This morning, as usual, I let Chance, Beauty, Huey, Lucy, Roxanna, and Zola loose to go to the big field. This, for those who don’t know, is unfenced on 3 sides, so I check on them periodically to see what they’re doing. Around 8 or 8:30 I looked out to see Chance lying down. This was highly unusual, as it was a dark, windy day with what appeared to be rain clouds overhead. Not the normal napping day. In addition, after only a couple hours the horses are still usually into eating that lush grass!
My first thought was colic, and I watched intently for several minutes, but he seemed perfectly calm and quiet, and his ears were up. A few minutes later he got up and started grazing. The next time I looked he was doing more walking than eating – again not normal. So I went out to check on him. Listened for gut sounds – they were there – and noticed that his lips were swollen. He didn’t mind me touching them, and they were perfectly evenly swollen, not like he had an abscess or an injury. It appeared he might have been stung by something. Since it was affecting his grazing, I put him back in. Hoping he’d keep his head up to help reduce the swelling. The next time I looked out – not much later – he was sticking his head up like a giraffe pulling at something on one of the trees. I went out to see what he was doing and noticed his face was swollen, and his lips looked more swollen.
Now comes the debate. Should I call the vet out – or let it resolve on its own? Looking up “poison bites” in Pat Coleby’s book, Natural Horse Care revealed that she recommended injected vitamin C. I don’t have injectibles, but I do have ascorbic acid. I mixed about 1/4 cup of Vitamin C with some vegetable oil to make a slurry, which I then sucked up into a used probiotic oral syringe. Gave that to Chance and he only spit out a very tiny amount. However, now his skin had lumps. Not hives but sort of like a “quilted” appearance.
Okay – time to call the vet. In order to get him seen soon I would have to take him to the vet’s office. This required taking all my hay out of the trailer, along with the harness I use to drive Huey, 2 bags of grain, a container of grain – basically my whole “feed room”. Did that, then realized I had 5 horses to bring in. The horses are good, but it takes time to get them because of the distance I have to cover. Finally they were all in. I hitched up the trailer and went to get Chance. About an hour had passed since I last checked on him.
His face is less swollen, his lips are less swollen and his lumps are fewer. Should I risk waiting to see if the Vitamin C (or nature) would resolve it? Or should I play it safe? Since I was hitched and ready, I decided to just go to the vet.
At the vet’s I was told there was a hog there for castration that was ahead of me, but as soon as that was done the vet would look at Chance. I sat in the truck and Chance was in the trailer as they tried to castrate this hog. And it was a hog – huge! Why anyone would wait so long is beyond me. The hog screamed loudly for 20 minutes – while they did whatever they were trying to do. Not squealing either – he sounded like a table saw cutting through really hard wood – it was unbelievable. Chance actually whinnied several times in response. I tried to imagine why they didn’t just put him to sleep to do this – why try a local? But they continued on for another 15 or 20 minutes of more screaming. I really felt bad for the poor pig.
When it was our turn they had me lead Chance right over to where they had castrated the pig. There was blood, and there giant testicles lying there. Each one was the size of a cantaloupe (but egg shaped) – a big cantaloupe. Chance wasn’t having any of that! He kept trying to push or drag me back to the trailer. He probably was concerned they were going to kill him. The vet asked his assistant to check Chance’s sheath and quiet sweet Chancie fired off a kick without hesitation. Wow! He was clearly on guard. Being me, I then tried scratching his sheath – and he was fine. So he really does trust me.
I lead him out to the parking lot where he was happier but still wanting to go to the trailer. His head was all the way up and he was all but dancing around. All the horses act like such old cows at home (including Lena) that I forget how quickly he can turn into a racehorse! In the end he got a steroid shot, and antibiotic (apparently steroids suppress the immune system), and a tetanus shot, for the cut he got on his leg a few days ago. It’s very minor – nothing to be worried about.
The good news is that though I was worried he would come off the trailer and gimp across the sharp stones of the parking lot – due to that hole in his sole – he went sound. Whether that was his adrenalin or not remains to be seen.
The horses, particularly Beauty, are unhappy that they didn’t get to go back out when I got home. But I am pooped, it feels stormy, and I just want to relax. They will just have to suffer on their 20 acres.
One of the partners in Lena recently sent me a video on the use of Lasix. The video was produced by a human cardiac surgeon, who is also heavily involved with racehorses. I had been told that his views were pro-Lasix and I was interested in seeing what he had to say, but still skeptical and anti-Lasix.
The video skipped over the differences (large) between horses and humans regarding breathing and blood flow, but one thing that was said made me do some research when the video was over. Horses can die from bleeding.
Maybe I am alone in not knowing this, but it sure came as a shock. My first search was “horse deaths caused by bleeding”. This turned up an article from the L.A. Times (dated July 24, 1988). See excerpt below:
“Bleeding in race horses–a common syndrome at most tracks–has been identified as a possible major cause of sudden death in a controversial new study that concludes the phenomenon may explain many race-horse deaths previously thought to be heart attacks.
The finding surprised experts at the University of Pennsylvania’s New Bolton Center veterinary complex, which headed the research project. The study was published earlier this month in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Assn. In a study of nine horses that died at two Pennsylvania tracks between 1981 and 1983, the New Bolton Center team found that bleeding was responsible in every case.
The study said this phenomenon often does not show itself through nosebleeds, as was previously thought. In fact, of the horses studied, only four of nine had visible nosebleeds.”
To read the entire article click here.
Even more disturbing was the following: “Both Soma and Sweeney questioned whether significant numbers of horses that appear to have breakdown injuries have had medical seizures just before they were hurt. Soma said slow-motion videotapes of injuries generally reveal that a fatal breakdown is preceded by a hyperextension of the leg and that injured horses often slow down after they are hurt and do not completely collapse.”
The very idea is extremely concerning. Perhaps that’s what happened to Eight Belles. Could it be?
I don’t necessarily believe the theory presented by Dr. Dedomenico – and widely accepted in the industry – that blood pressure is to blame. I have read Dr. Cook’s book, Specifications for Speed in the Racehorse: The Airflow Factors, and also found a third theory during my searching that makes a lot of sense – to me at least – and believe there is another cause, or perhaps a combination of causes of EIPH.
Here is a brief article on Dr. Cook’s beliefs. http://review.barnmice.com/the-bleeder%E2%80%99s-list/ And a link to Doug Ahart’s theory http://www.racehorseherbal.com/Racehorse_Injuries/EIPH/eiph.html. In addition, here is a link to a method that appears to be working and could actually validate Mr. Ahart’s theory. http://www.centurion-systems.co.uk/respiratory4.htm
Whatever the cause, for me, the risk is too great to take the chance and until more facts are available, the horses will race with Lasix.
Below is a photo of Chance’s sarcoid taken the day before yesterday. Clearly it’s grown hair and is much smaller than originally. I tried to put my thumb and finger near it, to show the actual size, but then Chance would move and I couldn’t get a shot.
I checked on Chance’s sarcoid the other day. It was raining so I didn’t take photos, but it is clearly growing hair! Much more of it is covered than when I took the previous photo. The hair is moving in from the sides. Everything I’ve read about sarcoids indicates that they do not go away on their own and often do not go away with treatment. So this is exciting to me – that Chance’s is getting better completely on its own.
There is so much that is not known by science or medicine regarding humans, let alone horses. I like to think that diet and lifestyle are truly important. Now that it’s improving, I feel like the sarcoid is a measure of Chance’s health. Big, raised, bald sarcoid – not healthy. Sarcoid going away – healthy horse. And look how long it took. Two years.
Photo coming soon.
I just finished reading an article from The Horse Health Newsletter regarding parasite load and performance. Surprisingly, the results of a study of standardbred racehorses showed that all had some worm load, but that the winners most often had the highest worm load!
Now, I do not credit the worms with improving performance. Not at all. But I do believe that this could be evidence that more frequent de-worming decreases performance. Really, wormer is poison. No one seems to consider the effect of wormers on the horse itself – only on the worms. I have always believed the less poison you put into your horse, the better.
For those who want to read the article – click here.
The injury that Zola suffered three weeks ago is nearly completely healed. Despite the stitches ripping out, the depth of the wound (at least 3″), the flies, etc. The wound looks fabulous. Zola was never lame and seems to have suffered no lasting effects.
Below are photos I took this morning. Also visible is how much she has roaned out. (She is not a grey.) She is eating in the round pen. This is how I get to take photos! Also, it builds good memories – as the round pen is where she received treatment for her injury.
Click on images to enlarge
I noticed the other day that Chance’s sarcoid looked much narrower. Walking over to check – thought it might just be his winter coat covering part of it – I could see that hair is actually growing. That is really exciting to me. And it would seem to be an indicator that I am on the right track regarding diet – especially free choice minerals. It has been almost 2 years (will be 2 years this Thanksgiving) since I bought Chance. That is how long it’s taken for him to get healthy enough to heal that sarcoid. Two whole years.
That is not the only difference. This is the first fall (number 3) that he has what I would consider decent weight. He is almost fat! This too is a sign that his system is healthy. I would not have thought – at all – when I brought him home in 2009, that it would take this long to overcome the first 6 years of his life – or maybe just the 4 years of racing. It has certainly been an education.
I want to say here that as far as “conventional wisdom” goes, racehorses do have a high quality diet. They get very high quality hay, premium feeds, and supplements such as Platinum Performance, etc. They shine and look like a million dollars. (Not for the first time I have to say a shiny coat is not a sign of health. I have a friend whose horse looked great – shiny coat, etc. And he had a failing liver and had to be put down. Lots of shiny horses get laminitis, and colic, etc.) However, shiny coat aside, the diet racehorses get is not adequate. Since all domestic horses are confined to one degree or another, they are unable to forage for the different nutrients they need. And those nutrients are not in manufactured feeds (or supplements) in the quantities that are needed. I completely believe that. Our horses, in general, are not getting the nutrition they need to be healthy.
First, the horses. Zola’s stitches came apart after a few days. The vet had warned me that was possible due to the location and size of the wound. Boy it looked horrible – just a big gaping hole! I didn’t take photos because there are a few areas in which I am superstitious, and taking photos of things I hope to go well is something I avoid, to not jinx it. (Yes, it’s silly.) Anyway, between the drainage, the depth, the tail hairs getting in it (at first), it was scary. I wrapped Zola’s tail in vetwrap – which she always managed to get 90% off – to keep the hair out of the wound. And I sprayed it twice with Blue Kote. It is almost completely healed and did not get infected or have problems. I will confess that contrary to vet’s advice, I did not give her any antibiotics. I didn’t give them to her when she cut her leg last year either. She is young and healthy and clearly has a healthy immune system. I do not believe in prophylactic antibiotics, I feel they should only be given when it becomes apparent they’re needed. I believe a lot the issues we have now with resistant bacteria, etc. comes from massive overuse of antibiotics. For both people and animals.
I also did not make any effort to keep the flies off the wound. Yes, flies are creepy and disgusting to us, but are they bad? I don’t think so. Also, having now seen that very few flies were on the wound ( saw one), yet there were a LOT of flies on the horses, I think flies are an indicator of infection. No flies, no tempting rotten smell of infection? Maybe. Also, the chemicals I would have used to keep flies away (SWAT was recommended) would clearly have made their way into the wound, which I consider a bigger risk than flies. For all we know, flies could actually be good for wounds.
As for Chance. Of course he is fine now – bucking and galloping and playing.
I have not ridden him as I have been too excited about other things. Namely I have bought a farm!
Yes. My own farm. 76 beautiful acres. Click here to see photos.
I’ve named it Wild Dreams Farm, for obvious reasons.
Zola is healing really well. I was amazed at how much better the wound looked this morning compared to yesterday. The vet, Zach, did a great job.
Below is a photo of the wound taken just a while ago, less than 48 hours after it occurred. The wet at the bottom of the stitched area is drainage. Zach very wisely left the bottom part open to allow fluid to drain. That part will close on its own. Only a portion of the stitches are visible as many were used to sew the torn muscle back together before closing the skin.
The bottom photo shows the amount of swelling.
The good news - Chance appears to be back at 100 %. The last two days he’s been trotting around just fine. If he makes it to tomorrow (omg) then I will try riding him.
The bad news? Zola has injured herself. Our neighbors, Kellye and Jim called me yesterday evening at 7:45 to say Zola was next to the fence by their driveway and they could see she’d injured herself. I had been away most of the day, but was only 5 miles from home when I got the call. It was just before dark, and it was so lucky that they saw it when they did. As soon as I saw it I called the vet, who arrived within the hour. It took quite a while and many stitches! She had cut a 3 x 3 inch gash in the lower portion of her hindquarters on her left side. Thankfully in a nice fleshy area. Literally like two sides of a square that was then peeled open. The cut went completely through the skin and revealed the muscle and some fascia underneath. The action of the muscles sucked in air and then pushed it out, creating a pink foam that dripped from the wound. Not a pretty sight. Though it would have been kind of cool if it had been a Z!
The vet commented on what a good mind Zola has, as she handled it all very calmly and cooperatively. The only part she didn’t like was the bright lights in the dark, but she got used to them. She was confined to the round pen, per the vet’s instructions, for the night. I put Chance in with her to keep her somewhat mollified. She was upset for a while about not being with the herd, but she settled quickly. This morning I turned them both out, after finding the source of the injury.
Will take a photo some time today if it doesn’t rain.