Monday, November 12, 2012

A Murderer Walks Amongst Us

Nope, it wasn't Salem. And it wasn't Professor Plum in the conservatory with the dagger, either. It was Oliver in Salem's stall with his cougar fangs and/or bear claws.

Now, I don't think I've ever officially introduced Oliver. He's been lurking in the background of many of my videos/pics, so you've probably seen him already. Oliver is a scrappy little terrier mix that I picked up off the street as a tiny puppy, about two weeks before Salem came down here from Chicago. A lot of people think he has rat terrier in him, maybe some Chihuahua, and goodness knows what else--I call him a Redland Terrier because I found him in the Redlands. ;-) I'm not a little dog person, but I guess the universe is trying to teach me a lesson. Because, really, how could you not fall in love with this guy?

His victim? One Ben Templeton (that is what all rats are named, in my mind). Time of death was around 10:45 pm. I was just finishing up grooming Salem when, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a small animal moving right underneath Saley-boo. I assumed it was a frog, but a half second later I realized it was a rat and started screaming bloody murder. Salem hit the roof, I started doing the "Omg, it's gonna run up my leg!" hippity-hop dance whilst continuing my blood-curdling scream, and Oliver jumped up like a rocket and chased the rat into Salem's stall. About two seconds later, I heard a squeal and assumed Oliver had chased it off, so I peered around the stall door.

This rat has ceased to be
Luckily, it didn't take Salem long to settle down after all the commotion/murder. Of course, he didn't have to deal with cleaning up the crime scene. Lucky bastard. :-) 

"Sorry, can't help ya, Mom. Don't have opposable thumbs."

"I killed it. You clean it up."
Now, I'm a pretty tough girl--I've jumped out of an airplane twice, gone cliff-diving in Jamaica with some people I kind of thought might kill me, and done a million other ridiculously dangerous/stupid things without batting an eyelash. However, when it comes to doing things like cleaning up potentially disease-carrying corpses, I am a total pussy. I did manage to suck it up and unceremoniously scoop the rat and all surrounding shavings into a wheelbarrow, and that's as far as I got. Mr. Templeton is still in the wheelbarrow and he will remain there until someone else deals with his cold little corpse.

I thought Salem might smell rat corpse fumes (?) once he got back to his stall and wig out again, but fortunately he was totally chill.

He still always yawns like crazy before I let him eat his late-night snack. It's now just his routine.

Oliver, however, had to give the stall a once-over to make sure that Salem was safe and sound before we left.

I will, of course, call my vet's office tomorrow, but does anyone know if Oliver will need any sort of preventative treatments since he just had his mouth around a dirty rat? He's just about due for his shots, but I'm wondering if he could get leptosperosis or something. ??? Fingers crossed that he will be okay.

Saturday, October 20, 2012


For the longest time, I have read rave reviews of the Micklem Multibridle and Micklem Competition Bridle--people say their horses are softer, less fussy, more accepting of contact, and so on and so forth. They're both very reasonably priced, but for someone (like yours truly) who barely has two dimes to rub together, they're completely out of budget. So, when I found a brand-spankin' new black oversize Competition Bridle on ebay for a steal, I jumped at it.

Salem seems less than thrilled with it :-/
Shown here with my Stubben copper oval-mouth boucher bit

I don't think it's particularly flattering on Salem's face, but
I'm not worried about that--if it makes him softer and happier, it could be 
(semi)hideous and I wouldn't care

Of course, Salem is more interested in his grain bin

I also tried it on him with a Korsteel plastic mullen eggbutt bit

I'm not sure which one he prefers, but with both bits there was lots of this:

And this:

"Oh, crap."

Saddle: Check
Bridle: Check
Dressage girth: Not yet
Dressage leathers: Nope
Dressage pad: Nada
Eventing safety vest in case I fall on coral rock and break myself: Negative

So, I have most of the large purchases out of the way and I mainly need to buy little stuff. I'm only sort of kidding about the vest, although it would be a nice thing to have. Certainly, I will buy one eventually, but I'm not going to put off riding just because I don't have one.

We're getting there!

P.S. My Premier Equine Air-Cooled Eventing Boots are somehow still available!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Hoof Musings

Since Salem gets his hooves trimmed tomorrow, I figured maybe I should post the pics from his last trim (well, several days after his last trim). He has a lot of things going on with his hooves right now, the best of which is the growing-out of his abscess hole.

Left front

Left front solar

What was left of the abscess cavity

Left hind

Right front

Right hind--the current problem child

These photos were all taken this week:

This is the problem with his hinds--he toes way out, which places most of 
his weight on the lateral walls of his hooves. Obviously, this wears the lateral
walls more, which means the medial walls are higher. Also means the medial heel bulbs
are smaller and less developed. Basically, lots of imbalance.

Here, you can see how the frog has moved towards the medial wall

His right hind medial heel has been confusing me lately--part of the heel sort of sloughed away,
so it's almost like the collateral groove goes all the way to the heel bulb.
The frog has also moved so far medially that it's over the collateral groove

You can really see here how much higher the medial wall is

For comparison, here are some older pictures of the same hoof:

Summer 2011

Winter (Jan/Feb) 2012

Obviously, I will talk to Candy tomorrow during Salem's trim and see what she thinks is going on with this hoof and whether or not we need to change something about our game plan. But I also like to get lots of different perspectives, so I would appreciate any thoughts/comments/ideas that you all might have. Do you think this imbalance needs to be addressed, and if so, how? Or should I take a Rockley approach and let it be? I've been on the fence about this one.

In other news, I finally found a mostly-okay footing area at the new place, so I've slowly started putting Salem back to work. We're just doing some walk/trot longeing and groundwork for now, in an attempt to get his muscles back in shape and hopefully help his hooves out as well. I *will* be riding this handsome boy sometime soon (fingers crossed)!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Ticking Timebomb of Insanity Part II

Horse people tend to be the most calm, rational, capable people when dealing with emergency situations. And, luckily enough, after the first few seconds of panic when I thought Salem had three hooves in the grave and one on a banana peel, the rational part of my brain kicked in and sent some much-needed ice-water into my veins. "Assess the situation," it said. "Take a deep breath, grab your thermometer and stethoscope, and give your horse a once-over so you can speak to the vet like a semi-sane person that actually has some useful information."

So, onto the cross-ties went Salem and into the stash of first-aid supplies went I. "On the plus side, I get to actually use my super-cool new digital thermometer," soothed my always-calm Auto-Pilot Emergency Brain. "What luck that I bought it right before moving, since this barn doesn't have a first aid cabinet--that was some good thinking!" You've gotta love that Auto-Pilot Emergency Brain--it literally never lets me down and it always knows how to channel my nervous energy into something positive. :-)

After a quick exam, I was perplexed--Salem had very loud, healthy gut sounds on both sides, and his temp and respiration were normal. He felt a bit sweaty, but that's normal for Salem (who sweats like a 400 lb man that just ran a 10K through the Amazon wearing a down parka). So, I unclipped him from the crossties and took him out to the grass; and, in typical Salem fashion, he immediately dropped his head and began greedily munching grass.

Curioser and curioser. Still, given all the other un-Salem-like behavior, I felt that a call to the vet was in order. An after-hours emergency call, of course, but I have lost one horse to colic and it's not an experience I wish to repeat. As it turned out, my vet had just been seated @ a restaurant about 45 minutes away. We went over everything and, given the fact that Salem was comfortably grazing, we agreed that he would call me when he was leaving the restaurant, but if anything changed I could call him and he would come down immediately.

So, an hour and a half later, Dr. F called me back. "How's he doing?" he asked. "Well, he's been grazing comfortably this whole time," I answered. "He just dropped a big pile of manure that looks normal, and he hasn't rolled or acted uncomfortable at all." We agreed that Salem didn't need to be seen that evening, but I would stay for a while to make sure he was alright.

I decided to try an experiment and put Salem in his stall and closed both doors to see if he would eat his grain. The minute I locked him in, he completely flipped--spun around in circles, weaved like crazy, craned his head out of his stall to look towards the grove, and threw himself all over the place. It was like watching one of those cartoons where the character bounces off the walls/ceiling/floor in a blur. He had zero interest in his food and was working himself into a frenzy, so I opened the door. He immediately stopped his antics but stood in the doorway looking towards the grove in terror, like he had to keep a constant watch over it so nothing could sneak up on him.

As strange as it was, at least I knew what was wrong. While I couldn't see or hear or smell anything different, I at least knew that my horse wasn't (physically) sick. I stayed with Salem until 2:00 am to make sure he was alright, and spent lots of time trying to reassure him, but he wasn't having it.

The next day, I went to the barn early. Unfortunately, Salem still hadn't eaten anything. He was still pacing and not wanting to go in his stall. I took his grain out to him in the paddock and he dove into it, snapping his head up every few seconds to look towards the grove. But at least he was eating. Before I left,  I stuffed a bunch of hay into a big muck bucket and dragged it out to him so he could at least have some distraction and a full belly.

Over the weekend, I had no less than 7 people walk Salem's paddock and stall at all hours of the day, trying to find exactly what was bothering Salem. I spent hours out there with him, walking him by the fenceline and feeding him treats, trying to reassure him that he wasn't about to be devoured by a pack of ravenous panthers. He relaxed a tiny bit, but he still wouldn't go in his stall to eat, wouldn't take his eye off the grove, and spent hours pacing. He would weave in the cross-ties, spook constantly, and was generally a live wire. He was permanently wearing his Worried Eyes. So, I decided that enough was enough and left a message with Dr. F asking him to meet me on Monday to give Salem a dose of Pony Prozac. I'm not a big drug advocate, but sometimes you need a little pharmacological help to get your horse through a rough episode. This was one of those times.

Worried Eyes

Monday afternoon, Dr. F met me out at the barn. He went over Salem's stall and paddock with a fine-tooth comb, checking the hot wire and fencing, looking at the electrical wiring of the stall, etc., but he didn't find anything amiss. "Well," he said. "I'm going to give him a low dose of Reserpine, a long-lasting tranquilizer. You should see the effects by this evening and it will last for three to four weeks." He told me that Salem might experience some loose manure and to give the office a call if he did, but that the dose was so low that he wasn't expecting Salem to experience any side effects.

Now, at my last barn, there was a mare named Inky that occasionally had to have a shot of Reserpine, and she would be stoned as a gravel road for several days afterwards. I was expecting to come out to the barn that evening and finding Salem with half-closed sleepy stoner eyes and a 5-second delay in his reaction times, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that he was just back to his normal, goofy, alert self. He had eaten his evening grain, chowed through most of his hay, and was hanging out under his favorite tree in his paddock. I had my horse back.

That was the second week of September, and I am happy to report that Salem has been 98% (his own "special") normal ever since. He will occasionally weave on the cross-ties or have a little spook when he hears something in the grove, but that's about it. He's settled back down and is eating with his usual gusto.

So, what was bothering him? I still have no idea. I did hear a shriek that sounded suspiciously like a velociraptor one night, so there's always the possibility that there's some sort of mini-Jurassic Park over there. Or it could have been the chupacabra or a pack of cougars or horde of brain-hungry zombies. The world may never know.

But, for the low, low price of $55, I got my horse's (semi)sanity back. Priceless!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Ticking Timebomb of Insanity

The first six weeks at our new farm were peaceful and Zen-like. Salem settled in right away and was the picture of tranquility, perfectly content to spend his days strolling around grazing like a fat little heifer. 
And then one day, for no apparent reason, my horse morphed from Serene Salem to Ticking Timebomb of Insanity Salem.
It all started one day when I arrived at the farm and, instead of trotting up to his stall and greeting me with a throaty nicker, Salem remained in his paddock, staring towards the grove next door. I brushed it off as quirky Salem behavior and grabbed my wheelbarrow and pitchfork to clean his stall/paddock. As I passed through the stall, I saw that his hay-net was still stuffed to the brim, exactly as I had left it the night before--definitely not normal, but Salem is notoriously picky about hay (all the local feed store people know him as the Hay Princess, as in, "Make sure you grab a nice fluffy green bale for His Royal Highness the Hay Princess!"), so I didn't fret too much about it.
Out in the paddock, I noticed a wide churned-up track right next to the fence-line and thought, "Huh, that's weird--why would they bring the tractor in here to drag?" Very odd. Salem continued to ignore me, which was also odd; he usually follows me around and does silly things like try to steal the pitchfork or rub his itchy neck on me or any one of his other big goofball antics. And as I tramped around the whole paddock in search of manure and only found two piles instead of the usual dozen, I started to get that Something Is Very Much Not Right feeling in the pit of my stomach.
Back in the stall, I peered into Salem's feed bin--sure enough, his entire portion of evening grain was in there, totally untouched. This horse has never, in the almost two years that I have spent with him, left a single shred of grain. Even after over 30 hours by himself in a giant trailer followed by a night in a strange barn, he still licked up every last morsel of his breakfast. At that point, I was pulling my phone out and scrolling down my contacts to my vet's number.
That's when the BO's son sauntered over to me and said, "Oh, hey, my dad said to tell you that your horse didn't eat his breakfast this morning and has been pacing all day."
*Pause as at least seven blood vessels in my brain burst*
I have no idea what I said to BO's son, as I was simultaneously making a mental list of punishments suitable for a BO who doesn't call a horse owner to tell them their horse is possibly very sick (de-testical-ing with dull, rusty instruments was high on the list), preparing myself for the fact that my horse was definitely about to die, dragging Salem's halter on and pulling him out of his stall, and dialing my vet's number.
*To be continued...*

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Abscess Aftermath

After Salem's abscess blew , I figured we were all in the clear--and, for several months, everything was just fine. Salem was looking fit and (reasonably) sound:

In fact, Salem was looking so good that in July my vet cleared him for riding. I cautiously started longeing him with a saddle and bridle to get him back into the swing of things. Good thing I know better than to get my hopes up, though, because the *day* before I was planning to get on his back for the first time in what feels like several decades, he came up slightly off on the left front.

Yep, it was the abscess hoof. As the empty abscess cavity had grown closer to the ground, the hoof wall underneath cracked because the cavity was a weak point in the wall. It was cracked from the cavity to the ground, and it was growing steadily wider. Huge crack in hoof = sore pony.

Pretty scary-lookin', yes? I emailed this pic to Candy and she was shocked at how much wider the crack had grown since she had last seen him. She told me to keep his flares rasped down so they wouldn't pull it  further apart, and keep him in his Cavallo boots.

About a week after he moved into the new barn, his hoof looked like this:

The wall was starting to chip, so I once again grabbed my rasp and cleaned it up as well as I could. Afterwards, I packed the whole hoof with Magic Cushion, wrapped it with Vetrap, and slapped his boots back on. (By the way, I had considered casting this hoof; didn't happen, but I found Techform casting tape, which is the exact same thing as Equicast only orders of magnitude cheaper.)

Slight improvement, and with Magic Cushion stuffed into the cavity to hold everything together

That brings us to Salem's last hoof trim a little over a week ago. Slightly off topic, but as I pulled into the barn, I glanced over to Salem's paddock and saw this:

One sleepy young boy lying in the shade for an afternoon nap--adorable! I love that he has relaxed and realized that he's safe and sound in his new home. I'm also loving the fact that he isn't isolated off in No-man's Land like he was at our last barn; his paddock is right up front where everybody can see him, and he can actually see most of his horsey neighbors from his paddock/stall. I think this move was a blessing in disguise.

Back to the hooves: Candy was pleased to see that the crack was superficial and had not extended beyond the first wall. There was also no infection present. All great news.

Another  month or two and this whole thing will (finally!) be completely grown out and gone. Which means Salem *should* be sound and I can finally start riding him again. I know better than to set my heart on it, but I am hopeful that it will happen. 

***The outer bands of Isaac have been hitting us the last few days, and we'll be getting the brunt of it Sunday around 9 am and continuing into Monday. I didn't put Salem's luggage tags on or draw on him with livestock markers, but I did leave his fly mask and leather halter on him, and booted him up in his Ecogold cross country boots for good measure. (I didn't even buy any emergency M&Ms, which is a good sign that I am really not too worried.) All the other horses are locked into the barn, but I decided to leave Salem's door open and let him choose if he wants to be in or out--the last thing I want to do is stress him more. Hopefully, he'll just be very wet but otherwise fine. Maybe I should have brought Salem some flippers and a snorkel, though, because as I write this I am listening to rain pouring down!***

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Saddle Fitting Experts: Your Opinions, Please!

OK, let's cut right to the chase here. Does this saddle fit Salem? *crosses fingers* Pleasepleasepleaseplease  fit...

Of course, I am going to have someone look at this saddle in person to determine if it fits Salem well. Just looking for some general opinions here since I am woefully clueless about saddle fit. Fire away!