Saturday, March 19, 2011

Almost Spring at Back Acres Farm

The last narrative on March 3 talked about taking a young horse for surgery in Rheinbeck, NY., and how the owner was beyond anxious for the horse - feeling like a horrible father subjecting his trusting dependent to elective surgery which would make no sense to the horse, etc. The story got a lot more interesting, actually. The boarder got several urgent phone messages from the vet the next day - unfortunately when he couldn’t take the calls - and the messages were simply scary - “Call me NOW”, and “Please call immediately”. The boarder instantly leaped to the worst conclusion, of course - the horse was dead. Actually what happened was that the surgery began as planned - to do a standing surgery in stocks to remove the undescended testicle under local anaesthesia - but the horse could not be safely sedated enough to tolerate the stocks. So Plan B was implemented - that of general anesthesia (less desirable because draft horses apparently don’t do very well with it). They began the surgery, located the missing testicle and attempted to draw it out, and it wouldn’t come. So in went the little camera to see what was up, and there was a TWENTY POUND TUMOR in there, tangled up in the doings. So large, in fact, that the fluid with which it was filled had to be drained out before the tumor could be removed. A routine surgery turned into a five hour surgery under general anesthesia - not at ALL what was planned for. And it was a plain miracle that this enormous tumor, attached at one end to a sort of cord, had not wrapped around a bowel yet. Which would certainly have happened soon, and when it did it would have looked like a very serious colic episode and/or bowel obstruction. This in turn would have meant a horse in agony having to be trailered for a minimum of two hours on an emergency basis, rather than what did happen. It seemed clear to us that the horse’s Higher Power was yanking on his human’s Higher Power’s sleeve, saying DAD, get me some help, please! It’s the only thing that explained the boarder’s weird rush to surgery for his horse, in spite of the fact that he actually did not want to castrate him.

The upshot is that the horse had to spend a week in the hospital with pretty serious incisions to deal with, and now needs up to two months of absolute stall rest at home. He is tucked in to the new barn with an outside window and his best friend next to him by day....the window between the stalls has had its bars removed so they can play Face - which they do. At night his other friend is next door, and it’s working pretty well. The incisions look really good, and a full recovery seems quite likely: what a satisfactory outcome, calloo, callay!!

Other than that - gosh it’s muddy. My weekday barn help has the happy facility of liking to play with water - so there are little berms and swales snaking around all the barns sending water here and draining it there, in a mostly successful attempt to keep the water out and away. Every year we tweak things more and the barns are less at risk - even this year, the watery incursions have been minimal. Life is good.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Video from our Playshop on Liberty Dancing with Bonnitta Roy

Here's a short video clip from the recent Playshop we hosted with Bonnitta Roy and the Horses at Alderlore on Liberty Dancing. It's a really fun way to connect with your horse on the ground and a creative way to introduce Dressage Principals to your horse before you go to mounted work.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Early March Tales from Plainfield and Back Acres Farm

It’s been a busy week around here. On Sunday there was a mini-clinic with Bonnitta Roy, who teaches "dancing" with horses, using liberty work principles and human body language. The session was filmed and will reportedly be seen at some point on her website at   Other sessions are posted there - so cool to watch. It was quite something to see - lovely, in fact.  Even though the weather was cold, the participants were highly enthusiastic, and there will be a follow-up clinic scheduled soon.

Two new horses arrived this week - a Hanoverian/TB mare belonging to a neighbor who needs one to two months of care, and a lovely Percheron/Trakehner cross from down South. We are dealing with the usual integration scrambles - keeping everyone calm, identifying optimal turnout and pasture buddies (or not) in this season with its footing from hell, making sure health and safety issues are taken care of as best we can.  I find myself wondering if new children in a day care situation are required to come with vet and vaccine certificates? I never had a kid, so don’t know the protocols - but friends with children seem to accept with both irritation and equanimity the fact that the children (and they) are routinely sick throughout the year by reason of the germs the kids bring home from school.

Yesterday a boarder and I drove to Rheinbeck, NY to the equine hospital there to take a young draft for cryptorchid/castration surgery. The owner had hoped to avoid it by waiting for the other testicle to descend, since abdominal surgery is by definition invasive and carries potential dangers, but the time had come. The hospital was lovely - very clean - and the vet-surgeon was beyond helpful and attentive. A white board was soon COVERED with diagrams as to the different possibilities including the up- and downsides of each  approach.  Informed consent was certainly an option after he was through explaining.  But the outing was tough on the horse and tough on the owner:   the young horse had been trailer-trained but never taken anywhere so far away (on bad roads), and then he was upset by a strange environment. The owner felt as if he had betrayed his horse-friend who trusted him in getting on the trailer, and now the horse - who wasn’t even sick - was going to have a difficult couple of days, and wouldn’t understand why. A real conundrum for any male horse owner - we talked quite a bit about it on the way home. Any castration is nasty for the horse - no way around it. This one, of course, was more medically indicated since apparently an undescended testicle has a much higher liklihood of becoming cancerous - so the surgery was probably indicated in any case. Still....