Sunday, February 14, 2010

Blackjack is Unwell and Miranda is Unsettled

We noticed yesterday that Blackjack wasn't eating well, and seemed a little down. We'd noticed a while ago that his manure was getting softer - not diarrhea but not normal either. Our PM feeding lady took his temperature yesterday afternoon, and it was 103.4F - oh dear. His owner called the vet, who came within the hour. He was fully examined, including a rectal exam and gastronasal tubing. The vet thinks he has low gut motility and poor absorption, and may also have had a minor episode of choke - he is in his 30s and has almost no teeth and gets well-soaked beet pulp. He may also have a viral or bacterial infection underlying everything else. His blood is being tested and they're doing a fecal culture for salmonella (most horses apparently carry salmonella but it's inactive unless their immune systems are suppressed). He got a dose of Buscopan to improve his gut motility, and Banamine for fever. The vet didn't start him on antibiotics yet since we don't know if there's a bacterial infection that antibiotics could help, and antibiotics are likely to further mess up his gut function.

So he's on a regime of regular temperature taking (with Banamine if the temp is over 102 and a call to the vet if it's over 103), probiotics and electrolytes to encourage drinking. He had a temperature of 102.4F this morning, but his temperature quickly went down after I gave him the Banamine. He still isn't eating, but he's at a good weight now, which hasn't always been the case in the winter, so he's got at least some cushion for weight loss. He's very old but he's a tough little guy, so we're keeping our fingers crossed.

Miranda, whose stall is next to Blackjack's, seemed somewhat disturbed by the vet's visit - vets and chiropractors are pretty low down on her list due to their (a) being strange people (i.e. not my daughter) and (b) engaging in lots of touching and poking, which she objects to. Blackjack's owner commented that she rolled in the stall a number of times while they were there - and she's not colicing. This morning, she seemed a little more aggressive - when she wanted out of the stall and I shut the door I got lots of ear pinning, head snaking and teeth, although she led out OK. When I let her go in the paddock she also briefly pinned her ears as she walked away, which she hasn't done before. One thing that's a bit odd, and disturbing, is that if I stand quietly by the paddock fence, she will deliberately leave her hay pile, which is a good 30 feet from the fence line, walk deliberately towards me with her ears up as though she's coming to greet me, and then as she gets close, charge the fence with ears flat and teeth out - the front feet usually leave the ground as well and her head comes over the fence although she doesn't hit the fence (which she used to do when my daughter first got her). The eyes are pretty scary too - hard and dead looking. Then, as I just stand there (I'm always careful to stand where she can't reach me so I don't have to move if she charges), she switches off and turns away and walks calmly back to her hay as if nothing had happened. It's pretty strange.

I'm going to encourage my daughter to try to think of what to do as if someone had brought her the horse to evaluate and described its behavior improvements and then worsenings - "my trainer did this and the horse was fine for her and then she went to Florida for a month and this happened". My daughter has sunk a lot of time and money into this horse, but I think in order to make a good decision about what to do, she may need to put that to one side.


  1. Kate...what does Blackack eat besides soaked beet pulp? Does he get soaked haycubes?

    Miranda is a real mystery.

  2. I've NEVER seen a horse do that.

  3. BTW, Happy Valentine's Day--and may it include horses, as you'd say!!!

  4. Hope Blakjack is OK.

    I can understand your befuddlement and concern with Miranda's behavior. It will be interesting to see how she behaves when your daughter returns.

    Happy Valentine's Day and stay safe.

  5. I just want to offer a note of sympathy and support. Your winter so far has been full of troubling issues, big and little. You are doing a wonderful job of taking care of these horses. Tough times come to all of us, in life in general and in our life with horses. Take care of yourself so you can keep on doing what you do for these animals in your care.

    (I'd offer answers if I had them...but all I've got is support at the moment.)

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  7. Kate,
    I've not had to deal with a horse like Miranda - certainly I've had some minor episodes but nothing so eerie. I read somewhere once about a mare that had a very bad hormonal imbalance that was able to be corrected once diagnosed - perhaps you've already crossed that bridge, I can't recall if you said as much.
    Positive vibes for both Blackjack & Miranda.

  8. I have all crossed for Blackjack, he sounds a tough little cookie but I hope he's on the mend now.

    Poor Miranda, I wish I knew what to say or suggest :(

  9. Poor Blackjack. Hope he feels better soon. It's always a worry when an old horse has issues like that.

    Miranda...always a worry. Interesting that after the attack she just walked off. The eyes do worry, as it makes her sound as if she is totally absorbed, as you have said, in her own reality.

    Only two possible options I can think of. One is using an animal communicator to talk to her. (IF you are a skeptic, that's fine, but I have had some amazing, specific results that cannot be explained other than by real communication going on.) The second would be a horse whisperer trainer--Kenny Harlow, for example--who specializes in rehabbing such horses.

    Either method, though, costs money and might not solve the problems, so you'd have to really want to invest more in her.

    My heart goes out to your daughter who has the responsibility to decide what to do. I am confident she will do the right thing, no matter what.

  10. I think I'd check hormones, vision, and anything they can do to assess neurological damage or brain injury/abnormality.

    I personally would also get kinesiology testing done with someone known to be gifted in that work, and while I've never used an animal communicator, I wouldn't hesitate to give that a try too.

    The dead eyes and the changeability of her mood make me think there's something physical going on if you are absolutely certain there has never been abuse.

    Sending good thoughts. It sounds like a rough time in your barn!

  11. Kate, I am so sorry about Miranda. All the good work your daughter has done and everything.
    On the other hand, even if she behaves better when your daughter returns, how stable will she be?
    I must admit that your description of her behaviour sounds eerie.

    You are doing a wonderful job. Please also take care of yourself, and stay safe.

  12. I was going to ask if you had her checked for hormonal problems, but Jon beat me to it. The other thing I was going to ask was if you have had her checked for or treated her for ulcers. The episode today sounds like ulcers to me. Seeing the vet/chiro attending to the horse in the next stall stresses her out, irritates her ulcers, and she rolls trying to get relief.

    Also, if at all possible I'd keep her outside 24x7. We keep horses in stalls for our own convenience but it is much healthier for them to live outside 24x7 as long as they have shelter. A pasture or paddock with a run-in shed is ample for most horses in most climates, as long as the ground isn't dangerous (e.g. so slick with ice they can't safely walk).

  13. Hope that Blackjack is feeling better very soon. It's so hard to have an older feller not doing well and such a worry.

    I don't have any real thoughts on Miranda but I think some of the others maybe on to some good suggestions. The way she's acting made me sort of wonder if she is not only missing your daughter and her previous surroundings but perhaps she is trying to cement her order in the herd with you. She may have charged you to show you she's head mare and not you and then walked away when she thought she made her point. Then again the eyes are a mystery.

    I'm probably wrong on all counts but I like to think of every aspect to a problem. It could be as simple as she just doesn't like where she is now or the company she is keeping for the moment. I know I should keep my opinions to myself because I'm more than likely wrong.

  14. Lori Skoog - B'Jack hasn't gotten hay cubes in the past, just beet pulp with senior feed mash.

    Jon, billie, spottheblogger and Grey Horse - thanks for your suggestions - she's already been checked out in every possible way for physical and physiological problems, and has been treated for ulcers (and is on ulcer meds now) and has had extensive dental and chiropractic work done. Her aggression has much more of a "stay away from me" than an alpha mare herd order feel to it, but it's hard to convey these feel things in words.

    Thanks to everyone for their thoughts and suggestions.

  15. Poor Little Black Jack! Hope he feels better soon!

    Kate I have to take my hat off to you about Miranda. She certainly sounds like she has some pretty big problems. Poor Girl - it would be lovely if you and your daughter could fully rehabiliate her and show her how lovely the world can be. Then again you can't save them all can you?

  16. Whoops - sorry, Kate - I thought I remembered reading you weren't sure about some of the testing that had been done - sounds like it's all been looked at and many things have been ruled out. :/

    I guess the question is how far to go and how much money to spend trying to sort this out. If you were local to me, I'd recommend a particular vet who seems to have a gift for unraveling difficult situations. She has training in acupuncture and Chinese medicine and an uncanny ability to look at a horse and just "pick up" things that others have missed. Sending good thoughts as you figure this out.

  17. A little late to the discussion, so I hope not to be too redundant.
    I don't have anything to offer on Miranda except encouragement after a discouraging episode. Your daughter brought her a long way, and I do believe she will be able to regain the ground lost, especially when your daughter returns, though all the steps you take prior to that will help enormously.

    I don't want to seem to be second-guessing (I think all of us who are making suggestions just want to help, but obviously aren't fully aware of everything you're trying/have tried), but is it possible that the current ulcer meds are at too low a level, considering the stresses Miranda has been under of late (change in location, change in handler, change in routine)? Perhaps, in spite of the maintenance level, her ulcers have recurred and she needs a more aggressive treatment?

    I think you have discussed the conundrum of whether the ulcers are the *cause* of her anxiety or a *symptom* of a greater dis-ease...

    My only other thought is this: Once you and your daughter are able to coax Miranda through this set-back, is Miranda talented enough to market her to someone with enough experience and caring to live with the possibility of future episodes? Early on you said your daughter was hoping to market her as a "children's hunter" and I think the unpredictable nature of her current behavior would rule that out now. What other options might there be, before retiring her as a pasture ornament, or euthanasia?

    Just brainstorming here, and hope you take no offense at my thoughts. My hopes and prayers are there for you and Miranda.

    I also hope Blackjack is doing better.


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