Wednesday, March 26, 2008


It's been a while since I've posted. I haven't really felt like writing. I'm a little sad about something, but I don't want to talk about it yet. No, there's nothing wrong with Craig, the girls, or Kaswyn. It's something else. Eventually it will all come out. Truthfully I feel like a bit of a jerk for feeling the way I feel, so it won't be easy to come clean about it. I know that's kind of cryptic, but that's all you get right now.

Trust me, we'll talk later.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Cooking for Kaswyn

Every Sunday I prepare Kaswyn's grain for the coming week. He's getting a different feed than everyone else because I wanted to try and keep him on the same program he was on at the other barn. Besides that, he gets supplements that he won't eat unless the grain is wet. At the last barn I had his supplements pre-measured in little containers. The barn owner would add the supplements to his grain and wet the whole mix with water (or applesauce if he was getting bute or aspirin) right before he was fed. This isn't convenient to do at this barn, so I pre-mix his grain, supplements, and hydroxyzine in containers, and wet it down with corn oil (because water or applesauce will freeze in this weather!).

This is what my setup looks like when I'm mixing everything together -

Kaswyn is not getting what is considered a traditional grain; he's getting a diet balancer. It isn't really a grain because it doesn't contain corn or grain products. It's formulated to help horses use the maximum amount of nutrition they can from their hay so that most of their calories come from hay instead of grain. This is really good because you don't need to feed nearly as much of it as you do traditional grain, and it prevents the horses from having bellies full of grain that is difficult to digest and hard on their systems. It's low in starch and sugar so it's great for horses who have foundering issues and those who are glucose sensitive. The brand is Progressive and the product is the Grass Formula. He used to be on "traditional grain", but a gal at the last barn has a degree in Equine Nutrition from Cornell and suggested the switch to a diet balancer instead of grain. All the horses seemed to do very well on it. If Kaswyn needs more calories the best thing to do would be to provide those calories in fat instead of more hay, and Progressive has a product to do that also. It's called Envision, and I haven't had to add that to his grain mix yet. I might have to do so when (if!) we get working at full capacity again.

For supplements Kaswyn is on 4-in-1 by Med-Vet. It's kind of an all-in-one supplement and gives him glucosamine, chondroitin, MSM, biotin, plus microbials and amino acids. He's also on an herbal supplement by Earth Angel Herbs called Easy Stride that's supposed to increase circulation to the feet and lower limbs to help decrease inflammation and speed healing. He used to be on another product as well called Nublada's Formula, but I stopped giving him that when I realized that it didn't shrink his navicular cyst like I had hoped it would.

Of course right now he's also on 500 mg twice a day of hydroxizine. The capsules are 50 mg each, so for every feeding I have to crack open 10 capsules. By the time I'm done my fingers are sore! The dexamethasone I mix with water and shoot it in his mouth with a syringe so I can be sure he's getting all of it.

Susan and Barb (another gal at the barn) tease me every time they see me setting up my assembly line. I tell them that I know it's a pain, but my horse is awesome and he's worth it.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Three H's - The Last One

Hay. Who knew it would be such an issue?

I had enough hay to get through Friday evening, and maybe Saturday morning. However, I could not get in touch with the hay guy. I called and left messages and never got a call back. I was in a bit of a panic because I needed hay and I had to coordinate my schedule with Susan's schedule if I wanted to pick up more than the four bales that would fit in the back of my car.

Tuesday I called another one of my trainer's students who I know gets the same hay for her barn at her house. She said that she figured she'd need a shipment in April, so if I needed hay I could come over and get some of hers. I would need to count her bales and make sure I left her with enough to get through to April. So she was super nice and agreed to let me mooch hay. She also said not to pay for it, just to replace it when I got a bigger shipment.


I kept calling the hay guy, but to no avail. On Thursday I finally made the decision that Susan and I would go over and get hay from my fellow student. Since Susan had the day off I'd be able to get ten bales after work (if there were enough bales to take) and then I'd be set for another twenty days. I made arrangements with fellow student to go over on Friday. She said she had to work but told me we could go over and get it. She gave me her address, told me which hay was the correct hay to take, and said to pat the horses before I left.

No problem!

Thursday night, very late, I got a voicemail from the hay guy. He sorry he didn't get back to me right away but he had been out of town. He said I could maybe come by on Saturday afternoon and get some hay. Knowing what the weather was supposed to do Saturday, I called back to say that I'd found someone else to get a few bales from, but that I'd really need to talk to him about getting a small load delivered. I left a message because, no surprise here, he didn't answer.

Friday I'm all set to go after work and get hay with Susan. I called her at about 9:30 in the morning to get the hive report, but she didn't sound okay when she answered the phone. I asked what was up and she told me that there was something wrong with her truck. She had just gotten the oil changed 30 minutes ago and it started running funny. She was on her way someplace else but stopped at the barn to check it out. There was oil splattered all over the bottom of the truck and it was leaking everywhere.

Oh shit.

She told me that she called the mechanic and he was on his way over to fix the issue. I told her that I hoped her truck wasn't wrecked and to call me and let me know if it was okay. I hung up, thinking that it sucked if her engine was blown but also being nasty and selfish about thinking "How the hell am I going to get that hay now, unless I just get four bales?" I called Craig and he talked me down from the ledge, and told me that if I had to just get four bales I could do that, so it's not like Kaswyn would starve or anything. He was right, but dammit this hay thing has been a pain in my ass from the beginning and I just wanted it to go smoothly. Or just a little bumpy.

I sat on my hands for a few hours and called Susan back. She said something was defective with the oil filter they used and the gaskets had blown out on them. The mechanic had come over, fixed the problem, and gave it a test drive. He said it was fine but she needed to come back to the shop and have the engine de-greased. Other than that her truck was good to go get hay.


As I drove out to the barn after work, I was stressing about the amount of snow that was falling. Of course the day before had been beautiful and clear and we wouldn't have had to cover the hay. But today we would need a tarp to keep the hay from getting snowed on. I called Susan on my way to the barn and asked if she had a tarp and some rope to tie it down with. She said there was a tarp that we could use, and that we could probably find some kind of rope.


I got to the barn and Susan pulled the tarp down from the loft. It was the biggest damn tarp I had ever seen. I even said "This is a joke tarp!" It was ridiculous. It could have easily covered both of our cars. I'm guessing it was at least twenty-five feet long and fifteen feet wide. We did our best to fold it (cause it was in a gigantic blue plastic heap when she pulled it down) and got in in the bed of her truck. She had bags of salt back there and we weighed Big Blue down with a couple of those.

The snow was getting bad as we drove deeper into the snow belt. Everyone was going really slow but we made it to the correct street just fine. Of course we drove by her house the first time and had to turn around. We pulled into her driveway and we couldn't see the barn. Fellow student told me that there was a hill to get back to the barn and if the weather was bad not to go back there, but I though that with Susan's truck and 4 wheel drive that we'd be fine. We found the road back the the barn and it wasn't that bad. On the way down anyway - hopefully we'd be able to get back up.

We parked in front of the barn and said hi to the ponies. There was a very cute yearling there that Susan really wanted to take home with her, and there was also this really adorable pony. After the petting I climbed up into the loft, did a hay count, and threw down ten bales of hay. Then we went outside to set up Big Blue.

Susan said that since her truck bed was full of snow we'd be able to put the tarp down, put the hay on top, then wrap Big Blue over the hay and tie it down. When we unfolded Big Blue again I said this must be a joke. With the snow and wind blowing Big Blue took on a life of its own. I found a corner to spread in the bed of the truck but most of the tarp was still out of the bed, blowing around and threatening to fly into the pasture. Susan grabbed the first bale and hefted it up into the truck. Once one bale was down Big Blue was trapped and we loaded the rest of the hay in without an issue.

Then we needed to wrap Big Blue around the hay and tie it down. Susan had grabbed some bailing twine and we tied the front of the tarp down. After covering all the hay with the tarp there was at least ten feet of Big Blue still hanging off the back of the truck. I molded it into a tube and shoved it against the last hay bale. Then I slammed the tailgate and crossed my fingers that the tarp would be pinned between the last bale and the tailgate and stay in place. We swept the aisle, patted the ponies one last time, pulled out of the driveway without incident, and headed down the road.

I checked my mirror a mile down the road and said "Everything is okay with the tarp on my side. How about yours?" Susan said "Uh, not so good over here." Big Blue was making an escape. A corner of it had come loose and it was flapping into the oncoming lane of traffic. You could see people coming towards us and swerving away from the blowing blue monster. I know it was bad but we started laughing really hard. Finally Susan came to her senses and we pulled over into an Italian supermarket's parking lot. She tied the corner down and we went inside and bought some pepperoni bread to eat on the way back.

Halfway back to the barn Big Blue pulled another trick and got loose again. Since there were no more Italian supermarkets I deduced that we couldn't stop and would just have to keep driving. We made it to the barn, unloaded the hay, and then I folded Big Blue up. Hopefully we won't need its services again, but Susan said "You know the next time you need hay it's going to be pouring down rain and we're going to have to get that thing out again." To which I replied "Next time it's going to be spring!" She just laughed at me.

Twenty days of hay and counting. Wish me luck on getting more.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Snowy horse photos

We got tons of snow on Saturday, but it was so beautiful Sunday morning that we just had to put the horses outside. It was a little deep but they didn't seem to mind.

Here is Albert, Susan's arabian gelding, in the deepest snow.

This is Marge's arabian stallion, Delane. The snow is almost up to his you-know-what's.

Lastly, here is Kaswyn. He's the only princess in the barn with a blanket on.

Kaswyn had no hives yesterday and the more I can get him outside the better off he's going to be.

The snow is pretty, even though I really hate winter. However, the good news is that it's supposed to get up to 48 degrees by Thursday. The bad news is that all the snow will melt and turn the pastures into a soupy, muddy mess. Blah!

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Three H's - Two out of Three

I wrote in this post about being vexed by three H's - Hives, Hydroxyzine, and Hay.

The first one to ease my mind was the Hydroxyzine. It arrived on my doorstep on Tuesday. The first thing I did was take out 70 capsules to give back to my friend. As I haven't had a chance to get out to her barn again, I've been carrying them around, in a test tube, in my purse since then. I hope I don't have to have my purse searched by the cops because I'm sure they will think I'm some sort of drug dealer. I don't even know if they look like commonly abused prescription pills. Regardless, I feel bad that I haven't returned them and that's been bugging me. I really need to get over there but right now we're having a huge snowstorm in Cleveland so it's not happening today, or tomorrow. I'll make a point of going over there next week.

Hives continue to be a problem for us. I was giving Kaswyn a full packet (10 mg) of dexamethasone every other day. I had been advised to give him one full packet once a day, but Dr. B thought that was too much so we did every other day. What has been happening is Kaswyn would be hive free and look great on the days between his doses of dex. However, the day he was due to have the dex he would get hives again. They weren't as bad as before, but I'd give them like a seven out of ten. On Tuesday I spent time on the phone with three vets - OSU vet, the vet who saw my friend's horse, and Dr. B. I left a message for OSU vet and then left a message for friend's vet. Friend's vet called me first and gave her recommendations.

Her first suggestion was to go to 10 mg of dex a day for a week, then go 10 mg every other day for a week, then 10 mg every third day. She also suggested maybe upping the hydroxyzine. She tempered all this by saying that I should talk to OSU vet before I change anything, and also consult with Dr. B because she has never seen my horse in person. With this in mind, I waited for the OSU vet to call.

I gave her the rundown when she called, and she suggested a slightly different approach. She said that the hydroxyzine works best as a preventative for getting hives, not as a cure for them. She also suggested 10 mg a day for a week, but said that if I was nervous about the amount of dex that I could go 5 mg every day for a week and see how things go. Then I could go 5 mg one day, 2.5 the next, then 5 mg again, alternating doses for another week. Then 2.5 per day, and so on until I can wean him off of the dex. She said she would not want me to increase the hydroxyzine at this point, but might want me to do that if I can't seem to decrease the dose of dex. She told me that 5 mg, even 10 mg daily is not a lot of dex, but that regardless I needed to call Dr. B and tell him what's happening.

I asked what the overall plan was. She said that thought that Kaswyn is just reacting to a mold species that is not in his vaccine. She said that in the winter time barns are full of mold because they are closed up a lot of the time. Horses who break out in hives in the winter most likely get better in the spring when they can be outside and the barn is open. As soon as it gets hot outside she imagines that Kaswyn will get a lot better regardless of meds. But the goal here is to get him retested, so as soon as possible we need to get him off of the meds. He needs to be off of dex for three weeks and hydroxyzine for two weeks for the test to be the most accurate. She cautioned me not to wait too long to get him tested because his body is going to have it's best reaction to the test the closer we are to his hive breakout. If I wait six months then his body may have slowed down it's reactions to the molds to the point that he might not react to the test.

As soon as I get him off of the dex I can start vaccinating him again with the serum that I have. She said that the most important thing is getting the hives under control and letting the hydroxyzine do it's work. She says if for some reason the hydroxyzine isn't working that there are other antihistamines we can try that might work on Kaswyn.

So I started with the 5 mg daily dex on Wednesday after calling Dr. B and letting him know the plan. So far it's been pretty good and his hives have been under control. Except yesterday he had some hives on his body. I gave them a three out of ten, which isn't bad but is something I'd consider a breakthrough reaction. I'll just take it a day at a time and see what happens.

The last thing - Hay. It's a long story. You'll have to wait and see how that turned out.

Friday, March 07, 2008

The Arena Project - Phase Three

Phase One
Phase Two

Phase Three - Evaluation

I let two full weeks pass before I called Mr. K to come out and look at our arena. When I got a hold of him on his cell phone he was at a horse show, but he said he could come by Tuesday afternoon. I let Marge know what time he'd be coming, and she said she'd be there.

Tuesday afternoon Marge showed up about five minutes before Mr. K. They introduced themselves to each other and then Mr. K walked into the arena. He was all business, not being very talkative while he scanned the footing and kicked it around a bit. I waited a few minutes and then asked him what he thought.

He said that there was certainly enough material in the arena; too much, in fact. He said that the footing was very dry, and asked how it was watered. I said we use a hose because every sprinkler we have tried leaves puddles. He said that because it's a small arena watering by hand is not out of the question. He also started a discussion about how important it is to maintain proper moisture levels in the footing, and the best ways to achieve this. He talked about keeping the doors closed, adding magnesium chloride, using a product called Arena Rx, and adding a product that is used in greenhouses (those little white beads) to keep soil in pots moist.

Then there was a discussion about leveling the footing. He said that he could come in and level it but it would need to be maintained and dragged after that. He works his arena two or three times a week but he said it could probably do with less work if there was less riding going on. Marge told him that we have a drag that we use with an ATV, and he said that would work. The truth of that is that we stopped using the ATV when we put all the sand in because it seemed to have a hard time getting through all the footing. Gee, that should have been our first sign that it was too deep!

After looking around once more he said that we'd have to pull the material out from the corners by hand before he came to level it. He said he'd take out the extra footing and pile it outside to be used later if needed. He said that if he removed the excess footing, leveled it, and we watered and dragged it regularly then the arena would probably maintain itself reasonably well. He asked about the base, and Marge said it was clay and was leveled when the building was put up. I also commented that when we put the sand in we had to pull all of the old footing out first, and at that point the base really looked level. We didn't check it with a laser or anything, but it looked level to the eye.

Marge asked him how much it would be for him to come out and level the arena. I held my breath, not knowing how much he'd quote her and also not knowing how she'd react. He said he usually gets $300 to load his tractor up and work on an arena. She said that sounded reasonable, and asked when he thought he could do it. He said give him a month and he'd be happy to come over and fix us up. Marge told him that I'd be in contact with him, and we all headed out of the ring.

I gave him a bag of cookies as a thank you for coming by, which he really seemed to appreciate. After he left Marge and I starting talking about the meeting. She said that she really wanted to do this right, and that $300 seemed very fair to her. She also said that once he got all the extra footing out we could use the ATV to drag again, which will make it so much easier! I used my car the last time and it just doesn't get into the corners as well as a smaller vehicle. We also talked about the suggestion he had for keeping moisture in the footing, and she said that the products he suggested were too expensive so we'd just have to water by hand.

So all in all it worked out very well. I'll wait about three weeks and call him back to set up an appointment. Looks like we're in business!

Phase Three - Completed!

Next is Phase Four - Restoration!

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Arabian Halter and Ethics

And now, a break from your regularly scheduled hive report.

MiKael over at her blog has begun writing a piece about Arabian halter and the fact the many people see it as a bad thing. They watch some classes and what they see are abused, unhappy, spooky horses who give the Arabian breed a bad name. A recent post at MiKael's blog links to a video which shows some "abused" horses showing halter. I haven't seen the video, so I can't comment on it.

Mikael is absolutely correct that there are all kinds of trainers - good and bad, kind and abusive. This is true for halter, performance, Arabian, Quarter Horse, in any and all disciplines. The unscrupulous trainer will do whatever it takes to get clients, make money, and win ribbons. It's up to horse owners of any breed or discipline to do a little research and find a trainer who is honest and sincerely has the best interest of the horse at heart.

I will say that I never showed much halter. I don't think I was ever very good at it, but I learned the basics and can make a trained horse stand up for a class. Kaswyn was trained in halter but he's not very interested in standing up so he's not animated and doesn't get into it. He is interested in not getting in trouble, but I don't want to make him to think he's being bad if he's not snorting and blowing. I realized that I would have had to stress my horse in order to get him to show the way he needed to, and I chose not to do it.

This is not the case for all horses. Many halter horses have very high opinions of themselves and really like being able to strut their stuff for everyone to see. It is not stressful for these horses, but rather it's fun and interesting. I'm sure these kinds of horses are much easier to train in halter, and makes them less subject to being roughly handled or unnecessarily hazed. However, ALL horses are abused in the eyes of those who oppose Arabian halter.

There is no way to make people understand who don't wish to educate themselves. If someone who is against Arabian halter were to spend time with a good trainer they would know that excellent results are possible without heavy-handed actions. However, most often people speak out against topics using a lot of emotional energy but fail to gather facts or spend time giving the issue a fair shake by researching what's actually going on.

My opinion is that Arabian halter is still a viable discipline, and that recent changes (disqualification for whip marks, disallowing excessive use of whips in the warm-up) are a good thing. Unfortunately, I also think that it's impossible to stop people from abusing their horses if they are of a mind to. They might not do it at the show in front of a crowd, but nothing can stop them from doing it at home. And if you stop having halter classes because of abuse, are you going to cancel ALL the other classes also? Because there is abuse in every one of those too. I guarantee it.

Where the responsibility lies in this is with the horse owners. They can help make it less common by not using abusive trainers, which will hopefully put them out of business. However I don't expect that to happen, especially since an abusive trainer can be successful, and some owners don't care how they get it, but they want that ribbon.

I want ribbons too, but not enough to make my horse unhappy. So, no more halter classes for Kaswyn. At 17 he's an old fart anyway!

Monday, March 03, 2008

Three H words giving me the blues

It's been days since I've given an update on Kaswyn, but I just haven't had the heart to do it. I'm worried and stressed about the whole thing and didn't want to sit down and write it all out, but here goes.

Turns out I spoke too soon when I said Kaswyn was free of hives. One pack of dex takes away about 95% of the hives and significantly shrinks the ones that do hang around, but in 48 hours they are back. I think the change in hay is helping because they aren't as bad as they were before, but I think he's got other environmental issues. There is not much more I can do except change the bedding, but I really don't think that's his problem given where the hives are located.

I'm keeping him on one pack of dex every other day and that is seriously worrying me. I've had three vets tell me that this is a safe dose for him, especially since I'm only doing it until the hydroxyzine kicks in, but it seems like I'm giving him a lot of steroid. And the hydroxyzine could take up to ten days to really start working, so I don't feel like I can decrease his dex until that time (which will be Saturday, March 8th). You never know what's going to send a horse into laminitis. I just hope we're not approaching that threshold.

I'm also stressing about getting more hydroxyzine. I got one bottle of 100 capsules from Dr. B, but Kaswyn is getting 20 caps a day so that bottle us now gone. It's not something my vet usually stocks, so they told me to find it online and they'd write me a prescription for it so it would get sent right to me and I wouldn't have to pick it up. I ordered it last Thursday and they said it would be up to seven business days before I'd have it. I asked for the fastest shipping method, but she said they don't do overnight or anything, so I'd just have to wait and hope that priority mail is fast enough. I called the gal with the hivey horse and she said I could have some of her leftover hydroxyzine. I took all but 20 of her caps and that will last me until Thursday. I hope my order comes by then.

Lastly, I've got a hay issue. The previous barn owner was really nice and sold me six bales of her hay at her cost - $6 a bale. When I called the hay guy he said that if I wanted a small load (anything less than a full load of 280 bales, essentially) that I'd have to pay a fuel surcharge and the bales would probably be $7.25 to $7.75 per bale. If I picked up the hay myself (with the help of Susan and her truck) it would be $6 a bale, but he's about 75 minutes away, and if you figure in a tank of gas then it would be right up there at $7 a bale. So either way I'll be paying more.

And I could deal with that because I have no other choice, but I'm getting short on hay. Susan works, and so do I, plus if we pick it up the hay guy has to be there to load the hay for us. I've tried to get all three of our schedules to mesh and so far it hasn't worked. We also have to factor in the weather conditions, because we're not going to go pick up a load of hay and then drive back with it in a nasty snowstorm. I think I have three and a half bales left, which will last me about one week.

Hives. Hydroxyzine. Hay. At least Laminitis, Lameness, and Colic don't start with H.

Header Image from Bangbouh @ Flickr