Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Detective Work

I'm a straight forward kind of person. I want the facts, straight up. I want to be able to know what's going on, not have to figure things out. Maybe that's called lazy, but at any rate, when you have animals, and especially horses, you'd better be ready to be a detective when it comes to illness or injury.

A week ago, Monday, things were rolling along as they usually do. Fed the horses in the morning. I always eyeball them making sure no one got into anything during the night. Both looked fine. Spirit seemed like himself. I remember a couple of hours later I glanced out the back door, noticed the horses out on the hill near some trees. Everything OK, again.

Around 12:30pm I went out to open the gate to the front field. Both horses were standing in the stall area. Bo standing near the water tank. Spirit partially in the stall with shavings blanketing the left side of this body and mane. I took that in as being a little odd, but then dismissed the thought. Walked straight for the front field gate and both followed though they were hanging back more than usual. Most days, Bo is right up front ready to go through first.

Still not noticing anything amiss, I opened the gate and Bo walked quietly out to the field. Spirit stood right where he was and it was then I noticed he was shaking. His whole body trembling!

Now, I must admit, I sort of went into panic mode. I'd dealt with various injuries and illnesses with the horses in my care at the ranch, from colic, to a slashed leg artery, to hoof abscesses among a few. But, when my own horse was standing there shaking and trembling I became weak in the knees!

Thoughts running through my head "What if he collapses right here? Where will we bury him? Crap! What's my next move? Crap!"

The poor guy tried to walk out into the field to eat some grass. I quickly ran back to building to get his halter and lead rope. I knew I needed to get him back to the stall, at least to see if his vitals were irregular. Then there was the mud he'd have to wade through. My mind simply said CRAP! Although I'm pretty sure I used the other form of the word. "What if he collapsed in the mud? Oh gosh that would be awful." Pushing those thoughts out of my head, I waded in mud up over my boots, and sloshing mud water on my clothes, I gently coaxed him back to the stall. In the mean time I had to close Bo out in the field because if he came in, well, he tends to bully Spirit out of what he deems, his corner.

I get Spirit into the stall. I break out the first aid kit where the thermometer is stored. I check his gums. Capillary refill seems OK. Doesn't look like shock yet. I take his temp. It was up to 102. I try to check his pulse, unfortunately, I am very lacking in that talent and curse myself for not being able to find that darn artery under his jaw. Check respirations, fairly normal, not rapid and not slow. He does not seem in distress except for the shaking. I'm thinking about which vet would be easiest to contact, but, I don't want to jump to that conclusion too quickly.

My next move was to get an old blanket to throw over him for a little while in case it may be some kind of toxic shock. I feel all over his body, his legs, shoulders, ribs, don't see anything out of the ordinary. He's still shaking.

At this point I'm frustrated. I go into the house to find my two horse vet books. I still can find nothing that really fits. Maybe it's wait and see. I spent the afternoon in the stall with Spirit. There was definitely something going on with him. He wouldn't miss an afternoon out in the grass. I gave him some hay. He started nibbling. His manure looked fine and he wasn't dehydrated.

Eventually the shaking subsided. He walked around the stall. He ate some more hay, slowly. He drank the water I offered in a bucket. The only thing that really started standing out was when I ran my hand down his right front leg, he would lift it up. Now, That's not something Spirit does. I mean, he'll give you his foot if you ask, but to just lift it like a dog would lift it's paw, that was odd.

At that point I started pressing on his shoulder and ribs while watching his face. I noticed a bit of a wince on his part and he looked back at me. It was right then and there I decided that Bo had probably kicked Spirit. I found no outward evidence. No hoof prints on the skin. I'd seen that happen with the ranch horses plenty of times. Usually the mares, Kleo or Lena, hauling off and kicking one of the others leaving a dusty hoof imprints.

From this evidence, I deducted that the reason Spirit had shavings all over him was because he had either been down in the stall, lying or rolling, or whatever, and Bo decided he wasn't happy with that, because Spirit was in "his" space. In response, Bo kicked the crap out of Spirit. That's the only thing I can really come up with. Through the rest of the day and evening, Spirit walked gingerly on that leg, dragging it a little as he walked. I'm pretty sure it was a shoulder or rib kick. Bo usually does the double legged kind of kick. Spirit, on the other hand, is more of a cow kicker type.

The next day, Spirit was not dragging that foot. I still had in my mind any type of toxic problems from EPM to Lyme disease, but he didn't fit any of those symptoms. Over the next few days Spirit was back to his almost usual self. The only other evidence of an altercation that I have witnessed is the fact that Spirit appears a little more wary of Bo. I don't like that, but in the horse world, they have their own rules. I don't stand for any kind of aggravating when I'm around, but when I'm not there, well, there isn't much I can do about their disagreements. Most of the time, Bo and Spirit get along fine. I'll never know what sparked the incident, and I'm not even sure if I'm right about it. I'm only going on clues, evidence and gut feelings.

I never did like playing Clue!

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