Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Bits, Hackmores, and Community - and Lily Concerns

When I poised my dumb question I have to say, I was hesitant. In this little horse internet community/mutual admiration society we have self described dressage queens, competitive barrel racers, endurance racers who go on 50 milers every other weekend, professional trainers who have started more horse than I've ever even looked at, weekend riders, hardcore cowboys and trail pros - and then there's me.

No one likes to look like they don't have a clue. But when you don't have a clue, you just have to own up and learn somethin'.

Thanks to EVERYONE who gave me so much to chew on. You are amazing and I so appreciate the dialog.

First given that Smokester has bolted on me with a simple snaffle and that I didn't really slow him down with it, I'm not sure I have any better brakes with a bit. I think I just have to keep working to find the right touch with him to bring him down more readily rather than rely on a bit. He has stopped relatively quickly - when I was better at seeing it coming. I get the feeling me sawing on his mouth is not particularly effective and may exacerbate the situation, actually. Maybe its about his teeth right now, but as one person said when she saw pictures of him before I bought him, it seems like he's trying to evade the bit. Maybe he's just a bit hater.

I get that I may not be ready or skilled enough, so I need to address that. As for not knowing about shoulder control, to be clear, I don't know what the phrase means. I can (and have trained him on) how to move his front end, disengage his hindquarters and get him to float over to open a gate. He backs softly, and is getting better with his side pass. So I may be no trainer, and the more I learn the less I know, but I think I might manage to learn how to do this right.

I've decided to take a few lessons in correct use of a bosal and to size the one I have to fit Smokey since this does seem to be his preference at this stage, based on how readily he's responding. I am keeping in mind the concerns on bolting and bucking. If the person I'm asking to help tells me I suck (trust me, this person will if I do), then I'll try a different bitless option. If I've learned anything from everyone it's LISTEN TO THE HORSE.

Thank you for guiding me on my journey. I'm sure both Smokey and Lily are even more grateful. :)


Now for Miss Lily.

On Sunday Lily I took Lily out for a ride in the arena. Mireya had decided she was up for a ride and the day before I'd taken Smokey out to be my ride. Although Lily is not fond of Cody, I decided to ride her anyway.

When saddling she gave me an uncharacteristic (or rather, a used-to-be-characteristic-but-we're-past-that-now) evil look when cinching. I checked her over, but everything looked fine. In the arena, though, she acted up when we cantered, almost bucking. I worked through it with her, but was perplexed. She was warmed up. She had no issue at the trot. We didn't work much, maybe two circles in each direction and called it a day. When I took her to the wash rack I saw the absolute weirdest thing EVER.


On her belly it looked like she had two swollen water hoses along each line of her midline. It looked like this horse:

only the swelling was not nearly as dramatic. It was slightly warm, but not bad. I asked the barn owner and she theorized she'd just gotten some edema from scratching her belly on something. I cold hosed it and Lily seemed relieved. She was eating and otherwise normal so I figured I'd give it a day.

The barn owner reported on Monday it was oozing something, so she cleaned it with some benandine.

I got back out on Tuesday night and it looked like this.

And she had one matching on the other side. Not good.

This is edema of the midline, in case you ever need to consult Dr. Google. I was flipping out. It was bigger. It was oozing something awful. Since Lily didn't seem to be in serious pain and was still eating, I figured it could wait until the morning.

I called in and told work I'd be taking a day off, called the vet and searched the internet all night. The only thing I could find that seemed to fit was the photo you saw above and a reference to Pigeon Fever, Dryland Distemper or Colorado Strangles (all the same disease).

You may know that Val at Fantastyk Voyage is going through this right now with her herd. I poured over her photos. Usually pigeon fever creates an edema on the chest, hence the name. Makes a horse look like it's got a pigeon breast. That's how Val's horses are presenting.

Maybe it was just a scratch. When I went by in the morning this is how it looked:

This one is badly lit, but do you see that little circle in the middle? That's where the ooze was, remarkably similar to the ooze on Val's photos.

Gooey bloody icky. Pick your word, they all work.

The vet saw us at 10 am and to make a long story slightly longer, thought it was a bite of something. Until he shaved it and found an abscess. And an infection. And an elevated white count. The aforementioned icky gooey bloody with the addition of pus like stuff is off for culturing.

According to the vet, there's been an outbreak of pigeon fever in Texas (he's never seen a case with a belly edema before, but after I mentioned Dr. Google he looked it up and found that photo). Apparently the bacteria that causes it tends to show up in drought conditions. Maybe Dryland Distemper is the better name.

Which I don't get because it's been raining a little and surely that counts for something.

The good news is my horse doesn't have some huge hernia exploding under her belly which was the nightmare that circled my brain for an hours, looking for a nice landing spot. This is treatable and chances are she will likely be immune in the future.

The bad news is its very contagious. I'm going to buy a nice big bottle of bleach and rinse out all my grooming tools, set aside a set for her during this time, then replace them. Hopefully if it is pigeon fever she'll be the one and only case of it.

On a side note: I learned Lily does not like to load as the only horse in a trailer on a windy day. We'll be working on that during her recovery time since that was a WHOLE bunch of fun today.


Dan and Betty said...

Breathe, since you have taken a clinic with Mark Rashid, have you considered asking his opinion? You can contact him through his web site.

Bummer about the infection.


Anonymous said...

I've been blessed with never encountering pigeon fever. Glad you're getting it treated - it looks very icky. Poor girl . . .

As to bits/bosals/etc., go with you gut and your knowledge of your horse - that's better than any advice you can get. I'll be interested in seeing how he does with the bosal - I've often thought that Pie would go well in one.

Shirley said...

That does look nasty, hope it clears up soon.

Katharine Swan said...

Regarding the bit question, I recently discovered something with the simple snaffle. I read something about how when you pull on it, it creates a V in the horse's mouth, and on a horse that has a smallish mouth or a low palatte, the point of the V pokes at them.

Suddenly I realized WHY my horse opens his mouth when I stop him, and boy am I glad I didn't listen to my trainer's advice to use a noseband!

I'm looking into other bits now. I know he doesn't mind the concept of a bit, because he reaches for it on his own (we have to have "discussions" about waiting until I'm ready to give it to him), but I have bitless in the back of my head as a fallback plan. First, however, I'm going to try out a few other bits to see if we can find one that suits him a little better.

Anyway, the point of my story was that my trainer keeps saying that he's opening his mouth because he's evading the bit. Turns out that's not true -- he's just doing what he HAS to do to make room for the bit in his mouth. I tried a bit today that makes less of a V, and guess what? No "evading" it. I also wonder if the V-action has worsened some of our bolts, as well -- I imagine getting jabbed in the roof of your mouth when you're already freaked out probably doesn't make you want to slow down much.

cheyenne jones said...

Good choice on the "bittin" front!

Sorry about the absesses, looks really mean!

Jeni said...

That's something I've not seen, nor want to see on a horse. Strangles was bad enough that's for sure. Hope it all heals up quickly and no one else is infected.

As for the bit thing. Only you and your trainer know what is right for you and your horse. Go with your gut, keep feeling around until you are comfortable. Good luck!

Jan said...

Story, that's sad about the pigeon fever. I have never seen it before. But it sounds like you and the vet have a good treatment plan. I hope it heals quickly.

Unknown said...

I have lived through several outbreaks of pigeon fever since I bought my first horse in 1987. Only once have I ever had a horse sick with it, and even then, the vet and I are not sure. He had symptoms of a horse fighting off an infection of some kind, but the fight was successful and he never actually had specific symptoms.

BrownEyed Cowgirl said...

Oh wow! I'm sure finding that was a shock. Hope she clears up quickly. I have been anxious to hear how Val's filly is doing since her last post.

John and Regina Zdravich said...

I would love to get Divna off a bit altogether. I looked at a bitless bridle, but am not sure I am a good enough rider to be able to control her if something gets out of hand. For now, I am going to feel good about the fact that she gives me so few problems that I rarely put any pressure on the bit at all.

Your Pigeon Fever situation IS scary -- I always get really nervous when anything happens to my horse. That must have been frightening. Glad to hear that she was not particularly sick-acting, and that you have it under control.

Best of Luck.....

Reddunappy said...

I havnt seen it but I have heard of Pigeon Fever doing this.
It is very contageous, just using bleach will not disinfect though. Blood and feces is not disinfected with bleach. You need a good disinfectant. Hang in there, it is such a messy and gross malady!!

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Ok this is weird! After today, you are the 4th person who has shared that their horse is suffering from Pigeon Fever. 2 are in New Mexico and 2 are in Texas.
Yalla! seems to have kicked the infection and looks to be doing well. Her abscess isn't draining anymore at least, and I can't see any more noticeable swelling.
I do worry about the alpaca cria, though, because she's so young and is housed on the same area where Yalla! was kept during her most infectious period.

Lilly's case looks exceptionally painful and terrible. I guess the good thing, is that gravity can help her abscess and infection drain.
Sure hope she is doing better soon. Pigeon Fever is a nasty thing.


Grey Horse Matters said...

Poor Lily. That certainly looks uncomfortable. I've never had a horse with Pigeon Fever but it sounds and looks nasty. I hope she heals soon and it doesn't get passed around the barn.

Maia said...

Poor Lilly. I'm glad we don't have it here. Lymes is bad enough. Keep us posted on how she's doing.

Margaret said...

Fascinating ... the whole post. I don't have much to offer in regards to both topics as I am newly back in the saddle. The comments gave me a lot to chew on as well. Thanks for posting your questions and admitting you just aren't sure. I think that is how we learn.

I use a gentle mylar bit (not sure how it is spelled) and I am very light handed. Every day I am at the barn (4 -5 times a week) I work on him moving his front shoulders away form me in a 360 and his back end. I also work on flexing his neck. I am also working on him moving and stopping just by me seat cues. I will be posting on these things in the future.

Amazing, how quickly a horse can come down with such crazy things as this. I look forward to seeing how quickly this gets better!

Equine Mum said...

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Achieve1dream said...

You sounds just like me when it comes to our horses. I Google everything, call all of my older wiser horse friends (some are ex-vet techs) and totally freak out until I have an answer lol. Okay maybe I'm worse than you are hehe. I'm glad it's just pigeon fever and I hope she heals up quickly. After seeing the belly pictures I think one of my horses had that when I was a kid, but it didn't get big and she never acted sick so I don't think my parents ever had a vet out. Or maybe they did and I just don't remember it lol.