"Smile! It keeps your brain from falling out when you're frustrated!" - Clinton Anderson (Downunder Horsemanship)

"They say boys never grow up, their toys just get bigger. I say I never grew up, my 'My Little Ponies' just got bigger!" - Me

Friday, August 26, 2011

Cody's Turn

While Lady's had kind of a crazy summer with sunburn and sweet itch, Cody's hasn't been much better either. Things have been pretty up and down with her knee. I'm not entirely sure how successful I would call her knee surgery. She's definitely not rideable sound, and at this point, I have my doubts that she ever will be. But I'm at least hoping for pasture sound, which she seems to be lately, though I'm worried how things will be once cold weather begins to set in, will she be too uncomfortable to make it through winter? I don't know.

At MSU after surgery in December
But this summer she's had her ups and downs. Thankfully more ups as far as lameness than downs. She was hand walking 30 or 40 minutes 3 or 4 days a week ponying out on the trails with Lady and I without much trouble. Once she got warmed up, she seemed to move along pretty well. But Mother Nature kind of spoiled that with a long stretch of 90+ degrees with 100+ heat index. I didn't want to move much in that, let alone make my horses go for a walk in the hot sun. So cool hose downs and maybe a short walk were pretty much the name of the game. Lately, the skeeters will carry you away if you stray too far from the barn.  But even without all the walking, Cody seemed to do ok on her knee. She had a weird week at one point where she was really sore, then seemed to bounce back from it.

A couple weeks ago she came galloping and bucking full speed all the way across the pasture trying to escape one of those B-52 Bomber flies. The last time she pulled a galloping stunt like that this spring, she was three legged lame for days, it took her a week to get back to where she had been as far as lameness. She was so worried about the fly attacking her and trying to get away from it, I wasn't sure if she remembered the gate was coming up fast, let alone be able to stop in time, I'm just picturing the wreck about to happen. This is Cody after all, and "disaster" seems to be her middle name. And sure enough, her head pops up, her ears fly forward, and that look of "Oh sh*t!" crosses her face as she realizes with the fence on one side and Lady galloping along on the other side, there's no where to go but straight into the gate. Somehow she managed to execute a sliding stop that would have been the envy of any reining horse and brought new meaning to the term "draggin' ass", and only bumped her nose on the gate. And sure enough, she was three legged lame from her antics (but she did get away from that fly and managed not to crash). Oh Cody. But thankfully she seemed to walk it off after a few steps, and an hour later, was pretty much back to her "normal" level of lameness. So that there is progress. Small victories.

She is due for x-rays again. The last ones were back in April I believe. But instead of having my regular vet do the x-rays again, I decided to take her back to MSU to see the surgeon this time. Since Cody seems to be the first successful failure of this surgery, I really wanted Dr. Caron to see her again and get his thoughts, what went wrong, has the joint healed like it should have, see if maybe there's something more than just the knee adding to her lameness, what more can I do for her to try to keep her as comfortable as possible to be a retired pasture pet, especially with cold weather a few months away. Thankfully I do have options still to try, such as daily bute or a different devil's claw and yucca supplement, joint injections to the other two joints in that knee, Adequan or Legend injections, maybe one of the magnetic/ceramic knee wraps, she'd probably benefit from seeing a chiropractor.

So she was supposed to go in to MSU on Tuesday this week, I couldn't wait to see new x-rays and see what Dr. Caron thought. Especially since last week, she started getting really lame again. Good thing she's going to MSU on Tuesday. It kept getting worse, by Saturday she was three legged lame, it took her forever to walk across the pasture to come in for dinner. I cleaned out her foot, and that seemed fine, no rocks or anything stuck in there. I couldn't find any heat or swelling in her knee, but she wanted no part of walking on it. I was just sick and heart broken, her knee was giving out, just like Wayne's did. I went home in tears. Sunday she was marginally better, at least walking on it, but still horribly lame.

But when I went to pick up her foot to clean it out, I discovered a tiny weeping sore at the front of her foot on the coronet band! She blew out an abscess! No wonder she'd been so lame lately! I feel awful, and feel like an idiot, I never even thought to check for an abscess (yes, I clean and handle her feet daily, but I always have gloves on about 90% of the time that I'm handling my horses since a few years ago my body decided it was allergic to horse dander, so I totally missed the heat in her foot)! I just assumed it was her knee getting worse. But I have never been so happy in my life to have a horse with an abscess. An abscess is far more treatable than a knee giving out. And after a good cleaning and soaking, sure enough, there was the tiny pinhead sized black hole in her whiteline on the bottom of her foot where everything started. Poor girl!

This is the first abscess I've had to deal with on one of my own horses. So I called my farrier, because I know he's really good with abscesses, there are some vets that call him to come and dig out abscesses for them. Since it had already blown out the coronet band, he probably didn't need to come dig this one out, at this point it should drain itself pretty well, so soak it twice a day to help draw everything out and call him in 2 days with a progress report, or sooner if it starts building heat again or she goes dead lame again and he'll come right down. And blow out an abscess she did. What started out as a tiny hole in her coronet band about as big around as the end of my little finger turned into about an inch and a half weeping sore by Monday night. Ouch!

But so far so good soaking twice a day. At least it's not oozing any more, still pretty angry looking, but not draining. And she's walking better, but still a little ouchy, but I'm not sure if it's because of the foot, or the knee, or both, with the knee problem added in the mix, it's hard to tell. And thankfully in a better mood the last few days, Monday night while crouching down to work on that foot, I felt the careful warning scrape of teeth across the top of my ballcap letting me know how she felt about the situation, along with several dirty looks. Yesterday the heat was finally gone in her hoof wall, but still some heat right at the coronet band, so my farrier said soak her a couple more days till the heat was gone there too to make sure we get rid of any infection. I also took pictures of it and emailed them to him. He said it looked like your typical abscess and looked to be starting to heal fine, just keep an eye on it and keep him posted.  Tonight the heat in the coronet band was finally gone.

So it's been a long week. Every morning has pretty much gone something like this (and repeated every evening):
  • 5:30 am - crawl out of bed
  • 5:45 am - stumble to truck, hot water and breakfast in hand
  • 5:47 am - eat breakfast on way to barn
  • 5:52 am - arrive at barn
  • 5:53 am - sweet barn kitty demands to be fed
  • 5:54 am - furkids demand to be fed, Cody's pawing, Lady's weaving
  • 5:55 am - both nickering at me "Feed the starving ponies!"
  • 5:56 am - breakfast shortly, hold your horses!
  • 6:00 am - one foot soaking

Needless to say, I am thoroughly exhausted after this week, and about to go fall in bed for the night!
As for the MSU knee checkup, well, we rescheduled. There's no point in taking her in for a knee checkup if she's lame on that foot from an abscess. So we'll get her foot healed up, and then hopefully we can get a better idea of where she's at with her knee, or if there's something else in the foot that's adding to the problem. 

So the MSU trip will be in two weeks. And the furkids and I will keep trudging our way through this crazy summer.

Happy barn kitty!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Holy Sunburn

It's been a crazy summer to say the least.......

Silly Lady and her freckles.
I do love "chrome" on my horses, especially a blaze. Wayne had the text book perfect shaped blaze down his face. Lady's freckles in her blaze are just cute. And while Cody's blaze is more narrow and subtle, it's still perfectly pretty. But Cody definitely has one distinct advantage in the blaze department.....her blaze ends before it reaches that soft delicate peach fuzz nose, and the only white she has there is a tiny little diamond snip.

My poor sweet Lady and her nice big blaze. She usually gets a mild sunburn on her pink little muzzle every year (as did Wayne, though he at least had the advantage of massive forelock to help protect his face), but normally some sunscreen gets Lady through it till she "gets her tan on" and then she's fine till the fall when the "photo sensitivity sunburn" due to whatever it is she decides to eat every fall sometimes happens. But anywho, mild summer sunburn......not so this year. She fried. And I mean fried! Even with using 90 SPF sunscreen twice a day the minute she started looking a little pink on the nose. And of course I couldn't find a long nose fly mask to try to shade more of her face anywhere around town, so had to order one, which meant waiting a few days for it to arrive, and no matter how much I poured the sunscreen to her, she continued to fry.

Collar and almost healed up face!
Within a matter of days 3/4 of Lady's pretty blaze was burnt, peeling, angry red, weeping, and even the dark skin on either side of her blaze was showing signs of an angry red burn! She spent a couple days in the barn in Cody's stall just to get her out of the sun. I didn't even bother trying to put a halter on her head, just looped it around her neck, and finally gave up on the halter all together when I finally found a horse collar, which she's been wearing ever since, thankfully she's an angel about leading and tying.

Since stalling her every day wasn't an option since she's pasture board, I waited on pins and needles for that new long nose fly mask to arrive, praying that would help shade her face, but it took forever to get here, holiday weekend and all that good stuff. So in the meantime, I went in search of zinc oxide, since the highest SPF sunscreen I could find wasn't doing a bit of good. I finally found two big bottles of zinc oxide sunscreen, and Lady ended up with lifeguard nose or the bald face paint look twice a day.....which she promptly tried to wipe off on her knees the minute I got out of distance to stop her. Thankfully if I could get her to leave it alone long enough to dry a little bit, most of it would stay stuck through her attempts to wipe it off, but we had a lot of white knees and legs in addition to white face. I guess she was going for the full bald face paint look with high white socks? Occasionally Cody had white stripes on her butt, as did the Richie waterer. But the zinc oxide definitely help turn the tide in the war against the sunburn, protecting her enough to at least keep her from burning more, and let her skin slowly begin to heal.

Bunny ears!!!
Finally that new long nose fly mask arrived, complete with pink ears and her name embroidered on the front. It was perfect, shaded her entire face, right down to that normally soft pink skin right between her nostrils that was currently angry red and peeling. Finally shade for her face, and no more lifeguard nose.....she was such a good sport, but you could tell she was really getting tired of having stuff rubbed on her face. Day one with the new fly mask went great, you could already see the difference in her burn!

Day two, not so good, she rubbed it off, went all day without it, and got fried. Ok, two can play this game little girl, say hello to your friend zinc oxide! War paint slathered on, then fly mask! Double protection, so when she took the fly mask off, at least she still had something protecting her from the sun. And an extra bottle of zinc oxide sitting out in the barn, so other boarders could have fun with face painting if she managed to rub off both the fly mask and the war paint while I was at work. Of course, Mother Nature didn't help much either, sneak attack thunderstorms that soaked her new mask to the point that it had to spend a day or two in the barn to dry out, then more rain to wash the war paint off her face while her fly mask was drying, and then hot hot sun.

Oh Lady girl, you're so naughty!
Thankfully the fly mask stayed on more often than not, though she likes the one ear out look, and seems to think the forelock hole is supposed to be an ear hole, but we finally won the war against the sunburn. Her skin is finally healed up, except for the occasional scratch now and then from trying to rub that mask off on something, and her hair is slowly growing back. Still no halter though, that skin is a little too delicate yet with only peach fuzz protecting it. But that was definitely the most bizarre sunburn I have ever had to deal with. And I felt just awful, because you could tell Lady was miserable. I'm not even sure what caused it, I know some weeds can make them photosensitive, but honestly, there's not much in their pasture and they were on the same hay and grain diet they've been on forever now, so who knows. But at least this time I know how to fight it should sunburn rear it's ugly head again. Long nose fly mask and zinc oxide seem to be my two best weapons....I'm ok with owning a part time bald face paint or war pony, and the "lifeguard nose" is just funny.

Salted pony anyone?
Course, then we went straight from sunburn to sweet itch when good ole Ma Nature decided to crank up the heat for an extended period of time, going from low 80s to high 90s. Poor Lady sweats easy to begin with, so she was just wringing wet during the day, some evenings she was so covered in salt it looked like it had snowed all over her. And while her mane isn't nearly as long and thick as Wayne's was, apparently it was long enough and thick enough to cause her to sweat enough under there to create the perfect storm for sweet itch on the underside of her mane.

And itch she did! I pulled in the driveway one evening after work to find Lady girl out by the shelter going to town itching her mane for all she was worth on the corner of the shelter. And when I brought her in the barn, she was itching like a mad woman on anything within her reach; post, stall, door, stairs, cross tie, me, Cody (that one did not go over well). She'd rubbed out half the underside of her mane and her scalp was a scabby, scaly, weeping mess. I guess this is where Cody's pitiful Thoroughbred mane is a blessing.

So, braided Lady's mane to the opposite side for ventilation to get some air flow under there and slathered on the MTG. That didn't help much. She was still pretty itchy. And it made one heck of a mess down both sides of her neck. Time for a betadine shampoo. Did you know MTG will waterproof your horse? Seriously, even after three shampooings, the water just beaded up and ran right off her neck and mane like she'd been waxed or camp dried. Why can't fly spray stick like that? But at any rate, betadine shampooed and braided to the opposite side again, and still pretty itchy and not healing much.

Crooked, but still covered!
Then I remembered the mysterious yellow ointment in the plain white jar who's label only says "Scratches" that Dr. Irving gave me last year when I couldn't get rid of the scratches on Cody's legs. I have no idea what's in it, the jar literally only says "Scratches" on a taped on paper label. Looks like furazone, but he assured me there was none of that in there, and rambled off a few names of things that I don't even remember now, but it's a concoction of some kind that the MSU vet clinic apparently came up with, and whatever it is, boy does it work, it cleared up Cody's scratches in no time flat last year, and did the same thing for Lady's sweet itch, by the next day, her scalp was nearly itch free! And the skin on her neck where she'd rubbed some of her hair thin while scratching out her mane was turning pink with sunburn......yes, here we go with the sunburn again......

Apparently skin that has spent 17 years under the dark side of a mane doesn't like full time sun exposure. Oops, my bad, braids out, sorry girl. And of course, even though her mane was only braided to the opposite side for a few days, it decided to stay there. Skin's a little pinker and looking a little flaky peely. My poor horse! So back in braids to retrain her mane back to where it belonged. At least the braids gave her a little shade, and after a couple flaky peely days, her skin was back to normal, her scalp was healing up, her mane trained back to where it was supposed to be, and acclimation to the insane heat and humidity makes for a less sweaty pony under there, so hopefully no more sweet itch.....or sunburn!

Super models!

How come yours has a long nose and mine doesn't?