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We Are Flying Solo

September 19, 2019

Tricks of the Equine First Aid Trade

Since I am currently using nearly all of the equine nursing tricks I've developed over the years, I wanted to share a few products I've adapted from the human world.  In many cases, this is much cheaper than buying "horse" labeled products, as we all know that's an automatic 300% markup. 

Horses & humans may both be mammals, but are NOT interchangeable, so product transference should always be done with caution.  I check with my vet before I try anything new.  And Dr. Bob himself has suggested several of them!

In my wound care kit right now:
  • Generic wound wash from CVS -- a mix of antiseptic & lidocaine, this stuff has become the first thing I grab for cuts & scrapes.  Dr. Bob first mentioned something like this when Solo got staples in his head last year, as the lidocaine reduces itching so they don't rub on everything.  I squirt on a clean cloth to apply & a bottle lasts me a long time (uh, usually).
  • Non-stick wound pads (biggest size available) -- fabulous for things on legs that get wrapped.  In the last post, you can see one sticking out of the wrap around Solo's cannon scrape.  I've found that if you leave a little sticking out above the vetwrap, it helps prevent the pad from sliding out the bottom.  They absorb without peeling off healing tissue when you change bandages.
  • Nitrile gloves (altho medium is of course too small for my giant man-hands) -- not sterile, but cleaner than my fingers & saves me from having to wipe 5 different kinds of goop off my hands.  I also like that the blue is easier for me to see when I drop it or it blows out of a trash bucket.
  • Polysporin -- a long time ago, a dr. told me that 10% of people develop allergic responses to Neosporin, so polysporin was a safer choice.  I don't know if this is applicable to horses or not, but I've used the poly ever since on full-thickness cuts & it works well.
  • Colored duct tape -- I always tape wraps/standing bandages that are worn unattended.  I try to get tape that is a different color than my standing wraps so I can easily see from a distance if it's still there, but I had blue left over from something else, so oops.  
  • Gorilla tape -- I usually only use this for hoof wrapping, for which it is a godsend, but I was about to run out of duct tape, so have also used it on standings.  It has not left a residue or caused any damage to my standing wraps.
The discolored gladware with 3 little syringes is my wound lavage kit.  NCSU vet school taught me this method when I had to clean out Solo's healing head-holes.  Add a little Betadine to water, so it's a diluted mixture, about the colour of weak tea or lighter.  Use the syringes to flush out the wound.  Syringes allow you to control direction & pressure of stream pretty well.  Because Betadine is cytotoxic, you never want to use it full strength on an open wound & even dilute, use only when needed to prevent infection/flush out debris.  It will stain whatever container you put it in, so pick something you don't plan to eat out of later.

Finally, the big fat syringe is just a dosing syringe with the tip cut off, making it easier to give dissolved stuff like SMZs without losing 1/3 of your dose stuck in the plastic tip.

What about you?  Do you have favorite products you've adapted to equine use?

September 9, 2019

A Healing Update - It's Never Simple

The first week post-carnage went fairly smoothly.  The Horse Gods saw this & felt it necessary to remind me that this is an unacceptable premise.  As if I need reminding.

Both horses were wrapped for the first week & I was pleased with their progress.  Then Friday morning, I came out to feed breakfast & Solo was suddenly non-weight bearing on that hind leg.

He is a seriously stoic horse, so my panic level shot to maximum while I coaxed & pleaded him in hobbling hops back to the shed.  I took his temperature (normal), pulse (slightly elevated at 44 bpm, but not extreme), & unwrapped his bandages to check for any signs of infection.  Nothing appeared to be any worse than it had been 12 hours before.  Solo was eating & drinking & pooping with a happy face, he just did not want to move that leg.
Doing fine the first week
I called the vet & parked the hose over Solo's hock.  There was still a fair amount of swelling around the hock, but it's a pretty ugly wound, so that's not unexpected.  Dr. Bob talked me off the ledge (he's getting way too much practice at this).  He agreed infection was unlikely & thought Solo had probably just tweaked one of the many bruised tendons/ligaments sometime during the night.  He increased his SMZ dose to be cautious & if we didn't see improvement by Monday, we might try a heftier antibiotic.

I hadn't thought of that possibility, but I now think he is probably right.  Solo could have slipped or torqued it getting up.  I'm glad to say that he is improving -- he's walking, albeit slowly, as well as standing on it, including resting on that leg, which alleviates many of my concerns about the joint.  I also think, based on how he moves, all that delicate healing skin on a high motion area is pulling, especially as it dries & gets tighter, which probably doesn't feel great & he's protecting it.  I know he didn't run around, Solo is a careful guy.

The cuts are healing very well.  Everything is closed except for a small hole at the front, which is good for drainage (only a small amount now).  We're sticking with the SMZs - after Solo had TWO resistant bacteria show up while he was at the vet school in 2017, I am uber-conservative with antibiotic use in all circumstances.  Well, plus, I'm a biologist & I know better.  Only when prescribed, only when truly necessary, & the lowest level possible, as appropriate to the situation.
Front view, this morning, before hosing - WEIGHTBEARING!
Side view this morning (day 9), base layer is closed
It will take a while for the cannon bone scrape to fill in completely, but it has clean margins & it doesn't worry me.  I will keep wrapping until the hock is closed & dry since flies are still out in force.  Why not, I've already purchased my body weight in Co-Flex/VetWrap since one bandage job takes a whole roll.
This is what is under the standing wrap
Echo is doing just fine.  Well, aside from making me crazy by trying to stick his nose into every. single. damn. thing while I'm tending to Solo.  Children.

He's been wrap-free & bute-free since Friday & his last dose of SMZs is today.  The cut on the outside of his leg is pretty much closed & his chest is all healthy skin again except one stripe which will soon be done.  Nothing on his chest actually cut the skin, these were friction burns & they were not sore after the first day or two.
3 days ago; today it's now all healthy, normal skin
3 days ago, that one stripe is still healing
The scary-looking hole behind his knee filled in very quickly.  I'll have to stay on top of proud flesh since I can't pressure-wrap the area, but it's not painful at all.  No swelling & he should be back in work this week.  I just keep Dr. Bob's Magic Red Sauce on it & slather Corona & Swat on the rest to keep the bugs out. 
2 days ago, drying out & filling in
Thanks to everyone for your well-wishes, as always, they mean a lot!  I know horses are experts at mangling themselves no matter what, but I'm going to be angry at myself for a long time for missing that jumper wire.  I did a lot of modifications to the fence when I moved in & thought I had removed all of those, but I was wrong.  However small the odds that the horses would hit the fence at that corner, out of all the corners -- it happened.  Shame on me, but it won't fool me twice.   

I'm cautiously optimistic that the worst is behind us.  Thanks to Erica for helping me finish the last of the fence repairs yesterday!

Cross all the things for us & hopefully the next update will have NO ooze or vet calls. 

Hey, let me have my dream.

September 2, 2019

Emergency Vet -- A Two-Fer

I was working outside on Saturday when I heard the fence wires suddenly start jangling in a bad way.  I had just put the horses in a small side paddock to munch on some fresh grass while I worked on their fields.  I whipped my head around to see Echo flailing about as the top wire dropped (it has breakaway points for this reason) & both horses took off to the other end of the paddock.

Since I only saw the end of the action, I'm not sure exactly what happened, but my educated guess is that Solo kicked out at Echo while he was up against the fence.  Solo got a hind leg over the top wire & Echo somehow got one front leg over it.

As soon as I caught them, I saw that I needed an immediate Dr. Bob inspection (of COURSE, it's a weekend, that's how horses do).  I was cautiously optimistic there wasn't anything catastrophic, as both were trotting & walking around in proper mechanical order (albeit full of adrenaline), but with ugly things - & these were definitely ugly - around joints, I am always very cautious.

To make it more fun, I don't know if you've ever tried to do first aid on two horses while trying to keep a phone in the good reception spot so the vet could call you back.  Well, it's impossible.  A HUGE thanks to Trainer Neighbour who came over & helped me juggle all the things until the vet arrived!

Both horses were really damn lucky.  Warning:  photos follow. 

Echo put a gnarly hole behind his left knee, but it is in a "safe" valley between vital structures.  We can't wrap it due to location, but it is already filling in rapidly.
Right after it happened Sat
He has a full thickness cut on the outside of his cannon, but it is just skin, I will wrap until it closes just to keep it clean as well as to reduce swelling there & below the knee.  Some wire chafes on the tops of both forelegs look bad, but no cuts there.  Thanks to youth, he's not even stiff.
Keeping Corona & Swat in business
I am so very grateful it is not Sacred Leg which doesn't like touching, otherwise I would be far more miserable.

Solo's right hind got the worst of it.  He exposed a chunk of cannon bone above the fetlock, which looks dramatic, but those usually heal up pretty well.
I really never wanted to see my horse's bones...
The front of his hock suffered two full thickness slices while pulling the wire down, but all the tendons are ok, just bruised.  I don't have fresh pics of those, we were too busy tending. 
Side view ~14 hrs later (Sun am)
A blood vessel got nicked & ruptured when I initially hosed it, so I was reminded yet again that horses have a lot of blood.  I think I could have done a transfusion when I rinsed out the initial bandages (below) in the bathtub yesterday.

This morning, those cuts were already nearly closed & all the tissue looks healthy so far.  My main job is to keep everything clean to prevent infection & try to keep the bugs off where I can't wrap.  Both will get a full course of SMZs along with bute for swelling.  Dr. Bob had me put some of the green Epsom salt gel in Solo's hock bandage, to try to draw out fluid into the diaper wrapped around it.  I've never used that on a wound before, just feet -- I'm pretty impressed!
Front view Sun am, healing up
What Went Wrong & What Went Right?

It was mostly a freak accident in just the wrong place.  My property came with hi-tensile wire fencing, which my neighbour built very well.  I have lined much of it with a strand of HorseGuard tape, but this section was not lined.  I'm glad it wasn't, because I think added tape might have made things worse in this case.

The wire itself is heavy-gauge & as I have learned during a couple other times Solo has bounced off the fence, this is an important safety feature which helps it roll off before cutting.  Unfortunately, just about anything will cut when you put an entire horse's weight on it.  I have seen horrific injuries from wood, electrobraid, PVC, mesh, thin tape -- horses are just way too good at carnage.

One of the multiple breakaway points did give when it was supposed to, which created the slack needed for the horses to get out & undoubtedly prevented much worse injury.  However, one point that should have released didn't & I found afterwards that there was an old jumper wire hidden in a bush that I had missed which prevented that release.  That's on me, as I'm sure that led to Solo's hock cuts.  I cut that off & reinspected all the other connections so it will never happen again.
It finally stopped bleeding, still tweaking my bandage setup
Despite the emergency bill & the stress of double first aid, I'm very grateful that things weren't worse.  No one needed stitches or sedation.  Both horses are sound, will heal fully, & are experienced at letting me clean & poke & wrap sore parts without kicking my head off.  After I do my penance of a couple weeks of nursing, everyone should be well on their way. 

Go hug your horses & check your fences.  Don't forget to look under the bushes.

August 27, 2019

Echo's First Outing - Plus Bonus Solo

Last weekend, we had some really lovely weather with temps in the mid-70s, so I pounced on the opportunity to take Echo on his first real adventure.  Temperature was an important factor, because a critical component for success was Echo's Emotional Support Animal, heat-intolerant Solo.

Destination:  the multi-use trails of Umstead State Park in Raleigh

  • wide trails that are almost entirely wooded (so plenty of room to pony Baby Monster alongside)
  • rolling hills for excellent soft tissue strengthening
  • no additional fees for trail use
  • doesn't get muddy
  • great exposure to Weird Human Activities, as the trails are shared with lots of bikers, hikers, strollers, & all kinds of fascinating & oddly-shaped wardrobe items
  • Trails are shared (& heavily used) with lots of bikers, hikers, strollers, & all kinds of fascinating & oddly-shaped wardrobe items
  • Trails are now almost all gravel (were just screenings a decade ago when I started going there), like #57 road gravel, so can be challenging for barefoot horses (I put front hoof boots on both)
Prep Work

Echo didn't have a long racing career, having failed miserably in four puny races, but that DID mean he made it through training, probably without killing anyone, & broke from the gate & ran the races in the proper direction.  That means I feel comfortable assuming he has seen a number of Weird Human Activities & things which make odd noises.  Nonetheless, bicycles are the most frequent encounter on the Umstead trails & can be sensory twins to a horse-eating cheetah:  swift, nearly silent, & approaching with no warning from behind.  I wanted to be reasonably certain Echo wouldn't respond by trying to kick any heads off these spandex-clad cheetahs.
It's on the internet, therefore, it could happen...
I took my old bike out to the horses' paddock on Saturday & stuffed my pockets with treats.  I started out simply walking the bike next to me in the paddock while the horses were watching me.  Solo immediately pranced up with flaring nostrils & arched neck to inspect (like he hasn't seen it a million times), a cautious, but overwhelmingly curious Echo in tow.  I dispensed treats to both while they sniffed.

I soon graduated to riding the bike away from them (I felt this was least threatening).  They stood & watched with interest, but since they didn't startle, I turned around & rode towards them.  Echo jumped a bit then, not sure what to make of the fact that my motion had suddenly changed dramatically.  I stopped & held out treats in each hand, encouraging him to approach.  An inveterate food whore, he quickly did so.

It took him about four minutes to figure out that bike-mom was definitely not scary, rather she was AWESOME:  this mutant produced delicious noms (I almost never give him treats due to Young Horse World-Goes-In-Mouth Disease) & should be followed closely to ensure none were missed.  Success!

Ride Time   

Sunday morning, I loaded up the boys.  This also meant Echo got to practice wearing ALL FOUR shipping boots.  I know I owe you the story of Sacred Leg still, but short version is he HATES things touching Sacred Leg (right hind) & this has been an ongoing project.  He wanted to make sure I understood that this was definitely cruel & unusual punishment.
Protest noted.
The ride itself...was excellent.  The most exciting part of it -- well, aside from the fact that I can't remember the last time I got to take one of my horses somewhere for fun, that was pretty damn exciting -- but the OTHER most exciting part was that it was completely & totally uneventful.

Echo watched the humans & dogs & miniature humans & bikes & tiny human carriers with bright interest, but remained calm & self-assured.  He never flinched at any bikes whipping past, or coming towards him, he didn't even consider them particularly note-worthy.  It's not like I expected high drama from him, he's fairly sensible, but I hadn't dared to hope for complete acceptance of everything!  He didn't even have to wear his Horse-ibal Lecter muzzle (I brought it just in case, but there were enough interesting things to look at & Solo was walking fast enough to dissipate energy).
I still kept an eagle eye on that nose tho & it transgressed a couple times
I was so proud of him & I definitely think our regular ponying outings on our home trails paid off in spades.  Of course, it was a huge help having his (mostly) wise mentor demonstrate that everything was fine.  "Mostly" because Solo did decide at the very end that some decorative boulders were probably trolls lying in wait to eat him, in need of some very snorty eyeballing from a standstill.  Echo hilariously looked at boulders, looked at Solo, shrugged & just waited for said mentor to get over it.

Even better -- I know, I didn't think it could get better, I still feel a bit nervous over this many good things at once -- Solo was thrilled.  Like overjoyed, excited, soooo happy to be back out adventuring in the world with me.  My warm fuzzy cup runneth over.  It's been a long time since I felt that much bounce in his step.

It was certainly hard at times for him, especially on the steeper downhills, where I felt his shoulders mincing some (his right shoulder gets sore easily due to his old DDFT injury).  Fortunately, the hills aren't long.  I kept trying to get him to take little rest breaks, but he wasn't having it, he was enjoying it far to much to just stand around (his words, ha).
Even did "scary" bridge with wood decking
We ended up walking a little over 6 miles, more than I intended for Solo, but a loop I'd wanted to use was closed so we had to backtrack.  To my surprise, as I was sure he'd be beat, he still trotted out to his field after dinner when we got home & looked perky & fresh on Monday morning!

Walking 6 miles in two hours is not anything big in the grand scheme of things.  But this was the first trip I've gotten to do in several years.  Echo showed me he can take new things in stride & behave like a good citizen.  And I don't know how many rides Solo has left in him (we never really know with any of them), but after all we've been through, well, the value of each one is approximately invaluable.

All of which means that for me, those two hours were pretty darn huge. 

Thanks, guys.  

August 17, 2019

Riding The Rail: Baby's First Bareback Ride & Learning Some Laterals

It might surprise you that I haven't gotten on Echo bareback yet, but more than anything, I was waiting until he had a little more body mass & there was less chance of, you know, him splitting me in half, LOL.
Dec 2018 - not a wide horse!
About a week ago, I was pretty tired when I got home from work & it was humid enough that the thought of putting on pants was akin to torture, so I decided to give it a shot.  My mounting block is only one step, so I opted to use my truck tailgate to get on instead -- I have trained Echo to stand still for mounting, but he is still quite tall & I wasn't sure he was ready for my usual bareback mounting routine.  Which consists of me throwing my body across in a completely ungainly fashion.  Tailgate makes it so much easier.

I am glad to report it was completely uneventful.  He does have some more mass than he did a year ago, but he is definitely still a narrow horse.  It felt pretty much like I had just mounted a 2" x 10" board at the hardware store.  And not on the 10" side.    

We did a few laps of the hills in my lower pasture to keep building the hind & back muscles.  Then I moved up to the top field to practice some lateral work.

I really like working the lateral stuff bareback -- I can feel the horse's back & legs much more easily & I am also more in tune with my own (lack of) straightness, which lets me correct it faster.
I failed to take a pic, so here is (way more comfy) Encore modeling my awesome pad
I have a decent amount of control over Echo's shoulders at this point, having worked a lot on getting them laterally mobile since pushing them in or out is his primary straightness evasion.  So I started with some shoulder-fore, just asking him to hold the bend coming out of a corner.  I didn't really care what he did with his head so long as it wasn't Llama.  I just wanted to feel his shoulder on a different track than his hips & he did it fairly well.

Now I decided to try a leg-yield down a long side with his head facing the wall.  I have taught him turn-on-the-forehand & his haunches are very mobile from a halt, but we haven't mastered the whole "moving haunches while other legs are moving" trick yet.  We have done leg yields from side to side at a walk, but they were very basic in that I just wanted him to move sideways off the leg & it was fine if it was mostly from the shoulders.

This time, I was looking specifically for the haunches to step over on their own track when I applied my leg behind the girth.  I didn't really care what the front end did as long as it kept moving & again, didn't resemble a llama.
Here's a random pic of us trotting
This was really hard for him, as he wasn't sure what I wanted.  So our conversation went like this:

As we walk, I shift my outside leg back an exaggerated amount so it's clear & ask his butt to shift over.
Echo:  Faster walkies?
Me:  Nope, just move your butt onto another track. (I try to slow down the leading shoulder with my inside rein & gently jiggle my outside ankle to emphasize I want his butt to move away from it)
Echo:  You sure not faster walkies??!  Leg squeezing means faster!
Me:  Nope, just shift your butt over. (I hold same aids & try not to move anything else, I try tipping his nose a little towards the rail to give his body a hint & enable that hind leg to step over)
Echo:  Follow nose into the fence tape? This seems weird.
Me:  Nope, just shift your butt over. (I gently thump my ankle on his ribs)
Echo:  Uhhhh, this doesn't really make sense, that thumping is annoying, I'm shifting my butt away from that...
Me:  YAYYYYYY!!!  GOOOOD PONEH!!! (I release all aids)

He didn't really get that last successful step until maybe the third time we tried it.  The most important part was for me to keep the aids on & to wait him out.  I basically needed to create the doorway for energy to go through & then wait while he blundered around off the walls of the room until he found the doorway himself.  Then make sure he realized that going through the doorway was a positive experience & way more comfortable than running into walls.

Boy, that analogy sure sounds like my experience of life. 
Echo's favourite drinking strategy: why do things the easy way???

Once he figured it out, I repeated it one more time to make sure he was clear on the connection.  I've learned that for him, that is usually sufficient repetition on learning a basic concept like this; any more & he will get annoyed, because he already did it correctly, which is fair.

I let him walk a few more slopes on a long rein, asking nothing more than a nice, forward walk, just to let him stretch out any kinks.  Then we were done - I was very happy with his efforts.  I will keep bringing those exercises in to our warmups under saddle, where he will find the doorway a little faster each time, until he remembers the path & doesn't run into any walls at all.