Thursday, September 30, 2021

Building His Confidence

Things were crazy around here when I pulled out yesterday. Something got the horses riled up, and they were all running around like crazy, which scared Tumbleweed as he was loading. Part of me said, abort the mission! But the other side of me said, you can't make everything perfect, and he needs to know he can trust my decision to work today. The latter side won.

When we arrived at the trail head, he was still on edge, but we started our work on the obstacles in-hand. I didn't want to overburden him, since he has shutdown on them before, so I chose only one on which to concentrate. It's the bridge he has gone over 1000 times, but after the teeter-totter bridge, he firmly believes it is a teeter-totter in disguise. Before we can even think about mastering the TT bridge, we need to circle back on this one.

My daughter, who is due any day now, accompanied me. She and I think a lot like when it comes to training, so I bounced ideas off of her as I was working. Too much pressure? Need more? What do you see happening?

The winning approach for Tweed was a little bit of pressure, but lots of reinforcement. At one point, when he committed his front feet, and most of his back momentum, to the bridge, I stopped and kissed his sweet little mouth--which is something I do a lot around here--and he just immediately melted. It paved the way for several successful tries. A little pressure, a little release, lots of kissing. My training method!

After that, we did some work in the round pen and arena, and then rode out to try the obstacles in-saddle.

The Sand Box

The Poles. (This is one is good for teaching him to balance a rider while picking up his legs to maneuver over obstacles, something that still scares him. He seems to be very worried about his balance when we do these obstacles, so I take them slow.)

I apologize for the next one being crooked, but I sent it up to YouTube in the correct position, and it still processed it skewed. The Ladder. Last time I  tried this one with Tweed, in saddle, he refused it. So, this was a big, big win for us.

We did more of the obstacles, like the labyrinth and poles--going in, and backing out, but that gives you a good idea. I'm starting to use the obstacles more as a supplement, rather than an entire session. I'm going to build on them slowly, as he gains confidence. 

Today is going to be our first trail ride, and I think he's more than ready. It's a beautiful day, and I'm looking forward to it!

Monday, September 27, 2021

Now That I've Scared Everyone Off...

Now that I've scared everyone off from ever giving me advice again >insert laughing emoji<, I would like to shift gears and ask you to share the best piece of advice, or maybe more accurately, wisdom, you ever received.

For me, it was probably the day my vet told me Cowboy was a smart horse because he had a strong survival instinct. I was thinking about it from the negative--he's not a bright horse, because he's not allowing my vet to give him his vaccination shot, and I was making apologies. He turned that back around to the positive so fast my head was left spinning.

I was Cowboy's fifth owner by the time he was seven, partially because the poor guy had been caught up in a divorce situation. He was also an orphan foal. Cowboy must have thought if he was going to survive, he'd have to take matters into his own hands. When I look back, every blow up, every refusal, everything--was a failure of not meeting that most basic, essential need.

1. Have I done the necessary conditioning / training?

2. Have I earned this horse's trust?

3. Does my horse feel like he / she can communicate their needs to me and have them heard and respected?

4. Is anything I'm doing contributing to my horse's fear and survival instinct?

5. What's the best way I can get this horse past his fear and not make him more fearful?

6. At the end of the day, the relationship is more important than the results.

It took me a long time to get there with Cowboy, and I had to let some things go. He never enjoyed riding in super large groups. He always hated desensitization clinics. He wasn't good crossing water, and always took extra time. When he got it, he'd do it forever, but only that particular water crossing. In all other things, he gave me everything he had--really poured it out and wanted more time with me on the trail. 

How about all of you? What is that great epiphany? What piece of wisdom changed everything about your outlook?

Oh, and we introduced Foxy and Epona last night.

It was extremely uneventful.

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Falling In Love With You

Wise men say, only fools rush in,
but I can't help falling in love with you.
Like a river flows, surely, to the sea,
Tweed, so it goes, some things, are meant to be.
Take my hand, take my whole life too,
(Even over the teeter totter bridge),
For I can’t help falling in love with you.

Spending time with Tumbleweed at the equestrian area and taking it slow. I don't have an agenda, but I do have a goal of first, getting his whole heart, and second, to be riding those trails and obstacles. We're very close.  I'll know when it's time, because I'll have his feet. As of yesterday, he was still nervous and calling for a buddy. I want him to see me as that buddy. He has gone over the teeter totter bridge twice, but he's still nervous about it. We'll get there. In the meantime, I'm pursuing LoVe, encouragement, and enjoying our journey.

A little wine and cheese between training.

I wish I could say I came up with this philosophy of slow, long day training myself, but I actually stole it from another equestrian. I'd see her at the equestrian area with her horse last summer when I'd go down for rides. She was there everyday, most of the day, and her husband would sit and read a book. I'd see her before my rides, and I'd see her after my rides. She and her horse started out rough, and I didn't know how it would turn out for them, but by the end of the summer, she was riding her mare all over the place, and they had a deep connection. It made me think how like weekend clinics that is--you spend all day with your horse partner, and by the end of the day or weekend, you get this unbelievable bond. My horse camping friends get the same results. There's just something to be said with longer days together.

Update: Epona gets daily turnout with Cowgirl now, and Cowgirl isn't letting her nurse anymore--but we're watching them closely. Cowgirl seems to have turned off the spigot and has no interest in allowing her to assume the position. Epona isn't trying as much either. Good news for an eventual full reunion.


Thursday, September 16, 2021

I Wish I Had Time To Bake You a Cake!

Yesterday was Epona's vet visit, and though we could see a remarkable change in her, we have learned to wait for the bloodwork and diagnostics before we celebrate.

The first thing we saw was that she had gained almost 100 pounds since our last visit. That was a big indicator something was going right. But being healthier also meant being stronger and more opinionated, and Epona was not happy about having her blood drawn. Our vet was impressed with her ground manners, considering she is an "orphan, non-orphan foal," but Epona definitely had spunk, and it made us all very happy to see it.

We loaded her back in the trailer to await the results of her blood test, and when our vet walked out to give us the news, her first words were, "I wish I had time to bake you a cake! --because we need to celebrate!"

There was a feeling of elation among all of us. A heavy weight lifted from our mutual shoulders. We thanked Dr Stein over and over, and she returned the praise to us. It was a team effort with a heavy dose of miracles from above.

Throughout this journey, I would often pray to God out in the barn, "I love her so much, can we keep her?" 

His answer was yes. 

Prognosis: No more vet visits. She has learned to swallow normally, and they expect her to have a normal life now. As you know, I wasn't sure I'd ever be able to type those words.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

The Good News, Before 'The Good News You've Been Hoping For'

I almost titled this post, "The Good News We've Been Hoping For," but stopped myself short, because for most people, and myself, that would be the vet telling us everything is 100% better, and that did not happen because we had to cancel her appointment Monday due to my daughter's own emergency and short hospitalization that went into Monday morning. All seems to be well on that front, too. Kidney stone, and contractions from pain, that seem to be resolving. She will quit work, hopefully, and rest until her due date.

As for Epona, it is pretty easy to tell when your foal is feeling good--they are bright, hungry, inquisitive, and energetic.  I can finally report that Epona is all those things, and more.

The turnaround was definitely the day I posted, "See Epona Run," but it only got better from there. Today, she greeted me with energy at the gate, having finished all her breakfast, and when I turned her out, she went off running and bucking.

Cowgirl is definitely not happy seeing her baby become so energetic and independent without her protection, but their reunion is in the works--either a full reunion (down the road), or possibly short reunions with Epona muzzled. That is what we will be working on in the short-term. For now, I'm turning Epona out three times per day, so that Cowgirl doesn't have to keep worrying. 

Through all this, Epona has learned to look to me for her safety. If I'm out, she'll come out. If I approach a horse over the fence, she will approach it over the fence. For a while, she was acting like I was another horse, and running too close to my space. She'd try to run up to me to be petted, and I'd have to forcefully move her away. But she's very smart, and has learned to calm herself down, stand for a minute, and then walk to me in a controlled fashion when she wants to be consoled.

Tumbleweed threw a shoe, and we had to have the farrier out for an emergency appointment yesterday. While he was here, we had him trim Epona. Her toes had grown way too long, and he nipped those off and made them pretty. He's going to give me one of his old rasps to keep the toes under control in the future.

I'm so relieved that we've reached this point. She is two days away from three months, where they can process hay and grains better. She gets stronger every day, and more content with being a weanling. I can finally take a deep breath and embrace the light at the end of tunnel.

Here are a couple more videos from last night. Epona will now learn to be part of the herd, and part of that is saying hi to the geldings. Cowgirl is only okay with Epona approaching the geldings right now, she is still very insecure about the mares stealing her baby. And Foxy would!

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Epona's Homecoming

After meeting with our veterinarian last night, who gave us a lot of encouragement regarding Epona, and instruction on how to continue her care, we hauled her home alone. I was worried about that, but she did really well. We had to stop for gas, and I went into the trailer with her. She was concerned, but quite calm.

We didn't know what to expect when we got home, but it didn't go anything like we would have imagined. All the horses ran to the west pasture fence line, curious about the trailer, but calm. Epona stayed very quiet. As we went to open the doors, Epona finally whinnied out, and Cowgirl's head flew up--her eyes wild. She started running full bore through the field, up through the North Pasture, and into the turnout, where the gate is directly in front of the barn and trailer. She was frantic. She looked like she would break the gate down.

Epona unloaded calmly, with a little push from me, and walked nicely into the barn, even though the herd were all running wildly and the dogs were barking. When we got her into the stall, Cowgirl began running back and forth through the turnout, which got all the horses running--and it was completely crazy. Still, Epona remained calm and even started eating and drinking.

At some point, Cowgirl could see that Epona was safe, and she started to settle down. She stood at the fence most near the opening to the barn--and remained there most the night, at least until I couldn't watch anymore.

I had thought it might be the opposite--Epona going crazy and Cowgirl remaining calm. I didn't realize how much Cowgirl loved her, I guess. I thought that after five days she might be a little over it. But no, she knew her baby's whinny, and she wanted to keep her baby safe.

On my last trip to the barn, around 11 last night, I laid with Epona and petted her all over. She allowed me to touch every part of her body without flinching. She even picked her head up and laid it on my chest as I stroked her neck and cradled her. When I left the barn, I saw Cowgirl in the same spot, staring at the barn, and I walked to her and held out my empty palms. She buried her nose in them over and over, smelling her baby. Epona whinnied, and it sounded like, "I'm okay." Cowgirl answered, and it sounded like, "I'm here for you."

I cried.

This morning, I went out to the barn to sit with Epona as she ate. She does better if you're near her and petting her. I'm sure it reminds her more of the intimacy of nursing. 

She drank about 1.5 gallons of water, and quite a bit of timothy hay. As in the hospital, she isn't quite up to speed on the milk pellets, but getting there.

She dropped weight at the hospital, and the vet said it will be about a three week transition, where she will look thin and scraggly, but she will eventually start to thrive and gain weight again, like a normal foal.

Cowboy wasn't the best babysitter. He was a bit too mean, and she didn't really like him. He was an orphan foal himself, and always an omega in the herd. I switched him out for Tumbleweed, who Epona seems to like much more. She was, after all, raised by an alpha mare. Two months with an alpha mama, and she has developed preferences for alpha horses, of which, Tumbleweed is also one. So is Foxy, but Foxy developed that can't happen. Here are some clips of Tumbleweed and Epona.

And in the barn, from the barn camera view.


These are minor things, and I'm really happy about how she is transitioning. We will continue the auditions if we have to, but Tumbleweed might be the guy for the job. We will see.

The mares all stand around Cowgirl, as she changes places to where she can see Epona best. I have to say, I admire horses even more after seeing all of this. When we left Epona at the vet, the herd stood near Cowgirl at all times, and seemed to be comforting her the best they could. There was real concern and love on their part. It continues now. There's such a grace extended by them to her. It's all very beautiful to witness. Other-worldly. Sometimes, I feel like I'm in a movie about horses, it seems so surreal and almost unbelievable. Can this really be happening? Are horses really this noble? 


On another note, my daughter has started cramping, and is on bed rest. I think all of this has been too stressful.  She also found out that she was exposed to Covid at work. 

We told her not to worry about Epona anymore. We will take it from here and make all the decisions, arrangements, and follow-up visits to the vet. 

It's an interesting season of life around here. Never a dull moment. Lots of love, faith, grace, surprises, beauty beyond belief, life lessons, and the unknown. Always the unknown.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Epona is Coming Home


(Epona at the hospital, a rare moment sleeping. The vets all said she was up and alert, and fully entertained by watching the many horses go by, even a Clydesdale, that was being seen when we took this photo. Apparently, she was pretty impressed when he walked by! We saw him through the exam window, and he was HUGE!)

We have had many things break our way in the last couple of days, 1. They identified the bacteria in Epona's lungs, and the results came back earlier than predicted, with a medication that should be successful, and 2. She is eating and drinking well at the hospital, and has maintained a great deal of energy and gregariousness. She does very well eating and drinking at chest level, and can even tolerate eating hay at lower headsets.

The overall prognosis, right now, is very good. They want us to continue this form of eating indefinitely, but expect that she will mature out of most of it. If there are any lingering effects, when she starts her athletic training, there is a surgery that can be performed when she's older that pulls the flap forward where food and water go down. It doesn't retract properly in her. I'll write more about that later, when I understand it better. But the vet said that is way, way down the road, and might not ever be necessary at all.  It's good to know there are options down the road, if needed.

Her eye is completely healed, and she has started the new antibiotic regimen, so she is ready to be picked up tonight at 4:00 pm, when the vet can talk to us more about follow up here at home.

Concerns now are keeping her on solid food once she gets back here and sees mama, and dealing with behavioral issues she has developed, what my friend calls "typical bonding security issues of foals". The vet doesn't want her anywhere near mama, or any mares that might start lactating (such as Foxy). She said it is very common for mares to develop milk when they're around babies, as we saw Foxy do a couple of weeks ago. And mamas will take their babies back even months after a separation. For that reason, she suggested giving her a gelding as a companion. 

A gelding as a companion? That really leaves us with Tumbleweed and Cowboy, and since Tumbleweed is being pulled out a lot, and needs the space to run with the herd, I'm thinking it must be Cowboy. I'm not sure if Cowboy has what it takes to curb an athletic foal like Epona, but we will give it a try. In the near future, they will only be stalled next to each other, and not let out together, so we'll have plenty of time to evaluate.

My "empty hands" lesson in life has already helped resolve many lingering issues. One, I had someone close to me hurting, and I had intervened, thinking I had just the right words or advice to help. I did not. It backfired spectacularly and damaged our relationship. Yesterday, I sent a text to that person, apologizing for my poor choice in words, but making myself available to them, should they need me, and expressing the fact that it was done in love, however misguided and inept it had been. They responded back immediately in love and appreciation. Empty hands, extended in love, letting go of the outcomes that are beyond our control.

Second, it helped with Epona. I feel quite free now, when contemplating her future. I'm not singularly cursed, as I saw by spending a week in a veterinary clinic. And I'm not entirely in control of the outcome. No one is. Her vet bill was much lower than expected, which I hope will encourage my daughter to keep full ownership, but if not, and the future is too uncertain, I will gladly take on the co-ownership--whichever works out best for all.

Not having Epona here at the house left an empty spot in our hearts. My husband and I missed her very much, and we're looking forward to this next chapter of her care.

Epona came into our lives for a reason. Her presence has taught us all hard lessons. But she has also expanded our hearts in ways we never imagined. Even our love for each other, as we come together for her sake, in this densely intertwined family journey.

Sunday, July 25, 2021

It's Out of My Control


I have made it to all of the "visiting hours" for Epona. Her caregivers never fail to take a moment and give me updates, and they have gotten better each day.

She only had to have one IV, and since then has been drinking enough water on her own. They take blood tests every day to make sure that she's staying hydrated.

She is also eating more aggressively, and they said she eats everything they give her, which is timothy hay, milk pellets, and Omolene 300.

Unfortunately, she does aspirate when she stretches her neck to the ground, which is a similar stretch to nursing. Everything she eats and drinks has to be at her chest level. Hay doesn't seem to bother her, though--at any level.  

She still does not receive antibiotics, as we're waiting for the culture to come back, but she hasn't spiked a fever, coughed, or shown any signs of being sick.

They put her in a stall that is front and center to where they do all their work, and that keeps her busy watching them all day. It also puts more eyes on her, something her doctor really wanted. 

This morning, I went in and groomed her.

She whinnies as soon as she hears my voice approaching, and as I leave for the day. I do miss her when we're apart! Home isn't home without her anymore. 

We had a chance to go hiking today, looking for huckleberries, and something miraculous happened. Honestly, I needed something miraculous, because yesterday I was really down. I had come to realize that the universe is, indeed, teaching me something this year. It is teaching me that I have no control over things.  No. Control.  I like control, and it isn't easy to come to such a realization. If not control, than what?

I wrote a short poem, as I tried to make sense of it. My feeling is that when I really learn the lesson I'm being taught, I might cease needing it reinforced. Here it is:

The universe told me
Our hands are empty,
They do not contain miracles
Or, even wise words.
Moment by moment,
Only moments,
The brokenness of hearts,
A temporary rise to our feet,
As if to help,
But we didn’t–Did we?
Because our hands are empty.

The baby birds. Epona. The hurting human beings around me. There are so many things out of my hands, though I tried so, so hard with those very hands to save them. I couldn't. It's not within my power to save things--or to even know the right words to bring comfort.

The miracle is this: 25 years ago, I found a strange flower under a tree on a hike. It was like an albino orchid, very magical, mysterious. At that time, I was into finding flowers, pressing them in a press I'd made for myself, and journaling about them. We'd often go in groups, with our kids, searching for as many wildflowers as we could find.  The one I found, in a cluster of 3, was so delicate and waxy. I picked it and placed it in my cooler to take home and press.

But by the time I got home, my little flower was completely ink black. It had, for all practical purposes, disappeared. Back then, there wasn't this big wide world of the internet or smart phones, and I hadn't taken a photo. 

But I never forgot it, and I continued my search to find it again. 

Through the years, I found out that it was Emily Dickinson's favorite flower. She wrote about it, and it is featured on her book of poems, as tribute. Indian Pipe. Ghost Flower. Corpse Flower. No chlorophyll. Monotropa uniflora. Family: Ericaceae, which contains huckleberry, blueberry & azalea.

25 years, or more, and I had never found another indian pipe, another ghost flower, another corpse flower.

Until today!!

My son-in-law saw this little clump first. He said, Hey look at those crazy mushrooms! And when my head turned toward them, it was as if the heavens opened up. They were so white against the forest floor, and I knew what they were immediately. Within seconds I was on my knees on the bank, taking photos and feeling them. My family stood back in shock. Then, one by one, they came to see what was so special.

I waited a long time for this sighting. I've even told other people to be on the lookout for me. But it, too, was out of my control. These rare flowers do what they do.

Seeing them today was my miracle.

'Tis whiter than an Indian Pipe –
'Tis dimmer than a Lace –
No stature has it, like a Fog
When you approach the place –
Not any voice imply it here –
Or intimate it there –
A spirit – how doth it accost –
What function hath the Air?
This limitless Hyperbole
Each one of us shall be –
'Tis Drama – if Hypothesis
It be not Tragedy –

Emily Dickinson

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.

Friday, July 9, 2021

Moving Toward the Bright Side

Many blog posts ago, I shared a book I'd read along my musical journey, The Perfect Wrong Note. In it, the author explained that everything we call "mistakes" are really information from which to learn. I can apply the same concept to yesterday. Instead of focusing on what didn't work, I can choose to look at what I learned.

1. It is hard to introduce milk replacer when a foal sees their mama, and mother nature tells it to drink mama's milk.

2. It is hard to milk a mare for 18 quarts of milk a day, but if you can, your foal will like it better than replacer.

3. Mixing replacer with mama's milk, though a great idea, didn't work for us.

4. You can lead a horse to replacer, but you can't make them drink. Syringes. Bottles. Fingers dipped in replacer. Muzzle placed in replacer. Nope. 

5. It was worth the effort to try and make the transition while also keeping her with mama. We really want to minimize the stress on Epona, and being with mama is the best thing for her. Not always possible, but if you can, it is definitely best.

Conclusion: I did my absolute best to get Epona on replacer, but was not willing to starve and dehydrate her and cause her more stress. Therefore, I presented two options to her owner--my daughter:

1. Leave her on mama, introduce replacer pellets in her feed, continue antibiotics and regular vet appointments for ultrasound, and practice small separations each day. Or,

2. Take her to the vet clinic, away from mama, and have them support her while she transitions to replacer. Bring her back when she is fully transitioned.

I successfully de-transitioned her back to mama's milk, and she is strong and happy today.

Therefore, I turned my sights to my own horse, Tumbleweed.

I felt myself drowning in chores and surviving this unrelenting heat wave, but Teresa pointed out, on her blog, that she rides first, and does chores later, because she will always do the chores. It reminded me about a book I read about habits--you need to do the developing habit before you look at your phone or check emails, because you'll always find time to look at your phone and check emails, but putting off the habit will kill the habit formation.

I threw chores to the wind and grabbed my boy! And he was happy I did.

He was so amazing. He stood well. Saddled well. Performed 4 point turns and all his leads on the line, with zero silliness or bucking.

There wasn't a moment that he didn't give me his full attention and effort, so I jumped on and rode. And it was as if we didn't miss a beat. 

It was good for my soul to be back with him. 

Thursday, July 8, 2021

Epona: First Day Failure Introducing Milk Replacer

(Epona nursing a few minutes ago. Good or bad thing?)

We received our notes on Epona's visit from the treating vet, and are waiting for a call back to discuss options, should the milk replacement switch fail, which it seems to have done.

Here's what we're dealing with:

"Epona was seen today for recheck exam of persistent mild dysphagia and aspiration. Owners have rarely noticed coughing, but she does occasionally have a small amount of milk dribbling from her nares. She is eating some of the mare's food and starting to drink water. Owners have not noticed any drainage from her nose while drinking her own water, but she does have when drinking from mare's bucket positioned higher up.

PE: BAR, excellent BCS of 5/9, BW 220 lbs; normal auscultation of heart, lungs and abdomen. Normal auscultation of trachea at rest and for the first half of a nursing session, then she starts to aspirate a small volume of milk. She coughed once a couple of minutes after nursing.

Thoracic ultrasound: Minimal comet tails on the left side in the first 5 rib spaces; moderate comet tailing in the right cranial thorax to ICS 8, very similar to exam on 6/21.

CBC: Mild-moderate neutrophilic leukocytosis, improved from last visit however

Endoscopy (mild sedation required for procedure): Moderate positional dorsal pharyngeal collapse which improved with lifting the nose in the air; normal swallowing regardless of head position; small trail of milk/mucous in trachea.
No abnormalities found in guttural pouches.

Due to persistent positional dysphagia, we will have to transition to feeding Epona from a bucket and wean her from the mare. You can keep mare and foal together if you are able to fashion an udder covering to prevent the foal from nursing OR buy a foal muzzle and keep foal muzzled between feedings (she will still be able to drink water).

Milk Replacer Feeding: Please follow label instructions, but she should be eating about 18 L/qt of appropriately mixed liquid milk replacer, divided into 6 feedings per day. You can initially milk out the mare and add some of her milk to the mix to help the filly transition.

Milk Pellets: Feed as instructed per label instructions in addition to milk replacer liquid. You can soak them slightly initially to get her used to the texture.

I would like to recheck the filly in 10-14 days to ensure that pneumonia has resolved and that she is gaining weight adequately with milk replacer.

Please call if the filly develops diarrhea, or has difficulty switching to bucket feeding."


I feel like this is a good analysis of the situation, and switching her to milk replacer is a wise way to proceed, if we can do it successfully. But we took her off of mama at 9:30 pm last night, and didn't have any success with replacer by 12:45 this afternoon. We did get her to drink mama's milk, which we had nursed from Cowgirl ourselves, but only in small quantities, nowhere near the 18 quarts a day we need.

With temps at about 90 today, we didn't feel comfortable denying her mama. And, they're going to get worse in the coming days. We allowed her a short nursing session, then another about an hour later. My thinking is to keep her somewhat hungry, but hydrated, and keep Cowgirl's huge milk supply from drowning her. The last nursing was short, and no milk came out of her nose. I'm timing them at about every 45 minutes.

So, along those lines, I guess my question for the vet would be, is it better to keep her nursing, but separate her from mama more often, and introduce these new foods gradually? 

The vet's thinking, about taking her off mama, is similar to when a mare dies--go cold turkey, and when they get hungry and thirsty enough, they'll drink. A friend told me I should remove Cowgirl so that she can't even see her. That's about impossible to do around here. They'd still be able to whinny at each other. 

Is the risk of dehydration and stress, during pneumonia, greater than the risk of her continued aspiration?

I know they'd like to see it resolved, and it won't resolve until she's not nursing anymore. Yet, it seems like every decision has a good and bad side, a practical and impractical side. Maybe Epona is still just a little too young to make this transition well. Maybe, if we're going to choose this route, she needs to be hospitalized away from Cowgirl, and monitored by the vet during the transition. 

Here's one of our failed attempts at covering the udders.

Soon after that, we decided to separate them for the night.

All of this has been was worth the try. Doing it at home, near her mama, is much less stressful than if we do take her to the vet to stay. Our vet has tried to make this as humane as possible for little Epona. She said we could keep them together, if we could cover Cowgirl's udders, but that proved to be impossible. (see above) I just saw that in her notes, she suggested a hay muzzle for Epona, and that would be great, except she'd be nuzzling at Cowgirl's udders all the time, and they are sore. (It's an excellent idea for when Cowgirl isn't as sore.) 

Long story short, we just don't feel comfortable following the advice to get her hungry and thirsty enough that she accepts replacer. We know the vet is right, but we don't know how to get there safely, under these circumstances.

Does anyone have experience with milk replacer? We could only find Land O Lakes, ProNurse, which is a multispecies replacer. They didn't have a single option for Mare's Match or any of the others, formulated specifically for foals. In fact, they barely had the Land O Lakes. We had to go from store to store, buying it up. Is it because of the Covid shortages? 

I would have much preferred an equine only formula. Epona hates this stuff. We invested hundreds of dollars into it yesterday, but I don't know that she will ever drink it. 

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Life Just Got A Lot More Complicated

 Epona had her vet appointment today, and it is bad news--we have to take her off of Cowgirl.

Although, her lungs were a little better, they weren't good enough. They listened to her swallowing.

Then they did an ultrasound of her lungs.

Finally, they did another endoscopy. 

They hope the problem is only when she's lifting her head up to nurse, but we won't know for sure until we start to feed her from a bucket. Nursing from mom has to end as soon as possible. They said if she continues to aspirate, she will start developing lung abscesses, and they are very hard to treat and can scar.

This has left us scrambling to 1) figure out a system to cover up Cowgirl's teats (tape won't work, because Epona can pull it off, and 2) Secure enough milk replacer, which I've just done over the phone at several locations. If we can get her safely through two weeks of milk replacer, she can then transition to milk replacer pellets.

The hope is to keep her with mama, but if we can't figure out a safe way to cover Cowgirl's teats, we will have to separate them in adjoining stalls.

It's discouraging, to say the least.

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Foxy, My Not-Pregnant-Mare, Has Developed Milk

The heat wave has begun, and it's already taking its toll on the horses. You can see the energy zapped out of them during the day, and it's hard to watch. We haven't even reached the maximum temps of 109. I'm curious how equestrians who live in Arizona and Nevada handle temperatures like this. 

If Epona was 100%, and drinking water, I'd feel a little better. I poured a bucket of water over her yesterday. She wasn't too sure about that, but she didn't fight much either. I'll do the same thing today. She had five days of no milk coming out of her nose, but today she stopped nursing to itch her leg, and some milk came out. I was like, NOOOOO!!!  But it was only one time, so we will see what happens.

If there's one silver lining in the heat wave, it's that our evenings do cool down to the 70's, and the horses come alive again when they feel it drop. I let them out at about 8 pm last night, and they were happy campers.

On another note, Foxy Mama, who hasn't had a foal in at least ten years, has developed milk. I'm not sure what to think about this development. Can she nurse Epona? I teased out a little bit, and it seems watery. What a mama though! She is so mother-driven, she has produced milk for a baby who is not even hers.

We hosted a bridal brunch here yesterday for my daughter-in-law. 

Shiloh and my daughter-in-law are quite creative. It was a beautiful day.