Tag Archive | old horse

Horse Selfie Fail…

My old man is enjoying the warm spring weather!  No blanket!  He is still shy about me touching his mouth, but he seems to be doing better on the painkillers we have him on.

My attempts at selfies failed miserably though – he just won’t pose politely…

 

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My 30 Year Old Miracle

So this post is a little different than my typical posts on wine and travel. I’ll warn you now – this post is full of gore and tragedy, so if you have a weak stomach, you might not want to keep reading.  Trust me though – it ends well!

Today is April Fool’s Day, which ever since 1992 has been a different type of anniversary for me. On April 1, 1992, my beloved 4 year old quarter horse gelding Biz, tried to run through or jump the electric wire fence in his field – I will never really know what happened. Upon finding him standing in shock in a pool of blood, I stumbled back to the barn to get help. Friends later told me they thought I was playing a practical joke, until they saw that all the blood had drained out of my face. The vet was called, and he received a police escort to the farm when a Sheriff’s Deputy friend heard the call come out over the radio. Friends at the stable tried to stop the bleeding, and one friend held Biz’s head up and out of the way for 6 hours while the vets stitched and stitched to try to close the wounds (a second vet had arrived about an hour later when he finished up another call). Meanwhile, I was also dealing with a sudden onset migraine headache (Dad, I’m still sorry I threw up in your 1968 Cougar). When the vets finally finished up that first night, after 10 pm, Biz had over 1000 stitches in his front legs, and fractures in his knees, over his eye, and across the bridge of his nose. They estimate he had lost about 4 gallons of blood.

Biz was so badly injured that our veterinarian did not think he would live. At the time, the prognosis was that he had a 5 – 10% chance of surviving the accident, and if he did, he only had a 5 – 10% chance of being anything more than a big, expensive, lawn ornament. The only thing going for him was that although he had cut himself so badly he had exposed bone, nerves and did extreme damage to the muscle, he narrowly avoided cutting any of his tendons. For a horse, severing a tendon would have been a death sentence, because it would mean he would lose the use of the leg.

So, being the stubborn, foolish teenager that I was, I decided to give him a chance. For the next 5 months, extensive wound care, hand walking, and trying to keep him from re-injuring himself became my before and after school job. As the damaged tissue died, he smelled like death. As the skin around the wound died, the stitches pulled out, leaving holes in his legs that were 5 inches deep. For the first several days, he couldn’t move his legs forward very well, so he shuffled from side to side. The fracture over his eye caused blood to pool in the white of his eye, and looking at him broke my heart. The risk of infection was ever present, especially since the wounds were so large. I breathed a huge sigh of relief each day that infection didn’t set in. Sometimes, when cleaning the wound, I accidentally touched the exposed nerve bundle, causing him excruciating pain. When he got bored, confined to his stall for days, he tried to knock me over with his head while I knelt next to him.

Amazingly, he never fought against his treatment. He took it all in stride. He was as content as ever, with a hearty appetite and a devious twinkle in his eye. When I took him out for a walk, he wanted so much to run and play. He didn’t act like he was as badly injured as he was. It was a struggle to keep him from tearing the lead rope out of my hands, which would have meant a serious risk of re-injury. Fortunately, he managed to avoid hurting himself again. When spring gave way to summer, the risk of infection came again, in the form of flies who wanted to constantly land on his wounds. Fortunately, Biz dodged that bullet too. Every day, the wounds closed a little bit. Every day, a little more fresh, pink skin closed in around those gaping holes in his legs.

It took more than 5 months for the wounds to finally close. Biz defied the odds, and he can do most things other horses can do, although he isn’t the most coordinated guy. But then again, he never was. The vet recommended I start riding again at a walk, a month after the accident, because he had so much energy it was getting tough to control him from the ground. We slowly worked back up to normal capacity. If you didn’t know Biz before the accident, you might not notice the hitch he has in his stride, because those front legs just don’t move quite right now. He has extensive scarring across his front legs, where no hair grows. If you look carefully, his chest is still marked with 5 thin, hairless scars, one for each of the 5 strands of that electric wire fence. The bridge of his nose has a bump, and his back legs are dotted with scars too.

I would like to say Biz grew smarter and more cautious after that, but he didn’t, and he has continued to have a talent for rare and creative injuries and illnesses. I’ve come to accept that it’s part of what makes Biz, Biz. He is 30 now, certainly slowing down. For the most part, his flesh tearing injuries have given way to fungal skin infections and the degenerative processes of age. He only has 3 of his original 12 front teeth. Arthritis makes it difficult for him to get up after he lays down to roll – but once he’s up, he still sometimes runs and plays like a young man.

At the time, it seemed unreal to believe that there was any way Biz could have made it through. But now, I still think about that day, 26 years ago.  All my friend’s horses that were his age have long passed over the rainbow bridge – who would have ever thought he would still be here…

A Canine Switch

So Biz and I headed back up to the clinic on Monday to see about having two of his canine teeth removed, as they seemed to be causing him a lot of pain. After further consulting, we decided to try continuing the daily painkiller for awhile and then extract later if it is still needed.

If you are newer to this blog, you may not know that Biz has EOTRH, more officially known as equine odontoclastic tooth resorption and hypercementosis disease.  In very simplistic terms, it is kind of like osteoporosis of the teeth. The tooth root begins to break down and get spongy (the tooth resorption), and then the body tries to strengthen the weakening root by creating a ball of “cement” (the hypercementosis) around the damaged root.  The ball of cement presses on the gums, causing pain.  Not to mention the teeth become loose, and can eventually just break off either at or below the gumline.  More pain.  Interestingly, people and cats get their own version of this disease.  Something to look forward to!

Although it isn’t a new disease, it has become much more recently studied in horses, because, in the past horses didn’t live long enough for it to matter.  They died of something far more usual (colic, laminitis, etc.) long before some vet ever started poking around much in their mouths…  Horses are living longer, more leisurely lives, just like people, and now the diseases of old horses are becoming more common.

Biz is 30; considered an old horse.  Domestic horses, like people, have a wide variation in longevity, and most statistics point to an average lifespan of 25-30 years.  He has had 9 of his 12 incisors pulled already, and his canine teeth are now affected.  One canine had already broken off at the gumline sometime in the last year and healed over on its own.  That left three canines…  Two of these canines were the ones that we were eyeing for potential extraction today.

After we decided to go with the more conservative daily painkiller approach, the vets then went to do a routine float on his molars and cheek teeth, and get rid of a sharp edge on the one canine that seemed to not be a problem.  “Floating” a horse’s teeth is the process of filing down the sharp edges to keep them from pinching or poking the horse’s cheeks and gums.  The process of chewing hay and grass just naturally creates these sharp edges over time, as the teeth wear unevenly.  This too, can cause pain.  Most of the time anymore, floating is done with a power tool in the horse’s mouth. Biz LOVES this, I can assure you!  (that was pure sarcasm, in case it wasn’t obvious…)

Well, filing down that sharp edge on that one canine tooth (the one that had seemed to be the most stable), caused it to break off from the vibration of the floating tool.  It was immediately apparent that it was just suddenly very loose, and ended up having to be removed. A quick pull with a pliers and the entire crown of the tooth came out.  The root was left in, in the hopes that the gum will just heal over it.  This same thing actually happened with his other upper canine, and Biz is a great healer, so fingers crossed.

We are hoping that perhaps that upper canine, or the sharp edges on his molars and cheek teeth, might have been causing at least some of the pain that has made him so reactive lately.  And that solving those problems will make the daily painkiller work well for him, or even be unnecessary.  Sadly, Biz never did learn his words, and doesn’t even have fingers to point to a particular spot and say, “that’s where it hurts.”  He’s a prey animal, and prey animals instinctually hide pain…  And even worse, he HATES having his mouth messed with on his best day, so he’s always more inclined to act like it hurts EVERYWHERE!  Hopefully, we will know more over the next couple weeks, as he heals from today.

 

Biz, looking regal before the sedative…

 

So, in true Biz fashion, he lost the canine they didn’t plan to extract today, and kept the other two. He can’t ever just do the expected…  Touche’ Biz… You never can seem to stick to a plan…

How to Pull a Canine…

Biz’s canine tooth extraction surgery is coming up.  We postponed it a couple weeks ago after finding out the issue was not with his incisors, in order to give the vet some time to consult with specialists.  Said consulting has been done.  Monday morning, we are traveling back to the clinic to give it a go.  They will start with his lower right canine.  And ugh, it sounds awful…

When the vet called Friday to explain what he had found out about the procedure and how to best do it, “bone grinding tool, levering against jawbone, and risk if ligament has calcified” were phrases used…  Yuck.  I asked all my questions and he offered the option of having the extractions done by the dental specialist, but that involves either waiting longer until she will be in the area, or traveling two hours south.  Trailering Biz two hours south into the big city and its horrendous traffic doesn’t sound like a good time for a 30 year old man…  So we are going to give it a go at home.

Basically, they will cut off the crown of the tooth (the part above the gumline), then grind away a portion of the jawbone to expose the root to make it easier to access and extract.  This, although it sounds terrible, is the better way to go because it reduces the pressure on the jawbone that occurs when they have to lever against it trying to loosen the tooth.  Hopefully, the ligament that is holding the tooth below is still relatively healthy, and has not calcified, because that bony calcification makes it harder to remove the root.

If, and this is a big if, he is tolerant and the extraction of the right lower canine goes well, then they will try to also pull the left lower canine.  If it’s too difficult, or takes too long, and they are concerned about his reaction or how long he is sedated, then it will be left for another day.

I’m cringing as I write this.  It sounds painful.  Biz on his best day doesn’t like people messing with his face and mouth.  A power tool grinding his jaw bone is going to be interesting. Not sure there are enough drugs in the world for him to tolerate that easily.  But leaving him in pain isn’t an option.  So all I can do is pray that it all goes well, and be there in whatever clothes I don’t care about getting blood on, pulling his ear to distract him, talking to him, and holding him up when he’s sedated.  It’s just what we do.

Getting down on his level – waking up from the sedative a few weeks ago…

 

I am going to need more than one glass of wine when I get home Monday.  For sure.

 

The Surgery that Wasn’t… Yet…

All has been pretty quiet in Biz news lately… He’s been doing well, using his three remaining front teeth and his mostly-worn-down molars to eat a complete diet of equine senior pelleted food.  Sometimes he gets beet pulp, if he likes it that day…  His weight has been good, and his skin has been good, and he’s overall just been hanging out – good.  I like that.

About 10 days ago I noticed he didn’t want me to look in his mouth at his incisors, which I do whenever I am out to see how they are doing.  At some point they are going to have to go.  Last Friday night he REALLY didn’t want me to look in his mouth…  NOT. FOR. ONE. SINGLE. SECOND…  He’s hurting…

Saturday morning I was on the phone with the vet’s office to discuss proceeding.  Antibiotics, painkillers and a vet appointment at the clinic this morning to x-ray and remove those last three teeth.  I was sure of it…

Well Biz had another thing in mind.  Because he can never do anything the easy way…  The incisors are fine.  Still stable.  Instead, it is the canine teeth; the two lower canines in particular.  And don’t get me started on why horses have teeth called canines?

Canines are harder to extract, because the roots are more deeply embedded in the jawbone.  It means a harder surgery, longer healing time, and more potential for complications, especially when both sides of the mouth are affected.  So his x-rays and photos were emailed off to an equine dentistry specialist, and my vet will consult on the best option.  Pull the whole tooth, or cut the tooth off at the gum line and let the gum heal over the root of the tooth.  Biz, it seems, already decided that the second option is the preferred method, because one of his upper canines has already broken off at the gum line, and the gum has healed completely over without us even noticing…  The body is a fascinating thing…

 

Getting down on his level – waking up from the sedative…

In a couple weeks, we will make the return trip up to the clinic for round 2.  Wish an old man luck!  Sometimes it’s hard being 30…

Darwin is Still Hanging On…

So this post is a little different than my typical posts on wine and travel. I’ll warn you now – this post is full of gore and tragedy, so if you have a weak stomach, don’t read on.

Today is April Fool’s Day, which ever since 1992 has been a different type of anniversary for me. On April 1, 1992, my beloved 4 year old quarter horse gelding Biz, tried to run through or jump the electric wire fence in his field – I will never really know what happened. Upon finding him standing in shock in a pool of blood, I stumbled back to the barn to get help. Friends later told me they thought I was playing a practical joke, until they saw that all the blood had drained out of my face. The vet was called, and he received a police escort to the farm when a Sheriff’s Deputy friend heard the call come out over the radio. Friends at the stable tried to stop the bleeding, and one friend held Biz’s head up and out of the way for 6 hours while the vets stitched and stitched to try to close the wounds (a second vet had arrived about an hour later when he finished up another call). Meanwhile, I was also dealing with a sudden onset migraine headache (Dad, I’m still sorry I threw up in your 1968 Cougar). When the vets finally finished up that first night, after 10 pm, Biz had over 1000 stitches in his front legs, and fractures in his knees, over his eye, and across the bridge of his nose. They estimate he had lost about 4 gallons of blood.

Biz was so badly injured that our veterinarian did not think he would live. At the time, the prognosis was that he had a 5 – 10% chance of surviving the accident, and if he did, he only had a 5 – 10% chance of being anything more than a big, expensive, lawn ornament. The only thing going for him was that although he had cut himself so badly he had exposed bone, nerves and did extreme damage to the muscle, he narrowly avoided cutting any of his tendons. For a horse, severing a tendon would have been a death sentence, because it would mean he would lose the use of the leg.

So, being the stubborn, foolish teenager that I was, I decided to give him a chance. For the next 5 months, extensive wound care, hand walking, and trying to keep him from re-injuring himself became my before and after school job. As the damaged tissue died, he smelled like death. As the skin around the wound died, the stitches pulled out, leaving holes in his legs that were 5 inches deep. For the first several days, he couldn’t move his legs forward very well, so he shuffled from side to side. The fracture over his eye caused blood to pool in the white of his eye, and looking at him broke my heart. The risk of infection was ever present, especially since the wounds were so large. I breathed a huge sigh of relief each day that infection didn’t set in. Sometimes, when cleaning the wound, I accidentally touched the exposed nerve bundle, causing him excruciating pain. When he got bored, confined to his stall for days, he tried to knock me over with his head while I knelt next to him.

Amazingly, he never fought against his treatment. He took it all in stride. He was as content as ever, with a hearty appetite and a devious twinkle in his eye. When I took him out for a walk, he wanted so much to run and play. He didn’t act like he was as badly injured as he was. It was a struggle to keep him from tearing the lead rope out of my hands, which would have meant a serious risk of re-injury. Fortunately, he managed to avoid hurting himself again. When spring gave way to summer, the risk of infection came again, in the form of flies who wanted to constantly land on his wounds. Fortunately, Biz dodged that bullet too. Every day, the wounds closed a little bit. Every day, a little more fresh, pink skin closed in around those gaping holes in his legs.

It took more than 5 months for the wounds to finally close. Biz defied the odds, and he can do most things other horses can do, although he isn’t the most coordinated guy. But then again, he never was. The vet recommended I start riding again at a walk, a month after the accident, because he had so much energy it was getting tough to control him from the ground. We slowly worked back up to normal capacity. If you didn’t know Biz before the accident, you might not notice the hitch he has in his stride, because those front legs just don’t move quite right now. He has extensive scarring across his front legs, where no hair grows. If you look carefully, his chest is still marked with 5 thin, hairless scars, one for each of the 5 strands of that electric wire fence. The bridge of his nose has a bump, and his back legs are dotted with scars too.

I would like to say Biz grew smarter and more cautious after that, but he didn’t, and he has continued to have a talent for rare and creative injuries and illnesses. I’ve come to accept that it’s part of what makes Biz, Biz. He is almost 30 now, certainly slowing down. For the most part, his flesh tearing injuries have given way to fungal skin infections and the degenerative processes of age. He only has 3 of his original 12 front teeth.  Arthritis makes it difficult for him to get up after he lays down to roll – but once he’s up, he still sometimes runs and plays like a young man.

At the time, it seemed unreal to believe that there was any way Biz could have made it through. But now, I still think about that day, 25 years ago, and how friends and people who barely knew me pulled together to help a gangly, goofy horse become a miracle.