Tag Archive | Quarter 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.

 

Four to Go on Wednesday

Biz saw the vet for his annual checkup a few weeks ago.  At 28 years old, he is remarkably healthy.  No comparison of horse age to human age is truly accurate, but a 28 year old horse is generally believed to be about the equivalent of an 80 year old human.

His weight is great – his blood work is good.  His eyes are clear and bright with no sign of cataracts.  The only exception to his great health is his teeth.  Followers to this blog will know that Biz has had 3 teeth pulled over the last couple of years – this Wednesday he will have 4 more pulled. His disease, EOTRH, has progressed, and his teeth have deteriorated significantly in the last year.

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little worried – he has done really well with the extractions so far, but he has only had 1 pulled at a time previously.  4 is a much bigger deal.  This will be our first round with his upper incisors too – I am not sure if there will be differences with the extractions or in his healing process.

Biz looks a bit like a toothless Mr. Ed here!

Biz looks a bit like a toothless Mr. Ed here!

I wouldn’t be doing this (and the vet wouldn’t be recommending it) if there wasn’t a big chance that Biz is enduring a lot of pain due to these diseased teeth that are hanging on.  As horses are prey animals, they mask their pain – it has got to be pretty bad before a horse will let you know…  We are hoping that this surgery will relieve him of the pain.

I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed that everything goes smoothly, and that he heals quickly.  Please keep us in your thoughts on Wednesday!

I Still Wish it Had Been a Joke…

Another year has passed in which I have been blessed with the companionship of my sweet horse Biz.  I will never forget that I almost didn’t get to spend all these years with him.  He’ll be 28 soon, and proof that miracles do exist.

This story is pretty gory – I’ll warn you now.  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, about 40% of his total 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 hitting an artery, or 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. I’ll never forget the involuntary jerk of his leg when I accidentally touched the nerve.  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.  All these years later, these visual reminders still show.

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 28 now, an impressive lifetime for a horse.  All of my friends’ horses who were near his age have passed away.

He’s still full of life, but thankfully, he’s more mellow now. For the most part, his flesh tearing injuries have given way to fungal skin infections and the degenerative processes of age. Arthritis makes it difficult for him to get up after he lays down to roll – but once he’s up, he still runs and plays like a young man.  He’s losing his teeth, having them pulled one by one as they lose their structure inside his gums.

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, 23 years ago.  I know there are miracles.  I witnessed one.

The Horse Tooth Fairy, Times 3

On Wednesday, Biz and I went for a ride up to the vet clinic to play out a story that is becoming a spring ritual – x-rays and having a tooth pulled.  We are becoming veterans at this.

In case you don’t know the story, Biz has EOTRH, short for Equine Odontoclastic Tooth Resorption and Hypercementosis, a degenerative disease where the teeth gradually break down on the inside.  I give a better description in my post from a few years back.

This year’s surgery was the easiest ever, as my vet found the perfect tool last year for separating the tooth from the gum and the periodontal ligament that holds it in.  We also learned from our experience last year that we shouldn’t close the front of the stanchion while Biz is sedated, so he doesn’t faint and fall down.

The tooth clearly needed to go, as there was a little pocket of infection in the gum below the tooth creating a fissure, and once we got his mouth propped open we could see that the back of the tooth had a black, decayed part.  Once the tooth was out, the vets packed off the hole with an antibiotic capsule, sterile gauze and plaster of Paris.  Apparently some vets are now recommending to just let the wound stay open, but this system has worked for us so far, so we decided to stick with it.

Biz got topped off with a tetanus shot while he was still sleepy, and then we hung out for awhile waiting for him to wake up.  Once he was awake and steady on his feet, he got to come home.  He was on a restricted diet Wednesday night and Thursday because he had an episode of colic last year after he was sedated for his x-rays.  Better safe than sorry.

Once we got home, Biz walked himself around the arena while I watched; him restlessly walking is a symptom of the sedation – on a normal day he would roll, run around maniacally for a few minutes and then stop and look at himself in the mirror (he’s vain…).  During his restless wanderings the other evening, he was probably silently cursing me for not giving him much dinner.  After 24 years together, I know the look.  But it couldn’t be helped.  I love this old boy too much to feed him.

Yesterday I started flushing the wound with salt water and a syringe – preventing infection is the key now.  I’ll be doing that until the wound closes, however long that takes.  He doesn’t mind – it’s our thing…

If only the tooth fairy would drop some cash by to help pay the vet bill.  I know I’m not the only one with a million dollar animal – what’s your story?

Happy Birthday Biz!

27 years ago today the world was blessed with a gangly bay foal, who grew up into a gangly, bay horse.  My Biz.  You have offered me joy, laughter, sadness and tears for more than 24 years.  You have given me enough memories to treasure for a thousand lifetimes.  You have been often foolish, occasionally smart, and usually lucky all these years.  You have comforted me in times of trouble, and I have comforted you.

Although you are now old and going gray, and I know that I can’t possibly wish for another 27 years, I hope I get as many as I can.  Life with you has never been dull, and has taught me an enormous amount about love.  My cup runneth over.

Happy Birthday Biz!

 

Biz and Me, Back in May

Biz and Me, Back in May