotting!

The class did a precision pattern which involved a specific route of walk, trot, round a cone, canter, down to a trot, round a different cone, to a canter, to a stop and backing. I concentrated very hard on getting the pattern right, and steering Buckshot to the precise spots where he had enough room to go around the cones, stay on pattern, and cue for the canter. He did wonderfully! Or we did wonderfully! I was delighted and so proud of him! He was unusually responsive to me, to my slight aids. It was wonderful, and made me feel very connected to him, in a different, new way. He was full of power, and responsiveness. As we walked on the trail, after the arena work, I thought to myself- this is the perfect ride, I am so connected to Buckshot and unified with him, everything about our ride feels perfect between horse and rider. I’ve never felt like this riding Buckshot- so intertwined, so connected, with him responsive to my breath or whisperings of cues. And he seemed to be so happy also. And listening to me. It was wonderful, so perfect and rare. I couldn’t help wondering if the day after a sedative made him in an especially good mood. Who knows? Maybe on some unconscious level, my ministrations to him Friday made his trust in me grow a bit. I don’t know. But it was truly, truly a wonderful ride with him.

On Sunday, we had another mild, lovely autumn day and Buckshot and I had a good ride. Not a magical one like on Saturday, but a good ride. We mostly did trail riding, with the BO and her husband, and I didn’t work him at trotting or cantering much. But we had a nice ride.

I hope you have had such a magical ride on your horse sometime! Buckshot is just absolutely, the best horse in the world. In my humble, happy opinion.


Anonymous said...

Glad you're getting to feel some of that magic!

And I love your detailed observations about him and your attention to his care and comfort.

Grey Horse Matters said...

Sounds wonderful. Happy Thanksgiving.

juliette said...

Sorry, Jan, if you get two of these comments - Blogger deleted my first one!

Great autumn ride! You and Buckshot are becoming such good riding partners.

I hope new horse owners have the opportunity to read your post about the vet's visit. This is a great source for information about how to properly care for a horse coming out of sedation. Wonderful.