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Living With Horses - A Year Of Headaches

Year 2020 has been full of all of the emotions, good and awful. My personal little bubble hasn’t been spared either. 

When it Rained, We Almost Drowned

Since the time of my boy Rowdy’s EPM, we had two of our best older guys pass away: my mom’s heart horse who was 29, and another retired boy who lived to be 31. You would think them living a good long life would be enough, but when you have wonderful horses, the heartache is deafening. 

You would think hey, that’s enough for this year, right? You’d be a fool if you truly believed that’s how it works around here. 

My big guy Bruce got some stomach ulcers. Not the biggest deal in the scheme of things, however, we were just getting back on track after his last chiropractor appointment. As I started riding, I noticed he was girthier than usual, going so far as to try to bite me when he saw the saddle come out. He would constantly bite at his side while I was riding. My spidey senses started tingly as that big moose head came at me. Sure enough, ULCERS! I gave him a month off to chill and get to healing. And guess what, his hip is out of place again…

The Good News

Rowdy is nearing the end of his meds for his EPM. I started lunging him again as his summer bod isn’t quite what it should be. His whole demeanor has changed back into the horse I fell in love with. He’s all sweet and goofy, unlike the hell-beast he turned into when he first got sick. I wanted to lunge him so he could be back in fighting shape when I can start riding him next week. Somehow while trotting around he clipped his front hoof with his (barefoot) back hoof and bloodied himself pretty good. I swear. 

Lastly, we had the most traumatic event that I’ve been a part of in my whole 31 years of horses. We have a 15-year old quarter horse my mom was riding before she got her latest guy. He was used to run barrels and the woman completely destroyed his neck muscles using a too tight tie down. (That’s an entire other post about using incorrect tack and actually learning to actually ride that I’m not going to go into here.) Anyways, this woman did the horse no justice. But he was sound, sane and pretty so my mom rode him a lot. 

Until one day his attitude flipped a switch. He was on the very of exploding on a trail ride, seemingly out of the blue. He started tossing his head with increasing violence. I was on my little baby green horse and I had to pony my mom back. It was totally out of the norm. The fits got worse and worse. Then one day we came out and he had a 104 degree fever. He was steaming to the touch, with white gums, and is completely listless. We call the vet immediately.

Our vet goes to look in his mouth and he tosses his head, falls over sideways and has a full-blown seizure. I would have bet my life that I just watched a horse fall over dead. It was a long, violent seizure. But alas, he got back up and was very confused. His face was all buggered up but seemed fine. We went through a list of what could cause seizures and a fever that high (West Nile, Rabies, Encephalitis) and everything came back negative. Then we explored Temporohyoid Ostearthrophy or TOO, where the bone that connects a horse’s head to their body is broken or arthritic. It can cause seizures and head tossing. X-Rays confirmed that to be negative too. 

No News is…Aggravating

You know what we found out? Absolutely nothing. There is nothing textbook wrong with the horse. Helpful, right? He has good days and bad days, sometimes charging the fence and sleeping a lot in the pasture. Other times he seems like his old self, although I can promise we’ll never ride him again. We’re taking that one a day at a time because euthanizing a horse that has technically nothing wrong with him doesn’t feel right. 

With the influx of possible horse diseases in my brain, I should have been a vet.

So that’s how my summer has shaken out. Just a big shitshow. If you need me, I’ll be out in the middle of nowhere riding my baby horse Gus, who, at the moment isn’t horribly broken.

Megan Smith
Published on 2020-09-09