Friday, July 23, 2021

Epona's First Day At the Hospital

You all know me pretty well by now, so guess how much I slept last night, Epona's first night at the hospital? 

It was a tough night for all of us. God, we love that little horse! 

Hard to believe, but she turned 8 weeks today. It seems like she has been with us for years. 

Okay, enough sleep deprived rambling. Let's get down to business. 

We went to see her as soon as visiting hours opened, but after we'd made a call, as soon as they opened, to check on her. They told us they'd initiated an IV that night, and she had "perked up" this morning. That was NOT a lot of information, so you can understand our need to get there at the earliest possible moment.

As sad as Epona looks here, there were horses there that looked MUCH worse. It was a reminder that many people go through heartbreak with their horses. There was a beautiful fresian with a foal with a deformed front limb. There was a beautiful dunskin, that looked just like Tweed, laid out on a large table/mattress for MRI, that looked dead, but I don't know what state he was in. Seeing all of that, and more, I was rather relieved at Epona's condition.

Just like with us, she has refused any milk replacer. She also refused to drink water, and that is why they had to initiate an IV. She has eaten hay, about a flake, and started drinking a little water before we arrived. Her eye looks normal now. 

She was very, very tired from worrying all night, but happy to see us. We petted and loved on her, and tried to get her to eat milk pellets mixed with Mare and Foal. She wasn't interested. But then a palomino mare came in for examination, and when Epona saw her, she definitely thought it was her mama. 

Of course, it was not, but a sweet, sweet, beautiful mare, all the same. She reminded me of Rosalee. 

All the other horses seemed tuned into her, and she to them, and she seemed to take comfort in their presence. The techs  and interns, who live there (there are two, and they were the ones who started the IV last night at 12, with a little sedation) were very attentive to her needs.  She loved their scratches and hugs.

There is no way we could have provided the support they're giving her. We had to deal with all these things in 100 degree weather, and we knew that dehydration and starvation--coupled with stress--were killers. Hospitalization is the only way to go, in this situation.

I felt good about her energy level and health, but a little discouraged at her stubbornness eating. The vet is going to introduce alfalfa, which she also had here, and they will work to tweak a feeding regimen that works before the release her.

As you might have guessed, it's expensive. And, add to that, my daughter is expecting her first baby in 2 1/2 months. That is an added stress for them, even though we have helped them with a little bit of the burden.

As we were driving to the vet today, she made us an offer of co-owning Epona. 

To be honest, it is something I had already considered, but did not want to broach to her.

My husband and I are very attached to Epona, equally as much as our daughter and her husband. She is here with us everyday, and a big, big part of our lives.

There's a part of me that wants to do this, but another part that wants Epona to remain hers, and just help them with this. The issue, in my mind, is that there may be more costs along this road, costs that are insurmountable for them. And, she will be busy with the new baby, and I will have more time to train Epona. 

I think we will evaluate this decision as the week unfolds.

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Time To Do or Die

Our good options ran out, and only two options remained: 1. Leave Epona on Cowgirl, and watch her get worse, and possibly, most likely, die, or 2. Hospitalize her, teach her to eat independently, support her, and see if she can make the transition. There really was not a 3rd option after today.

Epona was still strong, but we were starting to see her sleep more yesterday, and more milk come out of her nose, rather than less.  It seemed to us, that when she was weak, her nursing became very inefficient. 

Also, she had one swollen eye yesterday.  It was better today, but we had them look at it at the appointment, and it was a slightly torn cornea, they think from dirt. They told us that babies don't have developed nerve endings on the cornea, so they lack sensation, and they often have them wide open when they shouldn't. It could have been lying in the dirt, or hay, that caused it, but they don't really know. 

Her lungs were about the same, but mildly worse. Nothing too bad yet. However, her white blood count had increased, suggesting that she is fighting something that is antibiotic resistant. They had to culture the fluids in her lungs and send it in for results in order to know which antibiotic to try next. That was a complicated procedure, which required sedation.

(fluid from her lungs mixed with saline they had inserted)

All that said, we cannot allow anymore aspiration pneumonia. As she aspirates, she brings foreign bacteria into the lung space--from the air, dirt--anything she touches. Being weak with pneumonia causes her to drink less effectively and aspirate more. The vet said she nurses really well for about 3/4 of the time, but at the end, it's as if she gets tired and starts to aspirate.

We were prepared for the bad news and had packed all her transition items: replacer, selenium, and pellets. They think they will keep her for approximately one week, at least until they get the results back about the culture of the lungs, and know which antibiotic to place her on. If she deteriorates, they will make their best guess about an antibiotic.  If she doesn't eat, they will tube feed her. If she doesn't drink, they will give her an IV.

It is out of our hands now, and all we can do is pray for the best.

Cowgirl didn't take it well, but that was to be expected. She keeps returning to one little pile of Epona poo, and smelling it, then whinnying. She acts like Epona is lost somewhere.

But she still takes time to eat.

If Epona makes it through this, she will not be placed back with Cowgirl. We had begun creep feeding her, and she was showing real progress this morning, eating more aggressively, and not caring that mama had left and was on the other side of the stall and turnout.  The two weeks Shiloh gave her did give her time to mature, and that's a good thing. 

She is two months old now and, for all practical purposes, an orphan foal. But Cowboy was orphaned at one month, and many other foals are orphaned--so it is up to Epona to choose to fight and survive, and she has the help, and the good care, to support her fight.

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Changing Colors

Epona is doing very well, still nursing, running, and bucking, ...and changing colors.  As you can see, the area where she is shedding off around her eyes is very dark.

It will be fun to see what's under her baby fur. 

In the meantime, we continue to pick up her feet, lead her around the turnout, and groom her. She still takes medicine, and selenium, and still nurses from mom. But she is eating more and more solids, and drinking more and more water independently.

Tonight we're setting up a creep feeding system, which I'll post about later. It will give her a way to go under, and into her own area where she will have 24/7 milk replacer pellets. That will be a big first step to getting her off mama.

Lucy continues to grow. She's very smart. She can sit, lay down, fetch, jump, and shake hands on command.

She has also opened the house door a time or two, and dug a few major Labrador holes in our landscaping.

The pastures have all changed color to solid tan / dirt, but we have 10 tons of hay coming this week, plus all our leftover from last year. This will be the most we've ever had to feed the herd, thanks to the long hot drought we're experiencing, and the fact that our neighbors used to let us use their pasture, but now they're selling their house, and it sits empty for the next buyers.

Which brings me to the topic of neighbors. We had the best anyone could hope for. Good friends who we shared many fond moments with, and who always helped us out. We shared our tractor, they shared their lawn mower, and when our well pump went out, they shared their water. They allowed us to use their pasture during the summer for our horses. They were just the most perfect people to share a space with, and now we don't know who will buy it, and how this will all change. 

It's kind of scary. 

Our neighborhood has a very laid back vibe, since most everyone around here bought land and built their own homes. We surround what was once a very large dairy operation, and is now a much smaller meat cow operation and horse boarding facility. The rising prices of homes really limits the buyer pool. We are curious who will be our neighbors next, and if they will be animal friendly. I sure hope so.

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Silly, Silly, Silly Me

Do you ever look back at your old self and laugh, Silly, silly, silly me? That is what I did this morning, looking back on yesterday.

I remember a thought, quite small, and fleeting, going through my head while working with Tumbleweed: Is he going to be so laid back that I get bored? 

First off, a thought like that jinxes you on the spot. An invisible lightning bolt rains down from the sky and zaps the moment. Fate rubs its hands, up in heaven, and gets a gleeful smirk--wait until tomorrow, hehehe. This is going to be fun!

And there you are, innocently walking into your tomorrow, with the foolishness of yesterday, and your horse takes a bite at your arm while you're saddling up.


Me: Ahem, where did that come from, Tweed? Wake up on the wrong side of the bed, er, stall? 

Tweed: Uh huh, whatever. Looks away. Thinks to himself: I've got lots more where that came from, lady.

Sometimes, it is very, very difficult to separate the horse you have today from the one you THINK you have. Both good and bad. You have a bad day with your horse, and the next day, you're still holding it against him, and a bit nervous. Or, in my case, you have several amazing days with your horse, and the next day you think he's still golden, even when he presents evidence otherwise. 

Usually, I put Tweed out to graze in the evenings, and stall in the morning, but for some reason, I let him out last evening, but he wanted in around 9:30, so he was in his stall all night. I have no doubt, that little change made a big difference.

We worked on 4 point turns. No problem. But there was squealing going on over in the mare herd, and Tweed kept looking over.

Off to the large circle work. Walk? yes. Trot. yes. Lope? Um, no. There was some heavy duty bucking going on.  I stopped and examined his tack, but it was all good.  I examined his body, it was also good.  We started again, and continued until he did smooth lead transitions, then quickly ended on a good note, because he was starting to sweat, I was starting to sweat, and it was already getting dang hot!

At that point, it was sinking in that he was, indeed, a different Tweed. And I dug for Sarah's advice--what was that thing she like, if you don't have their attention, don't get on.

But I had plans to ride, darn it! We were going to do pole work, darn it! 

I grabbed his halter and mecate, and figured I'd at least do some bending, backing, disengaging, and softening in the bit from the ground. 

We did this little exercise of bending and disengaging the hind until his front end stays put and he moves with gusto away from me, then resting, as I stand in the neutral area at the fender of the saddle and rub his hind and fore. When he gave me his attention, we rested. When he gave the mares his attention, we moved. 

Mares = move that butt boy. 

Me = rest and love and all good things in life.

He chose Me.

And so, my plans changed again! The horse of thirty minutes ago was not the horse I had after a little bending work. In fact, he appeared to pass Sarah's attention test in spades.

I mounted up and did walk, bends, turns, side-passes, and backs, in saddle, resting after each success while patting his neck and making sure he was still tuned in. We didn't do anything beyond the walk, because I did not discount the possibility that he was, indeed, sore along his back, and I didn't want to push him into discomfort or pain. 

After a bit, I called it good, ended on a positive note, unsaddled, and hosed him down.

Lesson learned: Lord, stop me, if I ever think I might be bored again! Tumbleweed has plenty left to throw at me along this journey! And that is how relationships are built, working through the good, the bad, and the ugly and getting to partnership.

On another note, I am going to go out with him this afternoon and do Masterson bodywork, just to see if there are some ouchy spots along his back that contributed to his mood. I saw him tense him up the moment I laid the blanket on his back, which tells me there is, most likely, something along there bothering him.

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

The Good Outweighs the Bad (By A lot)

Our western heat wave continues, and the fires came early and fierce. They are mostly to the south of us, but the smoke has settled in here.

I continue to do something with Tumbleweed every morning, before it gets too hot. Sometimes we do a light walk / ride in the arena, and some days we just take a walk.

He's so mellow! If he has any issue, it's laziness picking up his feet, but I can't really blame him in this weather.

I lead him away from the barn each day, and onto different types of surfaces.

The clomp clomp of his feet on asphalt. Under the branches of trees. Up near the road, to see the passing cars. Nothing much fazes him.

I measured him the other day, and he was 15.2 hands and 1140 pounds. I imagine all that will really change in the coming years is his body filling out even more.

He is stalled during the day, and let out with the others at night. He gets 1/2 alfalfa, 1/2 grass, and a supplement formulated for our area.

My daughter consulted with several of her friends, regarding Epona, and all of them cautioned her about separating her from Cowgirl. All three of her advisors said that it would cause too much stress on a 6 week old foal, and the risks could outweigh the benefits. She is watching her closely, and gearing up for another try at a separation here at home, that would keep her with mama, and us.

Calf Manna replacer pellets, mixed with Omolene 300.

She has a grazing mask arriving Thursday, and teat tape arrived today.

Stocked up on plenty of replacer, and this doesn't include the bags in my kitchen. We have been mixing up liquid replacer and leaving it in her stall each day. It is good at attracting flies, but not at attracting Epona.

It has to be bucket feeding, at a low level, and not a bottle. All of her water sources have to be at a low level, too--and that includes Cowgirl's.

She eats a little hay, too, and grazes a bit in pasture, but there isn't much left in them nowadays. Everything has dried up.

It has taken a lot of stress off of me to be the support network, but not the decision maker. I'm glad I handed that responsibility back to my daughter.

She's starting to shed off in places on her face, and it is very dark underneath. Hard to say how she will change.

Here she is last night, tearing around their little turnout.

It may not sound like it, with everything we have been through, but the good far outweighs the bad. Despite all the ups and downs, we have loved every minute of being with Epona. 

That can be said for this heat wave, too. I've taken a lot of pleasure in my trips back and forth to the barn everyday, all day. We keep the troughs fresh and filled. Horses sprayed for flies. Masks on and off. Misters, Stalls cleaned.  All of it.

And it's good exercise! I have no trouble getting 10,000+ steps in each day. Pushing wheelbarrows full of manure is a great upper body workout! (That's what I tell myself with each load.) Why would you join a gym, when you can own a horse?

But more, it's just a pleasure to be out there with them each day. It's time well spent. Soul food. Eye candy. 

It's a good life.