"And, when you want something, the entire Universe conspires in helping you to achieve it." -The Alchemist, by Paulo Coehlo

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Hi-yo Silver! NOT Away!

So Thursday night, Charles and I returned to the barn to give Lily her Naxcel injection. It didn't go too terribly. We took her out of the stall and into the yard (this barn really does have a yard). The end result was her sidepassing in a circle around Charles, trying to step away from me, while I walked with her, poking her in the neck without too much hysterical head flinging from her. I poulticed and wrapped the leg again for good measure, and she received dose #2 of her steroid/diuretic paste. It went better than the first time-the stuff smells delicious, like bananas, and Lily was searching my hands for it up until the moment she realized it was in a tube that was going to go into her mouth...silly mare!

On Friday morning, I pulled Lily out to find an almost completely normal leg, even after standing in the stall all night.  Dr. R came to recheck her, and was extremely pleased with the results. She gave Lily her next Naxcel dose, so neither BQ nor I would have to be the "bad guys". Lily only did a giraffe imitation-no head flinging, and the process only took 2 seconds with me holding her.

It was my turn to give the evening injection, and I wondered how that would go. BQ was going to be out for a funeral, which meant no one would be available if I did need help-I was going to be giving that shot by myself. I figured I'd come up with something when the time came.

Dr. R was taking radiographs on Lily's stall rest neighbor, Katie, but her technician was off  for the day, so I offered to help. This ended up being a lot of fun, and a pretty awesome experience, as I got to play equine vet tech for a couple of hours. Even better: Katie's owner is also a small animal vet tech, so we both got to compare notes with Dr. R on small animal vs large animal, and the 3 of us worked together to get the rads done. Katie is a very laidback mare and a really good girl. The hardest part of the whole process was just getting her to stand on the blocks for her front hoof rads, and even then, it wasn't that difficult once she understood what we wanted her to do. She didn't have to be sedated for it like my goober-brains...

And then it was Jez's turn.

On Thursday, we had decided to try riding Jez with no sedation. She was cranky and obnoxious on the cross ties, but not that worse than before her diagnosis. The problem came when I took her down to the outdoor arena to mount up.

BQ was riding her new horse, this gorgeous beast:

Cinder is a 16 hh, 5 year old Percheron/TB cross gelding. 

We all think he is the bee's knees. Apparently so did Jez. Her eyes just about popped out of her head when she saw him, and she became very antsy, prancing and trying to yank my arm out to go over to him. I finally got her to stand at the mounting block long enough for me to hop on. Jez immediately took off at a walk before I could get settled in the saddle. Straight towards Cinder. I got my foot in the stirrup and turned her away, making her circle around the mounting block. And around. And around. She was really out of sorts. Sally asked if we should ace her. I wanted to give Jezebel a minute; I felt certain that she would settle if allowed to remember her job. She started to relax as we walked in a circle in front of the gate, and I started to think about taking her out into the paddock, away from Cinder who seemed to be her main source of distraction at the moment. BQ brought him to a stop about 30 feet away, and asked Sally to tighten her girth for her, as the saddle felt loose.

I had brought Jez to a momentary stop, and she was staring at Cinder, head and ears up. Someone took a horse out of the big field across the way, scraping the gate against the concrete. A sound every horse in the barn has heard a bazillion times, Jez included.

I never saw this one coming.

At the sound of the gate, Jez exploded. EXPLODED!! She reared, then launched herself into the air, looking something like this, except all 4 feet left the ground:

I stuck to her just like that cowboy, despite instantly losing my right stirrup. Her feet touched the ground, and up she went again, hopping and twisting around in a bouncy circle. I was furious, and my first thought was, "You are NOT getting me off! You are NOT running away!!" I grabbed her mane with my right hand to keep my balance while yanking her head around to the left, bringing her to a full one-rein stop.

She stopped. It took me a second to realize that she had really, really stopped, and then I let Jez return her head to a normal position. She immediately returned to being fidgety and antsy. At this point I think Sally was holding her reins with her one good hand. "Get off." she said. "No" I responded. "If I get off now, she still wins." Jezebel, however, was starting to get worked up again. I got her to stand still for a few seconds, and then swung off.

Oh, did I mention the entire barn was watching? Yeah, a fairly large group of boarders had been sitting outside to watch BQ on her first ride on Cinder.

I was joking around about the whole thing, and kind of wishing someone had caught it on video, mainly for blog purposes. We put Jez on the cross ties in the barn aisle and she got Aced.

While drawing up that Ace, though, the adrenaline disappeared. My hands were shaking. I got it together enough to give Jez her injection, then set about picking her stall while waiting for the drug to take effect. It didn't take long-within 15 minutes, Jez's eyes were looking droopy, and we took her back out to the outdoor arena so I could get back on.

Sally held her as I put my left foot in the stirrup. And then I kind of just stayed there, hopping up and down on the foot. I looked over at Sally, "Is it bad that I'm afraid?" I said, half joking. "Get on!" Sally growled. I did, quickly getting my right foot in the other stirrup before anything could happen.

Nothing happened. Jez walked forward, but she was her usual loopy, goofy drugged self.

We went into the paddock and had a nicely uneventful ride.

Yes, I was scared. I think I'm braver than the average adult rider, but I don't have the guts I used to have when I was in my teens and early 20's. When I was younger, I lived with my family, I had a desk job, and if I couldn't make ends meet horse-wise, my family could help financially. If I got hurt, I could still do my job because it was a sit-down job. Plus I'd never been seriously hurt in a fall from a horse at the time, so there was nothing to fear except fear itself. I didn't care. 4' fence? Sure! Ride a horse that bolts in front of the jumps? No problem! Spooky horse? Let me ride him; I'll fix him! A horse that rears when you go to mount up? Here, I'll buy him. (I really did...and I did fix him!)

Indio, the spooky, rearing, bolting mess that I bought and  re-trained when I was 23. He was a Colombian Paso Fino gelding with wonderful gaits and brio that had been severely abused by men. Within 6 months that horse was safely going out on trail rides by himself and was being ridden by my kid cousins in lessons. Fearlessness is a huge advantage when training a horse like that...
Now? Now I'm rapidly approaching my mid-30's. You just don't bounce back as quickly. In my teens and early twenties, I fell off all the time. It came with the territory when jumping fences. I've fallen in front of, on top of, on the other side of, and through fences more times than I can count. Unscathed. Within 5 days, the bruises would be gone. The last 10 years, however, have not been as kind. After I stopped jumping, I had a horse flip over on me, another fall on me, I've been bucked off just mounting up, more than once, and once on the powerlines in FL, and my mare hightailed it home... It took 3 weeks for the bruise from Lily's last bucking fit to go away. My back and hip have never been the same since that horse flipped over on me 8 years ago; it is chronic pain that, when it is bad, it's bad for longer and longer periods of time as I get older and the pain is getting worse in intensity...at some point I'm going to need to have that worked up. I now have a job that requires full use of my body during a 12 hour shift where I'm mostly standing, running, wrestling large dogs, and doing things that require a steady use of both hands to get things done, like drawing blood or placing IVs. An injury like Sally's broken and wired finger would have been devastating-without full use of both hands, I would not be able to do even the most basic of tech jobs, like restraining patients. If I get hurt, I simply can't do my job. If I can't do my job, I could lose my job altogether-I don't have sick pay accumulated yet. With a serious enough injury, I could lose my career altogether. If I can't work, it's one income less in the house, in a home where 2 incomes are absolutely needed to make ends meet. To be able to have a horse of my own. When I'm afraid, it is not a fear of the horse nor of the pain. It is a fear of the consequences.

All of this flashed through my mind in the seconds while hopping up and down on the mounting block. As usual, the fears were shoved aside and shushed, and I still got on.

The next day, Jez was automatically Aced with 4 mls again. It seemed to make no difference. Her eyes were droopy, but she was more obnoxious than I've ever seen her sober! Biting the air, trying to bite people, lifting legs to kick when placing her SMBs on her legs, refusing to move to the side when asked, and even deliberately trying to squish me against the wall. That was the last straw. With that last stunt, I decided there was no way in hell I'd be getting on the mare with her in that frame of mind. By that point, I was absolutely exhausted and drained-I had had to fight with her every single step of the way while trying to groom her and tack up. Yes, I understand she's nuts on stall rest. I'd be nuts too if I were cooped up in a box all day. Plus she's in heat, and there was a group of 3 people watching the spectacle of The Tacking Up of Jez, but this was getting ridiculous.

BQ saw some of Jez's new antics, and was shocked to learn the mare had been drugged over 30 minutes previously. "I wouldn't get on her." she said. She mentioned that she had had a horse flip over on her while bucking in a similar fashion to what Jez had done the day before. That comment was enough to cement my decision.

I finished tacking up Jez, after a dozen circles in the aisleway just to get her bridle on. The reins were slid behind the saddle's stirrups to imitate side reins, the rope halter was fitted over the bridle, and off we went. I did not ride. The point of the reins behind the stirrups was to have Jez hold herself as she would have if a rider had been up-to work her body differently, and hopefully to have her go into the mental state of "I am a riding horse" vs "I'm just going for a stroll".

Sally and I walked Jez for 20 minutes, the same length of time that a walk ride would have lasted. Jez appeared extra tired after the walk, and I was just ready to crawl into bed, but I still had to take care of Lily, and wait a couple of hours before I could give her her last antibiotic injection of the day.

I hand-grazed Lily while icing her leg, then took her into the barn so I could cross tie her while picking her stall. She got her Naquazone paste with barely a fuss, and then it was injection time. Initially, I was planning on letting her dance around me out in the yard, but was having a problem figuring out how to juggle her lead rope, the syringe and needle, and pinching her skin so I could give her the injection, all with only 2 hands. I figured it would be best to just do it by myself in her layup stall, which is small enough for her to circle without being able to get away from me. So that's what I did.

I pinched her skin in the center of the "triangle" on the left side of her neck and held, letting her anticipation of the needle dwindle.
Triangle where IM injections are given on the horse's neck.
Lily nodded a few times, then tried craning her neck away from me, but I just held on and spoke to her softly. I readied the syringe and needle, and it broke my heart when she turned her head to nudge me, rolling her eyes at me. "Don't do it. Please." "Today is the last day, Lily." When she was looking straight ahead, I quickly gave the injection and pushed the plunger. There was some violent nodding during that, but it was not the worse she has been so far, especially considering the fact that no one was holding her for me.

I then had to give a second injection on the other side of her neck. You're not supposed to inject more than 10 mls in a single site IM on a horse, or you risk causing abscesses or gas gangrene. Lily's dose of Naxcel was 20 mls, which meant 2 separate injections of 10 mls each.

I was getting ready to give the shot on the right side of her neck when Beverly, the mom of our only child rider at the barn, walked by and offered on holding Lily for me. The minute Beverly took hold of Lily's lead rope, Lily became truly nervous, so I hurried to give her the injection. Feeling confined by having someone at her head, Lily reared in slow motion as I was pushing the plunger...Not at me nor Beverly; she just went up, with us on either side of her. And of course my mare bonked her head on the low ceiling of the stall. Not hard, but enough that I hope she thinks twice before she tries to rear next time.

This is what I mean about her being better with me than with other people. But Beverly interceding was a huge help-no welt or bleeding on the right side of Lily's neck, because, though she went up, she didn't even try to toss her head. My hands just followed her motion. These are the advantages of having a small horse!

After giving her a minute to relax, we did Stud Muffin stretches, and I was forgiven.

It was after 8pm by the time I dragged myself home to get into bed. It was a long, long day at the barn.

If you want to read Sally's account of Jez's most recent naughtiness, go to this link. :)


  1. Oh dear--is it bad I'm laughing at your account of Jez's naughtiness? Thank heavens for adrenaline. Glad you stayed on! Oh and I think I need to steal some of your bravery/foolhardiness from when YOU were 20! :)

    1. No, it's not bad! Lol! I think I need to steal some of my own bravery from when I was 20, too!

  2. Holy crap, I can't believe you stuck that! Good decision not getting the next day.

  3. I can't believe you bought a rearing horse! That is an absolute deal breaker for me. Always has been, always will be. I've never been on a horse in a true all-out rear. That scares the crap out of me. Bucking? Meh.

    And, once more - as if my texts aren't enough haha - I'm so so so so so happy Lily's leg is normal again! Yay for healing horses.

    1. Yeah, Indio is the one that I needed 3 men to hold his head just so I could get on. He'd rear, then bolt as you were swinging up. It was the only instance while riding him that he'd do that though, and I figured out that the men who used to ride him before would get on and whip him into a frenzy immediately. It didn't take long to teach him to stand still, and that it was okay to wait after a person got on before moving off. That horse was amazing once we got through his initial training; he was just dying to have a person he could trust. I adored him. He'd go for days! He's the one that made me want to try out endurance some day.

      Rearing is now DEFINITELY a deal breaker! Haha...