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!



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