Hello! I know, once again, its been a super long time since I’ve managed to write a post. I’ve been spending most of that time working on my new business. And . . . I’m done! Well, I’m not done, done. But I’m far enough along that I’ve launched my website and I’m ready to tell people about it. So . . . please, please, please go take a look: http://www.storistables.com
Then, please, please, please follow us on Facebook and / or Instagram and tell me what you think.
All of the experiences at Stori Stables – relaxing, education, reconnecting, simply spending a joyful day in the sun – grew out of the fact that the barn has always been my place of joy. Its where I do my best thinking and where my worries and grumpy moods slip away.
When Slewy sticks his nose out to say hello, I can’t help but smile. Slewy is nearly always in a good mood despite his neurological issues.
When I see Mildred the pig cruising around interacting with everyone in the barn it fills my heart with joy. Mildred came to us barely able to walk and extremely angry and untrusting.
And, really, when there’s a rooster contentedly sitting in a bucket on a table, how can that not brighten your day?
Anyway, I began to think (and hope) that just maybe my herd of quirky animals could give others joy like they give to me. Goodness knows it seems like we could do with a little more joy in the world.
So please, make plans to come visit us!! Or, at the very least, check out the website and follow us!
If we can just get through this . . . has been Slewy’s story. I’ve had Slewy for 10 years and I’ve ridden him very, very little. Which makes me sad because he’s a very, very pretty horse.
But dear Slewy has had one major medical problem after another. We’ve chased lamenesses (non-horsey people think “hurt leg” or “limping”), x-rayed this and that and ultrasounded everything else. We’ve run So. Much. Bloodwork. I’m on a first name basis with all the vets at the vet clinic. The front office ladies know my voice; I don’t even have to say who’s calling any more!
If we can just get through this lameness. . .
The one thing we do know Slewy has is EPM – Equine Protozoal Myeloencephalitis. EPM “is a neurologic disease in horses caused by infection with the protozoan Sarcocystis neurona (SN). SN infects horses when they ingest the organism in contaminated feed or water. The definitive host of this organism is the opossum, which passes the organism in its feces.” (irongateequine.com)
For those of you who like charts, here’s how it works:
By some accounts, 50% of horses in the United States have been exposed to the organism that causes EPM. Some never show any neurological symptoms. Some respond to treatment to varying degrees. In some horses, its fatal. We lost our kids’ first pony to EPM.
Its a dreaded, dreaded, diagnosis.
So, Slewy . . . Slewy has had acute neurological episodes – complete loss of proprioception (doesn’t know where his feet are), walks like he’s completely drunk and loss of “tail tone” (tail is limp). We treat it and he gets better.
If we can just get through this flare . . .
And then he has another flare 6 months or so later. Sometime last month, Slewy started tripping again. He had two bad falls – they started as slight trips, but, Slewy being Slewy, resulted in a full somersault. Watching your horse somersault is really not a pleasant experience.
So I had decided that I was really going to put a ton of effort into rehabbing my horse. I know that he needs to strengthen his hind end. I did a ton of research of rehabbing neurological horses.
And then, Slewy somersaulted again. This one resulted in a large hematoma (fluid-filled lump) on his upper, right hind leg. The vet came out to look at it but was hesitant to drain it because we also think Slewy has some sort of auto-immune disease. Even the slightest scraps take months to heal. But I remained positive.
If we can just get through the hematoma, we can get to work on rehab.
A week ago Wednesday, I was confronted with this when I went out to feed:
Slewy was down and unable to get up on his own. I promise you, as a horse owner, this is a sight you never want to see.
If we can just get through this turned into “Can we get through this?”
Of course, we called the vet right away. It was decided to try to flip him over to his other side. You do that by putting ropes around the front and hind leg that he is lying on. Then, you literally pull him over to his other side and hope he gets up on his own.
It took four of us (he’s a big horse) but we got him over and after a minute, he got up on his own! Once we got him back to his stall, the vet checked him over. He was upset and stressed but otherwise seemed fine. The vet gave him some electrolytes and went home.
Yay! We got through that!
Of course, Slewy had been lying on the side with the hematoma. Over the next few days, the hematoma grew and grew and grew until it was probably 4 inches x 8 inches across, wrapping all the way around the inside of his leg. It finally got to the point where the vet felt like we had to drain it.
Monday the vet came out to address the hematoma. I’ll spare you the graphic pictures. Literally a couple of gallons of fluid came pouring out of the cavity. The good news was that there was no indication of infection. The next step was to pack the cavity with betadine-drenched brown gauze. To everyone’s amazement, the vet was able to pack four(!) rolls of 3 inch brown gauze up inside Slewy’s leg.
It was sort of tough to watch so, again, I’ll spare you the pictures. My daughter, who is planning on being a vet and has no problems with any of this stuff, excitedly recorded the entire event.
So now Slewy has a large, at least 1.5 inches x 1.5 inches, hole in his leg. The vet left it open so it can continue to drain. The plan is that we’re supposed to pull the gauze out (shudder!) Friday morning. Then, we flush it with Betadine and warm water once or twice a day for 4 days. And an antibiotic paste goes in it for 10 days. Then, we wait for it to heal, which will hopefully only (!) take 6 – 8 months.
Our weather forecast for today and tomorrow looks like this:
That’s a 9 degree drop in daytime high and a 10 degree drop in nighttime low. That means one thing to me:
The possibility of COLIC.
For my non-horsey readers, “Colic is a term used to describe a symptom of abdominal (belly) pain, which in horses is usually caused by problems in the gastrointestinal tract. There are over 70 different types of intestinal problems that cause colic symptoms, which range from mild to severe (life-threatening) in nature.” (Equine Hospital at the University of Liverpool)
Basically, its a horse tummy ache, which can be caused by any number of things.
And now you’re thinking . . . a change in weather can cause a horse’s stomach to hurt??
(Horses are such wonderful creatures.)
The colic – weather change phenomenon has been studied quite a bit. “So far, there is no evidence of any direct causal link between variable weather and an increased incidence of colic.”
So what’s up then? A study by Virginia Tech found a correlation between increased colic and a major snowstorm. However, they concluded that the higher incident of colic was caused by a change in the horses’ management – they did not get exercised but received their same ration of hay and grain – rather than the weather. (https://practicalhorsemanmag.com/health-archive/does-variable-weather-cause-colic)
Another study looked at changes in barometric pressure and colic. It concluded, “The best predictors of colic found in this study are age, the horse’s geographical latitude, the incidence of repeated colic events, and barometric pressure drop within 12 hours of the event. For each one-year change in age, the odds of colic increase by a factor of 1.05. For every barometric decrease in inches of mercury of atmospheric pressure, the odds of colic increase by a factor of 2.5.” (https://equimanagement.com/articles/barometric-pressure-and-equine-colic). However, the study also noted changes in the horses’ management which accompanied the change in weather.
On the other hand, “Thirty-year-old reports from Europe suggested weather changes were associated with the highest rate of colic, specifically changes to cold and damp conditions or to warm and wet during advancing weather fronts.” (https://ker.com/equinews/role-weather-colic/)
And, of course, horses drink less when its cold outside, just like people. Dehydration can lead to colic.
So, with the upcoming weather change here at Stori Stables, what does all this come down to?
Basically, it means keeping the horses’ routine the same, monitoring their water intake, and paying close attention to them. If caught early and with early vet intervention, colic is survivable.
With that in mind, I’m headed out to the barn to turn the minis out as normal, check water buckets, and make sure all horses are happy!
The vet was out to the barn the other day. Turns out nearly everyone needs to go on a diet.
Slewy the horse is fat. And Tater the goat is super fat.
Mildred the pig is getting better but is still fat.
In some ways, putting my animals on a diet is easier than putting myself on a diet. Because I control how much they eat. But, what’s the other component of weight loss? Diet and . . .
That’s right . . . Exercise!
And exercise is the tricky part. Take Mildred the piggo for example. Mildred’s physical activity basically consists of walking and rooting around. Even when I let her out to free roam around, its not like she runs. If Mildred does move faster than a saunter, its because she’s mad. An angry, charging pig is not pleasant (I know from personal experience) so I try to avoid angering her. So, sauntering it is.
Its difficult to lose weight at a saunter.
Then there’s Tater the goat. While it is not true that goats eat everything, they are very food motivated. Tater’s preferred activity is eating. So any time he spends out, he spends wandering from grapevine to rose bush to grapevine to rose bush. The browsing pretty much negates any exercise benefit he got by walking from snack to snack.
Tater, unlike Mildred, will play and run on occasion. But, since we don’t have another goat, that means we have to run and play with him. Its difficult to run and play with a goat without getting knocked over. Just sayin’.
Last night I told my husband that I haven’t quite figured out how to “exercise” Tater. He looked at me like, “This is what you’re worried about?” Well . . . yeah. In my head, I was picturing that we really need to build something like this:
But from my husband’s look, I decided to save mentioning this idea for another day.
Slewy the chubby horse is the easiest. Horses run. I know how to work and condition a horse. Slewy is going to take some accommodations because of his neurological difficulties but I’m confident in my ability to work with those. As soon as the slippery mud in my arena dries out, Slewy can be slowly put on an exercise program.
Mildred can continue to saunter.
Tater . . . I know! Maybe Tater needs another goat to play with!
Its 10:35 a.m. and I was thinking that I haven’t gotten anything done today.
That’s not true.
Because, before I even have coffee in the morning, I . . .
Gather up the dogs, Sam and Obi, to go out and feed the herd. Sam, the older, mellow, yellow lab, stretches and comes along quietly.
Obi, the slightly nutty, young, hound / lab / ?? needs his electric fence collar put on. That in itself can be a challenge because Obi needs to hold still for a minute while I get his collar on.
First outside job is to put the flag up. Obi runs around during this; Sam sits quietly by me.
In the barn, I walk the barn aisle for a quick check on everyone – all horses look bright and alert, ate dinner last night, no one is bleeding, limping, coughing or doing anything else weird.
I glance in at the chickens and bunnies to check that all ears are up and feathers are unruffled.
Time to make and hand out breakfast! Mildred the piggo’s food gets soaked with hot water to warm her tummy on these chilly mornings. All horses’ grain also gets a bit of hot water added, again for warm tummies.
First, Ghostie and his goat, Tater, get fed.
Next Mildred’s breakfast gets a banana added and I go wake up Mildred.
Then back to the barn proper to give Slewy and Stormy their breakfast grain.
Next, the minis, Holly and Smokey get their morning hay.
Finally, blankets get pulled. Tater the goat first. Then Slewy. And then Stormy. If its chilly still, Stormy’s warm night blanket gets switched out for his day sheet. Stormy’s leg wraps get a close check to make sure they’re still on securely.
After blankets are put away, the chickens and bunnies get a closer check to make sure everyone has water available. Sometimes they manage to tip their water over at night.
At this point, everyone should be happily eating their breakfast so I listen for munching sounds all around. If not, a closer check is warranted.
With everyone quietly eating, I can go get the newspaper and go inside for coffee to warm my tummy.
So, a few things get done around here before coffee.
When we started to look for a second dog, we knew exactly what we were looking for: A lab between the ages of 1 and 2 years.
That’s exactly what our three previous dogs have been and they’ve been perfect.
We found Obi (shelter name – Winston) on Petfinder. A 2 year old, yellow lab. Perfect! Right? Well . . .
We’ve had Obi a month today. He has some decidedly not Lab-like traits, as well as some Lab traits. But, when it comes down to it, we’re pretty sure he’s most definitely not fully Lab. Here’s a run-down:
High Prey Drive: Not Lab! Obi’s high prey drive applies to squirrels and birds, of course, but also the horses . . . Problem!
Extremely Protective: Not Lab! Most labs I know pretty much love everyone at first sight. Guard dogs they definitely are not once you get past their big bark. Obi eventually warms up to most people but it takes a little bit. And he barks at literally everyone – even folks just strolling by on the street who he can’t even see.
Always on Alert: Not Lab! Our previous rescue labs have been chill dogs. They settle in quickly and are content to nap in the sun. Obi settles down but he notices absolutely every single thing that’s going on . . . always.
Cuddly: Lab! Obi has got to have some lab in him somewhere because he can be very cuddly, especially when he’s a tired puppy at the end of the day.
Pull on my ears? Ok.: Lab! You can spin him in circles, tug on his ears, pick him up or do whatever else and his response is “You love me!”
Vocal: Not Lab! Obi is by far the most vocal dog we’ve had. He has a variety of barks plus a whole other range of sounds that mimic Chewbacca exactly. It might be one of my favorite Obi features.
So what is Obi? I wish I knew! People have suggested Lab mixed with some sort of hound or shepherd or Great Dane or even Doberman. Lots of people have suggested doing a DNA on him but they’re expensive. And, in the end, it doesn’t really matter. Obi is Obi and we love him!
Yet again, its been a super long time since I’ve posted . . . in either of my blogs.
And I started my other blog, Setting Stori Free, with such good intentions.
I don’t like to write when anyone is home. And . . . my kids are home all the time now! Thanks, Covid. Its hard to find a few minutes when they’re both “in class” and I can write.
Its been so long since I posted that WordPress has this new editor thing that I don’t really know how to use.
Sigh. How do I insert photos?
A quick update on the farm:
The minis, Holly and Smokey, are good.
My horse, Slewy, probably will never be rideable again due to his neurological issues.
Ghostie, my daughter’s horse, is recovering from a torn tendon. He was looking good but he’s back to being a bit more off the past couple of days.
Stormy, the old guy, is good.
Yes the air quality has been sucky. But yesterday I saw what looked like a hint of blue sky! Yay!
Last Wednesday the whole world was truly apocalyptic looking. (I now know how to spell apocalyptic.) Yes, we had a fire nearby. No, we didn’t have to evacuate. We were a half-block out of the evacuation warning zone. Yay!
Wait. All my text is in one block now? And apparently I can’t insert an image into the middle of the text block? Oh geez. Well, then you aren’t going to get a photo of each horse. But, here are a couple of photos from last Wednesday’s apocalypse.
Hey, I figured out how to go back to typing! Ok, so this is going to take some learning.
Tater, our goat (who I think was fairly new to us last time I posted) is great!
O.k., I think I’m getting this!
And, finally, I rescued a pig. Mildred really needs a post all of her own but here’s a picture to end with.
Its been a long two months at Stori Stable. Since the end of May, we’ve just been bouncing from one illness or injury to another among the lovely residents. No one is riding; no one is having fun. I guess the only positive is that I’ve spent more time in my barn on a daily basis than I have in a very, very long time.
My lovely horse, Slewy, was the first problem.
In late May, he was looking “off” – not moving quite right in the hind. That turned into a full-blown neurological episode. He walked like he was extremely drunk and had no idea where his feet were. We tested for EPM (equine protozoal myloencephalitis – I think that’s correct spelling), Lyme, Vitamin E / Selenium deficiency – and considered a bunch of other things. None of his tests came back particularly conclusive and his symptoms didn’t clearly point to any one thing.
After lots and lots of medications (so many that he stopped eating for awhile – I think the “cure” was becoming worse than the disease), he’s doing better. EPM is our best guess at this point; although, Lyme would explain many of his lifelong symptoms of shifting leg lameness, behavior changes, and other “quirks” like skin sensitivity.
I just want to take a minute and say that EPM is a horrible, horrible disease. We lost the kids’ first pony to it several years ago. Treatment is super expensive and does not come with any guaranteed results. And, horses can relapse. It strikes dread into my heart. More on exactly what EPM is another day.
Slewy’s walking is close to normal most of the time and he’s back his normal, inquisitive, happy self. Now we’re trying to get his various sores to heal. He really cut himself up when he couldn’t walk and, since he was so unstable on his feet, we couldn’t get close to him to treat them right away. We’re also trying to get his right hind to stop swelling randomly. Vet ultrasounded it last week and saw a lot of fluid but no tears in the tendons or anything super bad. That’s good but what exactly is going on with him is anyone’s guess.
Then, there’s Stormy, my old guy.
Last October, when we evacuated the horses to the fairgrounds for the Kincade Fire, Stormy came home with a cut on the outside of his right hind fetlock. (Fetlock – think ankle on a person). It looked like just a cut and I treated it but didn’t think much of it. Even when it didn’t heal super nicely, I didn’t worry too much. The horse is 31, after all.
And then, suddenly one day, his entire fetlock was swollen to twice its normal size and the “cut” looked nasty. Of course, it was in the evening so having the vet out would have meant paying for an emergency call. Ugh.
As we were standing around, debating what to do, my daughter (who wants to be a horse vet and spends one day a week with our vet) says, “I’m going to poke it!” “Ok”, I said, thinking that was as good a first step as any.
She poked and a ton of pus and other yuck came flying out. Ok . . . good? Yeah, I’m thinking that was the way to go.
The vet eventually came out and x-rayed it to make sure there wasn’t some foreign object in there, some bone involvement, or something else going on. X-rays said all was clear so we set out on a course of irrigating it and wrapping it daily. He’s looking good.
Next up? Smokey! The 4 year old mini.
He seemed “off” one day . . . lethargic, depressed, and not at all himself. We tested for . . . EPM! And started him on EPM medication right away. Early treatment is key if treatment is going to help at all. Results? Inconclusive! Because we think his blood might have gotten mixed up with Ghostie (my daughter’s horse – we tested him too) at the vet or the lab.
Thankfully, we caught it super early, treatment worked and Smokey is back to his ADD self.
And then . . . Ghostie! (I’m telling you . . . its truly been never-ending.) You may recall that Ghostie was a rescue (have I written Ghostie’s story here? I don’t remember.) My daughter has spent a year working with him . . . nurturing him back to health, gaining his trust, learning his quirks. They had just gotten to riding consistently and were really making progress. She had had two lessons with her trainer on him. All her hard work was paying off.
And then . . . he tore his lateral extensor tendon (again, think outside of your ankle). Best case scenario . . . 3 months off. No riding. No turn-out. No . . . nothing except a very few minutes of hand-walking (leading your horse around) twice a day and icing. That’s his “icing boot” on his hind leg.
Finally . . . back to Slewy. The angry looking growth on the tip of his penis (I’ll spare you the photos) is “summer sore”, where flies lay their eggs and cause . . . well, an angry looking growth. Thankfully, its pretty easily treated with an ointment and he’s really cooperative about letting me smear it on twice a day.
So, there. That’s the update. No riding. No fun. But lots of time in the barn for morning and evening therapy / treatment / re-wrapping of various owies.
In a couple of hours my daughter’s riding instructor is coming to give her and her horse their first lesson. I’m nervous. And excited. We bought Ghostie to be my daughter’s first horse (besides the minis) almost a year ago. He was a wreck. Our trainer hated him. She actually told my daughter that when she went to pick him up for us. She said, “This is absolutely not the horse you need. I have no idea what your Mom is thinking.”
I’ll admit that I went out on a limb with Ghost. He was a rescue and he was in sorry shape. He was a solid 300 pounds underweight with cuts and sores all over his body. I rode him and my daughter rode him for like 5 minutes because that was about all he could handle. But he seemed sweet and kind. At the end of our first meeting, he rested his tired head on my daughter, closed his eyes and sighed. Sold!
We’ve spent the past year working with him, letting him rest, letting him settle in, gaining his trust, and learning his quirks. We’ve overcome a few vet issues. He’s gained weight, his coat is shiny and he adores my daughter, as she does him.
So, today is the day! Our trainer is coming to give them their first lesson. I’d be thrilled if she said something like, “O.k., you were right”. But, really, I’m just hoping she’s a bit more positive about him.
Isn’t he cute?
I’m probably placing too much emphasis on today’s lesson. I’ve built it up in my head to be a referendum on my horse . . . I don’t know . . . ability? knowledge? Something. Here’s why . . .
I’ve ridden horses since I was 9 and have owned horses since I was 14. I have a bachelor’s degree in Equine Science. I was a confident rider and horse owner. I thought I knew a fair amount about horses.
Then, right before graduating from college, getting married and moving back to my home state, I lost my heart horse. He went suddenly. I was devastated. He was supposed to move back home with me. We were going to buy a house where I could have him at home and see him every morning outside my window. I even had another horse at the time (whom I still own, that’s Stormy, my old guy) but I was utterly lost.
We moved and bought a piece of property where I could have Stormy. I rode Stormy for years. When Stormy retired from being ridden, I bought Smitty. Smitty was a total nightmare. He had “Sudden Explosive Disorder” (I made that up) or something.
Next I bought Nikki. Nikki was gorgeous but absolutely the wrong match. I have a two inch scar across the back of my right hand to remind me of that.
Next up was Slewy. I bought Slewy as a 4 year old, pretty much right off the race track. He’s a handful. I’ve owned him for years now and have never really gotten around to riding him. Just when I was finally making progress these past few months (after like 12 years), he came down with a acute neurological issue at the end of May. We really thought we were going to have to put him down. Many, many weeks of worry later, thousands of dollars in vet bills and still unclear diagnoses, he’s improving and is nearly recovered but I don’t know if he’s rideable.
Somewhere along the line we bought Flicka for the kids. Flicka was a fantastic pony. The kids loved her. We had her for many years and then, when my daughter was in 5th grade and my son in 7th, Flicka got sick and we lost her despite our vets’ heroic efforts to save her. We were all crushed. I have been left wondering if I missed her illness early on.
So, my horse record over the past 10 years or so has not been fantastic to say the least. I’ve really lost all of my confidence in my ability to ride and keep horses.
And then I bought Ghost based on my gut feeling and faith. Ghost – a wretch of a horse. What on earth was I thinking?
I’ve been absent for a few weeks because I’ve been working on my new blog. It took forever to get it up because I’m so non-techy and honestly, find WordPress really hard to use. (I think my last post here was about my abject frustration trying to get my new blog up.) But, the WordPress expert folks were really helpful and patient.
So, with that . . . I would love it if you checked out Setting Stori Free. (settingstorifree.wordpress.com) I would love it even more if you followed that blog too and commented and told other people about it. Thanks!
And . . . drum roll . . . we finally found a goat! His name is Tater and he’s fitting in well for the most part.
And . . . we have new baby chicks.
And . . . Slewy, my horse, is rather sick with some yet-to-be-diagnosed neurological problem / disease.
Tater and new baby chicks (well, they’re not really “new” anymore) will get their own post with photos soon. At the moment, I need to go roust my two teenagers out of bed.