Friday, November 11, 2011

A Bend in the Road, and a New Path Appears

Remember the "look" I mentioned in the last post, that Anita saw Beth give her as we loaded up to bring home?
In the week between getting Beth home and the abscess erupting, Anita was doing some hard thinking about Beth's options, too.  She tells me that she had always sort of liked little Beth, but that her husband was wary of Beth's crooked front leg (which she has somewhat grown out of, with careful trimming, but she still toes out some).  Anita even contacted an animal communicator that week, to see if she could get into Beth's head, indirectly.
One night she called me and wanted to know what was the least I would take for Beth, crooked legs, sassy attitude, possible broken jaw, and all.
I first met Anita and her husband, Terry, the year I was dragging our second colt Pete (Kate's uncle) all over the area for little shows and expos, as a way to market him.  Terry really liked the long yearling, his build, his attitude and his Quincy Dan bloodlines.
Champion Gelding at the Kittitas County Fair
Pete, ready to greet his adoring fans the public.
They were a little horse-heavy at the time, and my asking price was a bit steep, so they weren't able to purchase Pete.  But we struck up a lasting friendship.
A few years later, Anita fell in love with little Maddie.

Anita even brought her black tack with the red accessories out one day when Maddie was three, and we did some ground work.  (She still insists that Maddie looks perfect in red!)
Anita had had a nasty wreck a few years earlier, and one summer we did some confidence building on Eddie/Pete/Maddie/Beth/Jackson's mama Misty.
So it seems that Anita has some sort of attachment to Misty and her babies.
I was reluctant to say yes to the deal.  It's sort of like the old saw that you should never sell a used car to a friend or relative.
It seemed like I would be taking advantage of them:  I had everything to gain from selling Beth--one less mouth to feed; no more doctoring; no more training expense; no risk that Beth would never fully recover.  And the knowledge that Beth would have a permanent home--no horse ever gets sold off their place, for any reason--at worse, they would return her to me if she absolutely didn't work out with their other horses.  I had always been worried that I would sell Beth to somebody for whom she wouldn't work out, and she'd sooner or later end up on a truck to Canada (in spite of the fact that I always put a buy-back clause in all my sales).

 The advantage for Beth, besides the commitment Anita and Terry would make to her, was that Terry had just started his winter layoff and the two of them could regularly doctor her wounds, feed her smaller, more frequent meals, and be much more consistent working with her, when she was ready to start into training again.  They knew exactly what they were getting into, disposition-wise, and had a pretty good idea of the possible medical issues and consequences.

But I felt a little like I would be dumping my problems with Beth on them, both medical and training-related.  I didn't want to damage our friendship.
I was so reluctant that, at one point, Anita thought it was something about them that I didn't like--and that in itself put a little bit of a strain into our conversations.

At any rate, when I took Beth in to see Dr. Mark Hayden again that Friday, Anita and Terry met me there.

The discrepancy between what Ryan had told me about the accident happening at the trailer, and the Yakima vet's notes saying she had hit  a railroad tie came up again.  There was a concern that perhaps a large spinter of somewhat toxic RR tie might have gotten imbedded in Beth's jaw.  I had emailed Ryan the night before for clarification.
Turns out, Beth had been tied to the trailer, but it had been backed up to a fence line with RR tie posts.  Being on the rear-most tie ring, she was in a little corner formed by the trailer and the fence.  On her last pull-back she had come down violently on the top of the post!
The other thing that Ryan said in his response was that the cause of the whole incident had come to light just the previous day--While moving some horses into the paddock adjoining the spot where the trailer was, he, the horses, and his dogs were attacked and stung multiple times, when they disturbed a nest of ground hornets!  There is no doubt now that this was what set Beth off.
In a way, it was nice to know she had good reason--I was honestly starting to worry that I had a horse who was not just sassy, but crazy to the point of self destruction!

Three X-rays later, we were assured that there was no splinter, no further fractures, and no tooth damage.  But there was one humongous abscess, just below her front molar on the same side as the bone fragment had been; luckily, it didn't appear that the infection had settled into the bone itself, which would have made it even harder to treat.  Dr. Mark cleaned the wound out some, and changed the oral antibiotics to something a little stronger and more specific to the type of infection he saw.  And I took her home.
But only for the night.

I had decided we could make the deal with Anita and Terry work.
But by the time we were done at the clinic, though, it was pushing 4:30 pm.  Too late in the shortening daylight hours to ask Beth to settle into a new place, after all that she's been through in the last month.

Saturday morning we loaded up into the trailer again--she's gotten really good at that!--and headed west to Anita's and Terry's rented farmstead.  They have an assortment of rescues, along with their personal horses, mostly Arabs.  Beth unloaded, and sauntered up the drive past all those snorty Ay-rabs, and settled in a small paddock with a shelter and open to their round pen.  Two of Anita's mares took offense to her being in "their" pen, but Beth just looked at them as if to say "What's your problem?!?"  She immediately checked out her new digs, nibbled on some of their finer grass hay (still with her head tilt), and generally made herself at home.

In the two weeks since then, Beth has steadily improved: she's not tilting her head for her Senior feed (though she still does for hay).  The wound under her chin has stopped most of it's drainage, and was starting to close up, but then they think Beth rubbed it and opened it up again some, and Anita is a little worried about the possibility of proudflesh.
The other horses seem to be accepting Beth better, though she'll still get the "stink eye" from the one mare that has been the nastiest all along (originally, Mariah would rear and charge the fence).  One little mare that Anita had hoped would be her companion had not seemed open to the idea at first, but managed to get in the pen with her the other day (long story) and they seemed to be okay together for that short while.  Anita is waiting until the wound is more healed before she puts Beth out in the pasture with anybody, for fear of her getting stupid and injuring it further.

The funny thing is:
Anita had thought Beth might be a good horse for her, if and when she healed enough to continue in her training as a saddle horse.  Her small size (maybe 15 hands) is something Anita appreciates these days.
But the reality is that Beth seems to have chosen Terry as her human.
Terry, who has always maintained that mares don't like him.  Terry, who wasn't sure about her legs as a baby.  Terry, who is a pretty tall fellow.
Beth follows Terry around like a pesky little sister.  The other day they went for a wander-walk around the place, and Terry remembered why he tends to prefer the stock breeds over silly Ay-rabs.
Beth has found her forever home.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Hospital Zone

When I went the 45 miles or so down to Yakima to pick up Beth on the 17th, I wanted to have someone along for back-up, if I needed it.  Pat was unavailable, and hubby Al was willing, but my friend Anita offered as well.  Trouble was, Anita is recovering from rotator cuff surgery just now, and wouldn't be much physical help, if Beth got into trouble in the trailer...she came along primarily for moral support (and she had a working cell phone, which, at the moment, I didn't).  So she met me in town, and we headed south.
I wasn't sure yet if I wanted to put Beth in the regular slant stall, or leave the dividers open and let her travel loose.  The only halter I have that has the snap at the jaw was Kate's, which would be pretty roomy on Beth, but I figured I could leave the snap undone to avoid her wound if I needed to.

Beth was barely recognizable.  Her face, jaw and neck were swollen, and she hung her head above the pile of uneaten hay.  Ryan said she was hardly eating even the softened pellets he offered her--the dogs would come in and finish them off if he didn't pull the feeder out once she stopped nibbling at them.  He had given up even trying to give her the penicillin shots in her hindquarters, quick as she is with her back feet (even in her depressed state).  So there was some edema (swelling) forming on one side of her neck, and in her lower chest, where he had to move once the neck muscles had taken all they were going to take of the poking.  She had one fairly deep laceration on her right shoulder, and a few scrapes on her legs, but the obvious focus of her injuries was her left jaw bone, where she now had seven stitches.  Ryan explained that the vet had actually had to cut the wound open a little farther, to get the huge chunk of bone out.
We gingerly put the halter on and led her to my trailer.  Seeing as how the last time she loaded into a trailer was after her injury (to the vet's) and the time before that was the trip down to this place of hard work, and then pain, she was understandably reluctant to load up.  I also didn't want to pull any on her head, so Ryan brought over a lunge whip and it didn't take much more than a few taps for her to load up.  Later, Anita was to tell me that Beth gave her a look that really sunk into Anita's soul--sort of a "What the h%*# have I done now!?!" look of despair.
Hauling home was uneventful, and I set Beth up in a private paddock on the south side of the barn, with free access to a matted stall.  Kate and Maddie were in the next door paddock. She picked up one little mouth of hay, mouthed it only a bit, then let it drop back into the feeder.  I soaked some Equine Senior for her, and she showed a little more interest in nibbling at that, but seemed to dislike it once it turned to total mush.  So I tried little 2-cup portions as often as she would clean it up, or turn up her nose at it.  Ryan had given her a dose of bute the morning we picked her up, but I discontinued it at this point, somewhat worried about that much NSAIDs on an essentially empty stomach.  She was drinking decently, from a heated bucket.

By Tuesday night, however, she hadn't perked up any.  And probably hadn't eaten even the equivalent of one meal for a horse her size.  I set up to take the morning off and take her in to my vet.  Besides, Ryan had told me the stitches should come out on Thursday--I wondered if it was too early to have Dr. Mark take them out while we were there.
The vet's office in Yakima faxed up their notes from the original emergency visit and emailed the digital X-rays.  Dr. Mark also talked with the vet there for background.  (One interesting thing was that the vet's notes talked about Beth hitting her head on a railroad tie, and both Anita and I remembered that Ryan had said the wreck happened tied to his trailer.  I didn't think too much about it at this time--but it was later to come up.  It illustrated the difficulty of communications that continued through the next couple of weeks.)
Dr. Mark was a little surprised that Beth had finished with her antibiotics already, but the wound on her jaw actually looked pretty good.  After consulting with the Yakima vet, it was decided the stitches should actually stay in another week, but they were in a place where I could probably pull them myself, if all else was going well (and Beth would let me).
Mark checked Beth's teeth, and didn't see any cracks or bruising of the gums.  What he did see was a need for a float job--I probably should have had it done before she went down for training: there were some points, and some older sores on her cheeks from same.  Plus there was a noticeable curve developing from the jaws not lining up with each other properly.  We hated to traumatize her jaw further, but he felt that she would do better with the food she was eating with her teeth in better shape.  He also wanted me to restart giving her bute once a day.  Once the sedative wore off, I ran her home and rushed back to work.
Through the rest of the week, and over the weekend, Beth started eating a little bit more enthusiastically.  She would, however, tilt her head off the one side (usually to the right).  She still wasn't much interested in hay, but seemed to enjoy being back out in the pasture.  Bringing her in for dinner and meds, she began to greet me, and would sometimes trot in--more energy than she had shown for awhile--which seemed like a good thing.
Beth continued to eat a little better each day for the next week, but one thing I began to worry about, that I hadn't noticed prior to the vet trip, was increased swelling in her lower lip, back along the jaw into her chin groove.  It became hotter and harder and more tender as the week progressed, and Beth started to back off her feed again.
On Tuesday evening, two full weeks after the original injury, I didn't get home until after dark, and couldn't convince Beth to come in for her grain (and bute)--not totally unexpected, but something about her chin didn't look right in the dark.  The next morning she came in, but I only got a glance before she headed out again.  Now it appeared there was something caked on her chin.  That night, I managed to get her in, closing the gate behind her, and coaxed her over to me and gingerly put on her halter.  In the process I managed to smear stinky pus all over my barn coat!  She had popped an abscess right behind her lower lip!
I cleaned it up enough to find a thumb print sized wound.  I took her temp (only very slightly elevated) and called the after-hours vet's number, hoping that maybe Dr. Mark would be on call, so I wouldn't have to explain the whole situation to someone else.  Nope.  But the doc did say that since her temperature wasn't too high, there wasn't much that could be done, other than hot soaks.  I did have one dose of powdered antibiotics that I gave her, thinking to stop the next day and get more, along with scheduling a visit with Dr. Mark.  What I was worried about now was whether there might be an additional break in Beth's chin.

I mentioned a dilemma in the last post, but forgot to elaborate on it.
I have a challenging young mare, who is only green broke.  She's not one I've ever planned on keeping, but I knew I needed to have her going better before I could sell her.
I've got twice as much into training than she is worth in today's market.
And now there is the prospect that she may have a broken jaw.  I've already got more in vet bills in two weeks than I have for the training.  I can't afford much more.
If there's another break, I don't think I can extend myself for surgery--do I put her down?
Even if the jaw is not broken, Beth may well become a pasture ornament.
What are my options?

Next post:  an unexpected possibility.