Friday, November 8, 2013

Dawn Says "Ouch!", and Two Drunks

It was a very busy day yesterday.  Our farrier was coming early to do trims.  I don't ordinarily ride Dawn on Thursdays, but since I had to bring her in (the boys were in pens since their pasture is far away), wait for the farrier to arrive and then wait for two other horses to get done first, Dawn and I rode.

We were going along nicely - we'd done our walk warm up and were a number of minutes into our trot work when something very odd happened.  Dawn is generally more soft and supple tracking left, although the difference between right and left is gradually disappearing as my position is more consistently even.  We were tracking left at a forward, soft trot, when bang!  everything changed in an instant.  She was still sound and even, but her footfalls were rushed.  The contact/feel in the reins went from soft/live to dead, particularly on the left rein.  She was either lugging on the left rein or avoiding contact altogether - in fact she felt a bit bowed up.  And then she started shaking her head - uh, oh . . . something was really bothering her all of a sudden.

I jumped off and started investigating.  Dawn's had a lot of dental issues, so I started with her mouth. The bit was at the proper height, and her lips, teeth and tongue looked fine, and her tongue wasn't over the bit.  Nothing was obviously wrong with her face.  Nothing in her ears.  I checked out her hyoid apparatus - the bone and soft tissue structures that anchor the tongue - they can be found between the jawbones and sometimes get out of alignment - everything was fine there.  Her jaw moved freely from side to side without her being bothered, and her TMJs seemed comfortable.

If it's a bit/contact issue, it's usually either the mouth or the neck - usually the poll.  Bingo!  When I put pressure behind her left ear, she flinched and started bobbing her head up and down and shaking it from side to side - I think the head shaking was her attempt to release the pressure from either a muscle cramp or nerve pinch.  I started working on her poll area, all around both ears and along her crest.  Within a few minutes, she was relaxing and chewing and seemed quite a bit happier - it was probably a cramp.  I got back on and things were much improved.  I got off a bit later in our ride and did some more - at one point she chose to move her head sharply to one side and there was a loud crack - something else releasing.  I got back on and she was completely  back to normal - lovely and relaxed and soft and forward.

Glad we were able to get that figured out!  If it recurs, I'll have the chiropractor out to do more proper work on her neck and poll.

Then all three horses got their trims.  Everyone was perfectly behaved.  Red was relaxed with his ears up - I could see him thinking: "I have a new name because I'm now a new horse - look how good I am!  It's time you forgot that old horse with the different name (the one that used to nip and kick and strike and slam his feet down if you even tried to pick his feet, much less give him a trim), since I'm not that horse any more."  I think I'll take him up on that - those old stories don't do us any good - he's just one of my good horses now and that's all we need to say about that.

Then, in the afternoon, I was back at the barn.  All three horses were pretty dirty, so it took quite a while to clean them up.  Pie and Red were having a day off - I almost always give my horses a day off from riding after their trims although they usually don't need it.  We were waiting for the vet, so I took my time and really enjoyed our grooming sessions.  The vet had given me an estimated time of 5:30.  Now, one of the great things about my vet is that she's part of an equine hospital, which means she's very experienced, particularly when it comes to lameness issues.  But then one of the not so good things about my vet is that she's part of an  equine hospital, because if there's an emergency that comes in, that takes priority - this is true of any vet but the emergencies at the hospital often are more serious and sometimes involve surgery.  So they were an hour late, but that was OK with me.

Pie got his rabies shot, and then was sedated, with an extra drug to keep him from kicking, which he was inclined to do last time he had his sheath cleaned, even with sedation.  I expect it was pretty uncomfortable that time, since he'd probably never been cleaned before, was very dirty and had a number of sizable beans.  This time he was pretty dirty again, although he had only one small bean.  We're going to keep him on a six month cleaning schedule.  Red kept a close eye on proceedings through the gaps in the wall between their stalls.

We left Pie to sleep it off and Red was next - he only had to be lightly sedated - and wasn't as desperately in need of a cleaning.  He did kick out once - the vet said the water was probably too cooled off.  Red tends to push through sedation and stays as alert as he can, but once they were done he went to sleep and started snoring.

After a while, when the boys were starting to wake up a bit - not enough to put their hay back in their stalls - I put up Pie's stall guard and he came to the door and leaned out, still pretty dopey.  I opened Red's door and he woozied his way out without his halter on - I wasn't worried as I didn't think he'd go far in his dopey state - getting stopped momentarily when his hip got stuck against the doorframe - he figured it out and weaved his way to Pie's door.

Red stopped there and they stood together for a few moments, heads together, eyes squinted - like two companionable drunks.  Then they did a little grooming - I've never seen the two of them groom before - until Red woke up a bit more and nipped Pie on the chest - Pie squealed and backed into his stall.

I walked both boys around a bit, including in the arena, to gauge their alertness.  It took about an hour for both boys to be back to normal.  It was now about 8 - I gave them the rest of their hay and headed home.


  1. I'm a little bit embarrassed to admit that all 4 of my geldings rather enjoy having their sheaths cleaned...Harley used to occasionally dispute a bit, but even he stands quietly now. The last time I cleaned Harley, he required a tube of Dormosedan Gel because he had a HUGE bean and it must have been painful. But with the sedation, I was able to remove it and now he's a happy boy. :) So happy to hear that whatever was wrong with Dawn, it cleared up quickly. Must have been one of those sharp pains that we can all get.

  2. The only time Sugar and Morgunn get sedated is when their teeth are floated in the Spring. Sugar gets a normal amount. However, the vet has learned that he needs to cut Morgunn's sedation amount down quite a bit - less than half what Sugar gets. It only takes a little and Morgunn is in dreamy land.


  3. Glad you found out what was wrong with Dawn. That is always a scary moment when they pull up "wrong" like that in the middle of a ride.

    Lucky the farrier and vet came the same day. Saved you another day of just kind of hanging around. My vets are really good about keeping appointments, but emergencies can always intervene. It's all part of the horse world, I fear.

  4. It's always interesting to see that other side of them when they are unnaturally droopy and quite vulnerable.
    Sounds like a productive day!

  5. My guy is "helpful" at sheath cleaning time - no meds necessary. I used to care for a generally unfriendly pony mare - once the dentist administered the happy drugs we showered her with affection... ear rubs, smooches - whole nine yards. ;D

    I just love your Dawn. :D

  6. How interesting about Dawn's head shaking and her response to your massaging. I often wonder about strains to the neck when looking at horses and imagining how much weight they are carrying around!

  7. The picture you painted of the two drunks stumbling in their stalls, grooming each other, -- and then the nip, is priceless.

  8. Must be that time of year, Licorice got teeth done and sheath cleaned yesterday!

  9. How do I check my horse's hyoid apparatus?

    Harley doesn't mind a cleaning at all. I have tried always to not make it a big deal. During the summer, he even enjoys a nice rinse with the hose. Saves me a little money when the vets is hired to do the rest of the barn.

    1. Val - the hyoid structures are a series of bones, and related ligaments, that support the larynx at the top of the throat, attach to the base of the skull and then lie between the jaws and provide the attachment for the tongue. If you feel high up between your horse's jaws, you'll be able to feel it - the base of the tongue should lie midway between the jawbones, not to either side.

      This delicate structure is why pulling the horse's tongue out its mouth to check its teeth is such a bad idea - it can damage the structures that support the tongue, leading to other problems. My dentist doesn't do that to check teeth (speculum is better) or work on incisors, he lays his other hand across the bars and keeps the horse's mouth open that way.

  10. Glad you were able to diagnos Dawn and help her feel better. She's a great horse.

    Love the image of the two drunk buddies. Maybe the more Pie and Red get done they'll learn to like it. My geldings all really like their cleanings. So does Dusty. She actually picks up a back leg and cocked it backward so I can get a good angle.

  11. You are so in tune with your horses, and that's great that you were able to help Dawn.
    Beamer doesn't get beans, probably because he's a stallion and tends to drop a lot, but now that I have Rio I'll have to clean him. Our equine dentist always checks for beans when he has the boys sedated.


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