Wednesday, August 25, 2021

More Good News


(Photo is the day we left her at the vet, July 22, a little over a month ago. She was there for a week.)

We had Epona's checkup today, and it went very well. Her right lung was completely clear, but her left still had residual inflammation. It was not new aspiration, and that is the good news. Things like this just take time for the body to clear. They were far enough along that she didn't want to use antibiotics. 

(Photo from Epona's first day of life. A trip to the vet for her mama's retained placenta and her first checkup.)

By process of elimination, our vet now contributes Epona's issue to a difficult birth. It makes sense. We didn't have anything to compare it to, but it did seem unusual. Cowgirl struggled for a while, going in and out of the barn and into the pasture. When she did deliver, she did it standing, and Epona plopped loudly to the ground. Cowgirl walked away about 20 feet and looked like she was in shock. She looked the opposite direction, stomping her back foot over and over again--a blank stare. Since she wasn't tending to Epona, I went in with my daughter and pulled back the birth sac from her face. When Cowgirl saw me doing that, it seemed to trigger her back to the moment, and she came over and finished the job.  Of course, she had retained the placenta and afterbirth, and I tied it into a knot until we could get her to the vet the next morning.

Our vet described the process that could have caused Epona to experience nerve damage and oxygen deprivation, but it was too complicated for me to remember. At any rate, she thinks she will grow out of it in a few months, and she is not aspirating any new food or water into the lungs.

(Photo from today.)

I dewormed Epona four days ago. She was starting to grind her teeth, and that can be caused by ulcers and / or worms. With all the stress she has been under, it could be either. She didn't expel any worms in her manure, but that doesn't mean she didn't have an egg load or the body absorbed them. It's hard to say, but after I dewormed her with Panacur, she lost her appetite for two days and dropped weight again. The vet didn't think it would have been caused by the dewormer itself and suspects it was a worm load. She isn't grinding her teeth anymore. The vet wants me to continue with the ulcerguard for two more weeks, and we'll take a fecal sample at her next appointment, around the same timeframe.

She thinks her growth has been temporarily stunted due to the stress and feeding issues, but expects her to start putting on the pounds now that she has so much of it behind her. (She lost almost 20 pounds just since I dewormed her, but her appetite is back to normal now.)

Poor Epona. This has been a tough road, but it looks like we've finally turned the corner, and the prognosis is excellent.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Turning My Thoughts to Tweed

My work with Tweed has been spotty these last couple of months: heat, smoke, and Epona kept me from being regular, and because of that, each time I went out, I saw a deeper and deeper deficit from where we needed to be and where we were.

I have his heart, but that's partially because the way to your gelding's heart is through his stomach. When I go out to get him in the evenings, I only need call his name, and he comes running. If I go out during the day, with no intention to feed, he comes to me and gives me his undivided attention, too.  He associates me with good things, and offers zero resistance in our everyday interactions.

Scratch the surface, however, and resistance pops its ugly head right up. I have seen it when he has bucked on the line when asked to change leads, pulled back on the line, trying to get away, and bit at me, once, when I bent his head. (That last one did not go well for him!) As for the silliness on the line, I usually get through it, and then ask him to complete the task originally requested without much drama. When I ask him to stand at the mounting block, he will shuffle just a little bit away from the sweet spot, and act like he doesn't know what I'm asking. When dismounting the bridge, he will sometimes walk right off, rather than one foot at a time, as asked. In those cases, we circle back around and do it all over again, and again, and again.

These are all obvious forms of resistance, and negate the subtler question--Do I have his attention? (Before I get on.) It's clear, we have to start back at square one.

I'm back to working with him most everyday, but all those things have to be addressed, and they are combinations of issues:

1. He sees me as a herd mate.

2. He wants to get back with the herd.

3. He has physical discomfort which I have been searching out through the Masterson Method work. I hadn't done much of it with him, but I can see he really needs it. His evasion is moving, pawing, chewing the rope, and threatening to bite. Through this work he will learn that he can trust me with his ouchy spots, and release them. He's so sensitive that I've had to move back to "air gap" pressure. (I'll post specifically on this topic soon, because I will have to learn a way through his evasions that also supports the work--while enforcing my personal boundaries. That's not as easy as it might sound.)

He sees me as  herd mate. This is a boundaries issues, and has probably become worse because of our freetime, at liberty, in the pasture. Everything is on his terms (or, at least he thinks it is) when I go out to visit him during the day. He's also three, and still has that baby personality. He taunts the other horses all day long in the pasture. They all love him, and put up with a lot, but eventually they will discipline him and send him off. He is bringing that same attitude, pushing the boundaries, into the arena. This is going to work itself out quickly by working with him on regular schedule. It doesn't concern me. #2 wanting to be back with the herd, will also work itself with a regular schedule.

My emotional energy has been concentrated with laser focus on Epona's survival. That did not leave me much for my work with Tweed. Yet, even in that distracted state, I was formulating a general concern about a lack of partnership or, more accurately, togetherness. The thought started to seep in more and more as I thought back about our work since he's been home. You get a horse back from the trainer, but you're not the trainer. You do things differently than the trainer. And your relationship with your horse is completely separate, too. I had made a mistake in the earliest days after bringing him home of trying to start where she left off, rather than taking a few steps back and reestablishing our own mojo.

I was thinking about that today--what is the value of sending them off to training if you have to start from square one? The value that I can see is exposure. He has been exposed to many different things, and that created a foundation. However, that's all it is: a foundation from which to build our own partnership. Unfortunately, no one can do that part for you, and there are no shortcuts.

The weather has returned to normal here in Spokane, which is to say, perfect 70 degree days. It's gorgeous. Being in the barn, which is where I practically live, is now pure bliss. Less heat. Less flies. It's a good time to start back up. 

Mr Tumbleweed and I have a lot to do.

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!

Sunday, August 15, 2021

See Epona Run

Shiloh and I were working with Epona last night, picking up feet, to prepare for the farrier (she really needs a trim!), trailer loading, leading--and we thought it would be fun to let her go in the arena. 

She ran and ran, (and did a little coughing)--which we think is good for her, to help open up and clear her lungs. But we didn't let her run too much, because the dogs were barking, and getting all excited, and I didn't want her to wear herself out. 

Her next vet appointment is tomorrow, which I dread, but it is necessary to see what progress we've made. It is supposed to be 90 degrees, and she will have to haul by herself. 

I'm reading a very interesting book called, The Ride of Her Life, by Elizabeth Letts. She also wrote, The Perfect Horse, which I haven't read, but have ordered to read next. 

The Ride of her Life is about Annie Wilkins, aka, Jackass Annie (she got the nickname from riding her donkey to school.) Annie discovers she has a lung condition at about age 63, and decides to sell the family farm and ride her horse from Minot, Maine to California, to fulfill a lifelong dream. It takes place in the 1950's, and the author recreates much of what is going on as she traverses the country.

So far, it has been fascinating. She gets a mixed reception. At first, everyone is excited to see her, and news organizations follow her around, townspeople line up to see her, and people open their homes to her and her animals, but it is taking a turn right now, and one town's paper concentrates on her animal's welfare, raising a bit of an outcry about what she's doing to her horse by riding it so far, and in dangerous conditions. I'll share more when I'm finished.

Happy trails for now!

Friday, August 13, 2021

This Precious Life

The Summer Day

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear? 
Who made the grasshopper? 
This grasshopper, I mean— 
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand, 
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down— 
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes. 
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face. 
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away. 
I don't know exactly what a prayer is. 
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down 
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass, 
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields, 
which is what I have been doing all day. 
Tell me, what else should I have done? 
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon? 
Tell me, what is it you plan to do 
with your one wild and precious life?

—Mary Oliver

I have read this poem over and over and over today. It has always been one of my favorites, but in the light of the last couple of years, especially this spring/ summer, it has taken on new, and deeper, meaning.

The hours I've spent touching Epona, rubbing her withers, her back, her butt--delighting in every inch of her soft baby fur, gazing into her doe eyes. I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down. I only now realized that Mary Oliver chose to end that line at how to fall down, rather than continuing it, as she did in other long lines. She could have, but she did not. 

Thank you.

I know how to fall down.

Oh, yes I do. 

Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon? 

The lifespan of a grasshopper is one year. Mary Oliver lived 83 years.  I am 54.  

Epona is 11 weeks old today. It feels like she has been a part of our lives for many years. I think that's because, when you think you might lose something you love, you concentrate so much attention onto that thing it is like a lifetime of attention. 

Tell me, what else should I have done?

As I contemplate what to do with my one, short life, I know that it is bound together in the precious life of Epona. And Tumbleweed. And Cowboy. And all the humans, horses, dogs, cats, birds and butterflies that enter this space.

Such a seemingly small microcosm. And yet in it, there's something of eternity. The way time becomes irrelevant. A day. A minute. A year. They're all the same. 

My plan for the day is love.

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Let me Off the Roller Coaster

We had a week of visitors, which coincided with a drop in temperatures. It was lovely. For one, it took my mind off of the worry of Epona, and it also helped Epona regain some of her strength. It also got me back in the saddle, and working with Leah and Tumbleweed.

Tumbleweed was grumpy, as were many of the horses, due to the biting flies and lack of exercise. He gave me his attention, but it wasn't happy attention. Cowboy was equally bothered by the thought of working, and the one time I pulled him out, I ended up putting him back and switching for Little Joe. Foxy was very pleasant. She has a been there, done that temperament, and nothing seems to bother her anymore. I'm sure she wasn't always like that in life, but she has matured to be the wise old sage of the herd. 

Epona seemed to have turned a major corner. She was eating well and carrying herself with energy. We even found her running and bucking at times. She had settled into the new arrangement, and enjoyed the love and support of mama over the fence. She was aggressively eating NW Mare and Foal (which has 1.3% calcium!) and her Omolene 300. I was looking forward to my next post, and being able to report all the positive news! I took this video from horseback last night.

But today, the heat returned, and she seems weaker. I have a big fan on her, and she's locked into the barn. Her last dose of antibiotic will be tonight, and her follow up appointment is Monday, which is also the day this heat wave is expected to end.

Still having trouble getting hay into the barn. I did manage to get 1.7 tons, a mere fraction of what we need, but I have a guarantee of delivery for timothy next week. (It better work out!!) 

We had a fun little adventure into the city on Monday night, and just happened across a live performance in the park. It was the Inland NW Opera performing Little Red Riding Hood free for children and their families. We had two of our granddaughters, and we sat in the grass and enjoyed the performance in perfect weather. It almost felt like 2019 again. 

Alas, it is not, and we are starting to mask up again. I keep looking at our local theater website and there are no plays scheduled for this year. Will we ever get back to live theater again? I really thought, hoped is more like it, that our high vaccination rate in Washington state would usher in an end to Covid restrictions, yet it seems like we're starting all over again. I'm not a fan. Personally, I'm not afraid of it, and have high confidence in the vaccine to keep me from getting it and/or developing severe symptoms. I want my life back. I want life back for everyone else, too.

I want a refund on 2020 and 2021. I want someone to stop this ride and get us off the roller coaster.  I want to go back to not bickering about stupid things, like masks and vaccines and who is super spreading and who is not. In fact, I never want to hear the phrase "super spreader" again. 

And while I'm at wanting so many things--I also want Epona to just get well. 100% well!! I want to see her running and bucking again. Is that too much to ask? 

This quickly descended into a rant, and I’m sorry for that. There are parallels between Epona and Covid—basically, I feel like I’ve done my “part,” but nothing gets better. Yet, anyway.

Thursday, August 5, 2021

Calcium and Early Weaned Foals

Nutrition is only one issue we're facing with Epona, the others being aspiration pneumonia and early separation from mama, and the stress that causes.  We have her on meds, and ulcerguard, and next to mama, with lots of love from us through out the day, so I'm turning my attention to nutrition, and how to get the right amount of calcium, and other nutrients into her system, without replacer pellets (which she completely rejects.)

When we're most insecure, we retreat back to what we know is safe.

I think that's the case for humans, and it has certainly been the case for Epona. She wants to drink water from the same place she drank water before her separation, the automatic waterer, and she wants to eat the supplement she ate before she was weaned, the Omolene 300.  I think she has retreated back to what is safe and comfortable.

I purchased NW Mare and Foal (very high in calcium, and Tumbleweed loved it when he was weaned), LMF Developer, (What I have Tweed on now), Equine Senior (which Epona used to nibble from her mother, and she tends to like a bit), and replacer pellets (she doesn't want any of them). She seems to only want Omolene 300 and a little of the ES (which is lower in calcium) 

I compared nutritional values of the top 3 choices:

Mare's Match: 2%-2.5% calcium, phosphorous .9%

Foal-Lac: 1.1%-1.6% calcium, phosphorous .7 %

Omolene 300: .8%-1.3% calcium, phosphorous: .55% minimum

As you can see, the calcium is lower in the Omolene versus the replacer pellets, but not significantly so--not as much as I would have imagined. 

When we left the clinic, our vet told us to feed her timothy grass hay and alfalfa, and it turns out, alfalfa is very high in calcium, but has a high calcium to phosphorous ratio. Timothy is better balanced between the two, but lower in overall calcium.

I'm letting Epona's body tell her what to eat. She has one bag of alfalfa, and one of timothy--hung in her stall separately. She's eating her Omolene very well. She's also getting liquid vitamins each day.

All of this comes at time when I'm also ordering in hay. I have 2 tons of an alfalfa / grass combo being delivered tonight, and I need to make a decision about what else I'm going to stock--timothy and alfalfa.

Now, we have our round bales put away for us every year from our supplier, so the horses have grass hay available 24/7 all year round. What we put up in the barn--usually about 10 tons--is extra. It's for horses who are stalled, or horses with special needs, or extra nutrition on the really cold days.

We supplement Cowboy and Tumbleweed with alfalfa. Epona is eating it now, too. But we try to reach two goals--1/ nutrition, and 2/ biological necessity for horses to graze all day. Shirley pointed out that denying a foal, like Epona, access to hay (which I had considered doing to force her onto pellets) could cause ulcers. My vet agreed with that.

All this is to say, I think I'm going to put up all 3 types this year: pure alfalfa, timothy, and alfalfa/grass mix, plus grass round bales.

It seems like our needs change every year, depending on the needs of the herd. How about all of you? What do you feed, and why?

Oh, and Shiloh sent me this article from Last Chance Corral. Look at this section. Sounds like what we're already doing. It makes me feel better about her replacer pellet rejection. She is almost 10 weeks, and probably safe on this new diet she has chosen.

Monday, August 2, 2021

Reunited, Kind Of

Epona has been home almost a week now, and she's almost 10 weeks old. It has been a series of ups and downs, and lots of U-Turns, but the final result of all the buddy auditions was to reunite her with mama, and mama was desperate for the job!

This was definitely not a full reunion, but either complete separation with panel and wire, or very closely supervised interaction through the fence. Those moments are short and rare because I don't want her to try and nurse through the opening.

Sometimes, mama gets cranky. Who knows why? That's the part of speaking horse I don't get. The cranky parts.

Up until yesterday, I was diligently weighing every bit of replacer pellets she ate, but that became so frustrating that I abandoned it and switched to a whatever-she-eats-has-to-be-okay mentality. You can't make a horse eat. I did everything possible to find tricks--adding this, adding that, taking away this and that, feeding from hands, feeding on lap, name it, I tried it. But her hunger for pelleted food is very unpredictable. She loves her Omolene 300, and will scarf that up, but add replacer pellets, and she turns up her nose. She loves grass.  She loves alfalfa. So, I even tried to lay her mix on the grass and alfalfa, so that she would have to eat the pellets.

This morning, the grass was gone, but the pellets were still there.

Her appetite has remained the same, no matter who is in the stall next to her, but being near her mom seemed to give her the most comfort. And, for a little one fighting pneumonia, whatever comfort I can provide her, I will. It's a balancing act. The difference between Epona and an orphan foal is that she is not an orphan, and I can't make her mom disappear. 

I know babies need replacer pellets, but I'm not sure at what point they can handle hay and supplements. I've read testimonies from people who had similar situations, orphan foals at this age, and similar eating patterns, and it turned out okay. We give her oral supplements, too. I'm hoping that altogether, it is enough, and gets her through. 

She developed diarrhea a few days ago, but it wasn't that bad, and disappeared as fast as it came with a little Pepto. She was definitely transitioning, because her manure changed from baby looking droppings, to big horse style droppings. The color changed, too. It now looks like a hay based manure. Same color and consistency. She loves her grass and alfalfa, and scarfs it down.

I haven't given up on the replacer pellets, but I'm concentrating my efforts now to keeping her happy and low stress. I go out every hour or so and place them in my lap, hoping I'll catch her at a hungry moment. 

Sometimes I get lucky, and sometimes I don't.

I think part of her low appetite pellets could be a result of stomach upset. I'm going to ask the vet about giving her Ulcer Guard. Apparently, orphan foals are very susceptible to ulcers, which is another reason I'm trying to minimize her stress.

I'm having a hard time getting someone to deliver the hay I reserved. Our regular guy is 3 weeks out, and my supplier doesn't seem willing to let us pay and hold it. frustrating!! I've called many other people, and they don't even bother calling back. I'm going to start buying some of it from our local feed store, and just pay a premium price until I can catch a break. 

So, that's the latest goings on around here. It's hot and smoky, but that seems to be our new summer normal, as sad as it is to think that. I'm looking forward to Autumn. I don't like to wish away time, but it would be nice to get a reprieve.