Spot Turns Thirty!

We horses are generally longer lived than our four-legged, human-companion counterparts, the dog and the cat. Dogs get the short end of the stick (pun completely intended) with a life expectancy of just seven to fourteen years, depending on breed and size. Although, there was one little Cattle Dog (good news, Chico) who lived to twenty-nine and a half. Cats live longer, in the fifteen to twenty range, with one outlier named Creme Puff living to thirty-eight years old.

Horses, on average, live to be anywhere from twenty-five to thirty, but many live into their thirties and a handful have lived decades beyond the average age. Three reached fifty-one, a pony named Sugar Puff lived to fifty-six, and a guy named Old Billy made it into the record books when he lived to sixty-two. Wow, right? Based on Creme Puff and Sugar Puff both living well beyond the majority of their species, I just might change my name to Storm Puff. What do you think?

Enjoying his birthday meal and party hat.

Nevada isn’t registered and there’s no record of the month and day of his birth, but, as a horse born in 1991, he officially turned thirty on the first of January. It’s likely he was born between April and July like the majority of Alberta-bred horses.

He was added to T and Nollind’s then collection of one horse and three cats in 2002. As T tells the story, Nollind started taking riding lessons that year and in the fall started shopping for a horse. Nevada was advertised as a well-trained, eleven-year-old, Appaloosa gelding. Another horse named Jack, advertised at the same time, was in his teens and reported to be a very experienced trail horse. Since the two horses lived in the same area, a day was set aside to go and see both of them.

Still likes showing off in the snow.

They saw Jack first. T loved him, thought he was perfect. Great temperament, good age, lots of trail experience. Nollind thought he was okay until they drove up the driveway of Nevada’s home and the big guy came loping along the fenceline through the deep snow, looking majestic and impressive, as he does. Nollind’s eyes lit up, and the two rides that followed, one outdoors, one in, were really just for T’s satisfaction. Fortunately for Nollind, Nevada passed her scrutiny and has been part of the clan ever since, moving here to the farm with Alta, T’s mare, in the spring of 2003.

Nollind’s new (and first ever) horse at Park Stables west of Calgary.

In case you’re wondering what happened with Jack, T liked him enough that she sent a student down to see him and then buy him, and years later, when that person was ready to sell him, recommended him to a friend who was shopping for a husband horse. In 2010, T, Nollind, Nevada and I went trail riding with Jack in the Smithers area of BC where his new people had moved. By then he was in his mid-twenties but still rocking it on the trail.

Jack in the lead, where he most liked to be.

Nevada’s name was Snowflake when they bought him, usually just called “Flake” for short. I won’t comment on whether or not Flake suits him, but Nollind didn’t think so. Since we horses are more inclined to come for the sound of oats in a bucket or maybe a whistle with a bucket of oats to follow, name changes aren’t really a big deal.

T and Nollind had learned some Spanish while travelling in Central America so started searching for a good Spanish name that was a translation of something snowy, to keep the spirit of his existing name. When they landed on Nevada, Spanish for snowfall, they’d found it. Little did they know they’d be spending quite a lot of time in Nevada a decade down the road.

Lunch break on the trail.

Somewhere along the way, he earned the nickname Spot, sometimes Big Spot, which is how I tend to think of him. He’s the biggest horse in the herd and has spots. I like things that make sense.

Spot was Nollind’s mountain horse for about ten years, until he was in his early twenties, and he really excelled in his trail boss role. Strong, brave, and setting a good pace, I couldn’t have asked for a better leader when I started out on the trails as a youngster.

My first big, multi-horse trail ride with my trusted leader as coach.

When he began to show signs of hind end challenges on steep hills, Nollind retired him and started riding Rosa. On Spot’s last trip to the Rockies, he was ponied behind me without a rider and that didn’t sit with him too well. On one narrow, downhill trail where the hill rose and dropped steeply on each side, he climbed the bank and went around me, accustomed to his front-of-the-ride position.

There was another creek stop that wasn’t this peaceful, but that’s for a future “adventures on the trail” post.

So, the big guy is thirty this year, which puts him on the back edge of the life expectancy range, but other than some of his incisors being worn down to nearly the gums, and a bit of a hitch in his backend, he’s in great shape. He needs a little extra feed to keep him in good condition through the winter months, but he keeps up with the rest of us just fine. Maybe he’ll find himself in the record books with the horses mentioned earlier. Nevada, you up for another twenty or thirty years?

How many?

A Hole in One

It happened again. T and Nollind went on a holiday and Nevada got into trouble. This time it wasn’t gut trouble but rather stick-buried-in-thigh trouble. The stick was less life threatening than his colic of a couple of summers ago, but nasty, painful, and shockingly deep.

It all started innocently enough. The old guy just went down to roll out in the pasture. Thing is, as he’s aged and gotten stiffer, he doesn’t fold his four legs and go down gently like the rest of us, but folds in front and lets his hind end flop onto the ground. He’s a tall guy, his rump at probably five feet, and he weighs over a thousand pounds, so there’s a lot of momentum behind his dropping to the ground.

How a more limber horse goes down to roll.

And on that night three weeks ago, he landed on an old, dead willow stump that drove right through his spotted hide and deep into the tissue.

We knew he was hurt as soon as he was on his feet. There wasn’t a lot of blood but the right side didn’t want to move. So we did what domestic herds do, we rallied around him, not moving too far or too fast, and waited for help to come.

Ouch! The vet stitched the sides to keep things from hanging open too much. The upper right corner is the entrance to the real damage.

Judy arrived the next morning and came to collect us from the back of the pasture. She knew right away the wound was a job for a veterinarian. The vet was out in the early afternoon, cleaned some pieces of wood out of the wound, stitched up the hanging flaps of skin on each side, put Nevada on antibiotics and painkillers, and left instructions and supplies for twice daily flushing with a diluted iodine solution. At that point, they knew the wound was at least five inches deep, since that’s how far the forceps reached inside.

Flushing with a big syringe.

T and Nollind were home the next day and T continued with Nevada’s daily treatments and medications. By Friday, one week after the injury, the poor guy was hurting, reluctant to move, and the wound was oozing more thickly than the previous days. The vet was called again and, because she couldn’t rule out a couple of nasty possibilities via the farm call, they hauled him to the clinic on Friday afternoon.

T offering words of encouragement.

We were all worried … waiting and watching the driveway as the hours ticked by. Surely this wasn’t how we’d lose our great patriarch?

In the early evening, the truck and trailer returned. Was it empty? We all held our breath, listening. And then that familiar whinny echoed from the trailer. He was home! The vet had expected an overnight stay for monitoring but the old boy passed all of his blood and clinical tests with flying colours, ruling out any serious complications like Clostridial myositis (gangrene) or Tetanus. He also had the wound ultra-sounded and x-rayed, and even had a long, skinny camera shoved up inside. Which gives me the willies but is also ultra-cool, don’t you think? Very Fantastic Voyage-esque.

He was in good (and many) hands at Moore Equine.

The next morning his treatments continued—more antibiotics, more anti-inflammatories, deeper flushing. After seeing how well the camera snaked in there and flushed the wound with many litres of fluid, Nollind asked the vets about some kind of hose rather than just the syringes they’d been using and was given a thin, 16-inch rubber hose. Every morning and every evening since, T and Nollind have taken Nevada in the barn and flushed the wound. For the first few days, they used the iodine solution and then switched to saline which is gentler on the tissue.

The hose that made the difference.

I was in the neighbouring stall for last Saturday night’s wound flushing, and that hose nearly disappeared inside him. There were only six inches sticking out which meant ten inches were inside. Wow. I nearly fainted. The two of us stayed in the barn overnight because the weather was nasty and Nevada seemed a little under it, the weather that is. We’d been given our spring vaccinations earlier that day and he had a bit of a reaction. Anyway, it meant I was still in the barn for Sunday morning’s flushing and, would you believe it, that hose went another two inches inside. Twelve inches disappeared into the caverns of that wound!

Not much left outside the horse last Sunday.

The humans were pretty excited about the extra two inches after a week of flushing, hoping they’d hit the pocket of infection and/or debris that was keeping things from healing. And, you know what? I think they did, because since then Nevada has been healing like crazy. There hasn’t been much discharge since Monday, and yesterday morning Rosa was in keeping him company during the wound cleaning (I was brought in initially but apparently wasn’t behaving well enough to be helpful) and she told us the hose is only going in about four inches now.

Now doesn’t that look a lot happier? This was taken yesterday BEFORE cleaning.

We’re all pretty relieved, especially Nevada. If the flushing hadn’t worked, the next option was surgery to remove whatever might be lodged deep in the wound, beyond where the ultrasound and camera could see, and none of us wanted that. As second in command, I’m always pushing to raise my station, but it doesn’t mean I want to lose my Number One of the past sixteen years.

Content in the sun during this morning’s wound-cleaning session.

The old guy, well, he’s back to his feisty, 29-year-old self, moving around a lot better, and much more willing to make the trek out back to graze with his underlings. The boss is back!