Friday, March 16, 2012

Healing wounds, moving targets, more trouble, and packing beginners

Of the four parts to this blog post, only one is about Panama.  That probably tells you how my week has been spent: taking care of Rondo since his injury on Sunday.

The wound looks great and hasn't swelled up at all.  I've been very relieved not to have to clean a gaping wound on his face, but his medicine has proven to be its own challenge.  His antibiotics were a powder, and I found out the first day that he doesn't like applesauce (I suspect he doesn't like anything apple, since he has turned down apples from me before, too).  He also didn't care for maple syrup, which I used to try to flavor some oatmeal (at which point he completely lost interest in it.  We eventually settled on a mixture of strawberries and cream instant oatmeal with molasses and garnished with oats as the preferred way of getting his antibiotics.

Bute, on the other hand, has been its own challenge.  Last year I'd worked with Rondo so that he'd be easy to deworm, taking care not to make it a bad experience.  I've dewormed him a few times since without any trouble, but I think those days may be over, at least for a little while, thanks to the bute.  He didn't object much on Sunday, but he was still drugged then; on Monday, he realized it tasted bad, and objected about halfway through.  We worked a little afterward on opening his mouth for me when I stick my finger or a syringe in the corner of his lips, and on not throwing his head when I ask him to do so!  Each day when it was time for the bute, he still objected and threw his head, but I just waited with one hand over his nose and the other holding the tube by his cheek until he calmed down.  Each day the time I had to wait got shorter, until yesterday, when I was able to give him his bute within a matter of minutes of "assuming the position."

Also yesterday my trainer finished trimming his bridle path for me.  No rearing.  I realized a few days ago when I was spraying his mane with conditioner to brush it that he was getting quite upset, and I realized that he must have gotten amped up from that last week — and by the time I started working on his bridle path, he was on overload.  Remember, he used to freak out and rear with fly spray, and he only got over that late last summer, so I'm guessing some of his fears came back over the winter.  Note to self: Must re-desensitize to sprays.

Today when I arrived at the barn, the owner told me that he'd pulled down a strand of barbed wire from the top of the fence and dragged it into the corral.  Great.  My guess is that he got kicked in the face last weekend when he was chewing another's horse's tail, and now is leaving tails alone, so he needed something new to play with.  *headdesk*  Once his face has healed, I am going to make a concerted effort to get out to the barn more often to work with him, because I think boredom is the underlying cause behind all this trouble he is getting into.  I'm also planning on hanging up some gallon milk jugs in his corral for him to play with...

Finally, a little news about Panama.  I had a lesson yesterday in which we worked a little on our upward transition to canter, something we've needed to work on for a while, and I was inspired to do so after the Rocky Mountain Horse Expo last weekend (more on that later).  He did great, and I'm going to continue to work on it throughout the week.

And today, I took the little girl I nanny for, V., out to the barn to work on grooming and tacking — next weekend she is to start lessons with my trainer, and we are trying to get her to the point where she can groom and tack independently, so that she doesn't have to spend lesson time on that.  She's been out to my barn quite a few times by now, though, so she is almost there (and has learned to be more assertive with the horses — I'm quite proud of her).  Today I told her if she tacked Panama fast enough and we had time, I'd put her on him for a few minutes.  Twenty minutes later, she was done!

Riding Panama was a big deal for them both.  Panama has only been ridden by my trainer and me, but he clearly adores V., and is very careful around her and her little brother, so I decided I could trust him with her.  (Just in case, though, I had him on a lunge line.)  V. has ridden a couple of different horses in her lessons, but the pony she usually rides is slow and naughty — he has learned to ignore 90 percent of what kids ask him to do, unless of course they are asking him to halt — that he's more than happy to do.  Then there was the energetic horse she sometimes used to ride, who bucked her off once after he'd had hock injections and had been on stall rest for 2 weeks...  Why the instructor didn't think to lunge him first, I don't know!

Anyway, I hopped on Panama first and trotted him a little, just to make sure he was going to behave himself.  No red flags, so I put V. on and hooked up the lunge line.  At first Panama wanted to listen to me and not her, but he quickly figured out that I was only hanging out at the end of the line, nothing more, and started listening to her.  We only had 5 or 10 minutes, so she mostly walked him; she did try trotting for 5 or 6 strides, but she has developed a habit lately of leaning way forward, and he immediately detected she was off balance.  His head went up and his ears went back — I started worrying he was going to panic, and was telling her to sit up and put her shoulders back, but instead he slowed to a walk.  He clearly was just trying to help her to regain her balance and was ready to go back up into a trot the moment she asked, but she said she didn't want to (I think his head going up worried her) so we just walked for the rest of what little time we had.

Anyway, I was quite proud of both of them, especially Panama for taking such care of V.!


Monday, March 12, 2012

A rearing fit, an injury, and a perfect patient

As busy as I've been, I've still been getting out to the barn about 3 times a week — I just haven't had time to blog about it!  There are a few things I want to blog about, though, so I have some catching up to do.

The star of the moment, though, is Rondo -- though whether he is the protagonist or the antagonist seems to be different every day!  Last Thursday I gave Rondo a thorough grooming to get rid of some of the hair he is starting to shed (I had already done Panama a day or two before).  Besides currying and brushing, I also trimmed the mudballs off his feathers, and then set to work on brushing his mane.  It is very thick and very unruly, so it took a lot of conditioner and a lot of pulling with the brush, and he started giving me very clear signs (which, unfortunately, I ignored) that he was getting overwhelmed and impatient.  (Don't forget, this is the horse that couldn't handle sprays just last summer, so I was probably overloading him without even realizing it by using that spray conditioner — he was holding himself together to please me, but I could see the tension in his neck every time I used the spray.)

When I finished brushing his mane, I decided to trim up his bridle path.  I'd done a little of this months ago, and I don't remember having any trouble.  This time, I used the stool and set to work, and he started getting upset every time he heard the scissors behind his ears.  Again, I ignored the signs... and then he tried rearing (his babyhood — and by babyhood I mean eight months ago) when something his happening that he doesn't like or that scares him (i.e., fly spray, farriers, etc.).

Again I ignored the signs, scolded him, and got right back up on the stool (I'd jumped down to avoid the flailing hooves).  This happened several times, and the third or fourth time he broke a cross tie.

That scared the crap out of both of us, and after that he stood for a while with his head hung, looking rather sheepish and amenable.  I didn't get back up on the stool again, though, nor did I pick up the scissors again right away.  Instead I started working with him on handling his ears (which he'd recently become accepting of, but this whole incident had rather ruined that, so we had to work back up to it).  Once he was okay, I started attempting to desensitize him to the sound of the scissors snipping.  He tensed up at first, and then relaxed quickly, so I made the sounds behind his ears... same results.  Then I tried snipping a tiny lock of hair behind his ears, and just like that, he yanked his head away!  I guess he knows the difference in sound!

I found a quiet place to stop — him letting me handle his ears, but no scissors — and called it quits.  Another day we'll have to work on the scissors again.

I was feeling pretty discouraged after that, as I don't like that he has discovered rearing trumps the stool.  My trainer had suggested the stool as a way to prevent him from being able to lift his head out of our reach, but I guess he found a way around that.  I decided that for now, I'm going to go back on working with him on dropping his head when asked, rather than trying to bluff him into thinking I'm taller than him!

Anyway, this afternoon the barn called to let me know he had an injury, a two-inch split below his left eye.  I rushed out there, and knew immediately that it would need stitches, so I called the on-call vet.  (My vet shares after-hours emergency duties with a few other vets in the area.)  The vet came and said it was most likely from a kick, and hadn't happened very long ago.  The split followed the bone and was pretty deep, rather like the coin pocket on your jeans — you could have hidden a silver dollar in there.  (shudder)

So the vet went to work cleaning it out, cutting away the dead tissue, and stitching it up.  I put Panama in the cross ties with him to keep him calm, as he always does better in there when there's another horse; there was a different horse in there when I first put him in the cross ties, and when he left to be ridden Rondo had a mini-meltdown, so I went to get Panama.  (Panama didn't think too highly of having to stand in there and "babysit" at dinnertime.)

Once the vet gave Rondo a little sedative, he seemed to calm right down.  He was so still while she was cleaning, clipping, and suturing that I thought he was much more heavily drugged than he was.  Finally I said something to that end, and she replied that she actually hadn't given him that much, since his heart rate was a bit elevated.  I was absolutely amazed.  What happened to the rearing monster of just four days ago?

Rondo got 9 pink stitches, a tube of Bute (mine was getting old, and it sounds like we'll be going through quite a bit this week), and a tub of powdered antibiotic.  Tomorrow I'll call my regular vet and make an appointment to get the stitches taken out, it sounds like in a couple of weeks.  I hope he'll be that good again then, too — and fingers crossed that the stitches will keep this from leaving a big scar on his face!