Spot’s Close Call

I’m back! Bet you thought you wouldn’t hear from me for another six months. This is my third blog post which should move me from guest to regular, don’t you think? Although I do still have to rely on Chico to post for me. As I mentioned in my first post: hooves + keyboard = disaster.

Anyway, I’d promised a couple of stories in my past posts, one about my role as herd accountant and the other about Nevada’s brush with death. Since Nevada’s story is more timely, and I can talk about me anytime—I do love to talk about me—I’ve decided to make this week’s post about my good friend Nevada, aka Big Spot, aka Spotticus, aka just Spot. He’ll also answer to “Oh great one.”

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Me and my bud on a trip to Smithers, BC in 2010.

Nevada is 27. A few of you might be thinking, “Wow! That’s old.” But it’s not really, for a horse. Our average lifespan is 25-30 years, far beyond what you can expect from a dog or a cat. At 27 coming 28 in the spring, Nevada lands smack in the middle of the end-of-the-trail range and, back in August, we all thought he’d arrived.

It started off with him walking a little slower than usual and losing some weight, but when a guy is 27, it wasn’t a surprise to any of us—humans or horses—that he was slowing down. T started taking him into the barn for a little extra feed and some supplements and he seemed to perk up. He just needed a little old-guy support.

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Enjoying his extra groceries.

Then T and N headed north for a family reunion/birthday party in the last part of August. They were barely out the driveway and I started to notice a shift in Spot, the slowness returning, and he wasn’t grazing the typical 18 hours/day. By the Monday following T & N’s Friday departure, I knew he wasn’t right, and luckily for Nevada, the horse sitter did too. She called T and then the vet. Our old herd boss was colicking.

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My herd boss for all but the first year and a half of my sixteen years.

If you’re not a horse person, the type of colic you might be familiar with is in human infants and it causes discomfort and crying. Colic in horses also causes discomfort, is often easily resolved, but can be deadly, particularly in an old horse. It all depends on the cause. I never had a chance to meet him, but T’s Anglo-Arab, Echo, died at 24 from colic that was likely caused by some kind of intestinal tumours.

So, anyway, our favourite equine vet from Animal Care Centre, Dr Rand, arrived, examined Nevada, and treated him for impaction colic (in this case, impaction means pretty much what you might imagine.) Nevada stayed in the paddock by the barn over the next few days, to be monitored and fed, and by Friday morning was really starting to seem more himself. And then, early that evening, he crashed…

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One part of colic examination. I haven’t had the pleasure.

The on-call emergency vet was called, but this time Spot wasn’t colicking, in fact the young vet wasn’t sure what was happening. Anemia, she said, and extreme weakness, possibly from internal bleeding, likely from some kind of strangulating lipoma (which is just as horrific as it sounds) or mass. None of it sounded like something he could recover from, the vet was concerned about the safety of anyone handling him and, from what I could gather from the farm end of the phone call to T and N, a decision was made. All the rest of us could do was stand at the fence line and watch.

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The whole herd.

And then Nevada’s guardian angel stepped in, his saviour. Despite the direness of his condition, the potential for it to get even more dire overnight, the vet’s concerns about safety, and a lack of experience with horses, horse-sitter Spring agreed to monitor him for the evening, see what the morning brought, and administer any necessary medications.

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Looking better than he felt, but I can see the tension in his face.

The morning brought a tired but comfortable Spot who was beginning to pick at his food. A daily dose of Banamine (a powerful anti-inflammatory for horses) and some good old-fashioned TLC did the trick and got him through the next three days until T and N were home Monday night. You should have seen the hug the old guy got from T. Good thing he was stronger by then or she might have knocked him over.

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Starting to feel better.

Tuesday morning Nevada was pacing the fence line of his paddock when the rest of us were turned out on the morning pasture. T opened the gate and he trotted out to meet us. I tried to maintain the alpha position I’d established during his week of absence but it didn’t last long. He had me back in my 2IC (that’s second in command if you’re wondering) position before lunch, and you know, under the circumstances, I didn’t mind.

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Always reminding me who’s boss.

Tuesday was Spot’s first day without Banamine and that night we all held our breath. Would the pain return? Was some strangulating mass just waiting for the medicine to stop so that it could rear its ugly head again? He went into his paddock for the night, T dewormed him, put him on a natural anti-inflammatory, gave him magnesium to get everything to relax, some probiotic to make sure the digestive system was healthy, and we all hoped for the best. He was still there in the morning and, with the exception of one mild colicky episode about a week later, he’s seemed his old self ever since. Actually, a little better than his old self; the supplements have made him more limber and a little more spry. Stoic old Appy, no one even knew he was hurting.

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Spot leads us to the alfalfa patch at the very back of the property. Feeling fine.

It’s been two and a half months since the day we thought we were going to say goodbye to our benevolent leader. I’d say we’re out of the woods but, since we live on the prairie, I suppose that’s a given.

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Still the ‘three’ amigos.

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Straight from the Horse’s Mouth

I’m back! It’s been many months, long winter months, since I last posted on the dog blog but they’ve finally given me a chance to have another go. They’re such proprietary little guys, something about people signing up for a dog blog not a horse blog, what if they don’t want to hear from a horse, blah, blah, blah. Who doesn’t want to hear from a horse? Go ahead, raise your hands. Just what I thought. Everyone loves horses. Case closed.

So, back to that long winter. OMG! What was that? The longest, coldest, snowiest winter in forever is what I say, although, according to the meteorologist types, only the amount of snow was one for the record books. And my, was there snow. My three herd-mates and I hardly left the paddock after December. It was just too much work and for what? Not like we were going to dig through that mess and find anything to eat.

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Me the day the snowbirds arrived home. Does my expression say, “Where the hell have you been? Do you have any idea what’s been happening here?”

 

And where were Chico and Logan and our caretaking humans for this epic winter? I know you know. In Arizona! The land of no four-foot snow drifts, no freakishly cold wind chills, no need for winter blankets, and no me! But, seriously, just like I told you last fall, I’m not much of a traveller, so I wouldn’t want to be hauled all the way down there. I’d just feel better if the peeps and pooches were here to suffer through the winter with us. Selfish? Perhaps. But then I’m a horse and we’re kind of all about what’s most comfortable, safest, easiest, and generally best for us.

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Getting my funky (or is that fungi) hooves doctored after a long winter of wet feet.

 

Winter is finally over here in southern Alberta, and the green grass is starting to grow. Spring is a miraculous time for a Canadian horse. Not only do we have fresh food after months of eating desiccated grass, but there are no bugs! It’s like two or three weeks of bliss when it’s warm enough during the day to grow grass but still cold enough at night to keep the bugs from coming out or hatching or whatever it is they do before they set to harassing horses.

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Those first bites of green grass are like the best kind of candy.

 

If I had to choose between the cold, snowy season and bug season I think I’d have to go with cold and snow. Just imagine yourself standing in a field full of flies and mosquitoes covered in a scent they find very appealing with your hands tied behind your back. Your only defences are to run, stomp, roll on the ground, or shake your head. Welcome to summer in the life of a horse. The only other defence we horses have over humans are tails, but I’d take human hands any day of the week. We can swish the little tormenters off, but you can kill them or apply bug spray.

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Blissful spring day.

 

Spring is also the time when I have to get back to work after a winter off and it gets tougher every year. I thought I’d kept in reasonable shape over the winter but this year I’m sixteen and it does seem to make a difference. The consolation is that I think T’s hurting too. I can tell by the way she walks when she gets off. Snicker.

Well, I should wrap this up. The boss hounds said to keep it under six hundred words or they’ll edit me and I don’t want them to cut out my best stuff. I still didn’t get to telling you about my accountant tendencies so I guess that’ll have to wait until next time. Until then … here’s mud in your eye! (More about that horse racing inspired toast when I return.) Oh, oh. Six hundred and eleven, twelve, thirteen. Gotta go.

Guest Blog: Storm!

Howdy! My name is Storm. I know this is generally a dog blog but, I might as well tell you right up front, I’m not a dog, I’m a horse. Chico and Logan have been promising me a guest spot for months and, at last, I get my chance. I’m also on the To All the Steeds I’ve Loved Before list for T’s blog, but she’s only on Echo and I’m at least a couple of horses after that.

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Happy to be one of the steeds she’s loved.

 

So, a little bit about me for starters, I guess. I mentioned I’m a horse. Well, technically, I’m not. I’m actually a pony. The dividing line between horses and ponies is 14.2 hands in height (a hand is four inches for those who might not be familiar with the units used to measure equines). I’m 14.1 (that’s 14 hands plus one inch). If I’m overdue for a hoof trim and you count my thick winter coat, I can probably squeak out that extra inch but, in the world of horses, I am not a horse.

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The saddle makes me look taller. Right?

 

I’m 15 years old and have lived here at the van Bryce farm for going on 14 years now, since I was just a year and half old. The story of how I came to be here is kinda cool, if you like feel-good-happy-ending animal stories. I was apparently born in August of 2002 but I don’t remember much about my foalhood. My earliest memory is being at the Innisfail Auction in April of my two-year-old year. I was standing in a pen before the auction started and a few people came by to look at me, but not very many. I was kind of small and had that half-shedded-out-spring-scruffy thing going on, so I probably wasn’t what most people were looking for.

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Me in April 2004

 

And then I had the misfortune of being first horse through the ring. Who bids on hip #1? Everyone is sitting on their hands waiting to see what the prices are like before they bid … except for the meat buyers. They’re not too fussy.  For them it’s all about price per pound. So that’s who bid on me, and bought me, for $180. Of course, I didn’t know one buyer from another at the time. What I did know is that the man who bought me from the auction ring wasn’t the one loading me into a trailer at the end of the day. Here’s the story as it was written for part of an article T did for an equine magazine.

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My new herd. Nevada (behind me) and I are still best buds.

 

The man had never been to an auction before and was feeling a bit anxious about the process. He and his wife had come looking for a couple of young “project horses” to add to their herd of old reliables. The first horse in the ring was a little bay roan colt (me!). The man was tempted to place a bid but this was the first horse through (what did I tell you?). It seemed a bit rash. Before he could think too long, the horse was sold, and he recognized a local meat horse buyer. “I should have bid on that roan horse,” he commented to his wife, “I think I should have bid on that horse.” He fretted for the next five or six lots, kicking himself for not bidding on the roan (me!). Suddenly, he was standing, “I’ll be right back.” His wife watched him as he worked his way through the crowd to the dealer who had bought the roan (me!). There was a short exchange of words, a handshake, and he made his way back to his seat, a smile on his face.

In that moment, my fate was changed, all for a $20 bill.

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I think it was my smile they couldn’t resist.

 

Well, I hope to have the chance to tell you more stories from my view of the farm. One of the challenges is that I have to dictate while one of the dogs types (hoof + keyboard = disaster), which means I can’t just pop in whenever I want. I have to be invited.

I hear they’re headed south soon so it’ll likely be spring until you hear from me again, unless I can get my stories sent down to the desert somehow. If you’re thinking I’m upset because I don’t get to go along, not at all. You see, I’m The Accountant around here, and I like things to be the same, the same, the same. But more about that next time.

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I don’t mind the snow at all.