Sunday, January 22, 2012

A Bit Of A Scare

You might remember our little Arabian boarder, Royal Tardez (aka "RT").
 He took over "baby-sitting" when we lost our Corky a few years back.
He's coming up on 32 (this April), and has always been as healthy as, well, a horse.  Other than a little bit of arthritis and his teeth:  the last two years he's had a little trouble with a couple that were a bit loose, and was getting yucky impactions of feed in his gums.  Vet finally pulled two this last summer, and the rest are worn pretty much to the gum line, so he is pretty much on total senior mush (plus a little beet pulp)--though I always leave some soft grass/alfalfa hay for him free-choice, and he spends lots of time just gumming it into wads that he then spits out.
RT, he do love his mush.
Especially on frosty mornings.
Anyway, last week we had a cold front blow--really blow-- through the Valley.  That evening the herd was all being pretty silly, but it concerned me that RT didn't come streaking in for his dinner, as he usually does, in spite of any shenanigans the girls might be participating in.
When he did come in, he dove into his mush pretty much as usual, though he would stop and look around periodically, and even left the stall once or twice.  I figured that was because of all the wind-blown sounds in the barn, and headed to the house.

The next morning, the wind had died down, but the temps had dropped considerably.  Al didn't notice anything unusual in RT's behavior at breakfast.  (Al feeds in the mornings during winter, due to medical issues that make it risky for me.)  Though he's not horsaii (a born horse person), Al is very observant--it had been he who first noticed when Corky was off a few years ago, also at a breakfast feeding.  So I still didn't have any concerns.

But that evening RT was definitely NQR.  I had to walk out into the [dark!] pasture to find him and persuade him to even come in for dinner.  Then he just poked at it and hardly ate any.  I threw his blanket on, in case he was chilled, checked his temp and respiration--both normal.   He didn't seem to be in any significant pain--no pacing, pawing, or wanting to roll.
I called my vet's after hours number and, after consulting with Dr. Ben, we decided it was a "wait and see" situation, rather than a "come out right now."  I would decide in the morning whether to cancel a rather busy day at work to pull the trailer out of the barn and haul him in.
Called Bri, and also her mom (who would have to help with any vet bills accrued), and apprised them of the situation.  Both agreed that, even if he started feeling better, it would be good to get him in for some basic blood work, to see what might be going on.
At my last-thing check, he had worked through maybe a third of his mush and was standing comfortably gazing out the stall door.

At breakfast, he hadn't eaten any much more, but showed some interest in the fresh, warm batch that I brought him.  Checked on him one more time before leaving for work and he had eaten about half.  I arranged with Hank's wife, Nita, to keep an eye on him throughout the day and call me if she saw him down or anything else unusual.  She also had one of her boys go over at noon and soak another small batch of mush I left for them to give RT.  Called and made two appointments, one for the next afternoon, a Friday, when my commitments at school weren't quite as significant, and one for Saturday morning--If he seemed to be improving, I'd wait until the weekend, when I wouldn't have to cancel anything at school, and we could take our time hooking up the trailer, with the advantage of daylight.

Thursday evening, Nita reported that RT had finished his breakfast by noon, and he had cleaned up the lunch batch when I checked.  He summoned called out to me for dinner and was pacing the fence looking for it in his usual manner--a good sign.  He didn't finish dinner up by the time I finished my other chores, but when I went back out after our dinner, he had--it usually takes him about an hour, so this wasn't atypical.  It was, however, another good sign.  Because the appointment was for 4 PM Friday, and he would have had to stand in a pen all day at the vet clinic if I took him in before work on Friday-- which, in itself would have been pretty traumatic for the old guy--I decided the trip could wait for the weekend.

One thing I noticed in here someplace while I was lovin' on him, was a bit of a knot in his neck muscles on one side.  When I check the other side, there was one there too, to match.  Asking Bri about it, she said he used to get those once in a while back when he was showing, mostly tension, she figured.  I began to wonder if, rather than internal, the problem was possibly that RT had slipped on the slick footing somewhere, and strained some muscles.

Friday was was pretty much business as usual, but I still hauled him (and Misty, to keep him company) in Saturday morning, and Dr. Joan took a look.  When I pulled his blanket, she said she was pleasantly surprised to see his condition--she half expected a gaunt old horse, on his last legs--and that's not how RT looks, thankfully.  The one thing she did note, that I hadn't, was that his gums were a bit pale.  She drew blood for a a general CBC, and some for a mineral screen.  She was wondering if I might be inadvertently over-supplementing RT:  beside his Senior complete feed, he get's the same vitamin/mineral supplement that the girls all get, on the theory that he isn't getting the total recommended ration of Senior (yet).  I had done some research concerning this, because over doing selenium can be toxic pretty easily.  But our soil locally, and therefore our hay, is very deficient in selenium, so I wasn't too worried (nor was Dr. Joan).  We'll see what the test says when it comes back in a couple of weeks.
I also asked if she thought his weight was okay, as the last few weeks I have been looking at him critically, wondering if he was just starting to drop a little weight as winter went on.  He was a little drawn up in the flanks, but that could be due to the week's events.  She felt that the layer of fat over his ribs was sufficient, but that it might be good to add more mush before he did lose any condition.
I have since upped his Senior by 50%, pretty much the full recommended ration for his weight, and dropped part of the vitamin/mineral supplement, (pending the screening test results).  She also suggested adding a dose of Red Cell for possible anemia (the pale gums), and it too has selenium, so I may drop the V/M that the girls get altogether, at least until I cut back his Senior when the spring grass comes up.

Dr. Joan thinks maybe RT did have a mild bout of colic.  She commented that horses, in general, and old horses in particular, are sometimes very stoic about such things, knowing instinctively that if they show weakness, the cougars will get 'em!

At any rate, this week, you wouldn't know anything had been amiss.  RT is back to his normal demanding self:
I want my dinner!
I want my mares!
I want out into my pasture!
(I had locked him in the paddock, to keep him close to the barn and it's lights.)  The basic blood test came back Monday, pretty much as it should look.

Our winter has been so mild until now that RT hasn't even needed his blanket.  In the week since he's been wearing it, however, he has already started rubbing the hair out at the points of his shoulders, as he had last year.  So I decided to try adding some shoulder protection.  I got this jammies hood when I was showing Maddie some, just to help keep her clean between bath and show.
But it's way too big for little RT!
This won't do!
Plus, as it works down his face, it pulls off his withers, and I don't want it to rub his mane.
So I altered it.

And a bit more in front, so it doesn't rub there.
In spite of the fact that winter is finally here (we had about a foot of sn*w this last week) RT seems to be back to his normal self.  And I can sleep a little easier.


  1. Oh, EvenSong, it is such a worry when you are not quite sure what is going on, but you really did cover every possible option. I'm so glad all seems to be back on track. I definitely have a soft spot for R.T.

  2. What a sweet old fellow he is. And very well cared for. Glad he is ok and back to his normal behavior.

  3. That kind of stuff is so scary...

  4. Oh, poor lil RT! I hope it was just colic and the bloodwork all comes back good. The hood pics are priceless!

  5. They can really scare the daylights out of us sometimes. I hope it was only a bout of colic because of weather change or something. Winter has finally arrived here too and I can't wait for it to disappear. Hope RT continues to do well. I'm sure he's liking his altered jammies and staying warm.