Monday, September 30, 2013

Unexpected herd behavior

I played with Chico a lot today since he's so bored locked in the barn.  He got to graze in the yard and I took more pictures of his wound.  I'm pretty disappointed in how slowly it is healing.  Here is a picture from the 29th (+ 27 days).  I'm consulting with the vets at school about further things to do.

This picture and the following one show how much the bottom part of the wound moves.  This is the part with the deepest cleft where I worry that there is something in there preventing closure (more serious issue that is causing drainage).

Because Chico needed a new round bale moved into the barn where he's being kept, and he has been so bored, and I was also a little frustrated wondering how much longer I was going to have to keep him confined, I decided to let him out into the pasture and see how he did.

I was hoping he'd take it easy and just mosey around eating grass, but of course that is not what happened.  He hasn't been in with Stormy yet.  The day she arrived was the day I noticed his big wound. 

Now, Stormy settled in with just the mares really well.  There was only a little bit of violence and that was almost always centered around them getting some pellets during Chico's medicine feedings so they didn't all feel left out.  Stormy is a little pushy around feed and so would get in Cody's face and that's never a good thing to do when there is food involved.  Cody would kick her a few times and they'd be back to being friends.  Cody even lets Stormy snag feed from her bucket as long as she doesn't want her head in the bucket at that moment.  Catlow too showed Stormy that she is the boss.  She often turns her butt to her to threaten with kicks and Stormy gets out of her way quickly, but Catlow rarely actually kicks her.

Out in the pasture, the three mares are almost inseparable.  And interestingly, I often see Cody and Stormy grazing more closely together now than Catlow and Cody (though Catlow is usually the outsider and watch mare in any herd). 

Now, throw Chico into the mix.  He seemed to ignore Stormy at first.  He has of course met her before on rides and for the last several weeks has gotten to know her over a gate.  Once he was settled into the fact that he was back with his herd, he had to immediately show Stormy who was the number 2 horse in this herd and remind her that she will in no uncertain terms be the bottom!  He was very aggressive about it, much to my dismay after hoping that he wouldn't race around on his wounded leg.  He walks with no limp, but trotting, I can see that he is off a bit.  However, he will race around at a canter and gallop with no worries.

At one point, Cody trotted into the round pen (I've left the gate open from the pasture side into the round pen so they can keep the grass grazed down and play in the sand since it is not being used much this year).  Stormy followed Cody, and when Chico saw Stormy following her in, he raced in there to get after her.  That was when I saw the most amazing thing.

As Chico would get after Stormy, Cody would get very aggressive and get after Chico.  So it was really mass confusion as Chico was trying to be all aggressive toward Stormy and stay out of Cody's way.  They all left the round pen and moved out into the big pasture.  There, the same sequence of events was repeated.  Chico would aggressively chase Stormy to bite her on the butt, and Stormy would double barrel kick at him with her heels high in the sky and run away as fast as she could.  Then Cody would run in and bite Chico and spin to threaten to kick at him.  In between attacks, Cody would stand sort of all puffed up and calm.  Stormy very quickly realized that Cody was protecting her and would try to keep Cody between herself and Chico at all times.

I was really just floored.  I never would have expected that kind of behavior from them.  Cody was so obviously protecting Stormy and telling Chico to knock it off with his behavior.  Catlow through all this seemed to get after Stormy a little more than usual but not really aggressively.  I think that Chico was very confused at first.  Here he thought he was chasing this new mare away from his main companion (Cody and Chico are usually the inseparable ones in the pasture), while Cody was telling him that Stormy was not to be treated like that and was Cody's new companion too.  In between attacks, Cody would graze head to head with Chico, but she absolutely would not tolerate his behavior toward Stormy. 

Poor Stormy was pretty confused.  She wanted to be near Cody, but being near Cody is what set Chico off in his aggression toward her.  Cody was her protector, but she couldn't prevent the attacks all together.  For part of the time, Stormy just stood on the outside of the group to stay out of Chico's way. 

Shortly after this, we got the new round bale in the barn and I put Chico away.  He really doesn't need to be running like that while we are trying to treat him and his wound.  I'm sure with more time, they'd sort it out completely, but they really didn't have the time to.  Next time I'll be ready with my camera to document this amazing behavior among my new herd!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Wound healing

Chico's wound is healing very slowly, but it is healing.  It still has quite a deep cleft in it despite debriding a little excessive granulation tissue and I'm starting to wonder if there is something deeper impeding the healing that will eventually require a visit to a more experienced equine vet than myself.  I've been sharing photos and advice with vets from school, but it just might come to taking him down there one of these days. 

Here is a photo series of his wound over the last few weeks.

This is the from the day I found it.  I'm going to estimate that the wound was 5 days old and completely uncared for to this point.  So, this photo is +5 days (9/7/13)

This photo is from 9/12/13, so is +10 days.  For this stage it was getting scrubbed every other day and bandage changes every other day.  He is also on TMS oral antibiotics.

This is + 17 days (9/19/13).  This is the wound I was greeted with when I came home from a short 5 day vacation during which I had my dad and our neighbor caring for Chico and changing bandages.  I suspect maybe he needed tighter bandaging to prevent the movement...or maybe this was inevitable because of where it is.  After I took this picture, I debrided the granulation tissue down to the level of the epithelial tissue and tried to remove the edge of the cleft formed in the middle.

Now we are at +19 days and post debridement (9/21/13).  It's looking better.  I then debrided more from the edge of the cleft.

This is at +22 days (9/24/13), and is also taken before I cleaned the wound after unwrapping it (hence the little bit of gunk accumulated).  The cleft is smaller, but still present.  It seems deeper at the ventral aspect now.  When I found it, it seemed deepest at the dorsal aspect where I could touch bone.  Looking at how it has changed over time shows me that is it getting smaller, but it just seems to be happening so slowly.

Through all this, Chico has remained comfortable, but he is pretty darn sick of being confined in the barn.  He loves his time out to get his bandage changed and some green grass.  He's been a great patient and lets me do whatever I want to him, including debriding tissue without resenting it at all.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Chico update

This is how Chico's wound is looking tonight after 5 days of cleaning, bandaging and systemic antibiotics and anti-inflammatories.  It's looking better!  We are still not quite out of the woods yet though...the cleft near the top that contacted bone is not yet sealed over and there is definite risk of him developing a bony sequestrum...though that can be fairly easily removed later on with a simple standing surgery.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Chico...why does he have to be the accident-prone one?

Chico has injured himself....again.  I could go on and on about his past injuries.  This new one is bad though, and rivals his other big laceration near his stifle.  All these injuries seem to occur on the same leg.  Weird.

Sorry for the gruesome photos, but here they are.  So, I came home this weekend and went to visit the herd (and turn Stormy out with them), when I notice Chico is in the barn by himself.  He walks out and at first I don't notice anything wrong, but then he turns around and WHOA!  It was just glaring at me! A huge gash on his right hind leg!  It has already started to granulate in so he probably got this last Monday...the day after I left from visiting the previous weekend.  It's possible he had it that weekend, but I don't think so.  I was visiting them in the pasture and never noticed a thing.  I actually picked up their hooves to see if anyone needed a trim and didn't notice anything.  So I think he did this on Monday.

Because it is deeper at the top (I grazed bone with my fingernail when I was probing it after I cleaned it out), and it is lateral and just slightly toward the front, I think that he stepped into a stick in the pasture.  He may have been travelling with speed, since the gash is so big.  My pasture is pretty wild with tall grass (weeds) and downed logs and stands of trees (I like it this's natural and keeps my trail horses used to obstacles), so maybe he didn't see the log/stick in the tall vegetation.

I feel terrible that I wasn't home to see his injuries earlier.  And they are out at pasture so not checked on daily by my husband (he did say he saw them all out grazing last week at least once).  But now he's being treated.  I'm on a low intensity rotation at school this week, so I'm travelling home most evenings to do bandage changes, and my husband is feeding him bute and antibiotics twice a day.  Chico is penned up in the barn right now for treatment, so he hasn't gotten to meet Stormy yet (though he's met her out on trail rides before).

I think Chico got really lucky, for how nasty this gash looks...I am pretty sure it does not communicate with any joints nor with any tendons.  It does touch bone, but I think he's taking care of it himself.  It doesn't really seem too infected.  And it's already trying to heal.  He can walk on it and bear full weight, but he is lame.  I think the tissue swelling is what is causing the majority of his pain right now.

After the stick that was stuck in a wound that abscessed itself out a few years back, I am definitely concerned that there could be wood stuck in this one.  I think I might have my "real" vet friend out and ultrasound his leg and see if we can't see anything.  I don't have access to an x-ray machine yet...maybe in a year I will have one....definitely something I want to add to my practice.  It sure would come in handy right now.

I'm crossing my fingers that this heals uncomplicated and without too much proud flesh and scar tissue.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

A new addition

Our farm has acquired an unexpected addition.  Meet Stormy. 

She is a 9 year old Standardbred mare.  She belonged to my local friend who I ride with often, but due to some terrible tragic happenings, she is selling all her horses.  I had helped her work with Stormy last summer.  Stormy is very stubborn, hasn't had a ton of training, and combined with inexperienced riders, has caused her to have some opinions about what she does.  Last summer we made great strides with her and this summer she has been great, though still an opinionated mare.  But she is not mean and she is extremely level-headed.  She is very unspooky and a very secure trail horse.  Rarely anything riles her fact, I can't think of anything that does rile her up.  She just needs to learn more refined leg cues, get some more miles and some lessons on listening to her rider.  I always liked her steadfast, though stubborn, nature.  And she has great feet (maybe even better than my mustangs), solid straight legs, and health-wise has been completely problem free to this point.  So I asked my friend to give me first chance when she sold her. 

I really don't need another horse, but this is a good one who won't care if I don't ride her everyday.  But I think with some consistent riding by me (I've been pretty good about getting her to listen and help my friend by occasionally riding her and giving her tune-ups), this mare is going to be an awesome horse.

And now, as a Standardbred owner, I have done a little research into the breed (I was completely ignorant about them before and only thought of them as Amish horses and race horses).  Based on descriptions I've read, Standardbreds are awesome horses.  Yes, they are race horses, but trotting/pacing races require a lot of strategy and listening to their driver, so these horses by selection are not hot-tempered at all and make great pleasure horses with a lot of athletic talent.  I feel like Stormy is a little short for the typical Standarbred, and she has a shorter more compact body than I've seen from the breed standard, but she doesn't come with papers, so she could be anything or mixed with anything.  She does have the Standardbred ears though.

She is a good mare and so far, my horses have accepted her very well.  Cody stays between her and Catlow most of the time and is definitely making Stormy toe the line, but Catlow couldn't care less about Stormy's presence and overall, the introduction was very low violence.  They are already all grazing side by side with Stormy barely farther away than Catlow and Cody.

You'll notice Chico isn't in any of these pictures.  That's a post for another day.