Tag Archive | old horse

Rest in Peace Biz

Today, at about 3:20 pm, Biz crossed over the rainbow bridge.  It was a nice, spring day, and he went outside for one last day in the sunshine before he came inside, lay down, and was suddenly gone.

He was 32 years old, and had used up at least 17 lives, so it wasn’t a surprise, but that doesn’t make it hurt any less.

My parents bought Biz for me when I was 14 years old, in January 1990, over 30 years ago.  He was a two year old at the time, with no common sense, but he never really acquired much of that.  He was spastic his entire life, spooking at nothing, barging through doorways and gates, always in a rush to get in for dinner.  Unless it was spring, when on nice days, he would decide he wanted to stay outside, and whoever was trying to catch him could just go pound sand…

He was always high spirited, and full of piss and vinegar.  He trotted around, blowing and snorting, with his tail in the air whenever he had the chance.

The first time I tried to give him an apple, he didn’t know what it was, and wouldn’t eat it, so I gave it to his neighbor.  You better believe he never made that mistake again!

He let the cats ride him, but he loved to chase the dogs, and bite the cows.

He had a special talent for injuring himself or getting sick and was close to death at least four times that I can think of.  He had an immense capacity for healing.  He proved the vets wrong time and time again, living through horrific wounds, incredibly high fevers, equine influenza, suspected salmonella poisonings (yes that’s plural).  We made bets on whether he would go out in a blaze of glory, or just lie down and go when it was time.

He was patient about being poked and prodded, unless you wanted to poke or prod his face.  That required the good drugs…

He was a pain in the ass, but a sweet one at that.

 

I’m incredibly sad, but he lived a very good life, and he didn’t have to suffer a long, slow decline.  Rest in Peace, Biz.

Such a Sport…

Since he got sick with a high fever and high white cell count almost two weeks ago, Biz has had three shots of a high-dose, long-acting antibiotic, fever-reducing meds, 20 liters of IV fluids, three urinalyses, and three rounds of blood work.  But my old boy is improving!

His white cell count is back into the normal range!  But the neutrophil count is still high; I’ve learned that neutrophils are a type of white cell particularly responsible for fighting off infection.  His infection was so bad that his bone marrow was sending out immature neutrophils – kind of like sending new recruits out into battle before they have even been to basic training.  Poor guy!

His kidney and liver markers are back in normal range, his temp is normal and he’s been eating like a horse.  I mean, like a horse that isn’t sick.  It is all such good news!

I wasn’t successful in pee catching yesterday, so that’s still on the agenda…  What can I say, he’s a shy pee-er, and when I rush in with my stick…  Well you get the idea…  My mom had it easy the other day because we were running IV fluids through him, so he had to pee!

He will start on a second antibiotic tonight and then, I’m sure another repeat of blood work in the next few days!

My Poor, Sick Horse…

This morning I slept until 8:05 am, after going to bed at 8:45 last night.  It has been a long week, to say the least.  I was originally supposed to be on vacation, spending some time in California before coming back and doing a cabin weekend at the mountain with a group of other women.

Monday night a text came in that my horse wasn’t eating and seemed off.  Oh no…  He’s 32 years old, but his appetite is rarely a problem…  I cut California short and traveled home Tuesday – there was almost no traffic in Washington due to the growing COVID-19 outbreak, the school closures and all the recommendations to work from home.

The vet arrived Wednesday morning to a horse with a very high fever of 105 degrees (normal is about 100), a heart rate of 72 beats per minute (normal is 30-34) and labored breathing.  Blood work showed a very high white cell count and a systemic reaction to some unknown inflammation.  A urine sample showed a lot of blood.  Biz was a very sick boy…

My vet gave him a double dose of a fever reducing anti-inflammatory, a heavy duty dose of antibiotics, and an IV line for administering fluids.  And then, all was quiet…  For those of you who don’t have horses, the veterinary care tends to be pretty do it yourself; they show you how to do it and then off you go!  Over the years I have given intramuscular injections, flushed IV lines, changed IV bags, changed bandages, dressed wounds, given pills and ointments, removed stitches, and done all sorts of holding him still, upright and positioned as vets have poked and prodded him in countless ways.

My mom and I gave him four – five liter bags of IV fluids over two days; one of those was loaded with B vitamins and electrolytes.  I had to flush his IV line every 6 hours and check his temp.  Thankfully, it quickly returned to normal and stayed there.

Getting up in the middle of the night to drive out to the barn to flush his line is exhausting; and even more so when I was working remotely all day on the COVID-19 response.  My employer already has a lot of remote work ability, but trying to roll that out on an even wider basis reveals that that there are still a lot of reasons that people are needed in a central space.  It isn’t as easy as snapping one’s fingers and saying, just work from home!

I canceled my cabin weekend, because with temp checks, IV line flushes and antibiotic injections, it wasn’t going to be possible.  I’m bummed, but Biz is never going to make it up to me…

Thankfully, Biz is on the mend, with a normal temperature and an appetite that is returning to normal.  He will receive another dose of the four day antibiotic on Sunday, and then we will check his blood work again on Monday morning to see if the infection is going away.  As for the cause?  We don’t know.  There isn’t any widespread equine flu going around, and he doesn’t have any visible injuries to cause an infection.  He’s just an old guy that possesses a unique talent for acquiring whatever strange and mysterious illness is going around within 1,784 miles of him.

He gets his line out!

I’m just thankful that he also possesses a unique talent for healing, and for proving the vets wrong…  Biz, you keep doing you.

 

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…