Unicorn wannabes and other equine oddities


A vet once told me, “Sheep are looking for a place to die.” The meaning: by the time one seems sick, it is probably a goner.

Apparently our sheep’s sludgy, algae-covered water trough is a fountain of youth, because our crew refuse to the kick the bucket. (Check Funny Farm next week, to see if I jinxed them with that statement.)

Setting sheep aside, I can attest to this fact: if you own a horse, he will get hurt or sick. Remember, Benjamin Franklin famously said: “Nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes, and that your horse will get injured or ill.”

The last part is often omitted.

Fortunately, most ailments are recognizable to owners: colic, hoof injuries, skin lacerations — routine stuff that may or may not need the vet.

But every so often, a horse will throw you a curve ball.

Like Chance, my older Thoroughbred. I rarely ride him so he receives minimal attention — a cursory glance to make sure nothing’s broken or bleeding, and that his 4 legs aren’t sticking straight up in the air.

But earlier this summer, it was impossible to miss the lump protruding from his forehead. It was rock-hard and didn’t appear to be injury related.


This particular condition has a name… which I’ve presently forgotten. But my vet assured me that it isn’t causing him discomfort and it should go away. So far, it hasn’t receded much. He appears to be sprouting a unicorn horn.

Jazz, my other horse, has his own facial imperfection. It also appeared without provocation: a trail of distended veins on his right cheek.


This is a permanent development but it is benign. Really, no big deal. (I texted my vet for the medical terminology for this veiny disorder and Chance’s unicorn head, but apparently she’s too busy working — stitching wounds, saving horses and such — to field my random blog questions.)

Not all of our weird equine ailments have been harmless. In my last post I mentioned Rocky’s eye. (And kudos to Brynn for noticing, “something’s wrong with Rocky’s eye.) Ultimately, he was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma, a tumorous growth on his eyelid. The tumor was surgically removed (a more conservative option than taking the entire eye). But with this approach, we decided to follow up with chemotherapy, which may reduce the chance of recurrence. It comes in the form of a topical gel, applied inside the eyelid, three times a day, for several staggered weeks.


Ironically, on Monday — the same day that Rocky received his first dose of chemo ointment — Brynn also began a new course of meds: a foul-tasting antibiotic, also three times daily. It’s thick and gloppy, and according to Brynn, “tastes like rotten peppermint and salt.”

Brynn isn’t thrilled but accepts her meds as long as we provide strawberry milk or a candy chaser.

Rocky, however, is a noncompliant patient. Very noncompliant.

Treating him is a two-person circus three times a day: Martin physically, forcibly, wrangles Rocky into submission so that the pony’s head is still, while I try to pry open his tightly clasped eye, and deposit a 1/4 inch dab of Mitomycin-C inside the lid.

I’d like to say that it’s getting easier over time, but it ain’t. And safe to say, Rocky hates the sight of us.

If nothing else, these thrice daily episodes enforce the mantra that Rocky and other ponies believe: Kids are generally kind and less troublesome. Those big humans are not to be trusted.


Onward, Bugsy



A few weeks ago one of our equine residents quietly slipped away.

Not in an end-of-life kind of way. No, Bugsy stepped aboard a horse trailer and moved onward.

Or rather, “backward” — back to his old home. His real home.


Hadley, age 3; Bugsy, 20-something

The kids always thought that Bugsy was our pony, when actually, he was a longterm loan. When the kids outgrew him, or out-paced his capabilities, the plan was to return him to his owner. And the time is right; his owner has a grandchild who’s nearly lead-line ready.

And that’s Bugsy’s area of expertise: lead-line pony; living, breathing teddy bear; babysitter of diaper-clad, horse-crazy toddlers. His talents shouldn’t be wasted or shelved. A little kid should be crawling under his belly or hugging his head off.

So a few weeks ago, Bugsy left as quietly as when he arrived, 3 1/2 years ago.

Hadley was tearful when I announced Bugsy’s impending departure. But she recovered quickly.

She’s moved onward, too.


Hooves, Hogs and Other Updates


I have a habit of introducing subjects to Funny Farm…

…and then never mentioning them ever again.

And wouldn’t you know it? A few chronic readers requested follow-up reports. Whatever happened to the groundhogs? What’s the deal with Chance… is he still injured?

Well, here’s everything you need to know —

— about our marmot infestation.

Groundhog recap: Back in May we discovered Hadley-sized groundhog burrows littering the back pasture.


An epic hole…


Hog follow-up: no hired guns needed. Upon close scrutiny we determined that the varmints had vacated the premises.

I acquired a Chitty-load of dirt and pitched numerous shovels scoops down every hole until they were ground level.


Chitty staggered beneath this load…


On to other updates.

Foot recap: Back in August, Chance’s hoof looked like this:


Grand Canyon crater. Gross….

Hoof health compromised due to foot fungus and a fox hunting injury.

Foot followup: Our blacksmith predicted the southern half of Chance’s hoof would fall off and…

… he was right.

Shortly thereafter, it looked like this:

Ug, even more gross…


I invested a small fortune in duct tape, bandaged and booted “franken-hoof.”

Over time it healed and grew out.

Then he abscessed the other foot.

My memory of 2012… lots of time logged here.


Chance is now sound but terribly fat and out of shape.

Meanwhile I’m fox hunting my neighbor’s horse, Silver.

The view from between her ears….


Post-hunting and ready for cocktails; Silver eyes up her trailer.


Finally, the Little Man update.

Remember the lawn jockey we acquired late spring? I slated him as a “fun” painting project.

Recap: Back in June, he looked like this:

Patchwork and painting needed….


Follow up: many months later he looks like this:

Triaged and labeled “low priority”…


Little Man is long-listed. I’ll get to him one day. Projected completion date: somewhere between now and 2020.