Thursday, September 27, 2012

Visiting the Vet School

Today, Guinness visited our regional veterinary teaching hospital for the first time.  Fortunately it was a non-emergency!  We were there to be seen by Dr. Funk, an equine chiropractor.

The trouble with a "thinking horse" is that they sometimes take things into their own hooves.  About 3 weeks ago, Guinness was locked in the paddock for the night, so as not to trouble our new boarder, Zoe.  Guinness apparently grew tired of the situation and decided to jump/climb the 4 ft. gate into the pasture.  Apparently he didn't quite make it since he had dings on both hind legs and bent the top of the gate.  Fortunately, he didn't appear to be lame, just perhaps a bit stiff as the moved about.

About a week later, I took him on a 12.4 mile trail ride on the NR Trail.  It was long and flat and he had plenty of time to loosen up.  Along the way, I offered to allow him to trot and canter, but he wasn't his normal enthusiastic self.  Instead, he wanted to GAIT of all things. (Normally I have trouble encouraging to hold a medium-speed four-beated gait.)  Very odd.  At the walk he seemed to be moving fine.

The following week, I took him horse camping at a different spot along the NR Trail.  Although he would take up a canter when requested, it felt very flat and strung out.  Not at all his usual rocking-horse self.  Again, he was fine gaiting and walking.

Last weekend, I attended a Gaited Dressage clinic where a couple of ladies mentioned that they had recently had Dr. Funk of the VMCRM come out to work on a horse and that they had been very pleased with her.  My awesome vet of the past 9 years has just retired and I've been intending to renew my relationship with the VMRCVM as an "equine field services" client, so I decided I needed to have Guinness adjusted!

I decided to haul him to the vet school, rather than have her come out to my barn for two reasons:
1.  A bit less expensive
2.  A great opportunity to desensitize him (and me) to the clinic environment

Dr. Funk was very personable and did a handy job working with Guinness.  He was a bit right-brained (head up & staring intently into my eyes), but didn't move his feet much.  He was the most distressed over a drain cover in the center of the large grey-toned exam room floor and kept snorting at it.  I clicked him for getting near it which seemed to help.  I also clicked him for touching the big foam block that she climbed up on.

She waggled and twisted him around and he seemed ok with it, but kept expecting her to mount!  She showed me how to effectively get him to hump his back to strengthen his abs, which I've never been too successful with, and encouraged me to start to stretch him a bit.  Apparently, his neck is very flexible while his back and pelvis were pretty stiff.  She said that usually a horse's neck and pelvis are roughly the same in flexibility, so I'm thinking that this may have been a consequence of the gate-climbing episode.

The entire appointment took about 1/2 hour which was enough time to him to lower his head a bit and quit bugging his eyes at me.  (I had to remind myself to breathe!)  However, he had a big shake in the parking lot while waiting to load onto the trailer, so apparently he was still pretty wound up while inside the building.

All and all, this was a very valuable learning experience for both horse and human.  We have a better idea of what to expect if, God forbid, we ever need to come here in an emergency with him in pain.  Dr. Funk advised me to ride Guinness tomorrow to see if his will to canter comes back.  If not, she recommended a return visit in 2 weeks.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Return to the River

A view from the Hiwassee bridge over the New River.

The end of summer is rapidly approaching!  With that in mind, my friend Sierra & I decided to take advantage of the gorgeous weather and ride the NRV Trail.

Our favorite ride is to park at the Draper access point (with good parking and a conveniently located vault toilet, plus a convenience store).  We then ride from there to the Hiwassee boat launch area, play in the river, then ride back.  Round trip is approximately 12.4 miles and takes about 4 hours at a medium pace, not including play time.

Parlay, Sierra & Bella
Sierra rode her mare, Parlay, and brought her dog, Bella, along.  (The same mare that I had a big accident which prompted me to search for a horse like Guinness!  Fortunately, Sierra has brought the best out of this girl and given her a wonderful home.)

The most exciting feature of the trip, aside from the opportunity to swim, is usually crossing the long wooden-decked bridge over the New River.

This time we had another thrill: we encountered a RATTLE SNAKE stretched across the trail between the bridge and the boat ramp!!

Bella was first to spot the snake as she trotted up ahead.  It had been a cool night and it was out sunning itself near two recently-cut logs.  Sierra called Bella back and we watched from a distance as it slithered off the trail and out of sight.  After waiting a bit, we edged closer, while staying at the far edge of the trail. 

Rattle Snake between two logs!

Here is a photo I snapped as I passed the point where the snake had left the trail.  It had stopped and was looking back at me over his snakey shoulder!!  It appeared to have about 5 rattles but I wasn't about to stop to count..

Guinness on the trail.

Without further incident, we made it to the river.  For the first time, Guinness willingly immersed his belly in the water.  He actually swam his first few strokes and we made it to a little sandbar.  (Could it have had something to do with the PB sandwich I was holding?)

We didn't see the snake again, thank goodness, and made it back to the trailer safely.  It did get us thinking about what we would have done if the snake had bitten a horse.  We decided that we would first tie a tourniquet around the affected leg using whatever we had at hand.  Next, we would call the vet school.  Then one of us would have stayed with both horses, while the other hitched a ride back to the trailer, and came back to pick up the horses.  Finally, we would have driven straight along the highway to the vet school!

One weird thing about this ride:  Guinness was disinclined to trot or canter (his usually default) and willingly gaited instead.  Strange.  Got me wondering if he had hurt himself climbing over a gate a week or so before.  I thought that he had emerged unscathed.  However, he felt totally sound at the walk..?